The Greener View: Fish Ponds
Q: Even though my pond has a skimmer, lots of leaves accumulate in the gravel on the bottom. What do I need to do about this? My pond guy said I will need to do a cleanout in the spring, but the leaves are beginning to accumulate now.
A: If you wait to do a pond cleanout till the spring, your fish may be dead. Leaves in a pond can harbor parasites that weaken fish when their immune system is at its lowest during wintertime. Dead leaves can also decay in the cold water as sunlight warms them, allowing bacteria to take oxygen from the water and release toxic substances.
Remove dead leaves whenever you find them in your pond. Some organic matter between the rocks is normal and not harmful to fish. In fact, a muddy pond bottom is fine for koi and goldfish. But the buildup of toxic compounds from an abundance of decaying leaves can harm the fish.
You may find that it is easier to place a net over your entire pond to prevent leaves from falling in. There are several types of nets available. Some are disposable and have large holes that might allow smaller leaves to get through. Strong and long-lasting cloth nets by Nycon have small holes that can even keep out most pine needles. They come with stakes, poles and grommets for secure installation.
I use a Nycon Big Top net to cover my pond for a few weeks in the fall, during the heaviest leaf-fall period. The rest of the year, I get by using a skimmer and a hand net.
Q: Last year, the big pretty koi we had purchased didn't survive the winter, but their babies did. Some of them grew quite large this summer. We don't want them to die this winter. What can we do to protect them?
A: This is a problem that many people have with their pond at some time. Sometimes lots of babies survive until winter. During the winter, the pond is overstocked with all these large and small fish. Large fish need more oxygen than small fish because they have more muscle and tissue mass. Unfortunately, when there is not enough air for all the fish, small fish have better access to small bubbles and other sources of air. The large fish die, and usually a lot of small fish die, too, but they go unnoticed because there are so many small fish that are still alive.
This time of year, every pond owner should look at the number and size of fish in the pond. If there are a lot of new ones, then it is a good idea to give them to someone who could keep them. Keep the pretty ones, the ones you paid good money for and the friendly ones, and get rid of all the rest. It is the kindest and safest thing you can do for them.
Start now, since it may take some time to find a good home for the extra fish. Many pond clubs have fall meetings and shows where you could take them.
Q: I planted a hawthorn tree last fall. I wonder whether the tree is experiencing first-year shock, as it has leaves on the outer branches but none on the inner branches, even though they appear to be alive. Should I refertilize, prune back or simply wait another year? Maybe year two will be better.
A: I would take a wait-and-see approach on this tree. Don't cut out any branches, except dead ones. As the root system starts to grow into the surrounding soil, it will be able to support more leaves. The tree needs all the leaves it can grow because they create the food necessary to grow more roots, so don't prune any.
Don't fertilize right now, because the tree will want to send out new growth, and that will consume more food than the tree can create, so it will die in the cool fall weather. You can fertilize in the fall after the leaves fall off. Trees will save their nutrients that time of year to create new growth in the spring. Don't overdo it, because too much fertilizer could kill the roots.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at email@example.com. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.