Ponds and Water Gardening forum: Cleaning out the pond after 2 years

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Name: Jonna
Mérida, Yucatán, México (Zone 13a)
Garden Procrastinator The WITWIT Badge Region: Mexico I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Ponds Tropicals
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Plumerias Plays in the sandbox Dog Lover Cat Lover
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extranjera
Feb 25, 2012 2:18 PM CST
I have a concrete pond in the yard, it's pretty deep, from 3½ feet to 4 feet. It's also about 17 feet long on one side. It has a couple of lights built into the wall and one of the bulbs burned out. Unfortunately, the lights are very close to the bottom so I have to drain the pond down to less than a foot to change the bulbs. This usually means I feel I have to clean out all the mulm and repot everything. It took us 3 days to get it all done. Also, a papyrus plant and an arrowhead had completely outgrown their concrete pots and were trying to take over the pond.

I should have taken a before pic but this is from last September, even then the papyrus and the arrowhead were overpowering.

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The first day, before we took the water level down, we managed to drag the concrete pot plus the huge papyrus to the side and hoist it over the rim. I was in the pond and my partner was on the edge, she put a strap around it when I got it over there and that's when I got out and decided to take a picture Hilarious! Then we both pulled and hauled and we got it up on the rim. Concrete pot + hugely overgrown papyrus + water = lots of huffing and puffing and too many comments about why I had let it go this long.

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The overgrown arrowhead in another concrete pot was smaller and a bit easier. Once they were out of the pond I was amazed at how far up and out of the pot they had grown. I suppose that 2 years is a little long to leave them alone. I do get in and cut off dead leaves but the root mass... it was not pretty.

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I got the spare pump in and started pumping the water down, I sent most of it to the raised bed of bananas but when that flooded, I had to quit for the day.

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The next day I was going to go and buy new bulbs for the lights and some more heavy jungle dirt for repotting. Except, I forgot that it was the last day of Carnaval and everything was closed. Instead, we started vacuuming with the wet/dry vac. That was really time consuming as we had to try not to vacuum up any of the fish, each load had to be hand dumped and it took two people to keep the hose from collapsing. The mulm on the bottom was pretty thick in some areas. I use a small rake all year to pull out dead leaves and mulm but there are areas I can't reach with the rake. Anyway, most of the day I was standing in the water and then climbing out to help dump the vacuum. Luckily, it was in the high 80°'s F. The water was about 75°F.

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Finally, on Wednesday, I got the new bulbs and we got them installed. I separated out a very small piece of papyrus and another of the arrowhead and repotted them. I fertilized all the lilies and gave my favorite (Foxfire) new dirt and fertilizer. Then we refilled the pond and turned the pump back on. It was pretty cloudy for a couple of days.

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I had hoped that the weather would stay cooler but no such luck. We've been in the 90°'s all week under blue skies. Because I have replaced about 80% of the water, I'm hoping I don't get an algae bloom. As of today though, the water is very clear. I didn't drain the biological filter which I hope will keep the pond from recycling.

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The papyrus is already sending up a new shoot.

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Best of all, the Mollies and the Angel Fish seem happy and healthy.

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A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.
Name: Carol
Santa Ana,Ca. (Zone 10b)
Sunset zone 22
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California Plant Identifier
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ctcarol
Feb 25, 2012 5:23 PM CST
Hilarious! You've convinced me that I don't need a pond, after all! What a chore!
Name: Carolyn Madden
Pennsylvania
Charter ATP Member The WITWIT Badge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Daylilies
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Carolyn22
Feb 25, 2012 7:24 PM CST
Yes, it is a lot of work, but so worth it.......

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
tropicbreeze
Feb 25, 2012 9:54 PM CST
Well, at least you now have another 2 years of breathing space.
Name: Carolyn Madden
Pennsylvania
Charter ATP Member The WITWIT Badge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Daylilies
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Carolyn22
Feb 26, 2012 10:34 AM CST
Or perhaps longer than 2 years. We don't take our pond down to the liner - I know some do do this. In the spring and the fall, the waterlilies are lifted and the entire pond is vacuumed. Once at start up and once at shutdown. It doesn't take long to vacuum and is not all that difficult to do.

In the Spring, when the waterlilies are lifted, they are then divided and fertilized. I use the once a year fertilizer stakes. Truthfully, if I had to fertilize once a month with the monthly waterlily tabs, it would probably only get done the first month at start up. In the fall, when the waterlilies are lifted, they are cut back so there is nothing in the water during the winter to rot.

There have been times where we have had to dump the pond and get everything out, but that does not happen that often. That was done more if there was a problem or if we had an overabundance of koi fry. We have found a method that now takes care of the koi fry as we had also exhausted all sources that would take the fry. Every Spring, we purchase a dozen or so bullfrog tadpoles - this has taken care of the koi fry problem.

So essentially, what I am saying is that the maintenance of the pond is minimal and not difficult. I know the larger ponds are supposed to be less maintenance than the smaller ones.

I am looking forward to start up here shortly. It is to a point where it is a rite of passage to Spring at our house! Thumbs up



Here are my waterlilies - all fertilized and ready to be put back into the pond.
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Name: Carolyn Madden
Pennsylvania
Charter ATP Member The WITWIT Badge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Daylilies
Bulbs Purslane Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Hummingbirder Clematis Cat Lover
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Carolyn22
Feb 26, 2012 10:36 AM CST
One other thing I just thought of - I have a liner pond. I don't know that a cement pond may or may not require a different type or more maintenance than a liner pond.... I tip my hat to you.
Name: Jonna
Mérida, Yucatán, México (Zone 13a)
Garden Procrastinator The WITWIT Badge Region: Mexico I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Ponds Tropicals
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Plumerias Plays in the sandbox Dog Lover Cat Lover
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extranjera
Feb 26, 2012 3:23 PM CST
I don't think so. I've had liner ponds in the US - but not in an area that got frost - and I was always very careful because I didn't want anything to rip the liner. It never happened so perhaps I was overly worried, but it is nice now not to have to think about it. I can probably go more than 2 years if I get the wet/dry vac out there once or twice a year and pick up some of the muck in the corners. I have a lot of rocks in the pond, some are cemented in and others are loose. I took most of the loose ones out this time and probably won't put them back, a lot of muck collects around them.

I dealt with my overbreeding Mollies and Guppies by putting 10 Angel fish in the pond, they keep the population pretty steady. The Angel's can't get into the bio filter area and the smaller fish tend to stay in there until they are larger... at least, the smart ones do and those are the only ones that survive. Rolling my eyes.

The thing about having a pond in the tropics is that it never gets shut down and everything grows all year. Thus, everything needs a lot more fertilizer. I'm not great about it but I do try and poke a hole in the lily pots every couple months and pour in some fert. That's it. Right now, my big job is I need to get in and pull out hundreds of night blooming lily starts that have popped up. Most are in the nightbloomer pot but that means that none of them are getting very big, there are too many. I need to get it down to one per pot so I get more blooms. There are about 4 large lily plants that had flourished in nooks and crannies of the pond and I left most of them. I'm not sure which lily they are but it is from one or both of the dayblooming blues, one is a NOID and the other is Wood's Blue Goddess. I wish my Foxfire were fertile but it isn't so I am trying to keep the only one I have healthy for many more years.

Foxfire
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Wood's Blue Goddess


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A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Oberon46
Feb 27, 2012 10:05 AM CST
Great pictures. Really neat to follow the process. I'm with Carolyn in using a liner and vacuuming without totally emptying the pond. We are having a redo this spring, so I will be attempting to catch all the fish and putting them in well oxygenated and filtered containers for a day or so while they redo about 60% of the walls. then I can refill and get my fish back in. they can finish the rest of the ground work then. Will still freak out the fish having the guys working around them but I don't have anything large enough to hold them for more than a few days.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)

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