Step 1: Inspect the pond
Start by checking that debris such as leaves, and sticks have not blown into your water garden during autumn and winter. Larger items can be removed by hand and smaller ones such as leaves or dead foliage from pond plants can be scooped up with a pond net.
Over time sludge and sediment can accumulate in the bottom of the pond and
although not harmful, it can be unsightly, especially in more formal pond settings. This material can be siphoned off the bottom of the pond if you have enough fall from the pond to the ground. A faster and more effective alternative is to use a pond vacuum. Don’t just use a wet & dry vacuum, pond vacuums are specifically designed for removing this waste material from ponds and water gardens and are far faster and more efficient.
When cleaning a fish pond, a good alternative to vacuuming is to use one of the sludge-consuming bacteria products that are on the market like EcoFixor Splosht. These products contain millions of beneficial bacteria that
when used as directed can reduce the amount of sludge in the bottom of the pond by 50%. These products proved the best method of cleaning your pond naturally, that is safe for fish as well.
Step 2: Re-pot and fertilise the plants
It's not uncommon for pond plants to brown off and in some cases die back during winter. Most water plants are hardier than you think and will re-grow as the weather warms up. How long that takes depends on the temperature of both the water and the air. As a rule, plants will not start growing well until there are consistent night-time temperatures above 10 degrees.
Don’t be intimidated about pruning plants in your water garden. Start by cutting off any brown or dead leaves with a sharp pair of scissors or secateurs. You can cut many pond plants back by at least two-thirds and they will recover. Check if plants have become pot bound as even pond plants need to be repotted. Signs your plants are pot bound include; the pot being a distorted shape and roots or growth of the pond plant coming out of the base or sides of the pot.
Repotting your pond plants also means that you can get extra plants for your pond, or you could give them to a friend to start their own water garden. Use a potting mix designed specifically for pond plants. This will have the correct mix of nutrients and texture. Different plants are divided in different ways so see our video on how to do it.
The beginning of spring is also an excellent time to divide up your water lilies. Remove the pot that the lilies have been growing in and wash all of the soil from the water lily corm. You may even have to cut the pot off the lily if it is particularly pot-bound. Most water lily corms have a woody end and a growing end. The woody material can be cut off and then focus your attention on the growing end. Here there will be growth nodes and the corm can be cut at each nodeand then repotted. Use loamy soil from the garden for repotting water lilies, not a potting mix as this is too light and will simply wash out of the pot. A fine layer of gravel should be used on the surface of the soil to prevent it from washing out when the newly potted lilies are returned to the pond. Finish off each newly potted water lily with a fertiliser tabletto give it a boost for the start of the growing season.
Existing plants should also be fertilized and it is always best to use a made-for-purpose pond plant fertiliser as these have the right balance of nutrients for optimal pond plant growth. The easiest to administer are those in tablet form and using them is as simple as pushing one of the fertiliser tablets into the soil of the pot plant.
Step 3: Check and clean the Pond pump
An important part of cleaning a fish pond is to also clean the equipment that is used in it. All organisms that live in the pond, plants, fish, frogs, and bacteria require well oxygenated water to thrive and this is supplied by a pond pump. Over time, your pump will lose some of its flow rate. This doesn’t mean that the pump is wearing out, more likely it means that the impeller in the pump and the pre-filter have become dirty and require cleaning.
All pumps that are submersed in a pond will have a pre-filter of some description. It could be as simple as a cage that surrounds the pump, or a sponge on the end of the filter. Turn off all the power to the pond before starting. Then remove the pump from the pond, don’t pull it out by the cable as this can cause damage to the pump. Once you have the pump out of the pond, either hose off the pre-filter cage, or remove the pre-filter sponge from the unit.
Wash out the sponge with tap water, but just squeeze it out rather than wringing it out as this is less damaging to the sponge itself.
Next, remove the impeller from the pump.
The impeller is a magnet with a disk or blades on the top of it that spins to move the water in the pond. Every pump is different so consult your manual to remove it correctly. Once the impeller is removed, wash off any accumulated sludge and clean out the impeller chamber itself.
Step 4: Clean the Filter and Replace the Ultraviolet Clarifier bulb
Step three mentioned cleaning the pre-filter on the pump, but some ponds have either an external or an internal additional filter such as a pressurised filter or an all-in-one filter that is submersed in the pond and houses an Ultraviolet clarifier (UVC) as well as sponges. Like the pre-filter, sponges should be removed from the filter and the sludge squeezed out of it whilst running water from the garden hose through it. If the sponges seem limp or do not hold their shape then it’s time to replace them.
A UVC is the most effective way to control algae in a pond that can cause that pea soup-type appearance. The Ultraviolet Clarifier houses a bulb that produces a certain light that damages the DNA of the algae cells and makes them flocculate or clump together. These units need to run continuously, and the bulb should be replaced every 12 months. Before you commence working on the filter and UVC ensure you have turned off all the power.
The UVC bulb will be housed inside a quartz sleeve. This can become covered in slime and sludge and should be wiped clean with a cloth or rag to ensure that the light can easily penetrate the water as it passes it. Remove the sleeve to expose the bulb and inspect for signs of water entering the unit, if this has occurred then the unit should be replaced. Always handle the bulb with a cloth or a glove not directly with your fingers as the oils on your skin can cause small burn marks on the globe when it is switched on again.
A bit of maintenance at the start of Spring will get your water garden looking great and your plants and fish thriving into the summer months.
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