Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pond Maintenance

Ponds require a little bit of work to keep them looking good. The ecosystem of a pond involves the interaction of many factors including water, gases, minerals, sunshine, plants and animals. If this delicate balance is disrupted, algae will spread and the water quality will deteriorate rapidly. The health of a pond is affected by its size and shape, acidity or alkalinity of the water, amount of surface exposed to the air and sun, the type of plants used and the presence of pond life. Algae can build up quickly in warm weather and look very unsightly. Healthy ponds need oxygen, which is provided by oxygenating aquatic plants that also absorb carbon dioxide. Some good pond plants include Bacopa caroliniana, which produces foliage that floats on the water surface where it captures light for photosynthesis. It will also produce delicate mauve flowers. Not all plants float such as the submerged hornwort, Ceratophyllum demersum which is useful for oxygenation and providing a place for fish to hide. The Eel Grass, Valisneria gigantia is another lovely pond plant with its strappy leaves.

Water hygiene is an important part of pond maintenance. The appropriate way to improve water quality is through plant selection and appropriate maintenance techniques. Nursery manager, Tony Debincat uses a safe way of removing bacteria and excess algae. He adds a very small amount of Condy’s crystals to the water, which changes the colour to a reddish tint that lasts for around 2 days before clearing. This treatment doesn’t harm fish or plants if used in an extremely low concentration similar to very weak tea. In spring it may be necessary to clean out the pond and carry out any repair work. In summer, check water level and quality, check for algal growth, clean out the pump and filter and check for dead, diseased or damaged plants. In autumn remove any leaf letter and cut back any excessive plant growth.

Waterlilies play multiple roles in a water garden. Their large leaves create shade, produce oxygen, provide a hiding place for fish and produce large beautiful flowers. The tropical waterlilies can be distinguished from the hardier types that grow almost everywhere from the flower stalks, which are above the water. The flower buds and stalks are edible and can be used in salads, just peel off the ‘skin’ from the stalk before eating. The margins of ponds are usually planted with bog plants that are very important because they filter out any unwanted materials. Some good marginal plants include the flowering Woolly Frogsmouth, Philydrum lanuginosum and canna species like Canna indica. There are also some beautiful foliage plants such as Lepironia articulata. If you want advice or help choosing the right plants go to a specialist nursery and remember not to let your pond go, they do need some maintenance.

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