Water Garden Care Seasonal Care
Water Garden Care
Having created a water garden, you can begin to enjoy the fruits of your labours — the splashing of the waterfall or fountain, brightly colouredgliding serenely beneath soft green waterlily pads — it is indeed a delight.
However, a water garden is not a static feature. Once constructed, planted and stocked with fish, a pool will not continue as a pleasant picture unaided. It will demand management, for it is both a natural environment, full of living plants and creatures, and an unnatural one, being a man-made ecosystem in what may be an alien setting, where normally those plants and creatures may never have existed together.
If you have carefully thought through your water garden from the beginning, its management should be fairly simple; only the vagaries of nature may disturb it from time to time. For the most part, the care of a pool is routine, light and enjoyable work, which is very rewarding.
The important thing is observation. Remember that the pool is a living entity and, rather as a farmer who notices immediately if anything is untoward, so the pondkeeper should spot impending trouble. By regularly spending time at the poolside, you will minimize the opportunity for major problems developing, for relaxation beside a pool is often the removal of the odd dead floating leaf, faded blossom or small tangle of .
If opportunities for lazy poolside days are few and far between, regard the water garden as you might the herbaceous or shrub border. Borders are regularly hoed and plants are staked, so with the pool, leaves and blanket weed should be constantly attended to, and whenappears, appropriate treatment should be provided.
Consistency and observation are the keys to successful water garden maintenance.
A considerable amount of routine work is necessary to ensure that a water garden functions efficiently during the summer — the active growing season, but before that a spring clear-up is essential.
After the winter, a lot of tidying up will be needed. Thewill benefit from having any lingering winter debris removed and the soil gently pricked over with a fork. This is the time to apply a , but if the is connected directly to the pool, take great care in selecting the material for this. One that is rich in nutrients, such as well rotted , is undesirable, as it may release nutrients into the water which, in turn, will become green with algae. A well composted bark mulch is much better.
The marginal shelves should receive similar attention. Plants must be tidied up and, where appropriate, lifted, divided and replanted, utilizing only the vigorous outer portions.is not practical within the pool, but a fresh layer of pea shingle spread over the surface of the soil and around marginal plants, whether these are planted directly on the shelf or in containers, will be of great benefit in preventing the fish from stirring up the soil in their quest for aquatic insect larvae.
If the pool needs to be cleaned out, do it now, before the plants begin growing vigorously. At this time of the year, the plants will not suffer and any fish can be kept safely in containers in a garage or outhouse while the work continues. Only clean out the pool if the water has become an unpleasant black or blue colour, or if there is a substantial accumulation of silt and organic debris that is causing management problems. The regular use of proprietary products to break up sludge will reduce the frequency at which the pond will need cleaning out completely.
If a pool heater has been used during the winter, it should be disconnected, cleaned, dried and packed away until needed again in the autumn. If a pump is to be connected to the electrical supply, this must be done immediately.
Make sure that the pump and any attachments, such as a filter, function properly before the season really gets under way. Use a suitable bacterial product to initiate the correct functioning of a biological filter.
PREPARING FOR SUMMER
Once the spring clean has been completed, preparations can be made for the summer season. It is very important to fertilize established plants, especially waterlilies, which often remain undisturbed for several years, yet are heavy feeders. To ensure thatreaches the roots where it is required without raising the nutrient level of the water, and thereby increasing the presence of algae, a certain amount of ingenuity must be employed.
There are proprietary tabletand others that come in small sachets with a perforated section, through which the fertilizer is gradually released into the compost when dampened. Both the tablets and sachets are pushed into the compost right next to the plants with minimal disturbance. Some gardeners prefer to use traditional bonemeal and clay pills to fertilize their , and while this is not such an accurate method of supplying nutrients, it is still satisfactory. Each pill is made by mixing a handful of coarse bonemeal with sufficient wet clay to bind it together. Then it is thrust into the container next to the plant. Liquid fertilizers are also available and are very simple to use, but care should be taken when choosing to ensure that such a fertilizer is suitable for pond use, being rich in micro-nutrients, but without nitrates or phosphates.
In warm weather, topping up the pool with water to replace that which has been lost through evaporation is very important. Any disturbance among the plants must be kept to a minimum. In the case of the bog garden, this should be restricted to weeding and, and within the pool to dead-heading and the occasional thinning of submerged , although this should be for purely cosmetic purposes only at this time. Radical thinning of submerged plants during the summer months should be avoided, unless they are particularly overcrowded.
Provide support for any plants that require it, although by and large this will be restricted to the bog garden area. Staking will not look very attractive in the water garden, so as far as possible encourage plants to support each other by careful planting. Most floating aquatics grow rapidly during the summer months, and sometimes the carpeting types, such as Azolla caroliniana, need controlling. Remove excessive growth with a net and discard it on the compost heap.
FEEDING THE FISH
As the water warms up (above 10°C/50°F), the fish will become active and benefit from being fed a good-quality food. A well established pool will normally provide sufficient natural foods to support a small fish population, but feeding does allow their diet to be improved and balanced. It also encourages the fish to become more placid than usual. If fed regularly at one point in the pool, the fish will soon begin to respond to a cast shadow or even a footfall. Feed them twice a day, but only give enough food for them to consume in five minutes, then scoop up the remainder with a net and discard it. It is important to provide a good-quality diet that will be fully utilized by the fish with minimal waste.
At this time of the year, fish may start breeding, so keep an eye open for fry. You may not have any intention of encouraging breeding, but nature will take its course, and in many cases fry will be seen clinging to submerged plants following a session of frenzied activity by adult fish. If you want to keep a few fry, place them in a bucket of pond water with a substantial quantity of submerged plant, such as milfoil or Canadian pondweed. This will protect them from the predations of their parents and give them the opportunity to develop into valuable adult fish.
Provided the pool is stocked in a reasonably well balanced manner, there should never be a serious algae problem. However, some of the filamentous kinds persist even when the pool water is completely clear, and while the algae can easily be killed with an algaecide, it still has to be removed to prevent de-oxygenation of the water as it decomposes. A stick or cane with a hook or nail in the end is the simplest, and most effective, device for winding the algae in so that it can be discarded. Take care when using an algaecide, since it may also kill any waterlilies and oxygenating plants.
Although the water garden appears to become dormant during the autumn and winter, there is still activity taking place. This must be catered for in the autumn, and sometimes adjustments made for it in the depths of winter.
Proper autumn preparations are vitally important for the survival of the pool’s occupants during the winter, especially the fish. The first task is to clean up the marginal plants immediately the first autumn frosts have cut them back. On no account must they be permitted to fall into the pool and pollute the water.
Waterlilies can be allowed to die back of their own accord, except in small tub or container water gardens. Beginners tooften feel concern for their waterlilies during the winter, but they need not fear, for hardy waterlilies do not suffer provided they remain submerged beneath 30-60cm (24-48in) of water. Small or pygmy kinds, growing in a shallow pool, can have the water drained off and their crowns protected by a generous layer of straw, the whole pool being covered with a plastic sheet to keep out the rain. They overwinter very well like this, especially where otherwise there would be very little water covering them. Waterlilies growing in tubs can be drained off, the plant, complete with mud, being stored in a frost-free place until the following spring.
Most floating plants disappear completely during the winter months, only the troublesome duck-weeds tending to linger. All the popular plants produce winter turions or, in the case of the( ), spiny seeds. These fall to the pool floor and do not reappear until the spring when the water starts to warm up. Obviously, the lower part of the pool is the coolest place, so sometimes it will be early summer before the turions surface and the plants burst into growth again.
To advance the plants’ season, a number of turions should be gathered during the early autumn, before they sink to the bottom of the pool. Keep them in a bowl of water with a little soil sprinkled on the bottom. If stored successfully during the winter months, they can either be started into early growth with a little protection, or introduced to the warmer upper reaches of the pool much sooner. This may only make the difference of a week or two, but it is most important, especially when the foliage cover they provide is an essential part of theof the pool.
All the popular floating plants can also be stored successfully as, plants in a cool light place, in bowls or jars of pool water with a little soil scattered over the base. When selecting suitable specimens, always choose the younger pieces of plants like the. Normally, the main plant will be brittle and will disintegrate in winter storage, but the soft young plantlets formed on runners will be perfectly happy under these spartan conditions.
Where there is an electrical supply to the pool, install the pool heater. If this replaces a pump, take this out of the water and give it a thorough clean. Remove the filter, and clean and dry it prior to storing the pump for the winter. Even if you do not have a pool heater, there is little point in allowing the pump to remain in the pool throughout the winter.
Fish will be perfectly happy and able to overwinter if they are in good condition in the autumn. Generally, they will experience few problems if they have had sufficient food during the summer months, and they will pass through severe weather unscathed. If possible, it is worth feeding them on a wheatgerm-based food before the onset of winter. Such foods are specially manufactured and are rapidly digested by the fish, even in cool weather.
COPING WITH WINTER
Although the pool is not as lively and vibrant during the winter as it is in the summer, life goes on, especially the steady decomposition of organic material in the murky depths on the floor. Under normal circumstances, the gases that are produced by this year-round decomposition escape freely into the air, but if the pool ices over in severe weather, they become trapped between the water surface and the ice, putting the fish at risk of being asphyxiated.
So of all the tasks in winter, venting the pool when it ices over is crucial. If you have a pool heater, there will be no problem. The heater will comprise a brass rod containing a heating element and a polystyrene float. The term ‘pool heater’ is a bit of a misnomer, for it does not heat the entire pool, but rather keeps a small area free of ice and allows the ready escape of gases.
Never break the ice with a hammer or similar blunt instrument. This creates shock waves that can concuss or even kill the fish. Even running across a frozen pond can cause extreme distress to the fish beneath. A pan of boiling water stood on the ice and allowed to melt through is the best solution, although infinite patience is required, as it will take several panfuls to have an effect upon any but the thinnest layer of ice.
Modern pool construction materials are usually quite resistant to frost and ice problems, but not so concrete. Ice can exert tremendous pressures that are capable of cracking the most expertly laid concrete if precautions are not taken. The best way to overcome the problem is to float a piece of wood or a rubber ball on the surface of the water, so that the pressure is absorbed by an object that is capable of expanding and contracting.
If fish become active during mild spells, feed them on a wheatgerm-based food, as this will prevent them from using up their valuable stored food reserves.