A smartly constructed pond, no matter how well crafted, won't win many admirers with poor water quality. Here are some thoughts on getting great water for your pond.
First: does the pond have poor water quality now, or have a history of water going bad as the season progresses? What are the characteristics of that low quality water, in particular what characteristics bother you, and what if any, don't. As with beauty, pond water quality is in the eye of the beholder. What to some people is a problem might be fine for another.
Got a patch or more of cattails? Some folks see that as a problem, some don't. Cattails can provide habitat and food for wildlife: frogs, salamanders, birds, dragonflies, etc. But they can also be so invasive as to threaten to take over large parts of the pond, plug up spillways, create shallows that encourage algae, etc. Is it time to remove the cattails, or reduce their acreage? In addition to cattails, other invasive aquatic plants like rushes and emergent grasses can be a problem. This may require hiring or using an excavator, or cutting the plants. It may be worth discussing the pros and cons of cattail alterations with a pond consultant or contractor, and the ways plant control can be accomplished.
Another problem invasive are submergent weeds. There are many types of pond weeds that can affect a pond, and when they become a bother there is usually just one solution. Physical removal. That might mean manual cutting with pond rakes or cutters, or removal through pond cleaning techniques such as excavation or suction dredging or even using a weed harvester.
Algae is another pond invader, probably the most common pond owner irritant. There are many types of algae, boiling down more or less to clumpy filamentatious types that produce wads of gunk that spoil the water and single celled photoplanktonics that cause turbidity and off color cloudiness.
Algae can be controlled or eliminated several ways. Sometimes the most direct defense against a filamentatious algae outbreak is manual removal. There are several simple ways to clean up such algae by hand. Algae near shore can be raked in using a garden variety landscape rake or one of the more specialized pond rakes widely available on the internet. Some of these have lengthy heads with long teeth; long extension handles; and a rope, all for getting the rake well out into the pond.
One of my clients economized by making his own rake using a standard landscape rake and attaching a rope to the handle for tossing out into the water. Once raked in, the algae can be removed or composted, making sure that it is not piled up where rain can wash its spores/seeds back into the water. I've heard that well composted algae makes a good garden soil amendment.
Some pond owners use a swimming pool type net for catching algae, and that may work okay, but the weight of algae and small size of net make it a bit impractical.
Control of various types of algae can also be accomplished using non toxic water conditioners. Ingredients include beneficial bacteria, barley, enzymes, oxidizers, and more, often formulated in proprietary blends. Dyes can also used be used to control algae, and discourage weed growth.
Water conditioners can also be used to reduce sludge on the pond bottom.
If you have water quality problems, you may want to do some basic water testing (pH, ammonia, nitrites, phosphorous) to help evaluate the pond conditions. Check with various pond suppliers for information about what additives may be best for your situation. Keep in mind that water temperature and time of the season can factor into effectiveness.
There are numerous suppliers of water conditioners available through the internet, including Clear Pond our newest sponsor. Clear Pond is one of the oldest suppliers of pond improvement products on the market, founded in 1978, and offers a range of environmentally safe products including water clarifiers, algae controls, dyes, sludge removers, and more. Their products are used at recreational ponds, farm ponds, koi ponds and garden centers, and hobby and water garden ponds. Check out their website. Support our sponsors and give them a call.
Next month I'll be discussing additional ways to improve water quality, including proper pond design, adding fish for vegetation control, aeration, and more.
Topics vary from month to month and provide great information when researching where you want to build a pond, or how to keep it clean. Other areas of interest are pond use for more than swimming, and how to keep fish happy in your pond.