Caring for our small water garden

Never before have I been responsible for caring for a outdoor water garden.  I mean, really, in Military housing, such a thing would be considered to be an extreme luxury so when we moved into our new home and I found myself the owner of a lovely, 1500 gallon pond, complete with a water fall, I found myself a little overwhelmed.  What do I do with such a thing?
At one point we thought about raising trout in the pond, but we felt already so overwhelmed by the garden and the amount of work we now had that we threw our hands up and said "get to it later".
Turns out immediately after break up, we discovered we had some work that was very much required.  We knew from the years we have been keeping indoor fish that agitating the water is always good.  It's always good to ensure your water isn't stagnate, so we plugged in our lovely waterfall and found our pond stunk.  Badly stunk.  It stunk enough that we all even hesitated to walk near it.
So one weekend, mid May, when the water had fully thawed and we had a couple of spare hours we began to first empty said pond.  This took several hours to get it almost completely emptied to the point where we could climb in with our muck boots and then begin to shovel out the nasty, decomposed leaves at the bottom of the pond.  It was definitely a Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs worthy job.
 It took me several days to remove the stink that was stuck in my sinuses and so far out of all the chores around our property this is the one that I think I dislike the most.  Thankfully we don't have to do it more than once or twice a year!

After we cleaned out the rotting debris sitting at the bottom of the pond, we refilled it.



I added one more tiny solar pump to it which broke almost immediately.  Once again a reminder, you get what you pay for and yes the solar pump was cheap. This year we do plan to buy another pump to agitate the water a bit more but we know we'll have to spend more than the $15 I spent earlier.
I know I still want a solar operated pump however I'm going to have to get something that has a stronger flow rate.

Last year we still knew, something had to change in the pond, we were hoping to change the ecosystem in the water, and me not knowing what else to do, I bought twenty goldfish with my son at Petco.  Thankfully, they're cheap so I figured if they help the situation then great, if not, well then no great loss.  By late Autumn when we were preparing for winter we moved out ...four fish to the new fish tank that we purchased second hand.  Yes, only four survived, sadly enough.  Whether the others were eaten, died due to weakness or illness, I won't know.  But I will know this year!
My first step this spring is to purchase some ph testing strips for our pond.  I will have to test the water once it's completely thawed to see what exactly my next course of action will be.  Now, I'm no where near as knowledgeable about ponds as I am about vegetable and fruit gardening so in my research I've learned that a pond has a ph just like soil does!  It too can be too acidic or too alkaline.
Now that being said, the ph of the water will change from morning to night as the algae present in the water will either suck up all the present carbon dioxide in the water, there by making the water more acidic or the algae over night will exhale the carbon dioxide back into the water, which then makes the water more alkaline.  It's best when checking your water to actually check in the morning and evening to get the most accurate reading.
One way to help control this ebb and flow of acidity and alkalinity in the water is to ensure you have a good pump with even a water fall feature.  This ensures a nice oxygenating flow in the water and helps to homogenize the pond.  Thankfully we have this!

So next, adding plants.  A healthy pond needs plant life.  Plants help restrain algae growth by limiting excess sunlight.  Algae is okay, but you don't want it in excess as it can take over your pond.  This happened to us last summer.  Now also this summer we will have the honeybees and they will be thirsty so we want to make sure we have a water feature that does not start a war between the bees and the fish.  Without some plant life for the bees to land on, the bees could either drown or possibly be eaten by a fish.  Meanwhile a couple of vengeful bees could possibly decide to start trying to sting our fish.  That's not something we'd like to watch so we badly need water plants present.
So then next, what types of plants to get that will do well in our rather chilly pond?  Last year, while grasping at straws, I purchased some Hornwort, which promised to be oxygenating and while yes, I noticed a slight difference, not as much stink, we then had a massive bloom in algae.  This was not due to the hornwort however, it instead was due to the sunlight that stays over the pond almost the entire day during the summer months.  What we actually need are plants that cover at least a 1/3 of the surface of the pond.
I would love to get some water lilies but since we are in such a cold climate, the lilies will most likely never bloom.  Water lilies need an average water temperature of 80 to bloom which I don't think we'll ever see in our humble little, decorative pond.
Still I might get some and pot them just to see how they do.  After all, I'm needing them more for the shade than the flowers.

As I sit here and write this, and read, read, and read some more on pond care, lo and behold I found I can actually grow edible plants, in my pond! For my family and I to eat!  How exciting!
So, here is the list I plan to now try to grow in our pond!
Watercress. This one I've seen in the grocery stores! In fact I bought a "live plant" that was meant just to be harvested and then thrown away but instead I planted it, of course, just to see if if would live and, of course, it did! Never in a million years would I have thought to put it in the pond instead of the raised bed!  And yet I've read about it growing in lakes and streams before.

Chinese Water Chestnut.  I think I've eaten these before but now, everything that I read says "no I have not.  That most Americans have never tried them before"  Hhhmm, intriguing.  And they are for sale on Ebay.  Should I order some? (yes, actually I did.  When they are received, into the fish tank they will go to hopefully provide us with loads of water chestnuts through the summer (or even possibly Autumn) months.
From what I have read at numerous sources, I need to plant the corms couple of inches deep in mucky soil or right at the edge of our pond.  We don't have an edge that would work for this so ours will be planted in pots throughout the pond instead.  Supposedly, once planted the plants spread vigorously.  We harvest when the tops start to yellow and die back.  From what I read, the only challenge is the fact that when harvesting I have to be very careful, the roots and corms are very easy to damage and the root will not recover from being damaged.

Now, I must admit, I'm going to hold back.  I found a list on Wikihow but I'm not going to go with each and every plant listed because I want to see if these grow first before I try others.
This way I slowly get used to each plant and the challenges associated with each of them.  I always suggest this idea to newer gardeners.  Start with a couple of plants, go slowly.  Get to know the characteristics of the plant you are working with.  If you kill it, that's fine.  Just start again next year with the knowledge gained from the previous year.  Write it all down, keep track of your successes and failures, you can learn a lot from your plants, your soil, your local environment if you just keep track of your garden in some form of a written journal.


Hopefully, in the next two to three months, after the pond has thawed and the ice is gone, I can start to try this all out!  For now, my poor goldfish are stuck in their secondhand aquarium.  I'm sure they're more than ready for pond life again!
The pond at Mid summer

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