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Pond care - your seasonal guide

Date posted: 3 March 2014

Ponds can provide a lovely feature for a garden, and they also offer a rich habitat for a whole host of wildlife. On the flip side, without proper maintenance they can soon become an unsightly bog full of overgrown weeds and unhealthy water. With an occasional clean up to remove the debris, however, along with a bit of regular maintenance, you can keep your pond looking great all year round.

Spring and summer pond care

Spring is a good time to get stuck in to a bit of pond maintenance, including cleaning and restocking the pond to keep it healthy for the rest of the year.

When the temperature starts to rise, plant shoots will start to emerge above water level and, if you keep fish, they will become increasingly active. Sunshine also encourages the growth of algae, however, so spring is a good time of year to give your pond a good clear out. All you will need for the job are a few simple garden tools, a hose, and a net if you have fish. If you don't have all the necessary items, check out your local tool hire centre and they should be able to source any equipment you need at an affordable price.

First, remove any fish from the pond, placing them in a bucket or container of the old pond water while you're cleaning the pond out. Remove the remaining water and any pond pumps or other equipment, and thoroughly clean out your pond. This will involve removing any rotting leaves or other debris, and scrubbing the sides gently without soap, then rinsing them down afterwards. You will also need to clean out the pump and filters, and check the hoses and pond lining for cracks, holes or leaks, replacing them if necessary.

If you have fish living in your pond, it is best to have half or more of the pond's surface area covered with floating plants. This provides fish with a safe place to hide from potential predators and helps to keep them cool during the warmer summer months. At the same time, plant cover will help to prevent too much algae growth. The spring is a good time to buy and add new pond plants if you need them, and to prune back marginal plants. You can remove any weeds at the same time, and re-pot plants that have outgrown their original pots. Water lilies are one of the few pond plants that require fertiliser – most others will happily survive without.

Once the summer arrives, it is a good idea to regularly test and check your pond's water quality using pH testing strips, which are widely available from garden centres or pond and aquatic suppliers. You can buy adjuster acid or adjuster alkaline to raise or lower pH levels as necessary. Aim to keep the pH level of the water between 6.5 and 7, and top up the pond regularly during hot periods as the water can quickly evaporate.

Autumn and winter pond care

When autumn is on its way, it is time to prepare your pond for colder weather by cutting back plant foliage so that it is not overhanging the pond, because falling leaves can release toxins into the water as they rot, which can be poisonous to some pond creatures. If you can't completely prevent leaves and vegetation falling into your pond, place a pond net over the surface for the autumn and winter.

If you have an ornamental waterfall, turn it off during cold spells, particularly if you keep fish. When temperatures drop, your fish seek out warmer water at the base of the pond, and waterfalls can disrupt this layer by mixing it with colder water.

If you experience freezing temperatures, your pond may ice over, reducing the amount of oxygen in the water. Try to maintain at least one opening somewhere in the ice to allow in more oxygen. One method involves placing a plastic bottle in the water overnight so that if it does freeze over you can just remove the bottle to create the oxygenating hole. If you are not prepared for freezing temperatures and find it has entirely frozen over, just warm up some water to pour gently over the ice to create a hole. Never use boiling water, as it could harm your fish, and never smash the ice because it can send shocks through the water that cause also cause trauma for your fish.



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