Pond maintenance is par for the course if you want to enjoy an urban oasis. Opening up the pond for the season is a dirty job. But somebody has to do it – and thankfully, it’s not me! I’m happy to take my place behind the camera to help show you how it’s done 🙂
Flashback to last Fall: we tie off the grass (to be cut down in the Spring) and cover the pond to protect it from the elements. This is how we leave it over the winter:
It’s been an unusually cold and rainy Spring. Finally, two days ago Hubs hightailed it home early to take advantage of a rare break in the dreary weather. Off comes the plywood and the foam insulation that keeps the water in the pond from completely freezing and cracking the liner.
Tools of the Trade
Initial must-haves for this messy job are rubber gloves, a mask (good thing there’s no smell-o-vision!), scrub brush, pond skimmer, rags and a pump of course to drain what has become a motley brew of algae and bacteria.
Pump it Up – and Out!
Hubs starts by skimming off as much leave litter as he can to prevent the pump from clogging. We may have discovered the cure for cancer in that concoction, but we’ll never know! Then he sets the pump into the pond and turns his attention to the front pond while the back one drains.
Bide Your Time!
The front pond lifts out easily for cleaning and the turtle spitter is going well within the time it takes to drain the back pond. The flagstone is only loosely positioned at his time around the perimeter of the pond. Once we get another nice day, we’ll power wash both the flagstone and the travertine marble patio in the back to clean it up too. The crevices of the travertine really catch the dirt as you can see two pictures above!
Keep a Watchful Eye
Keep an eye on the pump to ensure that the level of the water doesn’t get too low; you don’t want to take a chance of burning out the motor!
At the second stage of the process, you’ll need several buckets (large and small) and a jug with a handle to scoop. Hubs cut out a larger hole in the jug as you see below to get out the last vestiges of pond water.
Now the pump comes out and the gruelling work really begins. When it gets to the point where the water level is too low for the pump (or too much debris on the bottom), you have to dump the buckets by hand.
Hubs hand bombs the shallow water into a bucket using his ‘upcycled’ scoop. I stopped counting at 10 buckets of water! Is it any wonder I can’t stomach ‘green’ drinks?!
After the last bucket is removed it’s time to do the final wipe down of the liner.
Hubs mops up every last bit of water at the bottom…..
… and squeezes it into a smaller pail, which then gets transferred into the larger one.
Rinse and Repeat
The liner is hosed down with fresh water. A scrub sponge is then used to wipe down the bottom and sides of the liner to remove the last of the algae: we don’t use any kind of cleaning solution at all to keep chemicals to a minimum.
A new rag is used to wipe up the remaining water.
Finally, I can breathe through my nose again without gagging!
Then the process of refilling the pond begins.
We aim to fill the pond to around the 3/4 mark.This time of year, mother nature will do the rest.
Once the water is at a decent level, the pump can go in. In the early iteration of our pond, we used to have a more elaborate set-up with a bowl centre-piece but as we’ve gotten older it was becoming too heavy to haul in and out each year. Now, we keep it simple with this configuration:
If you haven’t read the post on how we DIY’d two versions of our pond, for this iteration Hubs attached the pump to the top of a milk crate we purchased from a local grocery store. The underside is weighed down by two stainless steel rods strapped to the side with plastic ties.
The fountain is set in place, the crate is lowered into the pond and centred.
Our Own Fountain of Youth
It’s not the fountain of youth in the fokelore sense by any means: I’m not suggesting that we drink from it! But it’s a fountain of youth in the sense that at least it’s keeping Hubs limber!
The cord gets plugged into a post where our electrical is attached, which practically becomes hidden later in the season once the grasses grow.
The Secret to Keeping Algae at Bay
When we visited the botanical gardens in Naples we asked them how they maintain their gorgeous pond and they shared a key step with us.
Ever since then, to help keep algae to a minimum we add a non-toxic blue dye to the water. If it works for the huge expansive pond at the botanical gardens, it’ll work for small ponds too! It works by filtering out the sunlight which makes it harder for algae to develop.
Because this stuff is super concentrated, we have to be careful that we don’t drip it on the surrounding patio stones! To further suppress algae growth, Hubs comes back in the evening and adds another additive to the water to further clarify the pond. I know I’ll get questions about what he uses, so I’ll be sure to update this post.
The last step is to clean the pump with fresh water.
Finally, Hubs cleans his boots, gloves and buckets with an all-natural cleaner called Benefect Botanical Decon 30. It’s specially formulated to kill gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria in just 30 seconds. That, and the fact that it doesn’t require rinsing, makes it the quickest part of the whole process!
Fast forward later in the Spring, after we’ve power washed and the plants start to grow:
The blue dye not only keeps algae at bay, it’s also quite attractive to look at!
If you’d like to see live footage of the transformation our little garden oasis, check out this quick video:
With a bit of work up-front, it’s all worth it in the end! The payoff is we get to enjoy our little piece of urban oasis for the rest of the season!