Documents: Special Interest: Water Gardening:

Bog Gardens
by Brian Welsh - JB Growers
November 24, 1999

With the ice slowly but surely leaving the ponds we try to remember that checklist of things we need to do to ready them for the long season ahead. In this month's newsletter I will focus on some basic facts on how to prepare our equipment and ponds so we are running problem free right from the start.

First of all before ever heading out to the pond, find where you stored your submersible pump for the winter and run a nice warm pail of water, put the pump in and let it soak for a couple of days. This will both soften the seals in the pump itself and loosen the dirt and debris that either got missed last year or was too fine to see during our fall clean up. We will get back to the particulars of pump cleaning in a while.

There is always the inevitable collection of leaves and debris in our water gardens which have accumulated during the winter months. It makes the water garden much more appealing to look at and work around if this is cleaned up first. A fine mesh net works well for skimming such debris out, and don't worry if you stir up some silt and dirt while doing this as it will quickly settle to the bottom. It makes a great place for oxygenating and vining plants to root as well as good snail feed. Any fish casualties are usually visible at this time and can be removed to ensure that the remaining ones don't pick away at them. The earlier in the season you can carry out your water garden clean up the better because snails will soon begin to come closer to the surface in search of food and warmer water and we don't want to remove such an important part of our pond balance along with the debris.

If you simply let your pond go to rest in the fall without removing the dead leaves from your lilies and other water plants as I do, then this is a good chance for dead leaf removal. I always find that the water is always iced over before a lot of the water plant's leaves have actually faded away so I just lower the tender plants to the bottom and leave my water lilies as is for the winter. As each of the water plants are lifted to remove dead leaves and be placed where they will grow for the season this is a good chance to evaluate each one as to whether it needs division or repotting. Remember that good large root growing space is the key to healthy, robust aquatic plant growth. If you decide that your plant is alright in the container it is in then this is a good chance while you have it raised to add the necessary fertilizer tablets to ensure good strong growth early in the season. If you are going to repot your plants then you can add fertilizer tabs at that time.

Don't be in a hurry to begin your fish feeding program until the water begins to warm up. Fish do not begin feeding until the water reaches 55 degrees F. A trip to your local pet store for a thermometer will make this decision much easier. At the beginning of the season, certainly an easier to digest fish food such as a wheat germ based feed is recommended until the water temperature stabilizes. There are a wide variety of fish foods available to suit every need from your local water garden supplier. Begin with smaller, more frequent feedings than normal and ensure your fish are finishing their feed before you increase the amount to their regular summer feeding amounts.

Early in the season is a good time to evaluate the condition of your liner. Carefully examine your liner as you work on your spring maintenance as liner repairs and replacements can be done with minimum disruption to plants and other aquatic life while they are still in their dormant state. Try and avoid draining and scrubbing your pond if you have lined it with PVC as this type of liner is very susceptible to damage when the weather is still cold and the pond is empty as it does not flex very well. If your liner should require replacement, consider it right away then you still can enjoy a full water gardening season.

Getting back to our spring pump maintenance, once you have thoroughly soaked your pump, remove it from the water and give it a good cleaning. Wash all accessible parts with a mild solution of dish soap and water making sure to rinse it very well before returning it to the pond. A plastic kitchen scrub brush can prove very useful for getting those hard to reach areas of the pump. Remove all removable inlet screens (no don't take apart the pump body or other areas which aren't made to be tampered with) and filter media and clean them as well, being very careful to remember how they came apart and be careful not to break or lose any parts, many of these pieces are small and plastic and very difficult to replace. It is a good idea to consult your owners manual to see which parts are serviceable. I cannot stress enough the importance of a clean start as well as a regular maintenance program for your pump. These pumps contain moving parts as well as plastic or EPDM seals and to prevent premature failure of your pump these parts MUST be kept as clean as possible. If you found your pump difficult to remove in the fall then now is a good time to consider the addition of quick connect couplings on the plumbing lines and maybe a string attached to the pump's handle to pull it out of the pond with. We all know it is a no no to pull our pump out of the pond by the electrical cord, right? A quick note worth mentioning, please make sure you are all plugging your pumps into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) this year, This is a ground fault protection device which can prevent electrocution or injury to both people and pond life. It is such a cheap investment and comes in the form of an electrical outlet plug or is built into an extension cord. You can inquire at your local hardware or building supply store for more information on these devices.

Following these simple guidelines should get everyone ready for a happy and maintenance free water gardening season for 1999.

This information and more is always available at our website. Visit us today for up to date water gardening information and supplies and I'm sure you'll agree, water gardening has never been so easy!

Brian Welsh is the owner of JB Growers 'Water Garden and Landscape Specialists' Harriston, Ontario, Canada

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