SUMMER BACKYARD POND TIPS FROM ANOKA, MINNESOTA
Be the envy of the neighborhood with these 7 summer pond maintenance guidelines from a water feature professional
You’ve taken the time to select the perfect location for your backyard pond, and have chosen the fish that best suit your lifestyle. You love your backyard pond, and why wouldn’t you? After all, ponds are a great place to sip a cold drink near or to teach the little ones how to fish.
But having a pond isn’t a one and done deal; it takes time and effort to keep the pond at an aesthetically pleasing status. A beautiful backyard pond makes your backyard more enjoyable and is sure to impress your family, friends and neighbors.
So don’t let your initial hard work and money go down the drain by improperly caring for your pond this summer.
Whether you have a koi pond, water garden or a larger pond, the following guidelines will help you keep your pond in tip-top shape. Or if you think you need some assistance, just call Tim!
1) Drain the pond properly
First thing’s first: you have to assess any damage from the winter and give the ‘ol swimming hole a quick spray down/scrub.
This is most easily done by draining the pond. To do this, you’ll need a shop vacuum, boots, gloves, containers for fish, a hose and buckets.
REMOVE THE FISH
You’ll want to remove any fish in your pond before you start the vacuum so they don’t accidentally find a new home in the basin of your vacuum. Use a net larger than your fish to get the task done.
Sweet tip: fish are more easily caught when the water level is low because the fish to water ratio is lower.
Once all the fish are rounded up, turn your focus to the plants.
TRIM THE PLANTS
Trim marginal aquatic plants to 1 to 2 inches above water level. For water lilies, trim back no more than 3 to 6 inches.
Begin draining the pond by syphoning water with a hose or you can pump it.
SCRUB IT UP
Once the pond is drained, remove any sludge or winter debris - such as sticks and leaves - that inevitably slipped through the protective net you installed in the fall (or should have installed in the fall).
Rinse the lining and drain once more before refilling the pond.
2) Stop any leaks
Leaks are possible in any pond – whether it be in the lining or equipment.
If, when you take off the cover, you notice the water level is a little lower than it should be, it’s possible you have a leak.
If there is a leak, there are a couple ways to find the location and troubleshoot the problem.
To locate the leak, remove any pumps from the pond. If the water remains at the same level, the leak is likely in the plumbing or waterfall/stream. If the water level drops, the leak is in the main basin of the pond.
To locate the leak in the liner of the pond, begin draining the pond. As the level lowers, check the liner for any gashes or nicks. For fast-flowing leaks, you can spray milk at the edges of the pond. Watch where the milky cloud goes. Milk will flow in the direction of the leak and remain cloudy where there is no leak.
You can patch any tear or rip in the liner with kits found at most home and garden stores.
3) Fill up to the brim
If there are no leaks and/or after fixing any issues, you’ll want to top off your pond once a week so your fish aren’t stuck swimming in a one-foot by one-foot swimming pool. You may need to fill up your pond more or less often depending on the location of your pond and how big it is.
You can fill up your pond one of two ways: snaking a hose from a spigot down to the pond or collecting water in a rain bucket. You can buy a rain bucket on Amazon or make one yourself with a trash can or some sort of bin, and a nozzle. Presto!
After you’ve filled the pond and restarted the filter, test the water.
Ammonia and nitrate levels should be zero, and pH levels should read between 6.6 and 8.4. Tester kits can be purchased at most garden center stores.
While we’re talking about water quality, be careful not to spray chemicals near the pond. Toxins can seep through the soil and poison fish, other water creatures and plants. Even if you think you are far enough away from any seeping action, it can possibly still occur if the location of the spray is uphill from the pond.
Be conscientious that water from a faucet contains nutrients that may speed up plant growth – and not all plant growth is good. But we’ll get to that soon.
4) Weed out harmful plants
With summer comes longer days and more time for the sun to be out in full force cultivating plant growth.
Those extra doses of golden rays also bring extra nitrogen to your pond, and weeds begin growing like wildfire!
Plants LOVE sun!
You have to keep on top of deweeding ponds just like a garden. Think about it – If all you do after tilling a garden is leave it alone and admire it, weeds will be sprouting up in no time.
And that’s what happens in ponds, too.
So after topping off the hub for your outdoor aquatic life, spend some time pulling weeds.
Use a pool net to skim off any floating weeds.
A stick or another long-handled instrument can also work to remove longer, string-like weeds. Just imagine you’re pulling hair from your shower drain!
To maintain a clean, healthy pond, grab a handful or two of weeds from various spots around your pond.
After you’ve done your weekly chore cleanup, make sure you leave the clumps of weeds near the edges of your pond. By doing this, any aquatic critters can make their way back to the water and not your trash can or composite pile.
While you’re out ridding your pond of weeds, also do a once-over of any debris of sticks, leaves or other objects that don’t belong in the pond. Dead, dying or diseased leaves and foreign objects can discolor your pond and make it not so attractive.
If you dedicate 5 to 10 minutes each week to pulling weeds and ridding it of any debris, you won’t have to spend several hours of your precious Saturday down around your pond combing and pulling weeds.
5) Blast away algae
In addition to clearing out weeds and debris from your pond, you want to make the effort to dealing with algae.
Have you ever seen a pond with the glowing, slimy green hue? Or muddied water? You don’t want that.
Simply put, algae can be a nightmare. And worse yet, there are thousands of types of algae.
Now before you go pulling and skimming all the algae off your pond, the slimy goo can be good in small doses. Hear me out.
Algae provides a more natural look to a pond’s landscape. And as a bonus, it provides food and oxygen for fish if maintained and controlled.
However, if it isn’t managed properly, well, your pond will be the lesson to all other pond owners of what not to do.
There are many solutions to combat the war with algae, from additives to clarifiers and sterilizers to phosphate removers.
But if you want to go a more natural route to defeating algae, try adding shade in the forms of lilies or water hyacinths. A simple water change can cut back the algae; water high in nitrate fuels the growth of algae. Additionally, water decoration like a waterfall or fountain will help oxygenate your pond. Algae hates oxygenated ponds.
Adding dye also cuts down on algae’s growth since it slightly clouds the water and sun rays don’t penetrate the water as deep.
6) Love on your fish with proper care
Fish are a beautiful addition to any pond. But the not so great truth is that they are waste manufacturers. And sometimes the amount of waste they produce harms the look of the pond and the fish themselves.
On hot days, pond fish tend to be more active. Just like growing children, food helps them grow.
So watching how much you feed your fish can help prevent a goopy pond. Feed them too much and they will defecate more and not live as long. You can avoid overfeeding by purchasing an automated food dispenser.
Or, if you chose to feed fish by hand, give as much food as they can eat in five minutes one to three times a day.
Summer is also a great time to add any fish, but make sure they will live in harmony with your current school of fish. A good rule of thumb is one average-sized fish for every three to four square feet of surface area. If you’re going the koi fish route, each fish needs 10 square feet of surface area.
7) Know when to call in the pros
If you feel that you may need some extra help this summer as you take on summer pond maintenance or you would prefer spending your time relaxing by the Minnesota lake up north, call the pros. Contact Tim the Pond Doctor online or simply call 763-742-7948.