Garden spirit

Gardening thoughts and inspirations

Tag: fish health

It’s a Marshmallow world in the winter…


2017-01-01-08-01-02Happy 2017! We have had quite the winter weather over the last couple of weeks. The snow has really stuck around with the freezing temperatures which makes for some beautiful garden pictures like above – the weeping willow in my garden at home.

A coral bark maple covered in snow…and ice!2017-01-01-08-18-37

Unfortunately , the last snow storm did some serious damage to our cedar hedge. This is what I woke up to…


That was some pretty heavy wet snow – so there is not much I could do about it. Multi stemmed hedges like cedar don’t stand up too well to snowfalls like this. Part of the problem is that I didn’t prune the whole hedge last year. If you look at the picture , you can see there is less damage to the hedge on the left side of the picture. This is the section I did prune late last summer but I ran out of steam to finish off the rest and I paid the price. Proper, regular pruning can keep your hedge stronger. By pruning the hedge appropriately, you can keep the bottom of your hedge wider then the top – so that it is tapered as it gets taller. This helps to keep the snow from splitting your hedge in half. Although my hedge did bounce back a bit once the snow came off, I will still have to prune that area of the hedge hard – probably 2-3 feet lower in early spring. This should help it bounce back to its original shape. Then I will have to prune it again later in the year to maintain a better shape to ensure this doesn’t happen next winter.


If you have a pond with fish, it is always important to have a pump running that will keep oxygenating the water during the winter. Also, if it gets cold enough to freeze completely , you must keep an opening in the ice to allow for gas exchange from any decomposing material in the pond. This can be done easily with a small aerator with aeration discs.


As you can see in the above picture, it got a lot colder! My two openings (from aeration discs) actually froze over completely. Never smash ice on a pond with fish – the sound-waves through the water can actually damage or kill your fish. It is much safer and less disruptive to pour some boiling water over the openings to melt the ice. This is what I did just before taking this picture.

And finally , ice on your pond can be beneficial to some animals….


My cat enjoyed being able to stroll out to the middle of the pond and drink water from the openings in the ice! Silly cat.

Even though this weather adds a unique beauty to the landscape, I have had enough of it. Is it spring soon?! I read this quote today that I thought was pretty funny…

“I think its time for old man winter to get Mother Nature drunk, and have a little fun making spring…”

Enjoy your garden…!

#winter #gardening #pond #hedge #snow



Cool Waters


Its finally summertime and our temperatures are starting to rise over the past few weeks. With warmer temperatures, our ponds need a little extra care and attention to stay healthy and clean. We also need to keep a close eye on our fishy friends who inhabit our ponds.

Are your fish behaving normally? Do they seem stressed out – gasping for air near a waterfall? Warm water carries less oxygen then cold water. In the warmer months, your pond may be the most deficient in oxygen. This is also the time of year when your fish are most active, so oxygen levels can easily become low. This leads to stress on your fish which can lead to diseases and so on…


happy fish


There are some preventative measures you can take in order to keep your pond from becoming a warm, unhealthy mess. It all starts with a well-designed water feature. Depth, plant coverage, shade, and circulation should all be considered when building a pond. Here are a few helpful tips:

  1. A well-designed filtration system should bring water back into the pond through a continuously running waterfall for constant aeration.
  2. Add more oxygen to the pond by placing aeration discs into the pond. You can also install a small fountain pump that is continually breaking the surface of the water.
  3. Aquatic plants like water lilies are important for providing shade. Make sure to stock your pond with a variety of plants – a good rule is to cover up to 1/3 of the surface area with plants.
  4. Remember to remove dying leaves and flowers before they start to decay in the warmer water.
  5. Be careful not to overfeed your fish. Decaying fish food in the pond breaks down faster in warmer weather and will quickly create poor water conditions.

If you have a pump continuously re-circulating the water in your pond, you should not have a problem because your water will be constantly filtered and oxygenated. You will have a balanced ecosystem.



The bottom line is that you need to keep an eye on your pond especially during the warm summer months, and let your fish and plants do the talking – but don’t fret about it!

Don’t forget that ponds are meant to be a relaxing oasis, providing relief from the stresses of the day. Running out and testing a pond every day is not relaxing. Just a few simple tasks is all you need to keep your fish healthy and happy. Enjoy your pond…!

pond life 3

Algae anyone?

In the wild, where there are beavers , there are most definitely dams and beaver ponds. These beaver ponds can become quite large, they slow down the movement of water and trap a lot of nutrients. In a beaver pond in the summer time , with abundant sunshine and large amounts of excess nutrients there will be huge algae blooms.

For the beaver this is not really a problem. Beavers don’t use algaecides or UV bulbs to get rid of algae in their ponds – they use a moose! Or should I say the moose uses them. Moose actually like algae, in fact you might say they love it.

<p>A moose wading in the beaver ponds of Elk Creek in the Weminuche Wilderness, eating the green algae in the water.</p>A moose eating algae in the beaver ponds of Elk Creek in the Weminuche Wilderness.

A moose will wander into the beaver pond and have some algae for lunch, or anytime he likes. This symbiotic relationship works pretty well. Although, if I offered a “hire a moose” service for algae control , I don’t think I would get a lot of calls!


The moose would most likely cause a heck of a lot more damage then help in a backyard pond…but don’t despair, there are alternatives that are less destructive then a moose in your back yard!

Pond Filtration

Some algae growth is a natural occurrence in any pond.  So, although not harmful to fish, large algae blooms can cause concern with oxygen depletion, water chemistry swings and most importantly – it stops us from seeing our lovely fish!   Even with a good filtration combination – biological, mechanical and UV sterilization – especially in the summer months, algae can still take over waterfalls, streams and even your entire pond. You can get some help from your fish as koi and goldfish will eat some of the algae inside your pond.(see video below)

UV sterilizers work against suspended plank-tonic algae but also kill the beneficial bacteria that helps to break down excess nutrients in a closed system like a backyard pond. In an unbalanced system, with excessive algae blooms you may have to turn to an algae treatment to work with your filtration system to help you win the battle. Most algaecides can be dangerous to fish, and there are a dizzying array of products designed to reduce, eliminate, and kill algae.

A Miracle Cure?

How does one fight the battle of algae blooms without harming the health of desirable plants or pond dwellers?  Could a key ingredient in beer be the answer? Could it be the miracle cure? Well, maybe not the miracle cure, but there is plenty of data and field testing that tells us that barley straw is an effective natural means of controlling algae – especially string algae.

The use of barley straw as a method to control algae isn’t a modern breakthrough. It’s been used for centuries in Europe for algae control in lakes and large ponds. Over the last 20 years, companies in North America who specialize in lake management have also begun using barley straw and now realize the benefits as an eco-friendly method of reducing algae. Recently, the success of barley straw has carried over to the water gardening industry.


How It Works

There are some key conditions that have to take place in order for the barley to have an effect on algae. Barley straw, when placed in water, will begin to decompose.

One of the by-products released into the pond during the decomposition process of the barley is a chemical that actually breaks down the cell walls of the algae. These by-products, when combined with sunlight and oxygenated water, form hydrogen peroxide. The fact is that in scientific experiments, peroxide has been shown to effectively break down the cell walls of algae. Studies show that a consistent low level of peroxide will actually reduce the ability of algae to form new cell growth.

A Quick Fix?

Barley straw is not the “quick-fix” when it comes to controlling algae. It can often take anywhere from four to six weeks for the barley straw to begin decomposing and release the algae destroying chemicals. But once the decomposition process has begun, the barley can remain active for around six to eight months. Barley, when used in conjunction with a good filtration system, is a great, natural way to win the algae battle.

  • Start using barley early in the season. This gives the barley a head start in beginning the decomposition process and will ensure better results.
  •  Barley straw is eco-friendly. Studies have shown that the chemicals released into the pond have no negative effect on aquatic plants.
  •  Barley straw has no negative effect/harm on fish or other pond invertebrates.

Options for Backyard Ponds

Barley bales are good for pond owners who have large “retention” style ponds. While this may be an effective way of controlling algae, it won’t be the most aesthetically pleasing method for a smaller backyard pond. Placing a large, bale of barley along the edge of your pond could be …well, a bit of an eyesore!


Thankfully some pond manufacturing companies have reduced down the barley bales to smaller sizes for pond owners with small, backyard water features.There are now several forms of barley straw products on the market;   barley mats, barley pellets and even a concentrated liquid extract.

strong_style_color_b82220_filter_strong_mat_pool_filter_aquarium_strong_style_color_b82220_filter_strong Barley Filter mats, with organically-grown barley straw woven into them, provide a simple way to introduce this natural method of algae control to your pond. The barley mats are placed between the regular filter mats inside your biological filter. The mats can be added during the pond construction , or while cleaning your filter for the annual spring cleanout.
The advantage of barley mats, unlike the bale method, is that the barley is spread throughout the entire surface of the filter mat, increasing the barley’s contact with the water. Placing the barley in the biological filter allows the highly-oxygenated water to pass across the entire mat. A good biological filter is an essential part to a healthy pond. Adding barley straw provides the extra “boost” the pond might need to help control algae issues.

Barley-Straw-Pellets Barley Pellets can also be an effective method for algae control in smaller ponds. These pellets can be placed in a small mesh bag and placed inside a skimmer filter or a biological filter at the start of a waterfall, or even directly into the pond. As with the barley mats, it is important to place them in the pond earlier in the season, to get that barley going on the decomposition process.


Barley Liquid Extract is an even simpler way to enjoy the benefits of barley in your pond. Most barley extracts are from pharmaceutical-grade, fermented barley straw, which is very concentrated to work quickly. Some added enzymes and bacteria can sometimes be included in the liquid formulas which also help in breaking down pond sludge and debris.

Improved Water Quality

Barley products,  will provide an effective, natural means of controlling algae and also improve the overall water quality of your pond or water feature. The key is to have a good, functioning biological and mechanical filtration system already in place and use the barley as supplemental algae control. Enjoy your pond!