If you are looking to add an element of tranquility to your backyard landscaping, one way to do so is with some kind of water feature. Like most things, however, having that thing is just one part of the equation; taking care of it is the other. So, how exactly do you take care of your water feature so that you can enjoy it for years? That’s what we are going to discuss in this post. From the tools, to the terms, and even seasonal “gotchas” that can be easy to overlook, everything you need to take care of your water feature is right here.
A Good Skimmer
A good skimmer does exactly what the name implies; it skims the surface of the water to removing any floating debris (e.g., leaves, grass clippings, dead bugs, etc.).
Be Mindful of Your Water Level
No matter the type of water feature you have, you will experience some degree of water loss and evaporation; the degree of which will depend upon several factors, including: air temperatures, direct sunlight on the water feature, general splashing, stream length, and waterfall height. In the thick of summer, when the mercury is high, you’ll want to combat natural evaporation by replacing water weekly.
One quick and easy way keep track of your water level is to reference it against the mouth of the skimmer. Ideally, you’ll want a water level that sits about 3/4-inch from the top of the skimmer mouth. You’ll also want to be sure to assess your water level whenever you are emptying your debris net. Buildup in the debris net can displace water and give a false impression of how much water is actually present.
Once you have a baseline of your water feature’s normal water loss rate, it is fairly easy to tell when it is losing more water than it should. Telltale signs of a leak include more-frequent-than-normal water refills and/or your water fill valve running all the time. The latter will make a hissing sound. Leaks are most commonly found around waterfall and stream perimeters. This is because, in time, the ground around your water feature settles and the water starts to spill over the liner edge. Fortunately, leaks like this are pretty easy to fix.
Autumn and Winter
When the leaves start to fall, you’ll need to empty the debris basket more frequently—perhaps even daily. Tannins that come from leaves, as well as tree bark, and other organic matter can cause the water in your feature to turn brown. When this occurs, do your best to remove as much debris as possible and add some activated carbon to bring the water back to its normal state. The amount of activated carbon you will need depends upon the amount of water you have. The packaging for the activated carbon will indicate how much to add for your feature.
Because winters get really cold and last a long time in Michigan, you will have to shut down your water feature at some point.
To do so, start by unplugging the pump and taking it out of the water. For the duration of winter, you’ll want to store it, submerged, in a bucket of water, to keep the seals from drying and cracking. Keep this bucket with the pump in a location that won’t freeze (e.g., basement, heated garage, etc.).
One option, because cold temps last so long in Michigan, is a floating de-icer. This is perfect for those early and late frosts we get in autumn and spring. A floating de-icer uses a thermostat and kicks on once the water temps reach freezing or below. Then it heats the water to above freezing and shuts off. Again, this is not an “all-winter” solution, but a safeguard against the inevitable, unseasonable cold spells we can get in Michigan.
In spring, it can be common to find a layer of gunk has formed on the bottom of the pond. The water will also likely not be as clear as it was before winter. If this is the case, you’ll want to do a complete clean-out to start the season. Ideally, you’ll want to do this before the water temperature is holding at 55 degrees.
To do a full clean-out, you’ll start by draining the water. Next, you’ll use a basic garden hose to rinse any gravel and/or rocks that are part of your water feature. It’s most efficient to start at the top and work your way down. During this process, you’ll want to turn on the clean-out pump from time to time. This will ensure that the dirty water is being pumped out before any sediment has time to settle again. Keep that pumping process going until the water runs clear. When the water is clear, remove the clean-out pump out and start filling your pond!
In all, taking care of a water feature is usually pretty simple and doesn’t take much time. Still, it’s best to be mindful of this maintenance before you make a decision to spend money on a water feature, only to find out you don’t have the time or tools to properly care for it.
When you ready to get started with an interesting new water feature to your landscaping, we would love to talk about it with you. Just contact us or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today.