Tag Archives: Pond

Winterizing the pond

While I was working in the garden last week, I decided to do some cleanup work around the yard and start getting the pond ready for winter.

Sometimes winterizing includes a water change. Sometimes it involves skimming out fallen leaves. But it always involves removing floating plants and bringing a few inside before they freeze. Too many times, I’ve neglected to do that in a timely fashion, and I’ve found myself scooping slimy, dead, decaying water hyacinths and sludgy remnants of what used to be water lettuce out of the pond in the spring because fall turned to winter faster than I expected, and I didn’t get the plants out before they froze.

Gross.

Not this year. Last weekend, I used a pitchfork to scoop most of the plants out of the pond, leaving just a few lonely specimens floating on the surface to provide cover for the goldfish until it gets cold enough for them to go dormant.

If you look closely, you can see some of the fish under the water.

When I removed the plants, I was delighted to discover all six of the feeder goldfish I’d dumped out there this summer were alive and well.

I moved a few plants into a bucket of water and stuck it in a sunny corner just outside a south-facing window, where it should stay above freezing all winter.

Hedging my bets, I also half-filled a miniature washtub with water, threw a hyacinth, a clump of water lettuce, and a few stray bits of duckweed in there, and parked it in the living-room window, where it should make a nice centerpiece for the next few months.

With nothing but fish and algae to muck up the water, the pond doesn’t really need the elaborate, multi-stage filtration system I designed for it last spring, so I disassembled the whole setup and replaced it with a variant on the biofilter I had on my pond in Cape. I upgraded the original design by placing the pump inside a half-gallon sherbet tub with 3/8-inch holes drilled in it, wedging chunks of old memory foam around it, and setting the whole thing inside a one-gallon ice-cream tub with 1/4-inch holes drilled in it. I slipped a layer of Scotch-Brite pads between the tubs, providing additional filtration, and anchored the lid with a bungee cord.

After I put away the excess filter components, I was left with a stack of cinderblocks just right for another project I’d been considering for several months. I’ll show you that one tomorrow.

Emily

Pond maintenance

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See my goldfish? Six for a dollar. Comets, man. You can’t beat ’em.

Today was warm enough that I finally had a chance to clean out the pond. It desperately needed it; that cold snap we had a few weeks ago came on so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to rescue the floating plants, so I ended up with a thick layer of decaying vegetation floating on top of the pond. Yecch.

I’d been planning to wait until spring to change the water, but once I’d scooped out most of the dead plants, I could see how nasty it was, and I was a little concerned the decaying organic material would compromise the oxygen level in the water — endangering the goldfish — if I left it all winter, especially when it gets cold enough to warrant shutting off the pump, so I went ahead and swapped out about 30 gallons of water, which Ron poured onto the garden.

I also hosed off the top of my homemade filter, which had gotten clogged with roots from the dead plants, and used a quarter-inch drill bit to enlarge the holes, which instantly improved the flow rate on the pump.

Water lettuce and water hyacinths are pretty, and they definitely kept the algae down this year, but those long roots kept clogging the fountain this summer, and I suspect they were responsible for its premature demise. I’ll swap them for duckweed next spring. It’s just as good at preventing algae bloom, but its roots are shorter and less likely to clog up the equipment.

I am pleased to report that my goldfish are thriving. I found the body of one very small fish caught in the roots of a rotting hyacinth, but I couldn’t determine the cause of death; it might have frozen, but given its size in relation to the other fish, I suspect it simply succumbed to the law of natural selection. The dead fish was only two inches long, and the three survivors are all four or five inches long, so I’m guessing they just out-competed the little one.

BTW, there is no need to spend ridiculous money on fancy goldfish for your pond unless you just have your heart set on a particular breed. Koi are fine as far as they go, but they’re expensive ($12 to $150 or more) and require more space and better water conditions than plain old feeder goldfish — a.k.a. comets — which are cheaper (25 cents or less), tougher (I’m pretty sure these guys could thrive in a mud puddle), and IMHO, just as pretty as their fancier counterparts. They’re just as smart, too; I’ve heard koi owners brag about how their fish come right up to the edge of the pond to greet them when they come outside, as if that’s some amazing feat of intelligence. I’ve kept comets on and off for years, and I’ve yet to see one that wouldn’t swim to the surface and beg when it saw me walk outside. These guys know a gravy train when they see one.

Bonus: Because comet goldfish are marketed as food for larger species, when you buy one to live in your pond, you’re saving a life.

Yeah. Comets. Getchu some.

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I love it when the water is clear. The pump is aerating the pond nicely, as you can see from the bubbles.

One happy side effect of getting the flow rate up on the pump is that it’s aerating the water better. The fish spent a lot of time playing in the ripples near the surface this afternoon, so I’m assuming they liked it, too.

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Don’t forget to install artificial landing strips for pollinators when vegetation is scarce. Wine corks are ideal for this purpose.

The bees — who were very active today, thanks to the warm weather — were none too pleased with me for messing with their water source and taking away their landing strips, but I’ve been saving wine corks to serve as replacement perches, and I threw a few out there today.

In other news, the quail have quit laying. I could use artificial lights to get them going again, but the whole point of raising my own birds was to ensure they weren’t subjected to the kind of evil crap that goes on in factory farms, so I’ll just trust Mother Nature and let them set their own schedule. If they need the winter off, they can have it.

Hope you had a productive Sunday, wherever you are. I think I’m going to wind mine down by bottling some pinon-infused beer we started a couple of weeks ago and racking a batch of cider. (Homemade hard cider will be an Eco-Saturday one of these days if I ever remember to take pictures of all the steps. It’s a little time-consuming but very easy to make, and the end product is magnificent.)

Emily

Eco-Saturday: DIY pond filter

The motor in my pond’s all-in-one pump and filter burned up a few weeks ago, as motors are wont to do. Rather than spend $120 to replace the whole unit, I decided to install separate components this time around so I’ll be able to replace individual parts as they wear out.

After some online research, I decided I could make a biofilter a lot cheaper than I could buy one. Here’s what I came up with for our pond, which has a capacity somewhere around 50 gallons. A bigger pond obviously will require a bigger bucket and more pot scratchers and Scotch-Brite pads.

Materials:
1-gallon tub with a lid (I used an empty ice-cream bucket)
10″ long PVC pipe, threaded at both ends (in plumber parlance, these are called “nipples”; you’ll want to take your pump along to the hardware store to make sure the nipple you buy is the correct diameter to fit)
Teflon tape
12 plastic pot scratchers
6 Scotch-Brite pads
Pond or fountain pump

Tools:
Drill
Hole-saw bit the same diameter as your PVC pipe
Good-sized drill bit (at least 1/4 inch)
Utility knife and/or sharp, heavy scissors

step2

Start by preparing the bucket lid. Cut a hole in the center of the lid to accommodate the pipe, drill holes all over the lid, and cut a notch at the edge of the lid to accommodate the cord on the pump. (Note: The holes you see above are much too small. I used a 1/8-inch drill bit, thinking it would be sufficient, but the holes clogged quickly, dragging down the flow and putting unnecessary strain on the motor. The pump and filter functioned much better when I enlarged the holes to about 1/4 inch.)

step3

Wrap one end of the nipple with Teflon tape and screw it into the pump.

step4

Slide the free end of the nipple through the hole in the lid.

step5

Set the pump in the center of the bucket and tuck the pot scratchers and Scotch-Brite pads around it. These materials will serve as a medium for growing the good bacteria your pond needs to break down organic material and keep the water clear.

step7

Snap the lid onto the bucket, running the cord out through the notch you cut.

step8

Set the pump in the bottom of your pond, holding it down if necessary for a minute or two to let it fill with water so it doesn’t float back up to the top. Plug in the pump and watch the clear water come out the top. (Note: You may need to adjust the flow rate on the pump to control the height of the spray.)

If you have a yard, and you don’t have a pond yet, I highly recommend building one next spring. Our bees love ours, as do the local toads, who bred out there all summer.

Emily