Northeastern USA

Louis Belloisy is a helicopter pilot
and an avid water gardener. Read
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Opening My Pond in Spring

by Louis Belloisy
Morris, Connecticut - Zone 4 ½
Click images to enlarge

It's that pond-opening time of the year again. The snow has finally all melted and now the days warm up to a comfortable temperature in the mid 60s F. I have four ponds; if I build any more of them, I will have a moat around the house.  

< The largest pond is actually two ponds connected by a lively waterfall. Together these ponds hold 5000 US gallons. I built my smallest pond into a stone wall.

Last year I constructed a raised timber pond exclusively for growing tropical waterlilies. It performed very well during its maiden year. The tropicals thrived there all summer in the warm 80-90° F water. This year I plan to change the color of the raised pond to a neutral brown to blend in better with its surroundings.  

Small pond

Timber pond
I keep water in the ponds during the winter, but I stock fish only in the largest pond. Each spring I completely drain the water out onto the lawn and spend hours netting leaves from the sludge. Next I use a wet vacuum to suck up the remaining muck and then spread it in the garden. There it makes everything grow better.

When opening the large double pond, I lower the water down to a few inches so it is easier to net the fish. A few 50 gallon tubs provide them with small temporary living quarters. This gives me the opportunity to cull out surplus fish. A local nursery pays me $5.00 for each goldie. I keep all of the fancy goldfish, parting only with plain ones. Goldfish multiply rapidly, just like, well . . . goldfish.

Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris
Around the large and small ponds grow specimen plants of climbing hydrangea, wonderful plants for around a water garden. Here in late May they bloom displaying clusters of white flowers that exude a delightfully overwhelming fragrance. 

My tropicals overwinter in their warm greenhouse climate, returning to the ponds in mid-June. Zone 4 1/2 allows only a very short season for waterlilies, about three months.

Each winter I sprout hybrid seedlings in the basement. Then in the spring a temporary holding tank in my small greenhouse holds these hybrid seedlings. Whenever I spot especially interesting hybrid plantlets in the tank, I transfer them outside in mid-June.

To filter the water in the large pond, I employ a Hayward 300 pound sand filter designed for swimming pool use. A wonderful Tsurumi submersible pump forces the pond water into the basement through a 1 ½ inch (3.8 cm) PVC pipe. After passing through the Hayward, the filtered the water flows back outside to enter the upper pond via a small waterfall. The system includes the original swimming pool pre-filter and pump. I use them in conjunction with the Tsurumi pump to backflush the system. To perform this task, usually every 4 or 5 days in summer, I hook up a small air compressor to “shake up” the sand in the filter as it backflushes. A 50 watt UV light does a great job of keeping the water clear.

Growing Tropical Waterlily Seedlings
in The Basement

Opening my ponds is truly a labor of love. Today I spent six hours cleaning the ponds, making every bone and muscle ache from the effort. But as I look at my accomplishments and the expected summer benefits, the ache fades away. 

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