Usually about the first of April I think about the ponds. The water lily leaves are already at the top of the water and ready to go. The water is still very cold and I like to spend as little time as possible wading in that cold water. Therefore, it will be a few weeks before I actually get in and clean it.  Last fall I cut off all the leaves so they wouldn’t rot in the water. I then took them off the cement block they had been on all summer, and dropped them to the bottom. My pond is 24 inches deep. The blocks are hollow thus giving the fish a place to hide.

          I have a little pump to drain the water at least halfway down. A sump pump will work. George has fixed an attachment to his pump that connects to a garden hose.  The trees enjoy the water which is probably rich in fish waste. If the ponds (I have two) are deep in mud I will take them all the way down.  During a windy summer and winter a lot of dirt and leaves is able to blow in.

          Now to the plant containers. I prefer round or oval containers to square ones. This prevents the roots from getting stuck in a corner.  The roots are strong enough to rupture a plastic container if they get stuck, and they are easier to remove and lift out when the plants are divided. They need to be divided almost every year as there may be as many as 4 or 5 new lilies in each pot that can be separated and given away.  When transplanting, fill the new pot about 3/4th  full of heavy clay soil. Do not use potting soil as all the organic material will float out. I often buy top soil to prevent digging holes in my yard or garden. Also my soil floats since it has a high content of compost. I plant the new division with its growing tip at the edge of a round container or at one end of an oblong container. I want it as far as possible from end of the container toward which it is growing and pointing downward at an angle.

          Special “lily tabs” of fertilizer (aquatic plant food) can be pushed into the soil but not touching the roots. I use 3 or 4 tabs, depending upon the size of the container. Then more soil is placed over the root leaving the growing tip out. Be careful not to harm that growing tip. Place a layer of pea gravel or pebbles over the whole container so the soil does not float away. Be careful not to cover the growing tip. The lily is now ready to go back into the pond. Be sure and not let the plants dry out. (The extra pieces of root I put in a wash tub of water in the shade and pot them up later or give then to my friends.) The pond can now be filled as fresh water doesn’t bother the plants.

          If you had fish in your tank, fresh water of a different temperature does bother them. They need to be caught earlier and then put into a tub of their original water. Sometimes I have 2 tubs of their water. First they go in one to rinse off the mud of a dirty pond and then into the other tub. Make sure you cover the tub with a wire netting as they are good at jumping out and if the coons visit your yard, the fish are an excellent snack. 

          In the last few years barley bales have become very popular to help keep down algae growth. Now it comes in many forms. Bales for large ponds; pellets, liquid extracts, and  small mesh covered bales for small ponds; and even a floating barley island that you can float a plant on. This year I am trying the pellets where one opens the bag and pours in the right amount for your size pond. The barley needs to go in as early as possible as the barley works as it decays.

          Since my ponds are small and I have six colors of lilies, there is no room for my hardy water lotus. They have spent the winter in their pots beside the lilies and the fish in the bottom of the pond. Since they don’t require a large pond I divide them each year and get about 4 or 5 new babies. I find the growing tip and handle it carefully. Any damage and it will refuse to grow.  These I put in large tubs about 3 feet across. You can find them at a farm feed store. They are intended for stock watering. Again fill their round container ¾ full of heavy soil and lay the tip plus about 12 inches to 18 inches of stem on top. Use a brick to hold it on the soil and add pea gravel to keep the soil in place. Make sure you do not put any on soil or gravel on that tip.

          Lotus will grow even if there is no more than 12 inches of water over them.  You won’t see much growth until the water stays warm and then small round leaves come to the top and then!! A huge leaf on 3 to 4 foot stems lift out of the water and a bud as high opens up 8 inches across. My lotuses are red or white, waxy, and last about 3 days. Since visiting cats or coons could catch any fish in the tubs, I do not put fish in there. But this means you will need something to kill mosquitoes. It comes as “dunks” or in a jar. The active ingredient is Bt (Bacillus thuringenis subspecies israelensis). A 1/4th dunk works fine in a small pond. A whole donut will keep mosquitoes from hatching in a large pond for up to 30 days. As usual, follow label directions and enjoy your water garden.

Copyright 2005