Apr 5, 2017

5 Ways to Nurture the Earth (And Save You Effort!)

Imagine turning on the news tonight, and instead of the usually gloomy outcast, the reporter announced that bat populations were returning to normal levels, that monarch butterflies were taken off the endangered species list, that fresh water was in ready supply from coast to coast, and that mosquito control was no longer necessary.

Does that sound like a fantasy? It doesn’t have to be. If every one of us took a small step in the right direction, we’d be so much better off than we are today.

I’m not going to jump on a soap box about global warming or fuel efficiency or renewable resources.  I’m just going to talk about your yard. Yes, this is a gardening article, NOT a political one!

Here are 5 ways your yard can help nurture our beautiful Earth (and save you time, money, and effort!). I’m not suggesting you do this all at once (although if that’s your thing, we can help you with that!). Even doing just one thing at a time will make a huge impact.

1. Get rid of your lawn.

I might offend a few avid lawn-mowers when I say this, but a grass lawn is boring! Not to mention that mowing your lawn requires fuel, creates harmful emissions, and often requires fertilizers that end up in our ground water or natural water bodies. Plus-- grass lawns provide home and food for very, very little wildlife. 

What's the alternative? Try planting clover, expanding your plant beds, or using native ground covers. Or you could go the Wicker style... and just replace your lawn with pond.

2. Plant native plant species.

When we say "plant native species" we mean "versus non-native plants." And we mean both in your water feature and in your yard! Natives are so wonderful, and here's why:

Service berry shrubs are one of our favorite natives.

Low maintenance: Once established, most natives will never need watered again-- many are even drought-tolerant! And forget about fertilizer. You don't need it.

Habitat-friendly: Wildlife needs shelter and food. Many native shrubs, perrenials, and trees will provide this! Foliage provides a great place for critters to hide, nest, and roost. Look for dense grasses, thick shrubs and trees. Native species also attract native insects, which will help your gardens flourish and help feed wildlife. 

Aesthetics: Natives are not boring. You can have a different blossom in your yard every month from March to October.

Water conservation: As I mentioned earlier, you don't need to water these plants! 

Yes, this is a native! This is Butterfly Weed.

And we hear you loud and clear-- natives are hard to find! We have a selection of native perennials available in the month of April only. If there's a particular plant you want to find, let us know, and we may be able to order it from our wholesale grower for you. And of course, we have aquatic natives available whenever we sell our aquatic plants.

3. Make your backyard habitat friendly.

Beautiful wildflowers or perfect habitat? Maybe both!

A habitat has food, water, and shelter. If you have a water feature already, you're a third of the way there! The National Wildlife Federation covers this topic pretty extensively, so head to their website to learn more. Plus you can even certify your backyard as a wildlife habitat! Talk about bragging rights.

4. Capture rain water.

This waterfall is a part of our rainwater harvesting system.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the water shortages on the west coast. And although we don't feel those shortages too much here in the Midwest, water conservation is something we should all be concerned with. Allowing rainwater to fall into storm drains and dump into the oceans means it's effectively useless. What a waste!

Capturing rain water for use in your backyard (watering plants, topping off your water feature) not only helps the environment, but also your water bill! The best rain water capturing is unobtrusive, aerates the water to prevent anaerobic bacteria build-up, and allows easy use of the rainwater afterwards. 

And imagine that-- we've got the solution for you! A rainwater harvesting system

5. Stop using chemical pesticides. 

This last one is probably the most hot-button topic I'm covering. Pesticides are pretty common these days. I won't cover the impacts on your own health (read this if you want to give yourself the heebie jeebies). And I'm not talking about agricultural uses, either. Let's just talk about your yard.

Here's the general rundown about why pesticides are a bad idea:

"Broad spectrum" pesticides kill a wide range of insects, including many that are very beneficial to your yard, your community, and even your food! Have you heard about colony collapse disorder in honey bees? Yup, that's a pesticide issue. We need bugs! We need them to break down waste in the soil, to fend off foreign insects from our plants, to pollinate our plants, to feed other critters in the food chain... the list goes on.

If pesticides get into your pond, they could kill your fish. If they get into a natural water supply (rivers, streams, even ground water), it could harm local fish populations.

Okay, so the bad news is all well and good, but what do we do instead? Plant native plants to encourage bad-bug fighting native insects or try planting these insect-repelling plants

I'm not saying there aren't occasions when pesticides aren't necessary: just use caution and judge the risks before applying.

Mar 29, 2017

FAQ About Spring Cleaning

Does my water feature need to be cleaned?

If you answer yes to many of these questions below, chances are you need a pond cleaning! To read more about if your feature needs cleaned, check out this article.
  • Has it been more than a year since your last cleaning?
  • Do you get a lot of leaves and decaying organic material in your water feature?
  • Do you have fish?
  • Do you feed your fish?
  • Do you use fish food that you can buy at a box store? (Rather than a high protein fish food.)
  • Have you had a lot of string algae recently?
  • Can you see a build-up of debris on the pond bottom?
  • Is the water cloudy, dark or filled with tiny bits of floating debris?


How Clean Should My Water Feature Be?

This is a really good question! At Cool Ponds, we build ponds to look and function as naturally as possible. So if they are clean like a swimming pool, it looks strange. At the same time, a build up of muck in the pond is a recipe for a maintenance nightmare. 

So it's a matter of what you want your pond to look like and ridding your pond of any future maintenance issues. When we are finished cleaning a pond it WILL NOT look like it did when it was first installed. The rocks with have some green coating and there may be a little junk in the bottom to get the ecosystem jump started again -- so little that you probably won't notice. The water will be clear (sometimes in a day or so -- treatments may cloud it for a day) and your fish will be happy! You'll be ready to start the season on the right track. Just keep up with the treatments we leave you on a weekly basis. Remember the cleaning is a starting point for a great looking pond all season -- not the cure all!


How often should I clean my pondless or pond-free waterfall?

A typical pondless or pond-free waterfall only needs to be cleaned every 3-4 years. If the water feature does not receive regular treatments for algae or if it gets a lot of leaves and debris in it, it may need to be cleaned more often.

The most important cleaning that should be done regularly on a pond-free waterfall is having the debris removed from the top of the basin. Often times leaves, mulch, decaying aquatic plants or algae will build up on the gravel on the top of the basin or reservoir. This build-up will cause the water to run off the top of the basin rather than into it causing water loss in the feature.


How much will it cost to have Cool Ponds clean my water feature?

We charge for cleanings by the man hour. Because every pond is so different, we cannot give you an estimate as to how much the total cost will be -- it depends on how the pond is constructed and how well it's been maintained.

The average cost for our pond cleanings is $300 - $500. If you would feel more comfortable setting a budget, we would be more than happy to work within that budget! Once we near the maximum number of hours you've set for us, we'll give you a call and let you know how much we've accomplished in that time and let you know if there's  anything you'll need to finish up on your own.


Is it necessary to completely drain the pond for a cleaning?

YES! Please don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If the sludge on the bottom is not removed, it's not a true "cleaning" -- just a waste of time, effort, and money. The sludge build-up is what will cause maintenance issues later on.

If done properly, draining the water will cause no harm to your fish or ecosystem. Trust us, we have lots of pond cleanings under our belts!


When is the best time to clean?

The best time for the health of your fish and your ecosystem is when the water temperature is 55 degrees or less. But if that's not possible, it's ok to clean when it's warmer just NOT in the heat of summer.


Do you use a pressure washer?

We NEVER use a pressure washer during pond cleanings. We do use a high pressure hose nozzle. There is such a thing as cleaning a pond too well! You work so hard to build your ecosystem, why totally destroy it? We will remove as much of the stringy algae from all the surfaces as possible , but there should still be a green coating.


Do you remove all the rock from the pond clean?

No way, Jose. It is possible to clean around gravel without having to remove it. Not sure how? Check out our cleaning classes held in April and September or hire us to do the dirty work for you.


Can I Clean My Pond Myself?

Absolutely! Many of our customers successfully clean their ponds each year! It's dirty, smelly, and usually cold but it's a very possible project for the do-it-yourselfer. We recommend attending one of our cleaning classes in April or September to get some pointers and see how it's done. We also have a step by step brochure in our store you can pick up.

Sometimes people hire us to clean their pond the first time so they can watch, and then tackle the project on their own after that!


How and when should I schedule a pond cleaning?

Our spring and fall cleaning schedules fill up fast, so schedule well in advance! We clean in the spring from March through June. To book your preferred date within that range, we recommend scheduling us in January; however, we can still squeeze you in if you schedule later.

Our fall cleanings run from late August to November. We recommend scheduling in or August.

Mar 1, 2017

Can Cool Ponds redo my water feature?

Every year, we get more and more calls for water feature renovations. It's one thing to build a water feature from a bare yard-- it truly reinvents a yard! But when a water feature already exists, and we have the chance to rebuild it, the result is truly spectacular.

This was the Wickers' first pond with Taylor going to her first day of kindergarten.

Pond #3 with Taylor graduating high school!

The circumstances for remodels are always different. Sometimes the homeowner "inherited" the pond when they moved in to the home. Sometimes another company or contractor built the feature. Sometimes we even built the feature many years prior! Sometimes the features get bigger, sometimes smaller, and many, many times ponds become pondless waterfalls.

Whatever the circumstances, here's how our remodels go:

We will tear out everything in the existing feature. Your liner, filters, rocks, tubing, all of it goes! We will put our new product in, and we will leave your yard with a brand new feature in place of your old one.

So here's the biggest question we get with remodels, "Can you reuse my X?" Here's what we can reuse from your old feature:

-- Rock (so long as it is not limestone!)
-- Pump
-- Cool Ponds filters, if purchased through Cool Ponds within the past few years

And here's the next question we get, "Why can't you reuse my X?"

We want to be absolutely certain that the feature we put in for you is solid. We want you to get many years of enjoyment out of it with no headaches and definitely no leaks! Reusing tubing, liner, or even old filters can spell disaster later on.

We're going to be upfront here: a remodel generally costs more money than if we build a feature from scratch. The reason for this is the extra labor cost of removing the old water feature. But we've never finished a remodel with an unhappy customer! The cost of redoing the water feature is so worth the price, especially when you can enjoy your new feature and instead of worrying about it, maintaining it, or wishing it could look different.

We are genuinely excited to help people renovate their existing features. If you're interested in having our project manager come design your dream water feature with you, please give us a call.

Feb 23, 2017

How do I take care of my large pond?

Large ponds, lakes, retention ponds, and clay-bottom ponds are all classified by Cool Ponds as a "large pond" or "lake." In theory, their maintenance and care is very similar to our smaller backyard ponds!

As of 2017, we do not offer lake treatment services. We can install an aerator or fountain, but we do not have the licensing to apply treatments. If you need a reference for a company who does, we can certainly provide that. However, the treatment regimen we recommend is simple to apply, and we are confident that most home owners can do this themselves!

Here are the basics of caring for your large pond:

Check What's Going Into Your Water

If you're in farmland, it's possible that herbicides or pesticides are in the runoff going into your pond. Adding a vegetative strip around the edge of the pond (that you don't mow) of native grasses can help minimize toxins that go into your lake.

A vegetative strip is especially important if you have soil erosion, as clay is very difficult to clear from your pond water. Check out this article from Texas A&M for more info.

Properly Aerate

You will save so much effort and MONEY if you aerate your pond. Aeration helps boost beneficial bacteria growth, which helps clear your water, and it will help break down sludge and dead plant material faster. Plus aeration is great for the health of your fish! For specific case studies, check out the manufacturer's website.

Add A Beneficial Bacteria

There are two types of bacteria which will help clear your water and reduce muck along your shorelines. Sounds like a pretty good idea, right?

Get Ahead Of Your Weeds and Algae

The beginning of the growing season is the perfect time to get rid of weeds and algae, but you can still treat during the season as well. These are topical treatments mixed in a tank sprayer, so there is no harm to domestic animals, wildlife (including fish), or you! Yes, you can still swim in your pond even with these treatments. Bring in a sample of the weed or algae you're fighting and we can help pinpoint which treatment will be best for you. You can also see our full selection of lake treatments on our online store.

Still unsure where to start? Give us a call or stop in the store! We would love to help you enjoy your large pond even more!

Water Feature Repair

We know that when a water feature isn't right, it's a huge headache. Trust us- -we've been there! When you know you're losing water, but you have no idea where to look or how to fix it, it's very frustrating.

So hopefully if you have the misfortune of suffering a leak, this repair primer will help!

First of all, we need to get something off our chests. Cool Ponds does not repair leaks on features we do not install. 

When we try to service a water feature we did not install, we have no way of knowing how it was installed, what is underground, what is under the water, etc. Most times when we find a problem there are many more. Unfortunately, there are many ponds installed using less than proper methods and they just can't be fixed without a total redo. We have tried to offer our leak detection services in years past and it just ends up being too costly for the customer.  

On features we have installed, we have not had this issue. When we put the feature in, we know what products went in the ground and how they were installed. There's no mystery. So we can pinpoint leaks quickly and get them resolved. I won't say any more about the differences between our installations and other companies', but you can read more here.

Okay, okay-- this isn't the helpful bit, right? Let's get to it!

First thing you need to know: is your water feature even leaking at all?

Read on here to find out how to REALLY check the water level in your pond.

A leaking water feature consistently loses the same amount every day. If there's a large variation in water loss, then you're experiencing evaporation, plant expiration, etc. Read more about the causes of water loss here.

So you are leaking! Now what?

You need to pinpoint the source of the water loss. If you have pumps running water-- whether it's a small "spitter" or fountain, a waterfall, a filter-- something running, shut them off. Measure your water level when you turn it off and leave it off for 24 hours. Measure again.

Did you lose water with the pump off? 

Then you know that your leak (or at least some of your leakage) is occurring somewhere in the pond itself. You have a couple options at this point. You can let the water drain until it stops-- where it stops is where the leak occurs. A common place is around the skimmer faceplate. If those are old screws, it's possible they have rusted out. We can show you how to replace the screws and re-seal the faceplate.

If the leak is not around your skimmer, then you can try to find the tear in the liner around the waterline. It is possible to patch the tear. Please note that this is a VERY rare occurrence with quality 45mil rubber liner!

Your other option, which might be easier but also a lot more money: to replace the liner completely.

You didn't lose water with the pump off? 

Then you know your leak is somewhere between your pump and whatever running water source you have (waterfall /  spitter / filter / etc). Turn your pump back on and see if you can find any damp spots or obvious spouts of water. This is where most leaks occur...


Finding a leak is not easy, but it is not impossible. We will walk you through the process with as much detail as possible. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to come in, give us a call, or send us an email.


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