A backyard water pond garden pond can become the center of interest around which the rest of your yard may be designed. Water gardening requires much less effort than other types of gardening: no weeding; no hoeing; no watering. Water lilies, for example, have delighted water gardeners for more than a century.
Water lilies, together with a variety of other marginal plants, offer a quick and rewarding means of landscaping. If you choose your plants wisely and give the plants a little attention each year, your water garden can give you months of enjoyment.
For an average pond measuring 6 feet by 8 feet and 2 feet deep, a proper mix of aquatic plants may be: 3 water lilies; 6 surface floating plants; 8 to 10 marginal plants; and 10 to 12 bunches of submerged plants. Many plants will live outside from year to year with little care. Other water plants may have to be taken inside to survive the winter. There are several good books available to give you additional information about selecting, propagating, and growing water plants.
Pond Tips for Different Seasons
Spring Tips – Check List
- As pond temperatures warm into the upper 50 F, start feeding the fish with high carbohydrate/low protein food. As the water warms gradually work up to the higher protein foods.
- Raise aquatic plant pots from the bottom to warmer surface water. Divide and repots plants as needed.
- Early spring is the time to remove pond waste and leaves. As the pond temperature begins to rise, the pond detritus begins decomposing rapidly and releases nutrients into the water. Possible effects from this scenario are robbing the pond of oxygen, releasing toxic gases, and causing an algae boom.
- Test the water for both pH and ammonia.
- Check pumps, lines, and restart filters. Use an inoculant to get Biofilters restarted.
- Remove filamentous algae by hand or by using a notched stick. If unicellular algae persists consider adding more scavengers, plants, or re-evaluating your filter system.
- Begin fertilizing pond plants after they start to grow. Divide and repot them if needed.
- Watch for spawning fish.
- When plants are growing vigorously, fertilize them once a month until temperatures reach the eighties, then fertilize them twice a month
- Do not put tropical plants into the pond until the water temperature is 70 F.
Summer Tips – Check List
As water evaporates, refill it as needed.
- Fertilize the lilies every two weeks when the water temperature is in the 80’s. Other pond plants only need fertilizer once a month.
- Prune the old or decaying leaves and spent blossoms.
- Feed the fish what they will eat in 5 to 10 minutes, this can be split into several feedings. Fish are active in the summer and will benefit from high protein and color enhancing foods.
- Clean the filter as the pond dictates.
- Check the submersible pump for debris in the impellers.
- Be on the alert for unwanted summertime pests.
Fall Check List
- Feed fish high protein food in early fall, switch to low protein-high carbohydrate food as winter approaches. Color enhancing food is not necessary in the fall.
- Stop feeding fish when pond water temperatures lowers to 50 F.
- If fish are to be left in the pond through the winter, make sure to keep an opening in the ice to provide a place for oxygen to enter and to allow other gases to escape.
- Keep lilies well pruned, cut back frost killed foliage and set pots in the bottom of the pond for the winter.
- Clean the pond as much as possible. Make sure you remove as much bottom debris as possible.
- After two or three freezes check tropical lilies. Store tubers in plastic bags filled with water in a cool spot for the winter.
- Remove falling leaves from pond as often as possible.
Winter Check List
- Consider a stock tank warmer, or a pond deicing device, to keep an open area free of ice.
- Let a small pump run all winter with a tube near the surface, to prevent ice from completely covering the pond.
- Do not break ice with a hammer. The shock waves may kill your fish.
- Let a ball float on the pond. Remove the ball each morning and replace it every night to help maintain a hole in the ice.
- Do not feed your fish during the winter.