Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Fall Pond

As with all gardens (and gardeners), my pond and surrounding garden have evolved with time.  By chance that makes perfect sense, it has become somewhat of a wildlife or native garden.  I can only do so much amending of the soil surrounding the pond before the sides or rocks lose support or excess nutrients wash in.  Obviously the plants that do the best in our native clay soil are native plants.  During my garden makeover last year, I decided the pond garden would be a good area to display my collections of such plants as Echinacea, Eupatorium, Liatris and Solidago. The combination of native plants and water attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife year round.

The sound of water falling is not only attractive to people, but also to wildlife.  For me, the waterfall has also been one of the hardest parts to get "perfect."  Therefore every couple of years I find myself tweaking it.  I always prefer to do this in the fall, after the plants are dying back, and then I do not have to worry so much about them.  It can take awhile to find areas where the water is misdirected out of the pond and can get frustrating at times.  This year I had the privilege of sitting back and watching my dearie, Jim, put his ideas into the arrangement.  He calls it "Swedish ingenuity," I call it "Scorp ingenuity."  I do not know which it is, or maybe a combination of both, but he is good and the sound has never carried so far.

Waterfall after Jim rearranged some of the rocks.

I do not generally feed my fish a lot because there are lots of insects and algae for them to eat while the weather is warm.  Between people giving me unwanted fish and them multiplying amongst themselves, I have more than I should for the size of the pond and the balance could easily get off by overfeeding.  Anyone who has a pond knows how easy it is for the balance to get off and string algae to take over.  In preparation for their winter hibernation, I do feed them more often in the fall and add extra bacteria for control of sludge and algae.

Fish enjoying a fall feast.

Most pond experts will tell you not to just add water to the pond because the waste gets condensed, but to dip some of the existing water out first.  To save time, I typically just run the pond over some when I add water to it and the surrounding plants can feed on the fish waste, nutrient rich water.  It is excellent for watering plants with.

Since this pond is as much for the wildlife as it is for me, and I do leave the fish in it, I leave it running year round.  That way, in the cold of winter, the birds can still get a drink and a bath whenever they would like to.  To make this possible, when the pond starts to freeze over, I put in a heater.  I suppose there are expensive pond heaters you can buy.  Anything specially marked "pond" is usually overpriced though, so I got a heater for horse and cattle water at a local farm supply store and it works perfectly.

As an added bonus to heating the pond, I do not have to remove my water lilies and find a place to store (aka slowly kill) them over the winter.  As the weather cools, the mature foliage dies back.  The roots and smaller, still underwater leaves live on in a dormant state.  When the weather warms in spring, they are ready to take off.

Water lilies take on their fall color.

As leaves continue to fall, they will need to be dipped out of the pond.  Through the winter the pump filter will still need to be cleaned and water added from time to time.  Otherwise it is good to go until spring.


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