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Water Garden Spring Chores


Water Garden Spring Chores

By, Kevin Cutlip

With the the non stop rains we are getting, not only is our landscaping suffering, but so are the water gardens. Continuous algae blooms, non-stop overflows, plants outgrowing their boundaries and a limited time to get them in shape.

So here are some simple tasks to get moving with. Remember, it is a garden.

The first thing is, if you haven’t run your electrical system all winter, make sure you check it. Make the GFI trip, reset it, and trip it again. Clean out any debris and be sure the connections are dry. Reset it, and let it run for about an hour, making sure it will not overheat.

Now, let’s “un-winterize” the feature. If you moved your pump closer to the waterfall in the early winter, it’s time to place it back to the furthest spot away from the falls. This will allow the cycling of all overwintered nutrients to be taken up into the filtration, contributing to your nitrifying bacteria for the season. If it ran all winter. it’s time to give it a clean out. Water garden pumps are usually, easily disassembled, and you can clean them completely. Check with your vendor instructions, or see us. If your water temp is above 58 degrees, you can start feeding your fish sparingly. They are coming out of dormancy and need to acclimate themselves to their new diet. Try frozen peas first.

Check your plants! New shoots are telling you that they are hungry and needing to be propagated as well. Your feature will go through an algae bloom, maybe several this year, and that is a good thing! That means it can support life, and it’s rebounding to constant climate changes. Think about this for a second: If you can grow algae (the smallest plant life) then you can grow anything. S,o let it acclimate, because it will. Clearing will happen after the algae is ingested by the filter, and dies off. Algae Blooms are caused by several factors, and El Nino is throwing them all at us now. Add new Barley Straw, near the intake of your pump, and more oxygenators for the season. Patience… Your fish are fine.
Clean out any leaf material in the basin. Use a “Leaf Rake” because they work best for debris removal. Do not clean out your filter – leave it be. You can clear around it, but don’t clean the insides because you have nitrifying bacteria in there that is coming to life and is beneficial to the coming season. YES, those worms that you will find are okay worms. Toss them back in! Think about if you were growing in the ground…

Clean off your lighting lenses and re-position them. Check your rockery or whatever you have as edging, and shore up, re-mortar, re-stack, and make sure your dry exposed liner is all hidden from sunlight. If you have a UV light, clean the bulb and housing. Install new succulents, grasses, etc., in the cracks and crevices. They will add softness as well as hold excess runoff.


Re-potting Waterlilies: Here are a few simple rules concerning tubers.

  • Pull up, rinse off, and cut out portions as you would do potatoes (cut and replant the eyes).
  • Plant in the corner of the container and use either pea gravel or Diatamatious Clay (unsented, non-clumping Kitty Litter) and feed with a water garden plant food in the opposite corner.
  • Top-dress container with clean gravel.
  • Soak well before re-inserting into pond, so the new material won’t “perk” up.

Replanting your Bio-Falls:
Simply put, if you have fish, you can grow anything in that substrate, even cuttings. The more you introduce into that bed, the better the water quality will be. Have you ever heard of a BMP? Here are a few  examples, and believe it or not, your water garden is a miniature. It’s a lot to digest, but Agriculturists (backyard water garden owners), are a re-coming trend. If you can understand that benevolent neglect is the key to having a clean water scape, you are ahead of the others. Don’t fret if you don’t understand the following links in total, but everything in them happens in your water garden, no matter the size. A water garden is a garden, not a fish pond. There just happens to be fish in it!

Did you know that urban BMP Stormwater Systems are just a bigger part of your water garden plantings. They have the same biological undertakings with no chemicals, and they live. We have them here in Richmond. Do you know where? If you work downtown, you walk past them daily. If there is a retention pond in your neighborhood, it is the same thing. Simplistic benevolent neglect is the key…

Come see us this week at our water garden class. We’ll break it all down.

Water Gardening Class
Saturday at 10am, bring your pics, questions and your experience. We will cover it all! If you recently inherited a water feature in your new home, we have your back. If you are interested in installing one, Stange’s is the place for DIY ponds, as well as finishing off the surrounding landscape. There are also ways to help you upgrade your system cheaply, so you can enjoy your time at the pond. Maybe we can get enough interest to form another Water Garden Club in the area!

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