For any enthusiastic gardener, autumn is a perplexing time. Your arduous work throughout spring and summer begins to fade away, with the promise of next season and another fruitful crop just on the horizon. Pond keepers are no different in this respect; they toil all year to fight off algae blooms and keep their pond in the best condition for its inhabitants, only to be bombarded with algae come spring. The thought of having to cover up the pond, no longer being able to sit around and enjoy it with a cold drink in hand, can be a little sad. However, with a little maintenance during autumn and winter, your pond will be match fit for the first sign of a warm spring day.
The main priority for any pond owner throughout the year is to keep the pond water ‘healthy’. If the water parameters are correct in terms of pH and KH (carbonate hardness), you will provide a healthy environment for aquatic wildlife, fish and beneficial bacteria. It cannot be stressed enough, that without the water parameters being correct, beneficial probiotic bacteria will struggle to deal with the unwanted organics added during autumn & winter that elevate the risk of fish & wildlife death and algae blooms in spring.
Without any care or maintenance over autumn and winter, ponds begin to form a layer of sludge on the bottom from unwanted organics such as leaves, twigs and faecal waste from fish and wildlife. Whilst frogs and newts love to lay in this sludge, if left untreated, it can cause an imbalance in the water, making it poisonous to wildlife and fish by discharging Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) gas from anaerobic bacteria inside the sludge.
Essential Autumn Care Tasks
To prevent an algae bloom in spring, complete these simple tasks during autumn:
Check your water quality
After a spring and summer of algae, acidic rain and fish waste your pH and KH levels will need adjusting. The pH should be between 7 & 8.3 and the KH level should be above 5. You can either buy a quality testing kit, take a sample of water to your local water garden centre or simply use Pond Equaliser to instantly stabilise the pH at 8, and KH above 5. Pond Equaliser will also remove any ammonia and heavy metals to create a safe and healthy environment for fish, wildlife and beneficial probiotic bacteria.
Add quality, probiotic bacteria that are capable of working at temperatures lower than 08°C. Use Pond Klear for smaller ponds, Natural Pond Klear for larger natural ponds and Winter Pond Treatment for the colder winter months. Task-specific probiotic bacteria slowly digest any debris and unwanted organics and reduce the toxic H2S levels.
Tend to plants
Prune back any aquatic plants and remove any floating debris from the pond; this debris can be deposited in a compost heap as it is high in nitrogen and other essential nutrients for plant growth. Don’t forget to check for any wildlife that may be hibernating when removing aquatic plants or sludge; newts and frogs will hibernate in sludge and dragonfly larvae can lie dormant in plants for several months. When you remove any debris or plants from a pond, leave them at the side for a couple of hours to allow any wildlife to make its way back to the pond.
Cover your pond with a net to catch leaves and twigs; leave gaps around the edge to allow wildlife to get in and out of the pond. The frogs and newts that may be hibernating at the bottom of the pond will be ready and waiting to eradicate slugs and snails in spring.
Put your fish on a diet
Feed fish less as the temperature drops, or consider moving to a low protein food. As temperatures drop, fish eat less, once it gets below a certain temperature they will stop feeding. If you continue feeding them, the wasted food will break down, release nutrients into the water to feed any algae and will add to the layer of sludge at the bottom.
If you have a filter, clean it thoroughly in autumn to remove any algae or debris trapped during summer and clean monthly throughout autumn and winter.
Keep it moving, slowly
Keep pumps and filters running all year; they will continue removing debris and prevent the pond from freezing over. If possible, turn the flow rate down to avoid cooling the water further. If water freezes over, it restricts the available oxygen for fish, and seals in the toxic gases that can be released from decaying organics.
Check your water quality, again…
Most important of all, get the water parameters right to increase the ponds biological self-cleaning ability, as this will reduce the amount of work required, and increase the enjoyment of your pond in spring & summer 2018.
For more information on why ponds go green in spring, read our blog post here.