Garden ponds in early Spring

There’s so much to do, and so little time. The easy part is planting and building, though not so easy at the time. Inspiration is likely the culprit, for motivation is easier in the doing than in maintaining.

Now is the time to pick up and clean up, and I fear every year that I’ve undertaken more in this garden than I can handle. But the work seems to get done a piece at a time, and by the time the Redbuds burst into bloom in several weeks all will be well, or well enough.

Spring cleanup of the ponds is the neediest task on the agenda. There are six ponds in the garden with varying requirements. A dirt bottomed, wet weather pond is partially leaf filled, but will get no attention. This pond was dug to dry the boggy bottom of the garden, and contains no fish, only cattails, iris, and other pond marginals. The leaves will break down soon enough, though with the jungle growing in and around the pond I rarely see the water.

p1010684I have already removed the net covering the pond in the front yard. By some miraculous turn I had the nets on before leaves fell in the Fall, and this pond was built in late Summer, so cleanup took less than an hour. The water is clear, so need not be drained and refilled.p10108771

The water in the big swimming pond is also clear. I hope never to need to drain and fill this 25,000 gallon pond, so it’s my priority in the Fall to install the net before the annual leaf drop. The fifty by fifty foot net is quite cumbersome to remove covered with wet leaves, so this will take some assistance.p1010873

There is a bit of string algae that grows each Winter in the shallow bog filter area, but this will take but a few minutes to remove. The iris, pseudoacorus, and variegated cattails must be cut back before new foliage emerges, but this is a quick task, albeit one that requires tall waterproof boots. With the warm weather last week the koi have awakened from their Winter of inactivity, much like myself.

If you’re interested in the story behind the swimming pond follow this link. I can barely bring myself to show photos of the mess that the pond is today, but the pictures below shows what will be in another month or so.

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Quite soon I will be floating on my little raft with koi swimming at my side, dodging dragonflies, and watching birds soar overhead.

(No, that’s not a large sea mammal, and yes, I am wearing shorts.)

This doesn’t sound so bad after all. Three ponds down, three to go.

The remaining ponds are not large, the largest being less than two hundred square feet, but they are beneath the forest’s edge, and bordered by every plant of this and that I could possibly fit in. So, they seem to accumulate every leaf and twig that drops within a four county area.

To clean these ponds, and to remove the large swimming pond net, requires assistance from my Meadows Farms pond crew, including my son who grew up with the ponds and is the lead foreman. I hope for a warm day, as working with water in chilly weather is not a pleasant chore..

Though the ponds were netted and not in nearly the condition as years when I am neglectful in netting in a timely manner, undoubtedly the water will need to be drained to clean the ponds to a reasonable degree.

The poor goldfish will be moved to a pail of water pumped from the pond while we spray the rock and gravel and pump out the bottom muck. With the muck removed and the rocks cleaned we will cut back the waterlilies, iris, acorus, and whatever else might have been planted there. The ponds with filters will require a thorough spray to clean the gunk, and pumps will be inspected and cleaned.

And then we will refill the water. Since the ponds are not hopelessly fouled, perhaps we’ll be able to salvage the water that we pump off the top into a clean pond so that I lose only a couple hundred gallons into the surrounding landscape. We shall see.

The goldfish are not dumped back into the pond, but must be slowly acclimated to the new water temperature. Once cupfuls of water have been exchanged to bring the temperature of the pail close enough to that of the pond we will reintroduce them back to their newly cleaned home.

The cleaned pond might remain a bit cloudy for a few days, but soon will be crystal clear. In an odd case there might be enough suspended solids in the water that we’ve stirred up that the filter pads will need to be rinsed in another week. This is a minor task.

In all, the three ponds will take bit longer than a half day to clean with the help of several assistants. For my ponds this will be the last significant time I will spend on maintenance for the year until the time comes to put the nets on in October. I expect that there will be a few outbreaks of string algae to deal with, and the filters might need a spray or two through the year.

Already this task seems well in hand with warm days forecast for this week. Afterward other chores await. Many perennials require cutting back and leaves have accumulated here and there that must be removed. A red maple from the native wood line has arched over the garden and must be removed. We’ll soon see if I can juggle a chainsaw and ladder.

These unpleasant tasks are a necessary prelude to a glorious Spring in the garden. Soon I will have photos of the delights that accompany the garden and ponds.

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