Saturday, October 02, 2010

Man at work: pond cleanup

I let it get a little out of hand. The pond, that is. This year the Arrowleaf (Sagittaria latifolia) almost took over. From a couple of small plants I added two years ago, half the pond was filled. Cattail (Typha latifolia) also self seeded, and though I like it, I pull it out each fall knowing enough root remains to bring it back in the spring. I can live with this because the pond is small and annual maintenance isn't much work in the grand scheme of things.

This is the pond in early spring of 2008, just after I burned and cut all the grasses and herbaceous perennials that made it through winter. This is just a reference point:  I want to retain something of the sharpness and clean lines of the naked pond visible in this photo.

Here is the pond as it looked a couple of weeks back. Even with this partial view, it's clear the plant growth is too profuse. You can't really see the pond. When I chose to go "natural" and not use a liner or filter, I knew I'd have to learn to deal with the effects of self-seeding and high nutrient levels caused by the rich clay and decaying leaves that inevitably fall into the water.

So last weekend I put on my waiders, bought expressly for this task, and pulled out about 90% of the growth. I estimate the biomass removed at about a cubic yard, quite a lot if you think of its wet weight (several hundred pounds). Here it is in a rough compost pile.

The day after, the water is still a little cloudy, but it will clear quickly. I left two large Pickerel Weed (Pontadera cordata) because I love the blue flowers. I'd like to chop them way back, but I may just wait for the first frost to do that for me. Then next spring, when they start into growth, I'll give them each a healthy Chelsea chop.

I'd like to add some large rocks to create a clean edge that brings the pond more sharply into focus. That's still my plan, though I prefer to get someone else to transport and place the rocks (hope I can work that out). That far edge with the messy grasses (Deschampsia) is a prime candidate area for rock paving. You can see how a clean edge would create an effective and controlling contrast with the mass of naturalistic growth in the distance.


  1. That looks great. I envy you your pond. We garden on the side of a hill and have stony free draining soil - not a good combination for a pond!

  2. You could, of course, use a liner. I agree with everything I've read about ponds. They contribute enormously to any garden.

  3. Hi James. I have not been here for a while: most remiss of me. I wanted to comment on your Day In The Life Of An Early Autumn Garden Post but seem to have been locked out.
    It is a staggeringly beautiful series of photographs and a perfect illustration of why September is so perfect: until, of course, it starts to rain hard (as it is here at the moment) and everything looks battered and drippy.

    Also your pond is looking great: those few hours of extreme wader based activity have made a huge difference.

  4. Although I love the crazy, lush abundance of the "before" pic, I agree that it's better once cleaned up a bit...after all, if you're fortunate to have a pond, you DO want to see it! I'll be interested to see what you do next year, it already looks beautiful!

  5. James A-S,
    This is by far my favorite season, as evidenced by my garden, which really is a late season thing, on the cusp of decay and death, so to speak. Last week we had 9 inches of rain and heavy winds, after a summer-long drought. Fortunately, the lack of water over summer kept the more rambunctious plants in bounds, so though they are sagging from the onslaught, they prevailed. It's always a pleasure to hear from you.

  6. Scott,
    It's always a pleasure to hear from you too. I think we have a lot in common, plantwise, and I look forward to your posts from lovely Portland.



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