Now that the winter snows have melted and the temperatures are rising, it’s time to start thinking about your garden pond and the ecosystem it contains. The coming of spring also means the cleaning of your garden pond and preparing it for the long season ahead.
Why do you need to do spring pond cleaning?
Large farm ponds and natural spring fed ponds are flushed out with the heavy spring rains each year. Our garden ponds need flushing out as well to keep it fresh for the new season.
It seems like ponds are attractants of many different types of debris such as leaves, dust, grass clippings, pine needles, acorns and more. If you have installed a pond skimmer, it has probably removed most of the debris by sucking the debris into it. But even with a pond skimmer installed there will be some debris that sinks to the bottom of your garden pond. If the debris isn’t removed it will lead to possible water quality and clarity problems in the future.
If a pond skimmer isn’t installed in your garden pond then you need to have a regular pond cleaning schedule. Constantly use a pond net with small hole size to remove floating debris and all debris that has sunk to the bottom of your pond.
Placing pond netting over your pond in the fall can help in keeping debris such as leaves and sticks out of your pond. But even with a pond net some debris such as pine needles, dust and other small debris can slip through the small holes in the netting.
Now that we know why you need to give your pond a good spring pond cleaning, let’s talk about things you need to do the job right.
Tools you’ll need for spring pond cleaning
There are a few things that you’ll need before you get started. First you’ll need some large containers to house your fish and plants during a pond cleaning. Small kiddy pools work great for this. Make sure your container is large enough to provide enough water for your fish to be comfortable during your pond cleaning. Be sure to keep your containers in the shade, shallow containers heat up fast in the sun.
A good quality fish net is recommended. Old and dry nets can damage a fish by having the fish’s fins caught in it. A higher quality net and cleaning your net after every use will help avoid fish damage.
You will need a large bucket to hold debris you remove from your pond.
Cleaning a pond cleaning is a dirty job. You may want to invest in a pair of waders to avoid messing up your clothes. Rubber gloves wouldn’t be a bad idea either. You will be grabbing and touching things that will get your hands dirty.
You will need to drain your pond with a pump. You can use the pond pump that currently circulates your pond or buy an additional pump. A solids handling pump would work best because it can handle most of the debris and sludge that has built up on the bottom of your pond. If you are using non-solids handling pump, you will need to place the pump on a block and use it to drain as much of the water out as possible. Then vacuum out the rest with a pond vacuum. You will also need tubing for discharging the water out of the pond. Buying additional tubing will be very helpful, so you don’t have to take up tubing that is already in place.
You will also need a pressure washer or garden hose for cleaning the rocks. Don’t exceed 1500-2500 psi, you don’t want to over clean the surfaces of the rock.
You will need garden shears to trim your aquatic plants in and around the pond.
Use a aquantic plant fertilizer to give your pond plants a jumpstart for the spring.
Taking proper precautions when performing spring pond cleaning
Without taking the proper precautions before, during and after cleaning your pond, the fish, plants and other life your pond supports can be damaged severely.
Pond Fish Care
Before you begin your spring pond cleaning, you need to plan on how and where you are going to care for thefish while your pond is being cleaned. Remember, some cleaning jobs take the good part of the day to complete and larger ponds take even longer. Providing a safe and healthy temporary environment for your fish is very important. By doing the following your fish will be returned to their home as healthy as they were when they were removed.
• Have large enough containers to safely house all of your fish.
• Fill each container with the cleaner water near the surface of the pond.
• Lower the ponds water level to around six inches before trying to capture your fish. This makes it easier to catch the fish.
• Place the containers in shaded areas. The water in the shallow containers heats up rapidly in sunny areas.
• Each container will need to maintain sufficient oxygen levels. You can accomplish this by using a small fountain pump with a fountain attachment or an air pump. Both are good for maintaining oxygen levels for your pond fish.
• Cover the tops of the containers with netting to keep the fish, especially koi, from jumping out. You can use the pond netting that you use in the fall to cover the containers. Be sure to weight the ends to provide a tight cover.
In many instances it is necessary to remove the pond plants from the pond before cleaning. This is especially necessary if you choose to pressure wash the rock in your pond. It is a good time to trim the plants back and to remove some of the plants that are overgrown or planted in a pot.
Different pond plants require different care and precautions during pond cleaning. Lilies and submerged plants should be placed in temporary holding containers and placed in a shady area, while potted marginals can be removed and placed away from cleaning activity. If its roots are escaping the pot or if the marginal is not planted in a pot, the plant needs to be placed in a temporary holding container with enough water to cover the roots.
It’s recommended that you thin out your pond plants so they will grow strong and bloom all season. This also keeps them from taking over the pond. The iris is an exception and should be tended to in the fall. Divide and re-pot your lilies every spring to avoid limiting the space for its roots to grow. To do this you need to trim the rhizome back 3 to 6 inches in size by cutting or breaking off the old rootstock. Fill a pot half full aquatic plant soil and add plant fertilizer. Plant the rhizome in the soil at a 45 degree angle, with the cut part facing down, leaving the growing tip above the soil. Fill pot with water and top the soil with gravel. Place the pot into the pond. You should expect to see growth in about 2-3 weeks.
Wait until the water temperature reaches 70 degrees before adding or repotting tropical lilies. Planting these lilies too early could restrict the growth of the plant and could cause the plant to go into the dormancy almost all season long.
You should trim your marginals one to two inches above the pond water level in the fall. If you haven’t, during the spring cleaning of your pond is a good time to do so. This promotes stronger and healthier looking plants for the entire season.
Move semi-hardy pond plants that have wintered in the deeper, non-freezing water and move them back to their in-season place. Now is a great time to trim back old growth on these plants as well.
Spring is the time to feed your plants. Aquatic plant fertilizer will help give your pond plants a healthy start to the season. Algae can also feed on some aquatic plant fertilizer so be sure to use aquatic plant fertilizers as directed.
Cleaning Your Pond
Once all of your pond fish and pond plants have been taken care of, you are now ready to start draining your pond. Once the water is removed, either by a solids handling pump or by a non-solids handling pump sat on a block, use a pond vacuum to remove any remaining debris that was left. Agitate the gravel to help remove debris that has settled down in the cracks. Remove larger debris by hand and be careful not to damage plants that haven’t been removed.
Begin hosing off the rocks and gravel using a garden hose or pressure washer. Use a brush to remove stubborn grime. Leave some algae on the rocks since it can be beneficial in the re-development of the ponds ecosystem.
Pump the dirty water out of the pond until you are done with your cleaning. Reposition any rocks or ornaments that were moved during the pond cleaning process and proceed to cleaning your ponds mechanical components.
Cleaning Your Pond Filter
Spring is a great time to clean your biological pond filter because the beneficial bacteria that are needed to keep your pond clean and healthy haven’t had an opportunity to grow yet. pond cleaning during the water gardening season can seriously damage your beneficial bacteria in your pond filter.
Pull any filter media out of the pond filter and hose it off. If you are using lava rock as filter media you should replace it with new lava rock or upgrade to a permanent media such as biospheres, which creates great biological filtration and will last the life of your pond. Replace any worn or damaged filter foam or pads.
While all of the filter media is removed, vacuum out any sludge and debris that has built up on the bottom of the pond filter over the last season.
Check all of your connections for leaks and tighten all hose clamps to avoid any future leaks throughout the water garden season.
Now is the time to clean your pond skimmer as well. Remove the net and pads or brushes and hose them off thoroughly. Check the debris net for damage or worn spots. If you find any, the net will need to be replaced. Take this opportunity to vacuum out the sludge and debris from the bottom of the pond skimmer.
If you have installed a UV clarifier/sterilizer for additional algae control, then it’s time to replace the bulb. A UV bulb loses its effectiveness after running all season and will have lost 75% of it’s effectiveness. This will lead to algae build up sooner into the season. It’s best to replace the UV bulb before the algae turns your pond peasoup green.
Re-Introducing The Fish To Your Clean Pond
Once you have cleaned out your pond, it would be best if you take this opportunity to check your pond fish for signs of disease or parasites. If there are signs of either you should treat your pond with appropriate medication or feed you fish medicated food while they are still in the temporary holding containers.
Now you’ve completed cleaning your pond, pond filters, pond skimmers, and replacing the UV bulb, it’s now time to refill your pond with water and turn your pond fish back to their home. Before you turn them back there are certain steps you must do to so that you don’t harm your pond fish upon their release.
• After the pond has filled you need to add dechlorinator and destresser to the water to make it safe for the return of the pond fish.
• Check the pH level of your pond water to make sure it falls within the recommended guidelines of 6.5- 9.0.
• Check the water temperature. If the water temperature is within 5 degrees of the water in the holding containers then you can immediately release the fish into the pond.
• If there is a difference of more than 5 degrees in water temperatures then empty 15% – 20% of the water in the holding containers and add some new, treated pond water. Repeat this process once every 15 to 20 minutes for about 45 minutes. Once the water temperatures of the holding container water and pond water are within 5 degrees of each other you can release the fish into the pond.
Now set back and enjoy your fresh, clean pond.