Perk up your pond

PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

In our increasingly urban landscape, ponds not only provide a place of solace and relaxation, but also a fantastic haven for wildlife.

Yet they are not as low-maintenance as you might think, particularly in summer when it’s vital to strike and maintain a good balance to keep plants healthy and water fresh.

If you have recently installed a pond in your garden and it’s looking a bit murky or the plants have started to take over and you can’t see much surface area, it could be time to have a tidy up at the water’s edge.

There are several common weeds which can cause no end of trouble if left to spread. For example, blanket weed, a type of algae can build up into a thick, cotton wool-like mass which will choke the pond if left unchecked.

It can easily get out of control, especially if there aren’t enough marginal and other pond plants, or if nitrogen fertiliser escapes into the pond from the surrounding area.

A bit of pond TLC now means you’ll be able to enjoy a calm, soothing water feature for the rest of the season...

Blanket weed needs to be removed regularly by hand. Alternatively, slip a bamboo cane into it and twirl it around so a big clump comes out in one go. Leave it by the side of the pond for a couple of days to give the pond creatures in it a chance to return to the water, then you can add it to the compost heap.

Another common pond pain is duckweed. It has two small leaves floating on the surface and short trailing roots. If left to its own devices, it will soon multiply, forming mats that smother the pond; skim it off regularly with a fishing net.

In the height of summer your pond will be in need of oxygen - especially if you have fish - and you may well need to top it up to replace the water that’s evaporated. If your fish are at the surface gasping for air, spray the water surface with a fine shower from the hosepipe, it helps oxygenate the water faster.

If you want to keep your water clear, it’s best to cover half the surface with enough marginal plants and water lilies, or other water plants. You may also need to install a small underwater pump, which will aerate the water. If the plants start to look untidy, deadhead and cut them as necessary.

Water plants tend to grow rapidly in summer - and some will need thinning out. Canadian pondweed (Elodea canadensis), for example, is a submerged oxygenating plant that needs dragging out with a rake, while other water plants can be cut back with secateurs or shears.

Crowded leaves on water lilies may need thinning out, while excess growth from submerged oxygenating plants will also need stripping out. Remember, when thinning out and removing plants, make sure you don’t displace any young fish in the process.

Make sure when tending your garden that you don’t use too many chemicals or fertilisers near the pond, they can kill fish and encourage algae growth.

Don’t worry if your new pond turns green - this often happens because the water is laden with minerals and nutrients. Once a balance is reached, it should clear, but if an established pond has gone green, try using a biological treatment or chemical free barley straw pads, available from garden centres.