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In Times of Stress, Americans Seek Safe Outdoor Spaces

According to the Washington Post this week, one way Americans have been seeking refuge during the pandemic is by visiting botanical gardens. Out in the air, well away from others, they can stroll amid nature’s beauty, and like the iconic image of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat, throw off with joy their uncomfortable protective masks.

While the Post’s main focus was on visiting botanical gardens — which can be a wonderful outing for enjoyable social distancing — some of Deck and Patio’s clients are creating peace-evoking scenic spots right in their own yards.

 

Creating a ‘Breathe-Free Refuge’ at Home

 

Natural Retaining Wall

Natural Retaining Wall

Sometimes you can combine a refuge designed for peaceful relaxation with other more practical needs.

This photo (left), for example, shows how Deck and Patio designed/built a “natural” retaining wall for some clients. 

“Retaining walls can be pretty boring to look at,” says Dave Stockwell. “But they don’t have to be. Here a ‘natural’ retaining wall includes a ‘pondless’ water feature. The water from the waterfall is captured underground, in a safe area where very young children can’t access it. From there, the water is filtered and recirculated.”

In addition, this retaining area has been installed with lush plantings, river rock and natural stone steps which together with the water feature create a beautiful nature walk — all while serving the purpose of holding back the grade.

Dave notes that the reserved underground tank water never stagnates because it is continuously circulated up from the underground pond via the waterfall.

 

Sometimes You Want a Pond

 

Pond Ecosystem:

Pond Ecosystem:

These clients (above) didn’t have young toddlers and wanted a full pond. Their completed water feature system consists of a stream, waterfalls and pond, and it is the perfect spot for letting the day’s cares melt away. 

Enchanting Echinacea (coneflowers) and magenta Lythrum are just some of the various plants brightening this pondscape.

 

Children Love Koi

Children Love Koi

 

Koi ponds were once a characteristic of Japanese gardens, but have been growing in popularity around the world, including Long Island.

And why not. Listening to the sounds of trickling water, while watching colorful koi swim around throughout several seasons is transforming. 

Whether it’s built near a patio, bridge or deck, this water feature is an attraction to more than adults.

Children love ponds, including feeding koi. It’s truly interactive in that way.

This pond (right) is owned by Brian Helfrich of Aquascape Inc. — the company that makes the water feature systems that Deck and Patio uses.

 

 

 

Sometimes a Garden Is Enough

Water features are wonderful but you can create a perfect place to de-stress without one. 

 

Backyard Garden Bridge (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Garden Bridge (Long Island/NY):

Note how the colorful plantings, moss rocks and deep green ground cover (above) line the steps leading to the clients’ charming wooden bridge.  

With or without water features, it is a lovely spot to enjoy your backyard oasis. By adding this garden bridge, “It became a favorite spot for the homeowners,” says Dave.

 

 Backyard Strolling

Backyard Strolling (Long Island/NY)

This completed walking/strolling area, like most of our projects, was planned by Deck and Patio to appear as if it were designed by Mother Nature herself.

Stepping stones lead to larger steps of natural stone which are flanked by colorful plantings including bright red “Wave Petunias” and colorful purple and yellow “Coneflowers.” In addition to being a delight for the eyes, such a spot offers wonderful scents which the family can breathe in — mask-free. 

“Dealing with the demands of every day life can be exhausting, especially today,” says Dave. “A peaceful surrounding calms you right down as you absorb the beauty and quiet.”

 

Feature Photo at Top of Page: Above a natural retaining wall, Deck and Patio carved out a patio area with waterfall for the clients where they can sit after a stroll and breathe it all in.

 

 

How to Protect Your Pond Fish From Attack

If you’ve been spending more time at home like so many in our area of New York, we bet some of that’s been outdoors. And those with a pond are probably noticing that your pond fish are coming out of hibernation. Ahh. Spring.

One thing we hope you haven’t noticed, however, is any of your precious koi suddenly disappearing!

Now if that’s the case, we feel your pain. Not only do we enjoy watching and feeding these jeweled treasures, koi help balance the entire ecosystem of a pond. So we get it that you want to protect them. 

 

Safety Begins with Good Pond Design

Herons Don’t Like Deep Water

Herons Don’t Like Deep Water

If your koi pond was designed and built well, it was designed and built deep.

A water feature with sufficient water depth, for example, will dissuade raccoons and cats from going after your fish, since neither species enjoys swimming to get their dinner.

Plus deeper water at the edges (more than 18” deep) discourages the most challenging predator, the heron, from wading into your pond. Herons enjoy walking around in slightly shallow water.

Deep water really puts them off.

So a pond designed with high rock ledges and no easy wading entrance discourages a heron from hunting your fish.

 

 

Pond Water Features:

Pond Water Features:

Another helpful idea is adding a waterfall feature. The continuous movement of bubble rocks, waterfalls, or even water from nearby sprinklers, will put off many predators. Also, unlike still water which offers a glass-like surface, bubbling water from a waterfall etc. disturbs that serene surface, making it harder for predators to see the fish underneath. 

“In addition, when we construct a pond, we frequently include underwater koi castles,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “When the koi sense danger, they can hid in there until the creature has given up.”

 

 

Other Tips for Protecting Koi

  1. Statues: Some swear by scarecrows like owl statues. Others recommend a decoy-heron. Indeed, being territorial, herons will usually avoid conflict with what they perceive as another heron. Be sure the decoy is large enough to appear as a reasonable threat, however. And it is also important to move the decoy every few days. Herons are clever and will soon figure out a decoy that never moves isn’t a danger.

Motion-Activated Sprinklers 2. Another effective deterrent is installing a motion-activated sprinkler. We found, for example, one gardening expert, the Laidback Gardener, who says that after testing just about every animal repellent conceivable: “…the only simple deterrent that keeps most animals away in the long run is the motion-activated sprinkler.”

The motion-activated sprinkler is just one of several deterrents that should be used, adds Dave. “It can be effective, but works best in combination with some of the other suggestions we’ve given here today.”

3. Pond Netting/Fish Wire: “The most effective guarantee for safeguarding pond fish is pond netting,” says Dave. “But, because they spoil the look of the pond, most people prefer to use netting only during fall foliage. However, another suggestion which you’ll see in the following video seems a better alternative. Fish wire can be strung around pond areas where predators can get close enough to grab your fish.

 

 

The following YouTube video is by Foisy Aquatics who has a YouTube channel devoted just to fish.

 

 

Today’s Feature Photo (at Top of Page):  Koi are a healthy part of this Deck and Patio pond’s natural ecosystem; they have lots of room to hide as well as swim. The pond is sufficiently deep, including around the edges. There are also plenty of high rock overhangs to discourage predators. A motion-activated sprinkler and a koi castle offer the final bits of security.

 

By |2020-04-23T14:29:27-05:00April 23rd, 2020|Aquascape Biofalls, Backyard Escapes, Creative Design, Design and Build Experts, Koi Ponds, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Moss Rock and Stones, Ponds & Water Features|Comments Off on How to Protect Your Pond Fish From Attack

Avoid Cabin Fever and Spring Clean Your Pond

Avoiding Cabin Fever

Avoiding Cabin Fever

In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the first day of spring. Nothing could be more welcome. But with so many of us working from home, or even confined to home, just being able to go outdoors in our yards is essential to keeping ‘cabin fever’ at bay.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard pond, there’s some activities families in isolation might want to do together — or at least ensure someone (ahem) performs such outdoor refurbishments as spring pond maintenance.

It’s true, that as certified Aquascape Inc. contractors, many local pond owners prefer experts like Deck and Patio get their pond ready for the coming outdoor season. But, if you’re eager to get outside yourself and don’t mind putting on some boots and getting your hands dirty, we have some maintenance tips for you today.

 

 

What’s Involved in Spring 

Cleaning Your Pond? 

Debris in Water Features

Debris in Water Features

If your aquatic plants were not properly cut back in fall, they may very well have fallen back into the pond, decomposed, and dirtied the water.

However, even if you did cut them back, some cleaning will probably be required. How much cleaning may depend on your pond’s size. 

Smaller ponds tend to have more impurities than larger ones.

“It’s not unlike a fish bowl verses a fish tank,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “A fish tank is much easier to maintain than a fish bowl, isn’t it? There’s just more water to absorb impurities. However, even larger ponds require basic maintenance, such as cleaning out the filtration systems, fertilizing aquatic plants, adding new filter mats when required, etc.”

Dave adds that depending on the quality of the water, draining of the pond, rinsing it out, and refilling it using a de-chlorinator may be required as well.

Immediately below is a helpful video by Aquascape Inc. showing what’s needed in pond spring cleaning:

 

 

“If you’re draining the pond, it’s important to take great care of any pond fish during the process,” says Dave. “Keep them safe in a kiddie pool or the like, and put a net over them so they don’t jump out. Also, be sure to acclimate them during reentry.”

Here’s some additional tips. These are from Forrest Churchill for how best to integrate your pond fish back into the cleaned pond:

 

 

 

 

Pond-less Waterfalls:

Pond-less Waterfalls:

It will take much less time to clean up a pond-less waterfall (pictured above) than a pond basin. Just dig out any debris in the Pond-less Waterfalls Snorkel Vault and, if it is required, drain the water using a clean-out pump placed into the vault — being careful not to flood any particular area.

 

Spring Pond Cleaning:

Spring Pond Cleaning:

The larger the pond, the better quality the water will be come spring. This beautiful pond project is really two ponds (one shown); in the larger pond pictured here there was even room for adding a large stone island with stepping stones out to it, where two Adirondack chairs were positioned for periods of contemplation and feeding the koi.

 

 Spring Cleaning Begins in Winter:

Spring Cleaning Begins in Winter:

Even if you cut back your aquatic plants and water grasses, some will decompose. When doing spring cleaning, be sure it’s before the pond water temperature gets above 55 degrees. Otherwise, bacteria from the warmer water will have formed — causing another undesirable green phase.  Photo: Aquascape Inc.

 

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Spring pond cleaning is essential for a pond clear enough to swim in (even if you don’t wish to). Remember, all bacteria isn’t bad, some good bacteria kill the bad guys. A healthy natural swimming pond is very possible and is worth all the care you give it. The right bog filtration and water plants, along with Biofalls (such as Aquascape Inc.’s) support your seasonal care for a healthy water feature.

The goal, of course, is that any pond at a minimum be healthy for fish and aquatic plants. This kind of water feature is a joy to sit by, listen to, and pond-er spring.

 

Spring Maintenance

Spring Maintenance

 

 

 

Stay well, everyone! Spring maintenance may be a welcome activity for the family. Of course, we’re happy to help as well. 631-549-8100.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan Your Backyard Upgrade While Dreaming of Warmer Days

There’s more than a deep chill in the air. It even snowed a little over much of Long Island this week. It may not be officially winter yet, but many of us are already dreaming of warmer days.

So as you gaze out over your yard, here’s some ‘before and after’ Deck and Patio projects that might inspire the perfect upgrade for you — done in plenty of time for next year’s outdoor living season.

 

Backyard Upgrade on a Budget

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Massapequa couple, says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell, hankered to enjoy their backyard more  — which was tidy but not enticing.

Space was also at a premium. And in lieu of a rather more expensive pool, the couple settled on installing a quality hot tub, in-ground.

An in-ground installation makes a portable hot tub appear like it’s a custom-made spa.  Plus it would be easy to get in and out of (see before/after photos above).

However, even though they knew they’d love spending time outdoors in their new hot tub, they also wanted something beautiful to look at while in it. They certainly did not want to be facing their home’s siding, or even just a plain line of healthy evergreens. 

Upshot? The pond with waterfalls, hot tub installation and landscaping were still less expensive than a pool.

 

Large Pond Under Stone Bridge

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after the homeowner purchased his property, he contacted us. An entrance he had to drive over each day, on his way to and from work, had not been kept up for many years.

He asked us to accentuate a beautiful 1880 bridge structure with a man-made reflecting pond.

Our design allowed the pre-existing bridge’s entire stone gazebo to be reflected in the pond water. The water feature we designed and built is more than 240-feet-long and 60-feet-wide, so it also captures the surrounding landscape. Plus, such a wonderful expanse of water made the perfect habitat for koi. 

Our team ensured the pond design included lots of flowing water, with rock overhangs, and plenty of space for pond fish to hide and thrive. Such a design makes it difficult for natural predators to reach the fish.

The stone bridge with turret creates a stunning pond reflection in its crystal clear water, doesn’t it?

 

Pool and Retaining Wall Upgrade

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A family in Dix Hills, NY, called on Deck and Patio when they decided to update their 1980”s backyard pool area. Their old wood deck and red brick patios were small and unusable for parties and entertaining. But they couldn’t come up with a complete plan themselves to transform the space.

“We suggested a unique idea to deal with the large wall behind the pool and small patio spaces,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “The plan was to remove the wood retaining wall, re-grade the slope, and create a large natural waterfall, stream, and woodland garden.”

The plan also called for draining the pool and removing the liner; a poorly built concrete block wall was uncovered and we straightened the wall and filled the block in with concrete and steal rebar for strength. New vinyl-covered stairs were added to the pool, plus new pipes, returns, skimmers, pump, filter and a new liner.

 

New Modern Deck

"Beginning Construction"

“Beginning Construction”

"After Construction"

“Completed Construction”

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Centerport, NY, homeowners were both outdoor enthusiasts with a property that had a nice water view. Their wish list included: an attractive modern-looking deck from where they could best appreciate their view; a deck/railing that did not in any way obstruct the view; and a conveniently placed portable spa.

It was clear a two-story deck was needed. But we realized that the deck also needed to be large enough to allow designated areas for grilling, dining, lounging and hot tubbing. Plus, the railing would need special consideration.

An important choice for this Trex Deck project was the steel cable railing by Feeney does not obstruct the water views from any place on the deck. Deck and Patio built a custom spa “cradle” as a mount for their new hot tub. This positioned the spa so they could enjoy the views when inside the tub.

 

New Backyard ‘Spool’

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio built this backyard ‘spool” (a cross between a spa and pool) several years ago. The homeowners decided on a ‘spool” for their yard  because they didn’t have room for a full-sized pool.

A spool would also allow them to enjoy it year-round. They could opt to run cool water in the spool during warm months, and hot water during cold months and cool evenings.

In addition, the mechanics of a spa provides the benefits of hydrotherapy massage — not to mention the amazing experience of sitting under flowing water from an added waterfall. A new fence was added for contrast and a bit of drama; a rushing stream flows through the large moss rock boulders to become a waterfall flowing into the spa. Lush plantings and a new patio completed their new backyard retreat.

So let it snow or blast cold. You can stay warm while planning your new backyard upgrade. 

It’s Time to Fatten Up Your Pond Fish

Our blog last week suggested netting your pond before the leaves fall. It’s worth doing in the next few days if you haven’t done it yet. This is also the time for pond owners to be fattening up their pond’s fish.  

Feeding Pond Fish in Fall

Feeding Pond Fish in Fall

When pond water gets below 59 degrees, you can — and should — plump up your darlings to survive winter hibernation. Using fish food made for cold water, gradually increase how much you feed these lovely fish as temperatures start to drop.

 

As the water temperature continues to drop, gradually reduce the amount you feed them. Once temperatures go below 55 degrees, says Dave Kelly, from Aquascape inc., the metabolisms of pond fish slow way down. And when pond water gets down to 50 degrees, do not feed the fish any more. Their systems shut down in the colder water, and food sits inside them and rots. They get very sick and diseased from this.

So even though there is nothing cuter than your koi coming to you for more food, once the water gets to 50 degrees, experts say stop feeding them entirely.

 

 

The Koi Will Be Fine As Temperatures Drop

Koi Will Do Fine Outdoors in Winter

Koi Will Do Fine Outdoors in Winter

It is a common myth that you can’t leave your pond fish outside once the cold sets in.

Actually, fish do just fine even during winter. That said, Dave Stockwell of Deck and Patio does caution to be alert. When ice covers the pond, the fish might not be getting enough oxygen.

This can be remedied as long as you give them:

 

 

•two feet of water to swim in,

•oxygenate the water,

•and keep a hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler and an aerator.

 

 

Note: In a few weeks, we’ll write more on caring for pond fish in winter.

Chemical Pond Treatments

Unwanted Pond Debris: (Photo: Aquascape, Inc.)

Unwanted Pond Debris: (Photo: Aquascape, Inc.)

 

This is also the perfect time to treat your pond ahead of the cold weather. Realize, that even if you netted your pond, some debris will make it into the water no matter how careful you are.

Dave Kelly recommends adding a cold water bacteria treatment, which has concentrated strains of beneficial bacteria that works well below 50 degrees (F).

Kelly recommends adding it routinely to help maintain water clarity and quality.

 

Healthy Pond Come Spring

Healthy Pond Come Spring

Do a little pond maintenance (see last week’s blog) and care for your pond fish, and when spring arrives, you’ll be glad you did. Your pond will require much less work to begin your new season of pond-side outdoor living .

If you have any questions or would like assistance with preparing your pond or caring for your fish, contact our office at 631-549-8100.

By |2019-10-10T12:08:51-05:00October 10th, 2019|Ask the Experts, Koi Ponds, Living Landscapes, outdoor maintenance, Plantings/Pondscapes, Ponds & Water Features, Seasonal Landscapes|Comments Off on It’s Time to Fatten Up Your Pond Fish

Use Pond Netting: Like Apples, Leaves Don’t Fall Far From the Tree

Apple Picking Season

Apple Picking Season

 

 

One way you know it’s fall on Long Island is apple-picking kicks into gear just as leaves start changing color. Perhaps the smell of warm cider against the backdrop of bright colored leaves is Mother Nature’s consolation for taking away summer.

Of course, like all good things, this consolation comes with a few chores. Because what follows peak color (expected to arrive here around October 19th) is the inevitable clean up.

 

 

 

Fallen Leaves Affect Pond Ecosystems

Fallen Leaves Affect Pond Ecosystems

 

If these leaves fall on the lawn, they can easily be raked and collected. However, if you have a pond or other water feature, those fallen leaves can cause a bit of a mess and a lot more work come spring.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution. “It’s a good idea to get pond netting up before the leaves begin to fall,” says Dave Stockwell of Deck and Patio.

 

Value of Pond Netting: (Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape, Inc.)

Value of Pond Netting: (Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape, Inc.)

Ideally you’ll have your netting up before any leaves fall. And then simply pull it out when they’ve all dropped. “And you can tent the net so it doesn’t sag into the pond when it gets weighted with leaves,” adds Dave.

The netting will save countless hours come spring says Dave. “Of course, if you’re a bit late doing that, you can always use a long-handle pond net to clear out the debris, but it’s much easier if you use a net.”

Another good idea, says Dave, is to trim back and remove and dead foliage from the aquatic plants before or after you put up the net. This cuts down excessive organic material that might otherwise decompose in the water feature.”

 

Caring for Pond Lilies in Fall:

Caring for Pond Lilies in Fall:

Pond lilies are idyllic water plants. However, during early fall, they are one of the plants that it’s a good idea to cut back to just about the base of the plant; also trim back any marginal plants that might eventually droop over into the water. 

 

Unwanted Pond Debris: (Photo: Aquascape, Inc.)

Unwanted Pond Debris: (Photo: Aquascape, Inc.)

 

Since some debris will make it into your pond no matter how hard you work, Aquascape Inc. recommends adding a cold water bacteria treatment, which has concentrated strains of beneficial bacteria that works well below 50 degrees (F).  Their expert, Dave Kelly, recommends adding it routinely to help maintain water clarity and quality.

 

Okay, so there’s a few chores to do. But Mother Nature is putting on a show over the next few weeks. And if you’re planning to travel to view the colors change and learn when we’ll be at peak here on Long Island or elsewhere, a good foliage map is produced by the Smoky Mountain National Park (link).

Below is a screen shot of their map showing Long Island should be at near peak color around October 12th. But it’s always a good idea to get updates because rain, wind and rapid temperature changes can affect the timing.

 

Smoky Mountain National Park map

Smoky Mountain National Park map

 

Also! A great link for the best places for apple picking on Long Island can be found at mommypoppins.com.  We also have a screen shot of their feature article on this (below).

 

From Mommypoppins.com

From Mommypoppins.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2019-10-03T13:28:19-05:00October 3rd, 2019|Koi Ponds, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, outdoor maintenance, Plantings/Pondscapes, Ponds & Water Features, Seasonal Landscapes, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Use Pond Netting: Like Apples, Leaves Don’t Fall Far From the Tree

Backyard Upgrade on a Budget

“When it comes to backyard upgrades, most people want some sort of water feature,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “In-ground pools can be expensive to both build and maintain.

“There’s more to outdoor living than a pool,” he adds. “We did a project in Massapequa, NY, without a pool that gave both the husband and wife all  they longed for — a true outdoor retreat for a reasonable cost.”

Portable Hot Tub Appears Custom-Built

Portable Hot Tub Appears Custom-Built

Backstory

The couple, says Dave, hankered to enjoy their own backyard — which was tidy but not enticing.

Space was also at a premium. And in lieu of a pool, the couple settled on installing a quality hot tub, in-ground.

An in-ground installation makes a portable hot tub appear like it’s a custom-made spa.  Plus it would be easy to get in and out of (see before/after photo above).

Creating Focal Point for Spa Enjoyment

Creating Focal Point for Spa Enjoyment

However, even though they knew they’d love spending time outdoors in their new hot tub, they also wanted something beautiful to look at while in it. They certainly did not want to be facing their home’s siding, or even just a plain line of healthy evergreens. 

Upshot?

The pond with waterfalls, hot tub installation and landscaping were still less expensive than a pool.

“The husband had longed for a pond for some time. And by adding one as part of a single overall project, it saved time and money, and allowed the same designer to plan it all in a harmonious way.”

 

Portable Hot Tubs (Massapequa/NY):

Portable Hot Tubs (Massapequa/NY):

Portable spas are self-contained units, with all they need to operate included within itself. “This is what helps make them so cost-friendly compared to other water features,” says Dave.

That said, when installing them in-ground it must be done in a way that allows water from rain to drain away from the spa. If not, the hot tub’s plumbing could get damaged. “In this case, in order to have it completely in-ground, we removed the spa’s plumbing equipment to a protected area above ground where it is accessible for any future repairs.”

 

Pond and Spa (Massapequa/NY):

Pond and Spa (Massapequa/NY):

When the clients sit outside now they  enjoy the sound of water as well as see a lovely pond with waterfalls and watch the pond fish swim about. Not only do they have this view from their patio, but even better, they can enjoy it all — and even feed the koi — from their in-ground spa. 

The project’s natural-looking waterfall feature with the pond included surrounding moss rock boulders and lush landscaping. We used Aquascape Inc.’s water systems — high efficiency pumps, skimmers, biological filters etc. 

“The couple told us that their ‘in-tub views’ are spectacular,” says Dave. “Plus the in-ground installation makes it easy to get in and out of the spa. They also said they love the spa’s hydrotherapy for all kinds of relief as well as relaxation. “It was definitely the right choice for them.”

 

 

Key Elements of a Healthy, Low-Maintenance Pond

A low-maintenance pond is one with an ecosystem that works naturally with Mother Nature to keep the pond clean and clear. It is a paradise for families to relax by and study throughout all seasons. It also offers a healthy place for desirable wildlife, such as pond fish, birds, etc. 

Such a delightful backyard feature has several elements that contribute to its overall harmony. As certified Aquascape Inc. contractors, Deck and Patio keeps regularly up-to-date with the latest in pond design, construction and maintenance.

Proper Water Circulation

It is essential that any water pump be adequate to the size of your pond and waterfalls. This ensures the amount of water will be aerated sufficiently and will not stagnate or develop excessive bacteria. Instead, the pond receives adequate oxygenation to remain healthy. 

Biological Filters and Skimmers

Ponds should also include a natural filtration system using the right biological filter and mechanical skimmer. Adding rocks and gravel over pond liners will also allow beneficial bacteria to grow for fish to graze on. 

Pond Fish

Koi, in all their jeweled colors, are not just beautiful to look at. They eat algae, and their own waste turns into fertilizer for pond plants. It’s key, though, not to overstock your pond so the balance of fish waste, verses what is being used up, remains in proper balance.

Aquatic Plants

And you thought plants, too, were just pretty faces. No, they also play a key role in filtering a pond’s ecosystem. Aquatic plants absorb nutrients from the fish waste. “In the heat of summer, for example, it’s ideal that approximately 40% of your pond’s surface be covered with plants. Not only do they take care of the algae they also provide shade for the fish when it’s hot,” says Dave Stockwell of Deck and Patio.

Backyard Pond Is a Paradise

Backyard Pond Is a Paradise

“A backyard pond should be a paradise for relaxation as well as a home for desirable wildlife,” adds Dave Stockwell. “I’m referring to wildlife such as birds, frogs, etc. who eat insects as they enjoy the shelter you’ve created for them. In addition, aquatic plants and pond fish are essential elements in the overall ecosystem.” 

Sometimes, Deck and Patio clients want to go even further when creating a natural healthy pond ecosystem. “That’s the rainwater harvesting comes into play,” says Dave. “This involves capturing rainwater, filtering it, and trapping it below ground to be recirculated to maintain the pond’s water level because of evaporation. Aquascape Inc. of St. Charles, IL, has superb systems that capture and circulate rainwater.” 

This captured water never stagnates, says Brian Helfrich, construction manager at Aquascape, because the water is continuously circulated in the pond via a waterfall, or stream, or pond fountain.

“Rainfall shortages will never be a problem,” says Helfrich. “Plus, with such a system, town or city water is never being used. Those with an underground storage tank — stocked with water they may have collected a month ago, even during a drought, will not only keep their water feature fresh and moving, but excess water reserves can maintain a lawn, and/or a vegetable garden.” 

Easy to Maintain Pond Ecosystem:

Easy to Maintain Pond Ecosystem:

This beautiful award-winning water feature (silver medal from LIPSA) consists of a stream, waterfalls and pond; it’s the perfect spot for letting the day’s cares melt away. Enchanting Echinacea (coneflowers) and magenta Lythrum are some of the plants brightening this pondscape.

Healthy Pond Ecosystems with Wildlife:

Healthy Pond Ecosystems with Wildlife:

Water is the basis of all successful ecosystems. The second you put in a water feature you attract all kinds of wildlife — birds who want to bathe, frogs, salamanders, and insects that the birds feed on.

Low Maintenance Ponds with Koi:

Contrary to popular belief, fish will actually reduce pond maintenance, as they graze on string algae and bottom feed from the pond floor. Plants shown here include bullrush, pink canna lilies, horsetail, and a rose arey hybrid water lily. 

“A healthy pond does require some spring and fall maintenance,” says Dave Stockwell. “However, if you build your pond correctly, Mother Nature will do the rest. Not only will you love it in every season, but frogs, birds and butterflies will thank you for it.”

 

Can Pond Fish Survive in a Frozen Pond?

2014 Polar Vortex weather map

2014 Polar Vortex weather map

 

December 2018 weather in Long Island, NY, has hovered around 50 degrees.

However, recent news that the Polar Vortex may very soon cause the northeast some winter trauma suggests we should all give a thought to our backyard ponds and especially our pond fish. 

The big question is:

Can Koi Survive in Frozen Ponds?

Pond Gases Must Escape

Pond Gases Must Escape

Some pond owners remove their koi for safe keeping in a warmer place. That is not necessary, say experts. However, it’s important to remain alert, especially if the weather gets particularly bad.

Your koi will happily lie dormant during winter months and can survive in a frozen pond as long as they can get enough oxygen. This requires;

  •  two feet of water to swim in,
  •  oxygenating the water by running waterfalls into the pond etc.,
  •  and keeping a hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler and an aerator, thereby allowing the naturally produced gasses to escape from under the ice.

If the above efforts fail to keep it from freezing, Aquascape Inc. designs manager, Gary Gronwick, suggests using a pond de-icer. 

“This will keep a little hole in the ice so gases can escape,” he says. “While some recommend boiling water to create an opening in frozen-over ponds, that should be discouraged. It will only ice up again quickly.“

Gronwick also says to avoid chopping or sawing the ice to open a hole. The noise and vibrations will stress out the hibernating fish to a point they could die.

That done, Mother Nature will do the rest. The fish will spend the entire winter hibernating at the bottom of the pond, or in a cave designed for this, and then will slowly wake up as the water warms in the spring.  The fish do not need to eat during this time and, in fact, shouldn’t be fed at all.  

 

Prepare Ponds for Winter:

Prepare Ponds for Winter:

If you haven’t done this already, before any brutal weather sets in, carefully look over your plant material and remove dying plant material. Otherwise, these will rot and build up poisonous gases that can’t escape through ice when it forms. Such conditions might mean that the koi are no longer simply hibernating, but are in a dangerous state of torpor.

 

Keep Pond Waterfalls Running in Winter: (Photo/Aquascape Inc.)

Keep Pond Waterfalls Running in Winter: (Photo/Aquascape Inc.)

Running waterfalls during cold months helps move the water so ice doesn’t form. But if ice builds up, pond aerators can put bubbles back in the water to add oxygen for the fish.

 

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascape Inc)

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascape Inc)

This pond has been cleared of excessive plant material and ice does not cover over the pond so that the fish are happily hibernating.

 

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

 

So! If the Polar Vortex throws us all it’s got, you don’t need to worry too much about your fish. Ensure they have enough oxygen, etc., and they should be just fine. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Caring for Ponds/Pond Fish in Fall

 

Peak fall foliage is upon us here on Long Island. And while it’s a glorious sight, for those with ponds, it’s also a reminder to do a little maintenance.

Netting Ponds in Fall.

Netting Ponds in Fall.

Our blog a few weeks ago suggested netting your pond before the leaves fall. It’s worth doing in the next few days if you haven’t done it yet.

Once all the leaves have fallen and been captured by the net, you can simply pull it out and once again enjoy your pond unobstructed.

Note: If netting isn’t your thing, a long-handle pond net allows you to scoop down to the bottom and pull out leaves and other debris. It’s a bit more work, but effective. Also, since ponds tend to lose significant water by evaporation during the summer, clearing out debris keeps the pond from getting too shallow and requiring extra water to keep it topped off and healthy. 

 

Aquatic Plants Maintenance

Deck and Patio Ponds

Deck and Patio Ponds

“It’s a good idea to trim back and remove any dead foliage from aquatic plants this time of year,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “This helps remove excessive organic material that would otherwise decompose in the water feature. Such decaying material can cause excess gasses and undesirable algae.”

Pond lilies, for example, which are idyllic water plants, tend to need a little maintenance in fall. It’s a good idea to cut them back to just about the base of the plant; also trim back any marginal plants that might eventually droop over into the water.

 

Chemical Pond Treatments

Leaves In Backyard Stream 

Leaves In Backyard Stream

 

Some debris will make it into your pond no matter how careful you are.

Dave Kelly of Aquasacpe Inc. recommends adding a cold water bacteria treatment, which has concentrated strains of beneficial bacteria that works well below 50 degrees (F).

Kelly recommends adding it routinely to help maintain water clarity and quality.  Photo: Aquascape Inc.

 

 

 

Caring for Pond Fish 

You can — and should — plump up your koi darlings to survive winter hibernation. As temperatures start to drop, gradually increase how much you feed them. When your pond’s water gets below 59 degrees, we recommend using fish food made for cold water. 

Note: As the temperature continues to drop, gradually reduce the amount you feed them.   Once water temperatures go below 55 degrees, says Kelly, the metabolisms of pond fish slow way down. And when pond water gets down to 50 degrees, do not feed the fish any more. Their systems shut down in the colder water, and food sits inside them and rots. They get very sick and diseased from this.

 

Pond Fish in Fall:

Pond Fish in Fall:

There is nothing cuter than your koi coming to you for more food. However, once the water gets to 50 degrees, experts say stop feeding them entirely.

 

Healthy Ponds:

Healthy Ponds:

Once Spring arrives, and your pond and fish are healthy and thriving, you’ll be glad you took such good care of your pond in the Fall.

There! That’s not so bad, is it. Just remember: a little fall maintenance makes all the difference.