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SPRING PREP FOR ZONE 5 GARDEN PONDS

When the days get longer and the weather warms your gardening soul, take time to do a few clean-up chores in and around your pond:

- Rake and trim the area in close proximity of your pond. Check the margins and surrounding drainage, making sure your pond is protected from run-off.
- Examine the pond edge for stability and replace any distressed or crumbled
stone.
- Trim any remaining winter-worn foliage in the pond, dredging all leaves and twigs from the bottom of the pond, shelves and streambed.
- Hand pick and pull off the excess
hair algae growing on containers near the surface and on the shelves and walls of the liner.

NOTE: Most ponds do not require a full cleaning each year, but if you have “inches” of muck on the bottom, it may be time for at least a partial cleaning. Most of this buildup can be at least partially removed with a fine mesh net or by use of a siphon hose or shop vac. Left in the pond, this muck can produce harmful gases and contribute to algae growth; removed from the pond and used to feed other plants in your garden, it is fondly referred to as "Pond-Gold"!

WAIT until Fall for a full pond cleaning. In the Spring, fish are at their weakest. Their immune systems are not very active until the water temps rise into the 60's. This makes them very vulnerable to diseases and parasites, particularly if their slime coating is damaged.

Plants
In late March, or early April, begin raising plants you lowered for winter, keeping crowns several inches below the water surface as protection from late frosts. As soon as you see signs of active growth, plants can be fertilized or divided and repotted. Tropical plants such as Umbrella Palms and floating Water Hyacinth should not go out until after May Day. Wait for early June for tropical waterlilies, when water temps are steady at 70's F.

Green Water normally appears in all ponds during early spring before the other plants have had a chance to grow and compete. This is a natural, healthy process.

- DO NOT use algaecides and DO NOT flush and refill your pond!
- Make sure the pond has a good
balance of plants, fish and scavengers. When in doubt, add plants that compete for nutrients and shade the pond.
- Add beneficial bacteria to speed up balancing & minimize the green water.
- Wait to feed fish until the water temps are
above 50° F, only 1 or 2 times per week what they eat in 5 minutes. Use high carbohydrate “cool season” foods until temps rise to 65° F +.
- Check the
KH and pH. Proper KH levels (125-180 ppm) help to stabilize the pH, allowing it to remain at lower levels. When the pH is below 8.2, plants effectively take in nutrients to compete with algae. High pH can stress fish, inhibit plant growth and curb the beneficial functions of bacteria and other microscopic organisms in your pond. Algae has a greater tolerance for high pH, and does well, while fish, scavengers and other plants are struggling.
- Add barley products in March. They release natural compounds that discourage the growth of algae. Renew barley in early summer for continued algae control.
- Keep your filters clean, and add or improve
filtration where necessary.

Remember, all green plants, including algae, are beneficial in the garden pond. They all absorb nutrients, convert them to new plant tissue and give off O2 as a by-product. This is known as photosynthesis. DO NOT scrub the algae off the sides of your pond. It provides O2 your fish need to survive and it is a digestible food source for them throughout the year. A balanced water garden contains relatively clear water, yet allows algae to exist for the benefit of other pond inhabitants. 

PUMPS, HOSES AND FILTERS

Whether your system ran all Winter or you turned it off for the season, be sure to spend some time taking care of all the pieces and parts which make up “the works” before turning on your waterfalls, streams and fountains:

- Clean your pump. Remove impeller housing to wipe algae and water sediments from impeller, intake and outflow.
- Clean pump screens and intake filters on your mechanical filters, replacing foam or other filter media as needed.
- Flush all hoses and piping with a pressure hose, forward and backward if possible, to dislodge algae buildup which constricts water flow.
- If your system includes a Skimmer, take time to fully clean the skimmer box before the season begins, cleaning or replacing the filter mats and nets as needed.
- Check all plumbing connections, making sure they are snug and stable.
- If your system includes a
Bio-Filter, and it wasn’t cleaned and drained in the fall, clean it before you start-up your system. Remove sludge from settlement areas, and rinse or replace lava rock or other filter media. If you are using lava rock as your bio-media, it will need to be replaced every 2-3 years.
- Wait to begin seeding bacteria until the water temperature stabilizes above 45° F.
- Reinstall U.V.'s, making sure quartz sleeves are clean. Replace rubber seals and bulbs as needed. It's easy to track replacement dates if you note them on a piece of duct tape somewhere on the housing.

TURNING ON WATERFALLS AND FOUNTAINS

Several factors affect how early in the season you should turn on the moving water features in your water garden.

- Weather: In some years Springtime comes earlier than others.
- Structure: Mortared margins are more sensitive to freeze/thaw damage than dry stack.
- Volume: Consider the pump’s volume relative to the size of the pond.
- Distance: Water cools faster over longer distances than short ones. Remember, the more air the water moves through, the more radical the temperature fluctuations in the pond system.

Generally speaking, mid March is a safe time to start up short runs. After this date, even if  we get snow, the air temps will climb right back up and melt the snow within a couple of days. For longer runs, wait until late April. Avoid icy build-up on stream and waterfall stones. This can stress or fracture stone and/or divert water outside the system.

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