29th Oct 2021
As we speed rapidly through the autumn and head for winter, it’s important to take care of all those little jobs that will ensure your pond stays in top shape with healthy fish all ready to enjoy the spring and summer as they roll around again next year. One of the most important of those little jobs is trimming and cutting back any excess foliage and other debris around your pond.
As well as improving the aesthetics of your pond no end during these colder months (nobody wants to see dead and decaying plants spoiling your pondscape), failure to perform proper plant upkeep and care will also result in leaves, twigs and other debris eventually falling to the bottom of your pond and creating a nasty noxious sludge on the pond bottom. Not only can this cause dirty water and be unsightly and smelly, it can also be harmful to the health of your fish.
Make sure you have a plan of action for all the steps you need to take in order to perform proper Autumn pond maintenance:
1. Remove debris from the pond surface – You may have been keeping an eye on leaves, twigs and other debris through the summer, or you may even have a pond skimmer or perform the occasional vacuum. However, come Autumn when the growing season has come to an end and plant life begins to die back, be sure to get a good quality net and remove all debris from the pond surface to avoid the problems caused by rotting vegetation that we mentioned earlier. Try to anticipate any problem areas such as overhanging branches, twigs and leaves. Prune these back to avoid them falling in to the pond as they die off.
2. Cut back and trim down marginal and other plant vegetation – As a rule of thumb you should cut all marginal plants down to a level of no more than 15cm (6”) above the winter water line. Also take the opportunity to trim and thin out plants within the pond that might have become overgrown during the summer. General guidelines are that it’s best to allow around 50% of the pond surface to be free from vegetation to create a healthy ecological balance. Make sure to cut back to 50% and then a bit more in autumn, to allow for that sudden growth spurt when spring rolls around again. Remember that a few species are late flowering. Be sure not to cut down plants that still have more flowers to come. Spring and summer flowering types however can be cut back to as little as 5cm (2”) above ground level.
3. Remove or trim back low growing foliage – Old yellowing water lily leaves and long stems should be removed. Any leaves that are still green and healthy can be left for as long as they remain that way. Again, remember that species such as Water Hawthorn often flower quite late into autumn so if they are still looking good they can certainly be left for now. Although spring is probably the best time to divide water plants, if there are any that you want to get rid of, now is an opportune time to do so. Just lift them out complete with the planting basket and dispose of in your compost heap.
4. De-sludge the pond bottom– Although you need a small layer of silt in your pond for plants to root in to and to house the beneficial bacteria that create a healthy ecological balance, over time this silt can build up in to a thicker layer of sludge, and as we’ve seen, that can be harmful. Get yourself a decent fine mesh sludge net and slowly drag it through the pond bottom. Try not to be too forceful as this would stir up the murk in your pond which could be a nuisance to your fish. Lift the sludge net out gently and bale in to a bucket for later disposal. If you find there is a heavy amount of sludge you might want to run a pond vacuum through the pond bottom to do a more thorough de-sludging.
In summary, just remember that little and often is the best way when it comes to pond maintenance. A small amount of work now, and then a check and a little more work at regular intervals will save you from having a mammoth task of rectifying things later.