Water in a water garden may turn green, or you may notice a strings or mats of a green substance growing in a waterfall. This is a plant called algae, which is unsightly and can clog pumps and filters. The most common causes of algae growth are very hot and sunny weather, not having enough plants in your pond to compete with the algae, excess nutrients in the water due to not cleaning a pond or having too many fish, not using water treatments, and finally, the absence of a pump and filtration system, or an undersized or non-functioning filtration system.
A balanced water garden is defined as a water garden with the proper amount of plants, microbes, fish, and an acceptable level of debris and nitrogen. This balance ensures that the water will stay clear and that fish and plants will perform well. This balance can be achieved by having a properly installed and design pond, performing regular maintenance, and the addition of water treatments and plants.
The biggest stumbling block that customers have when it comes to plants in the landscape is watering, specifically how to water, how much and how often. Aquatic plants take the guess work out of this equation, because they stay in the water all the time! Most aquatic plants are fairly maintenance free, needing only trimming weekly to remove yellow leaves. Hardy plants that overwinter in the pond should be cut back in the fall, and tropical and hardy water lilies should be repotted every 2 years, and fertilized every 2 weeks during the spring and summer.
Tropical plants can be planted when night time temperatures are consistently above 45-50 degrees, and when the threat of frost has passed, usually in mid to late May.
The main difference between hardy and tropical water lilies is that hardy water lilies can live in a pond, all four seasons, for a decade or more, and tropical water lilies need to be stored in a greenhouse over winter or replaced each year. Visually, tropical water lily leaves tend to have slightly ruffled edges and can be more oval. Tropical lilies bloom white, pink, blue or purple, and have a sweet fragrance. Hardy lilies have rounder leaves, and bloom white, pink, yellow, red, and copper.
Water hyacinth is a floating tropical plant that has a beautiful lavender colored bloom in the summer. They multiply quickly in warm weather, covering parts of the surface of a water garden. Water hyacinth roots are in direct contact with the water, and take in nutrients that would otherwise go to algae growth, out competing the algae. They provide shade to the water directly under them without shading the water garden area, cutting down on algae growth without restricting other valuable plant growth. They also provide cover from predators for fish.
Water gardens should be thoroughly cleaned every spring by completely draining last season’s water and removing all debris that is present, unless they are very large. We use a specialized vacuum to remove mud and fish waste once all the solid debris is removed. The reason for this is simple: nutrients. The more decomposing organic material (leaves, sticks, fish waste, etc.) that is present in the water, the more nutrients are available to algae for growth. Decomposing material can also limit the amount of oxygen in the water.
This is a very common question, and fortunately it is easy to achieve. Most koi and other pond fish are cold hardy, so low temperatures will not cause them to fail. Fish stop being able to digest food properly when water temperatures are below 50 degrees, so you should stop feeding them when this happens. To overwinter fish, a water garden should be at least 30 inches deep, with 3 feet being ideal. Fish can suffocate if the surface of the water is completely frozen over for a long period of time. A pond heater or “deicer” can be installed, which will keep a hole open for gases to escape through. The same result can be achieved by setting up a small pump (250-500 gallons per hour) with the discharge facing straight up. The constant flow of water bubbling at the surface will keep that spot from freezing.
We do sell a limited amount of fish at certain times of the season, as availability allows. If we do not have any fish available for purchase, we work with some local business who have agreed to provide fish for our customers.
This depends on the size and complexity of the build. Smaller ponds can be built in a period of one week or so, but larger projects or sites that are difficult to work (due to access, lots of rocks in the soil, etc.) can take longer.