Oct 6, 2016

Favorite Fall Products for Your Water Feature

Fall Netting "Domed" Over Pond
Over the years we've complied a list of the products we feel everyone needs for their ponds for fall and into winter. Of course these are all available both in our store and from our online store. You can click on each item for more information and a photo.

Extremely important if you have trees in your yard. Keeping leaves out of your water feature is you number one priority during fall. Make sure to get staples to attach the net to the ground. Also as you can see in the photo above, the net should be "domed" over the pond. Use small pieces of rebar hammered into the ground and then over the rebar place pieces of pvc or conduit to make the "dome." Rebar and conduit can be purchased at any hardware store.

Your second most important item for fall. This beneficial bacteria breaks down any debris in the pond and lessens the chance of it becoming algae food. It also keeps the water cleaner and healthier for your fish. It's much like our BioClear and Clean, but Spring and Fall Prep can be used even when the water temperature gets down to 35 degrees! Start using Spring and Fall Prep in early fall.

You will need to know the water temperature so that you can switch the type of benefical bacteria you are using and the type of fish food you are using. 

When the water starts to cool off in early October, it's time to switch to Low Temp Fish Food. Low Temp food digests quicker and helps fish prepare for winter.

Speaking of fish... You want to keep them safe and healthy all winter, right? So they will need an opening in the ice on your pond for oxygen to get in and carbon dioxide to get out. Using an aerator is the easiest and most cost effective method for keeping a hole for gas exchange. If you already have an aerator, just make sure you bring those air stones or air plate up to the water surface.You don't want to disturb the warm water at the bottom of the pond. Or even better, buy a winter airline kit. Leave your current air stones where they are, disconnect them from the aerator, and add the new stones just for winter. Don't forget to cover the aerator to keep it protected from the weather with something like a faux rock.

It's always a good idea to have Vanish dechlorinator on hand all year long. There will be times when you need to top off your pond especially in the depths of winter when ice is forming and "wicking" the water right out of the pond. And to be honest, we've all put the hose in the pond and forgotten about it -- yikes! Keep your fish safe by keeping the chlorine out of the water.

These are not one my favorite pond items to be perfectly honest, but they are effective! Even though Great Blue Herons migrate, we still have some here for winter too. With no plant cover, your bright, beautiful koi look mighty good to a hungry Heron. The floating alligator looks so real as he slithers in the water it will deter the Heron from staying to eat. 

Sometimes leaves do get in our ponds and they cause the water to turn dark colored. When this happens we recommend using Polish AC to get the color back out of the water. 

So there you go... eight items we think everyone with a pond needs for fall and winter. Please let us know if you have questions about fall, winter or any time of year with your water feature. We are here to help. Also check out our class schedule for any upcoming Fall and Winter Classes.

Happy Fall!

Written by Staci Wicker
Cool Ponds Co-Owner

Love Your Yard This Autumn Season

It's Okay, Go Ahead... Have a Little Fun!

What an awesome season fall is here in Indiana! Now if you are thinking "yeah, but I have to rake all those leaves..." then we need to work on your attitude. Give yourself permission to have some fun, enjoy life and be grateful for the beauty nature gives us at the end of each year!

Here are some ideas to get outside into your yard and participate in real life...

I'm not talking about Halloween decorations that you'll just have to take down in a few weeks. I mean fall decorations. Get some mums, pumpkins, cornstalks. Sit them in areas where you sit and can enjoy them. Often times we get caught up decorating the front of our houses for others to see. Decorate the backyard where we usually spend more time. You add flowers in spring, right? Now add some fall plants too!

Add a Fire pit
If you don't have a fire pit and you spend any time outside, you seriously need to consider getting one. I don't remember not having a fire pit. On weekends Steve will go out early in the morning start a fire and keep it stoked all weekend just in case we go out there. We also do a lot of cooking over the fire --- yum! What a great place to sit with family and fiends or by yourself even and just take in the change of seasons.

Go Camping... At Home
I think for a lot of people who don't camp regularly, camping sounds great but too much work. Packing, setting up camp, preparing for whatever, and tearing down. It's so much easier in your backyard. You're still outside, but with all the modern conveniences close by (not talking about your iPhone 7 here.) Try it... loads of fun!

Create a Living Room... Outside
Have you done this yet? I'm not talking about a couple deck chairs sitting on your patio... I mean an actual living space. What does that entail -- privacy, multiple seats, tables, lighting, decorations. You most likely wouldn't have just a couple chairs and a tv in your actual living room would you?

Host a Cookout
There's nothing better than a get together to motivate us to spruce up our yards and finish summer projects! You have a great back yard... so share it with others! After you have that new fire pit of course. Don't forget to roast some marshmallows over that fire pit too! Check out these great campfire recipes from KOA.

Light Up the Night
In addition to your really cool fire pit, install some low-voltage landscape lighting. It creates an unbelievable effect. I love looking out my kitchen window at night seeing all the yard... well the important parts of the yard, illuminated. So I can enjoy my backyard at night even when I'm not out there. Plus this is the time of year when you really get to enjoy evenings outside with sunset being earlier.

Get Ready for Bird Watching Season
So, if you aren't into bird watching then you can skip this but according to the U.S. census there are nearly 60 million American birdwatchers. Whoa! So get those feeders cleaned, stock up on some quality bird food, and maybe investigate ways to bring new birds to your yard. Migration has begun... who knows what you might see!

Give Yourself a Break and Quit Raking Leaves
That's right I said quit -- mulch them instead. Just chop them up with your lawn mower into dime size pieces and they will fertilize your lawn. Stop cursing your trees and thank them. At our home where we have no lawn, we do rake some of them from around the ponds and then spread them around other places for birds to forage and beneficial insects to live. Check out this article about how important leaf litter is for pollinators, butterflies and more!

Do yourself a favor and get outside this weekend or heck, this evening maybe. I know we are going to be out there for sure! 

Remember Cool Ponds can help you make your backyard a special place. Stop in and see us -- we're always happy to share our backyard with you!

Written by Staci Wicker
Cool Ponds Co-Owner

Sep 1, 2016

Planting for Your Birds

Gotta Catch Em All!

The Pokemon Go craze that’s sweeping the country reminds me of a pastime near and dear to my heart: bird watching. I bird watch like I hunt pokemon—I’ve gotta catch ‘em all! Finding a new species is incredibly exciting to me. After freaking out for a few minutes, making notes of the bird’s distinguishing figures, consulting my guidebook (a few times), I proudly mark the new bird off my list. Another one down!

Most people think of bird watching during fall and spring migrations, since that’s when the unusual species really come through. I have seen some really great species during those times. But my absolute favorite time to bird watch? Winter. It’s basically cheating! With no leaves on the trees and bright white snow highlighting our beautiful birds, it really couldn’t be easier.

A cedar waxwing perches on a winter-fruiting tree.

Now I’m not saying I go out snow-shoeing to find birds; although I have gone in some pretty extreme conditions to find new critters! I prefer to sit in the comfort of my home and watch my backyard.

Okay so why am I talking about this now? The leaves haven’t even started to turn color yet! Isn’t winter bird watching a little far from now?

Yes and no! Preparing your yard for your winter visitors begins now. Your birds need shelter, water, and food. They need thick, coniferous shrubs and trees to hunker down in the polar winds. They run the risk of dehydration in the winter, so they need a fresh water source (don’t worry – your pond or pondless has you covered). And of course you’re planning on putting out lots of high protein and high fat foods like suet, peanuts, and sunflower meats. But you can go one step further, and your birds will thank you.

Consider planting fall and winter-fruiting plants. Not only will they benefit the birds when you’re too chilled to bother with filling your bird feeders, you may see some birds that don’t normally frequent bird feeders! Need some help with bird ID? Check out our article here for 4 steps to ID a bird quickly.

The plants below are some of our favorites. Don’t know where to get these? Give us a call – we can come out and plant them for you!

  • Crabapple tree – produces fall fruit that persists to winter. Great for shelter too.
  • Flowering dogwood – fall fruits that attract lots of birds, including bluebirds! Great for spring nesting too.
  • Eastern red cedar – a fast growing conifer tree. Produces fruit in the fall that persists in winter that cedar waxwings love and gives great shelter.
  • Northern bayberry – shrub with fall fruits that persist in winter. Tree swallows will appreciate these!
  • Viburnum – shrubs that have fall fruits that persist in winter. Attracts many types of birds and has beautiful white flowers in the spring-time!

Enjoy your bird hunting! Good luck on your own journey to "catch em all!"

Aug 10, 2016

A Frog Bog!

So if you read any Cool Ponds articles, newsletters, postcards, etc. you know that as of July 23, 2016 we have a new "Serenity Garden" here. We've plugged it pretty hard. The photo above shows the bog area of the pond surrounded by water lilies both hardy and tropical. What's great about this bog is not only is it awesome aesthetically and helping to keep the pond clean... it's also now home to two frogs.

They must have moved in almost as soon as the pond was finished. I guess they like the "serenity" of the garden as well. Can you see the bullfrog in the photo above? Check out the close up below:

They love the bog because they can float in among the aquatic plants and be pretty much unnoticeable. Honestly I wouldn't have seen them if Kasey hadn't pointed them out! (There is actually a Leopard Frog behind the boulder sticking out of the water in the top photo it's just not visible.) Plus there's an unlimited supply of little insects for them to eat. We have frogs all over the place here at our shop and we can pretty much attribute that to the heavy plant cover in all our water features.

If you are looking to entice some frogs to live in and enjoy your pond, I recommend creating a bog area. What is a bog? It's a shallow area that's filled with marginal aquatic plants.  All of our ponds here at the store have some type of bog area -- some of them multiple bogs. Marginal plants are those that have their roots in the water but the foliage is above the water surface.

It's not difficult to create a bog on an existing pond.
Option 1: Build a little retaining area with boulders inside the pond and fill the area with river rock to 1-2" below the water surface. You might be able to expand an existing shelf, possibly? The key is that it needs to be shallow.

Option 2: (More advanced.) Dig a shallow area next to your pond and attach new liner to create the bog area. Fill the new area with river rock.

For me the critters that live in my pond are what I enjoy most. Anything I can do to make them feel more at home and safe is a project well worth it!

Staci Wicker
Cool Ponds Co-owner

Jul 7, 2016

What Exactly Is Pond Filtration?

Pond Filtration Primer

Clear water is the goal. Now how do we achieve that?

Probably most realize that backyard ponds need filtration. Filtration comes in all sorts of forms however -- maybe not what you have pictured in your mind either!

Ancient pond filtration. No one wants to see this in the
bottom of their pond!

Submerged Filters
In the beginning... okay maybe not the beginning, but before modern day pond filtration was invented in the early 1990's, most pond filtration consisted of a pump in the pond bottom which drew the water through a container of lava rock also sitting in the pond bottom. This was somewhat effective, but unsightly and very high maintenance. This system was tweaked a bit to become the submerged filters that are still sold today -- a good percentage of new pond owners start this way, but it hasn't changed that much -- you can still see it in the pond bottom and it's still high maintenance. But for many, this is a low cost way to filter their pond and get started.

Today, modern filtration equipment is not
seen at all in or around the pond when
it is installed properly.

Modern Filtration
Today's modern day filtration consists of two components -- a biological waterfall and a skimmer. This system filters the pond exponentially better than the submerged filter and if installed properly is hidden, making the pond look much more natural.  The biological waterfall cleans and clarifies the water while the skimmer both protects the pump from debris and removes debris from the water. Read more about Biological Waterfalls here.

This spilling urn is both a filter and decorative!

External Filtration
Somewhere in between the submerged filter and the waterfall/skimmer combination lies the external filter. While the pump still sits in the pond bottom, the filter sits outside the pond making filter maintenance easier. These filters can be easily hidden or decorative such as the photo above. These filters are a great option for very small or hard-lined ponds.

There are other natural pond filters in the pond as well. 

There IS a creek in there! The plants are thriving!

If you look closely you can see the debris build-up.

Creeks and Streams
This spring we added a creek to our large pond in front of our shop. We added it simply as a debris filter. Because of the way the pond is constructed and the fact that our street floods terribly when it rains, all the debris from the parking lot ends up in the pond -- yeah, not a great situation. So we added this creek (and an accompanying skimmer) to remove the fine, excess debris. As the water flows through the rocks and gravel in the creek, it drops and collects in the gravel. You can see the build up. We simply use a pond vac and vac it out every so often. Works like a charm! Read more about the benefits of adding a creek here.

Rocks and Gravel in the Pond
What exactly is biological filtration? It's beneficial bacteria going to work breaking down and eating up all the excess nutrients in your pond that can feed algae. In order for the beneficial bacterial to do their job, they need a place to live -- like all the surfaces in your pond. If you add rocks and gravel to the pond, the surface area for bacteria to colonize will increase exponentially! One to two inches of river rock in the pond bottom is an awesome filter!

Aquatic Plants
Plants are natural filters all the way! They eat excess nutrients that build up in the pond. Not all plants are as good eaters as others, however. Although water lilies shade the water, they're not great nutrient eaters. For the best results, marginal plants put in areas where water flows through their roots will be the best at filtration. As well as eating nutrients, their roots will catch fine debris too. (Another reason to add a creek!)

Supplemental Beneficial Bacteria
In our backyards, we're trying to imitate Mother Nature. She has plenty of beneficial bacterial to keep natural bodies of water in balance. In our backyard ponds, we do things to upset that balance -- too many fish, fish food, inadequate plant quantities, etc. So it's important to supplement with BioClear and Clean (beneficial bacteria) to keep that balance by its consuming the excess nutrients.

All ponds are unique and require their own filtration solution to look their best and remain healthy. There are lots of easy ways to increase your pond's filtration or you can start with the easiest and lowest possible maintenance -- the biological waterfall and skimmer. Need some advice? All of us at Cool Ponds are happy to help!


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