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Pond Videos

Hurth Waterscapes Spring Pond Clean Out

Brand new pond, waterfall, bridge, slab stone patio and steps

A Fresh Clean Pond

Double Pond and Waterfall

Fresh spring clean out

A gentle forest stream

Double Waterfall on a Big Hill

New Pondless Waterfall

A Pretty Pond With a Bridge

Spring Pond Updates – Keep it Simple

This time of year I get a lot of people calling me who want to simplify their pond system and make this a summer of cleaner water and less maintenance.  The difficulty with answering the question of “how do I make my pond better or easier” isn’t that a beautiful, natural, easy pond is hard to build.  The difficulty is that most of the people calling me have a pond that has some problems in design or execution from the beginning.

Execution

Many of the people who are struggling with their ponds don’t really understand that the only “magic” solution to keeping a clean and healthy pond is balance.  In nature, everything balances out.  We need to treat our ponds the same way if we want clean, easy and beautiful.  Balance isn’t an easy concept for most people to grasp.  People want to go to the local big box store and buy a quick solution to their problem.  They want some new fail-safe gadget or water additive that is going to change their pond into a thing of beauty.  The hard to understand fact about ponds is that there is no magic, quick solution.  There is mother nature’s way or no way.  People are constantly coming up with the next quick fix to give you some hope and to line their pockets with  your money, but these new products are all expensive and short-lived.  Nature is easy, cheap and forever.  You don’t need a new gadget, you need a new outlook, a new theory and a new approach.

Design

Many of the ponds that were built and are still being built are stuck in the filter and skimmer world of gadgetry.  Don’t get me wrong, I installed plenty of these ponds before I “saw the light”.  The entire “Let’s put a small lined pond and waterfall in our backyard” industry started with the idea of having a box for your pump and a box for your waterfall.  Connect the two with rubber and you have a pond or a waterfall or both.  This system provides some filtration, some pump protection, pump serviceability, and something to keep the client busy.  The system works and has provided an easy to understand starting point for the backyard pond industry.  People can understand and see how this system works and they feel like they are accomplishing something by cleaning filters and nets and unclogging pumps.

The problem is that this system of boxes is limited by it’s own design and it becomes a bit tedious after years of cleaning filters and nets.  The size and location of the intake for the skimmer box will limit the water intake, your pump choices and how much water your pond can lose before it needs you to fill it.  To be able to skim debris, the box has a floating hinged door just like a swimming pool and it skims the surface of the water, effectively filling the net with handfuls or bucketfuls of debris depending on the season.  Because it must skim the surface to function it is very susceptible to water height fluctuations and oftentimes a drop of one or two inches of water height in the pond will result in the pump being starved of water which causes that chugging and sucking sound that skimmer box owners know so well.  This lack of water will also cause the pump to wear out more quickly.  Even if the water level in the pond doesn’t drop, you can still have the same result by having the skimmer net or basket fill so full of leaves and debris that it starves the pump of water.  Either way, the skimming stops and the pond needs your attention.  By the way, this usually seems to happen when you are headed to work in the morning or maybe all dressed up and headed out for the evening.  So then you are faced with the frustrating decision to just let that pump chug along for the next day or so, shut the pond down until you have time to deal with it or you could bite the bullet, get your hands and potentially your clothes covered in a bit of pond yuck while you clean the skimmer basket or filters.  This system also helps to filter some of the water and it provides some area for helpful bacteria and enzymes to colonize in the waterfall filter.  The waterfall filters are meant to be cleaned once per season and then just let go so that the bacteria and enzymes can grow.  The problem here is that many people continually clean these filters assuming that the more they can wash dark junk out of the filters the cleaner the pond will be.  To an extent, they are correct, but clean doesn’t mean balanced and often times they are causing more problems from over cleaning.  The other limitation of the waterfall boxes is they are only small boxes in comparison to most of the ponds that they are installed on and they are just that, boxes.  There are no plants growing in them.  So now we have a pond that makes sense to the average homeowner or contractor, creates some solutions, creates some problems and creates more work for the homeowner.

Don’t get me wrong, these box and filter systems started this wonderful revolution and set me on the path to creating fabulous, custom water features of all types.  They have their place in history as the ones that started it all and they are great because they can be sold in a simple to understand kit that the average person can purchase to build their own first pond.  Many people have gotten into the pond hobby and have had years of enjoyment from their backyard pond thanks to this system.  This system also allowed many landscape contractors such as myself to delve into the pond industry.  So, overall, the box systems have their place and many, many systems are still working today and many more are being installed every day.

The Problem

The problem with these systems is that they overcomplicate a very simple thing.  They are easy to install, but hard to maintain.  Believe me, cleaning filters and baskets is not fun.  They also introduce another man-made material into your landscape.  Sure, most come with decorative plastic rock lids and we can stack rocks or soil around them to try to hide them, but eventually, over the years, they start to raise up out of the ground or the rocks and soil settle down around them which leaves us staring at an ugly plastic box.  They also introduce yet another mechanical item into our lives that we need to fix and maintain.  Due to their unnatural nature, they have bulkhead fittings that can loosen or crack, screws that tend to corrode and break down in water, fill valves that get stuck either on or off, silicone seals that fail and leak, skimmer doors that crack and fall off, nets that bend and tear, baskets that chip and crack, lids that amplify the sound of the pump inside and tend to blow off in a strong wind and the boxes themselves tend to lean and tilt over time.  All of this maintenance and unnaturalness can be avoided with a bit of extra work and creativity in advance.

The Solution

After years of struggling with these systems and hearing how much my clients just loved cleaning their filters, I began to realize that the most important elements of my ponds were all of the natural ones.  To keep a beautiful, clean pond we need water circulation, plants and fish.  The correct balance of these three will solve all of our problems.  So, I took some ideas from nature and from how these early systems worked and I created a system that is virtually maintenance free and simple.  The initial installation of our Hurth Waterscapes custom wetlands and wet-well intakes is a bit more involved that just digging a box into the ground, but it is so easy and problem free in the future that it is worth any extra effort in the beginning.

The beauty of our system is that there are no moving parts other than the pump.

  • No Filters
  • No Nets
  • No Baskets
  • No Doors
  • No Silicone
  • No Screws
  • No Boxes
  • No Fill Valves
  • No Headaches

If you currently have one of the old box and filter systems, the freedom that you will experience once you own one of our systems will astound you.

Not only is our system very, very easy to maintain, it also has the following advantages:

  • Eliminates the need to remove your pump for the winter
  • Eliminates any filter cleaning
  • Eliminate any frogs or debris stuck in your pump
  • Eliminate any ugly boxes in your yard
  • Eliminate the need to monitor your water level
  • Eliminate the sound of your pump vibrating in that plastic box
  • Eliminate any mechanical failures other than the pump itself
  • Never use pond chemicals again
  • More areas for aquatic plants
  • More creative options for your waterfall
  • No more leaves starving your pump of water supply
  • Just let it run and it takes care of itself

If you are thinking about a new pond or thinking about upgrading your old pond, you really don’t need to talk to anyone else.  We’ve got the system that will make you smile.  End your worries and work, go for simple and easy.  Call me anytime, I’d be happy to come out and talk with you.

Happy Pondering,

Doug Hurth

   

Pond Cleanout Tips – Fish Health – How NOT to kill them.

Many of you will choose to clean out your own pond.  If you are planning this, check out our pond cleaning video and our pond cleaning page for full instructions.  This little article is all about the fish.  Your fish have made it through the long winter and they are weak at this time of the year, let’s do our best not to kill them now.

Holding Tank

  • You’ll need a holding tank for the fish.  The bigger the better for the health of your fish.
  • Unless it is really cold outside, you’ll probably want to have an aerator in the holding tank to keep the oxygen levels high in the holding tank.
  • Place the tank on a fairly level surface somewhere near the pond.  If it is a cool cloudy day, location won’t matter much, but if it is hot and sunny, you’ll want the tank in a shaded area so that the water doesn’t heat up too much.

Pumping Down the Pond and Removing the Fish

  • Do not start walking around in your pond stirring up the debris and freaking out the fish.
  • When you first begin to pump the water out of the pond, carefully place your pump on an upper level and pump some of the cleanest water into the tank where you will keep the fish during the clean out.
  • Have a net ready to cover the fish tank so that the fish don’t jump out while you are cleaning the pond.
  • Don’t even try to catch the fish until you have most of the water out of the pond.  You want the fish to remain calm and the more you chase them around, the more energy the use and the more freaked out they get.
  • Once the water level is just deep enough where they can still swim, it is very easy to catch them and transfer them to the holding tank.
  • Keep an eye open while you are pumping down the water.  Usually the fish will instinctively move down to the lowest level as the pond is emptying, but occasionally you’ll have some that get caught up on an upper level in the plants or under the leaves and debris.  You’ll need to get these stranded fish to the holding tank as soon as possible.
  • I usually have a five gallon pail of water that I use to transfer the fish to the tank.  It makes it easy to collect the smaller fish and eliminates a lot of trips back and forth to the tank.
  • Of course the larger fish will need to be transferred immediately to the tank.  When doing so, be sure to move quickly and cover the net so that they don’t jump out of the net on the way to the tank.
  • Never throw fish from the pond to the tank, remember the less stress the better.

Filling the Pond and Returning the Fish

  • Once you finish your pond cleaning, it is time to start filling the pond and return the fish to their home.
  • Here in Wisconsin we are usually cleaning ponds in April or May, so it is usually still fairly cool outside and the water in the holding tank is usually fairly close to the same temperature as the water coming out of the tap that we are using to fill the pond.
  • Your fish can handle very warm and very cold temperatures, but a rapid change in temperature can put them into shock and kill them.
  • As the air temperatures warm up, it becomes more and more critical to match the holding tank water temperature to the temperature in the pond before putting the fish back into the pond.
  • You can use a water thermometer if you’d like, but I have had really good luck just using my hand to test the water.  If the water feels significantly different to you then it is probably too much of a difference for your fish.
  • If the water is more than a few degrees different, you can run tap water into the tank with the fish to slowly cool it down or warm it up.  Since you are re-introducing your fish after the clean out, the new water in the pond has just come out of the tap, so tap water will help to slowly change the temps of the tank water.  Just don’t change it too quickly.
  • Most of the time, in cool temperatures, we can just start to fill the pond and when it gets full enough for the fish to swim we pump the holding tank water back into the pond and re-introduce the fish at the same time.
  • Another way to acclimate the fish is to float their container in the pond water for a period of time until the water temps have equalized.  You can use buckets or plastic bags full of the holding tank water and the fish to do this.  Just float the container in the pond and test it with your hand until the temperatures feel close to you.
  • If you have your doubt about the water temperatures, it is a good idea to introduce one fish to see how it reacts to the new water.  If it looks fine after a few minutes, you should be safe adding the other fish.
  • As you add fish back to the pond, take a minute to look at the fish.  If there are any fish with open sores on their bodies, it is probably better not to put them back into the pond with your other fish.
  • This is also a good time to eliminate any fish that you don’t want.  Oftentimes the goldfish population will just go crazy and overwhelm your pond if you don’t remove a few fish from time to time.  Here in Wisconsin I have not had this problem with Koi.
  • If you are filling the pond with city water you’ll need to add dechlorinator to the water.  The chlorine in city water can burn the gills of your fish.
  • The water in the freshly cleaned pond will contain plenty of oxygen for your fish, but you’ll want to start your pond’s water circulation as soon as you can to keep the aeration levels high.

That’s about it.  If you follow the steps above, you should have very few fish problems.

Have a great summer!

Spring Newsletter

2015-03-12 Hurth email newsletter

Aquaponics?

So I guess this is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Interesting stuff. I’ve been doing a bit of reading about this lately and it has really got me thinking. Why don’t we grow some vegetables in our ponds? I know, this sounds funny the first time you say it, but hear me out.

Aquaponics is basically growing plants in water and using fish in the water to provide fertilizer for the plants. There can be more to it than that and there are many different ways to do this, but isn’t this what we do already? What makes these aquaponic systems any different from the ponds, wetlands and biofalls boxes that we have in our pond systems? As things stand, we have all sorts of aquatic plants growing in our pond systems. These plants take nutrients out of the water, so they help us control or eliminate the algae in the pond. Great, but why couldn’t we substitute say a tomato plant? In all of the years that I have been landscaping, building ponds, consulting on ponds, fixing ponds and cleaning ponds I have never seen anyone who grew vegetables in their pond.

Here are some links to guys who are selling kits or info to build your own aquaponic setup:
This guy builds it using two tanks, a pump and some fish:Click Here!
This guy has a book and talks about using an aquarium with his system:Click Here!

I haven’t tried any of this, but it seems like all that we would need to do would be to determine just how much water each different type of vegetable would need. Some of these sites show you how to build a plastic tank system with a grid in it to hold the plants and some instruct you to put the plants into floating media that is just like our floating islands that we used to sell at the store. There are many different ways to do it, but basically they are circulating water past and through the roots of these plants. Our ponds, wetlands, biofalls boxes and floating islands are doing that already. We don’t need piping, tanks or pumps, we already have all of that. We just need to figure out what will grow where.

I can’t believe that no one that I know has come up with this sooner. I’ve even seen a aquaponics display when I was at Disney land with my kids and it didn’t occur to me that I could do it with my pond. It took me looking at some of these home-made systems that people are putting together online to realize that these are just like our ponds. I don’t know about any of you, but I’m going to try this out this summer. Let me know if you have any success with this crazy idea.

Doug

The Buckthorn Brigade

We just finished a job out in Delafield clearing a rather steep hillside of Buckthorn. The hill is overlooking Nagawicka Lake and is the home to many large and wonderful Oak trees as well as many turkey, deer and squirrel.  We have worked at this site for a few years now and I would guess that we have been cutting out buckthorn for a total of about 30 days over the past three years.  I have got to tell you, it sure feels good to look the hillside over top to bottom and not see any buckthorn.  Except of course the little shoots that are sprouting up from the area where we started three years ago.  But, if you squint your eyes just right, you don’t even see those.

 

From what I read, the buckthorn berries can survive for up to seven years.  So, even if you cut down and kill the plant, those pesky little berries will start you a new crop of plants to battle for up to seven years.  Our plan is to keep after the hillside every few years so that it doesn’t get away from us and start to re-seed again.   We are hoping that from here on out we’ll be able to use a brush trimmer rather than a chainsaw to manage the buckthorn.
The hillside that we are working on overlooks Nagawicka lake in such a manner that at first glance, a person feels as though they are standing on lake front property.   It’s not until you can pull your eyes away from the magnificent views of the sparkling lake water and really gaze down to even past the bottom of the long hill, past the little tributary and past the beautifully flowing marsh grasses and cattails that you suddenly realize that you are not on lake property at all.  There is a road that separates this magnificent piece of land from the lake.  I’ll tell you this, you definitely can’t tell from inside the house.
Adding to the beauty of this hillside setting are the many retaining walls, walkways and steps that wind their way between the grand Oaks and around the house offering many choice vistas to appreciate the beauty of the land or to sneak up on a turkey or deer.   The wildlife on this particular hill is rather abundant. We have seen many deer in the early morning as we ready ourselves for the days work.   But, much more common that the deer are the wild turkeys that roam the hillside.  These large, beautiful birds have oftentimes startled me with their general disregard for or lack of fear of humans.   It is not at all uncommon to be working on the hillside, minding your own business only to stand up and realize that you are being cautiously approached by a flock of the local turkey family.  For someone who hasn’t had this pleasure, I’ll tell you that those birds are really pretty big close up.   Especially those show-off Toms, always strutting around with their tails in the air showing everyone who’s boss of the oak knoll.

Other than those crazy friendly turkeys, I’ve encountered some other unusually friendly wildlife on this property as well.  One day, I was getting some tools out of the truck when I saw what appeared to be a small dog trotting down the middle of the road. I looked away, but then looked back, realizing that something wasn’t quite right. What I initially thought was a friendly neighborhood dog, turned out to be a Red Fox.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Fox just running down the road, not even caring that he was running toward me and the truck. Well, having never seen such bold actions from a Fox before, I just stood and watched as he coolly trotted by, barely even giving me a glance.

This little oak hill is definitely it’s own special piece of land, the views are unlike those seen elsewhere, as are the local inhabitants.  Maybe the place that time has forgotten?  Well, all right, I wouldn’t go that far, but it sure is unique.  and now, thanks to our many days of cutting, it is uniquely void of buckthorn.  We are planning a trip back there tomorrow to help start up the stream for the summer.  I’m always anxious to get back there to once again spend the day working, surrounded by nature and views afar.

Check out this quick video of the hillside. I know it’s not great, but I’m just learning how to get these videos up on the web. Give me some time, it will improve.

Doug

Spring Enthusiasm?

Well, it seems that Spring is almost upon us once again.  This time of the year we here at Hurth Waterscapes are very busy trying to finish up any tasks that are left on our winter to-do lists, meetings with clients to schedule the year’s work and gearing up to begin doing that work.  Spring is always the most hectic and happy time of the year for any landscape company and we are no exception.  This is the time of year when we feel like yelling from the rooftops “Spring is here everyone, let the games begin”.  It is the most exciting time of the year in so many ways.

In Spring Mother Nature does the big turn around and changes our hard, frozen part of the planet back into a vibrant and beautifully lush and diverse landscape.  In my mind, this is the most incredible time of the year for our landscapes because the changes are so drastic and happy.  Fall can be rather drastic too, but in many ways fall is a bit of a downer.  Annual flowers and tropical pond plants are dying; the animals around us are heading south or slowing down and bulking up for the winter ahead.  Fall is like the big shut down and Spring is like a new awakening every single year.  I can’t even begin to describe all of the particular scents of Spring for you, but I’m sure that every one of you know what I mean when I talk about that fresh Spring scent that is only in the air in those first few Spring days.  Those first few days are the same days when you walk out side, breath deeply, look up at the new Spring sun, feel the new Spring warmth on your skin and you just feel like dancing.  Now not all of us succumb to the urge to dance, but I’m sure it brings a smile to our hearts and faces just thinking about it.  To walk through your gardens and watch them change day-to-day if not hour to hour.  To watch the Spring flower bulbs fight their way to the surface, to watch that thick sheet of ice on your pond break up and disappear for the first time since late November, to see the first sign of fish and frog movement in your pond.  These are the things that make Spring a time of year to shout about.  I swear that I can feel my fish breathing easier down there at the bottom of the pond as that ice opens up for the first time and the water begins to warm.  The first time that I plug in that waterfall pump in Spring must be like the biggest party of the year for those fish.  They made it through the cold dark winter and now are looking forward to warm water and flowing waterfalls for the entire summer.  It must be like when you were a kid and you finished that last day of school for the year.  Do you remember that freedom and rush of opportunity that you felt at a young age as you pondered the possibilities of the long summer ahead?  The natural lakes and streams around us are filled to overflowing with the fresh rush of water from the melting ice and snow.  Even the squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, dear, raccoons, songbirds or whatever type of animals tend to frequent your yard can be seen gallivanting about as if there is not a care in the world.  It feels like the whole world is happy that Spring is here.

In Spring, we who are landscapers are looking at the upcoming year in a very similar fashion to the school children getting off of that bus for the very last time of this school year.  We have had the winter to analyze, reflect, plan, strategize, dream, write, file, organize, clean, repair and just generally renew ourselves and our company.  We look to Spring with great anticipation and wide open eyes.  Just as the gardeners get to see the fruits of their labor when the first plants start to come to life and blossom, we too get to see the fruits of our many hours in the office come to life as the season unfolds and our new plans, strategies and systems are put into place.  This year we are looking to Spring with a certain excitement that only comes from having a good chunk of our schedule already laid out and sold for the season.  We believe that this year will be a year of firsts for our company.  It has already had several firsts by being the first winter in which we have sold and completed projects during the worst of the cold winter months.  And winter didn’t cooperate much.  It is the first year in a long time that we we’re not in the snow plowing business and I can’t tell you how much more enjoyable the winter was without the constant worries that come with that profession.  This is also the first year that we have had such a good quantity of work sold and planned prior to Spring even getting here.  We believe that all of these positive things put together are going to add up to a very exciting and stimulating year.  The only downside that we see to these things is the fact that scheduling will certainly be a greater challenge this year, but we will be working hard to complete all of the many great projects in a timely manner.  For those of you who have not yet contacted us and are planning or would like to plan landscape improvements for this year, please call as soon as possible.

And last but not least, Spring is always the most exciting time of the year because we are eagerly looking ahead, but we can’t predict the future.  We know that we will meet many friends this summer, both new and old.  We get the opportunity to see people that we haven’t seen all winter or maybe haven’t seen for a few years as well as all of the new clients that we will meet in our sales consultations.  Oh, the possibilities.  We are quite sure that we will meet many new people as well as many new properties and ponds.  Each time that I walk a new property that I haven’t been to it’s exciting.  My eyes and ears are trying to take in as much information as possible about the new client, their family, and their property, all the while my brain is coming up with new ideas and creations that could be added to their yard to increase the usability and enjoyment that they get from their property.  I often dream of no budgets and plenty of space.  Wow, the beauty that we could create would be just phenomenal.  Maybe this is why I have troubles coming up with quick landscape and pond designs for people.  I always have a tendency to go big and grandiose, trying to make that property all that it can be.  On several occasions I have certainly knocked the socks off of some budgets and budget planners with my elaborate and crazy dreams.  It usually takes me a bit of time to adjust my dreams to the budget at hand and come up with the absolute best use of the funds available.  It would be easy enough to roll into a property and suggest the standard ho-hum cookie cutter landscape to the owners, but what fun would that be.  I didn’t get into this business because I like to dig in the dirt so much more than the next person, although that may be true to some extent, I got into this business because I love the change, I love the individuality of each homeowner and their property, I love the uniqueness of each property and each new landscape design.  Each property presents challenges and opportunities that are unique.  My every day is different from the last and from the next, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Sure, maybe that is what makes this business a bit more complicated and difficult to predict than some, but hey, the excitement and variety is well worth every effort that is made.

So, in closing:

Spring is here, let’s have some fun.

Let the children play and the doggie run.

Spread your arms wide and start to dance.

The new summer is here, let’s take a chance.

Some may say be cautious, go slow.

But with Spring in the air, I don’t think so.

Imagine the future and dream the dreams.

Spring is here, the world is splitting at its seams.

Water garden gift suggestions

There’s no need to make a naughty-versus-nice holiday list when it comes to water garden enthusiasts. Those who are drawn to water features seem to have inherited naturally nice DNA!

For those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge into the world of water gardening, following is my top-ten list of items to make any and every water garden enthusiast rejoice.

Some of these suggestions are easy little stocking stuffers, while others are a bit more extravagant. You may even want to highlight one of the smaller items as part of a larger package’s decoration by securing it to the main present’s bow.

I’m A Pond Guy, not Martha Stewart, so let’s get back to my specialty:

10.  Low-temperature winter fish foods. We live in Wisconsin, where, if the water temperature is above 55 degrees, we can feed our fish. Budget: Around $20.

9.  Pond thermometer. We need to stop feeding the fish when the water temperature drops below 55 degrees. Budget: Around $20.

8.  Scarecrow motion-sensor device. Keep four and two-legged predators away from your prized fish. Budget: Under $100.

7.  Subscription to a pond industry magazine. So that they can keep current. Budget $20 – $30

6.  Books on fish and water gardening. Budget: Under $50.

5.  Statues, Benches, Pond Decor. I love my steel cattails and heron. Budget: $50 – $400

4.  New Landscape Plantings. How about a gift certificate for spring landscape work. Budget: your call

3.  Fish. Everyone loves to get a new fish for their pond.  This is another great gift certificate idea.  Budget: $10 – $200

2.  Aquatic Plants. A good opportunity for a gift certificate. Every pond lover would enjoy a new tropical plant in spring. Budget: $20 – $100.

1.  Spring Pond Clean Out Certificate.  They’ll be ready for spring and first on the list if you sign them up this early for their clean out. Budget: $250 – $1000

Well. There you go.  If one of your loved ones has a pond, you should be all set.  They will be grinning ear to ear when they see what a thoughtful gift you found for them.  You had better hurry; the holidays will be here before you know it.  We’re always here to help if you need us.  Call 262-268-1121.

Pondering Your Way Through February

So, what have you been pondering during this wintry month of February?  Did you check up on Punxsutawney Phil?  Is spring on its way?  Will you celebrate Lincoln’s birthday or Valentine’s Day?  Do you become more and more aware of the longer days and the shorter nights that are naturally part and parcel of this often cold and snowy month? Or like many of us here in the colder climes, do you just focus in on the fact that February is always the shortest month of the year. Yes, even when its leap year it’s the shortest month, and at the end of it we’ll be that much closer to spring, right?

February is a great month to plan for most water gardening and landscaping enthusiasts.  February is just too cold for most people to be spending a lot of time outside, but many of us find ourselves dreaming of spring and the things that we will do when it gets here.  While you’re pondering your way from winter into spring, it’s a great time to be planning any changes you’d like to make in and around your pond and landscape. This is really the perfect time of the year to plan out any type of landscape improvements you may be dreaming of.  It’s tough for some people to motivate themselves to think about their pond and landscape while there is snow on the ground, but let me tell you, from a landscape professionals point of view, the added time that we have and the frantic race that each spring becomes makes this an ideal time to plan.  The people who wait for the ground to thaw to contact their landscaper regarding a design project are probably looking at mid summer or fall at best for an installation time.  Motivate yourself today, stroll through the yard, call your landscaper and start the process.  That way, when the spring race starts you’ll already have your position on the schedule.  Whether you’re envisioning a new pond, patio, stream, planting beds or even total yard renovation, now is the time to plan it all out.

Should I do it myself or hire a pro? This is where many homeowners get stuck, they want to get some work done on their landscape, but they can’t decide whether they should hire it out or do it themselves.  They know how to plant flowers, they know how to spread mulch, and they know how to clean a pond, why should they hire a professional?  If your landscape visions and plans are real straight forward and simple, or if you are the kind of person that likes to perform manual labor and has plenty of time to do it, then by all means, you should do it yourself.  It can be good exercise.  But, if you only really enjoy doing things that you are good at and don’t have much time left after work and family commitments, then you would better serve yourself and your family by doing what you do best and hiring a competent professional to do what they do best.  It only makes sense to apply your efforts where they are most effective.  If you could make more money working at your regular job than you will save by hiring a professional then why dirty your hands and strain your back to lose money?  Not to mention that if you hire a reputable professional, you will have a warranty should anything go wrong.

So, call now and plan it all out while we still have time before the whirlwind spring is upon us.  As you know, when spring hits, there never seems to be enough time to get the entire to-do list done.

Welcome to the Holiday Pond

This article will take us from ghouls, goblins, witches, and jack-o-lanterns, right on through to pilgrims, turkey with all the trimmings, pumpkin pie, and apple cider. Yes indeed the holidays are officially upon us, and that means the pond out in the backyard has taken on a different personality, a different look, a different taste and color.  For those of us in the northern climates, ice on the pond is right around the corner and the white and drifting snow that used to underwrite ye old sleigh ride to grandma’s house is scheduled to follow immediately on its heels.

Prune the Plants Back, and Net the Pond
In many cases, as you read this line, a net is already covering the pond in order to minimize the annual onslaught of free-falling leaves that automatically find their way into your pond and skimmer. Let me say right here that netting your pond is a huge undertaking and not one that I would recommend for most people.  The lilies, the water iris, and the cattails are all pruned back. The water hyacinth have been eliminated from the waterfalls and thrown into the compost pile. The activity of your fish has slowed down dramatically, and you’ve stopped feeding them because the water temperature is regularly below 55 degrees.

Inside vs. Outside Enjoyment
Maybe you decorated your Halloween pond with pumpkins and scarecrows, and maybe you’ll have something in honor of Thanksgiving as well. But for many of us, the time is coming soon when the pond enjoyment is going to happen from inside the warm house, instead of outside on the patio. But there’s a decision you must make first.

The Winter Decision
Are you going to leave your pond run, or shut it down for the winter? This is the question of the month.  If you let it run you risk a leak and more winter work.  If you shut it down you’ll miss the beautiful ice formations.

Shut Down

For what it’s worth, most local enthusiasts shut their pond down in order to avoid having to monitor ice build-up in the stream, which can lead to an untimely leak if you’re not careful. If you choose the shut down option, don’t forget to unhook your pump, remove it from your skimmer, and place it in a bucket of water in a warm place for the winter to keep the seals from drying out and to keep it from freezing. Also, some people like to remove the filters from the biofalls and skimmer if so equipped, clean them off and store them somewhere dry as well.  This may save some time and headaches in spring.  Also, remember to unhook your auto-fill line from the house and turn off your spigot to avoid freezing any pipes.

And for the Winter Adventurer
On the other hand, if you’re a winter adventurer, and you choose to leave the falls running, the artistic beauty of the ice sculptures that form around the waterfalls will always be something at which to marvel. And either way, as the surface of your pond freezes over, make sure to keep a hole in the surface with an agitating bubbler or a bottom aerator so that gasses can be safely exchanged, and your fish can complete their winter hibernation successfully without complications.

If you’ve covered all these bases, congratulations, you’re ready for old man winter. Now it is time to sit back, relax and begin dreaming about spring.

Summertime Dreams

Summertime is upon us and life couldn’t be better for pond owners in Wisconsin.  In the spring we have pond clean-outs.  In the fall we have winter pond prep.  In winter, unless your waterfall runs all winter, there is not much to do with your pond.  But in the summertime the weather is fabulous, the plants are thriving, the fish are active and growing and to top it all off, there is very little pond maintenance to do.

Typically, by the time summer is here, the spring algae bloom is over, the fish are all healthy and the plants are in bloom.  This is the time of the year when I spend all of my pond time just relaxing and enjoying the sights and sounds of the water garden.  I check the skimmer every once in a while and the kids and I feed the fish every now and then.  I know that the fish don’t really need feeding, but I just can’t resist watching the surface of the pond come to life when those wonderfully colorful fish swim out of all of the nooks and crannies of the pond to grab a bite to eat.  I could sit and watch the fish swimming between the water lilies and in and out of the rocks for hours on end.  It is an always changing, visual extravaganza of color and movement.  People can’t walk into our yard without standing near the pond and gazing into the beautiful clear water at the maze of fish movement.  Our kids spend a good portion of the summer planning and implementing strategies to catch one of the ever elusive frogs that inhabit our naturally balanced, beautiful eco-system.

It is at this time of the year, with all of my peaceful relaxation time near the pond, that I tend to dream of ways to make this water garden paradise even better.  Often times I find myself dreaming of what pond life would be like if I added another pond, or made this pond larger.  Maybe I could add another stream and waterfall to the pond.  I’m sure the many songbirds that line up on the rocks for their turn to splash and play would welcome another stream.  On the other hand, maybe this part of the yard should be finished.  Maybe I should move to a different part of the yard and start fresh with another completely unique and different water feature.  I’ve got it; maybe I should install a pondless waterfall in that empty space on the other side of the driveway.  My wife is always saying how the kids would love a pondless waterfall with nice wide areas where they could get right into the stream to play in the water.  Maybe that’s it, maybe this year we should install a pondless waterfall.

This is what too much relaxation will do to a person.  We may not all talk about it or act on our dreams, but you’d better watch out, eventually when you are sitting in your favorite relaxation spot near your pond, your thoughts will turn to the possibilities of more water, more fish, more beauty, more fun and more relaxation.  If only your piece of the pie we call paradise was a little bit bigger.  And, once you have expanded, improved, or otherwise enhanced your pond, you will once again find yourself relaxing next to your pond.  It is at this time, when out of nowhere, your mind starts to wander and you find yourself dreaming of yet another possible addition to your water garden dream.

May Flowers

May is the month to regroup, take a good look around and add a splash of color to our yards.  Usually, for homeowners, by this time of the year most of the labor intensive spring clean up work is done and the only thing left to do is to sprinkle a little color around.  Annual flowers and tropical pond plants are great for brightening and adding interest to our landscapes for the summer.  I wouldn’t jump into May too early with these sensitive plants, but usually near the end of May, when all of the frost has past us and before the greenhouses are sold out is the perfect time.

We’ve had the month of April to whip our yards and ponds back into shape and repair any winter damage that may have occurred.  Now it is time to put the icing on the cake.  This is a great time to walk the yard and decide where we need a splash of color.  Planting warm weather plants such as annual flowers in our beds and tropical plants in our ponds allows us to add colors and textures to our yards that the hardy Wisconsin plants just can’t deliver.  We get to look like we’re not living in zone five, if only for a short while.

Stand back and take a good look at your yard.  Where does it look like it is missing something?  Take note of any bed and planting areas that look particularly bare or lacking in color.  Take a look at your pond; are there spots where you could plant a tropical water-lily for the summer or maybe some tropical marginal aquatic plants?  How about your front entrance, could you use some planters or pots near the front door?  Maybe your patio could be dressed up a bit by using potted plants also.

Once you decide where you would like these extra touches it is time to get a plant count.  If you are knowledgeable about plants and already know what you want, just make a list and you are ready to go shopping.  If you don’t know what you want, get a rough estimate of how many plants you will need for each location and be sure to note the sun exposure for these locations as well.  Armed with this information it will be easy for your favorite greenhouse to help guide you to some beautiful choices.  Always feel free to stop in at the Hurth Waterscapes retail store to check out the new aquatic plants that we have in stock.  We would be happy to suggest some tropical color for your pond.

Before you actually purchase the plants that you need for your splash of color, it is a good idea to prepare your yard.  It is usually better to complete any planting bed preparations and soil conditioning prior to purchasing the plant material.  Often these preparations take longer than expected and you don’t want to watch your new flowers wilt in the hot sun while you prepare the beds.  You’ll also want to have plenty of water handy and water the flowers as you plant them to ensure their survival and vigorous growth.

If all of this seems too overwhelming, or if you decide you need a bit more than just a splash of color, we would be happy to help plan out your beds and pond with you.  Just give us a call at 262-268-1121 we’re here to help.

Water, Water Everywhere

Water in our landscape can enhance our lives in many great ways.

I am thoroughly convinced that we, as human beings, have an innate desire to be near water. Perhaps it’s the fact that 60 percent of our bodies are made up of water. We can go for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Or maybe it’s the fact that 70 percent of the planet we inhabit is covered with water? Whatever the reason, people are definitely drawn to water.

What We Do for Water

Waterfront property is always priced at a premium. We pay to view and be near waterfalls, such as the great Niagara Falls. We hike long distances to view secluded waterfalls.  We stand in crowds in Yellowstone National park to see Old Faithful shoot water into the air.  And we invest in hydrotherapy, whirlpool bathtubs, hot tubs, and swimming pools just so that we can fully immerse ourselves in the life-giving liquid.

Life Changing Water

Humans have used water as a source of nourishment, transportation, navigation, and sport long before we started keeping written records. Maybe it’s because water is such an integral part of our lives, or maybe it’s simply because water is so mesmerizing and beautifully soothing as it flows and cascades over a waterfall and into a pond. Whatever the reason, there aren’t many people who can resist the draw of twisting, turning and falling water.

The Aquatic Transformation

Water gardening adds life, beauty, and nature to people’s lives, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that the installation of a water garden – large or small – will have a greater impact on a yard than any other landscape improvement money can buy. With a water garden, what were previously boring and normal yards are transformed into life-filled, eco-friendly, exciting, stimulating, and awe-inspiring gathering places. Places where the family looks forward to hanging out and enjoying life at the pond, together. I know this is true for my family and I – water gardening has had a huge impact on our lives, and has very much changed our yard and how we use it.

So if you want to:

  • Enhance the way you and your family spend time together…
  • Spend quality time with your family…
  • Add beauty and nature to your outdoor living space…
  • Transform your yard to waterfront property…

… it sounds like a pond is just what you need! The sights and sounds of a water garden really can change a person’s entire outlook on life.

Fish Frenzy

The anticipation is growing … the thought that another great water gardening season is just around the corner is steadily lurking in my mind. This is the time when I start getting more and more flower bulb and seed catalogs in the mail, tempting me to give in to the fact that spring is almost here. As I flip through the pages, trying to decide what would go best in my now-barren gardens; my thoughts can’t help but drift toward my pond.

While I know my fish are still resting, I often wonder if they are as excited as I am about the season to come. I wonder if they’re thinking about the warm summer water and the beautiful sounds of the waterfall as it splashes into the pond. Yes, I am a sucker for a beautiful pond and waterfall. You can call me crazy if you’d like, but in the spirit of this “month of love” that is February, I like to think about my soon to be thawed piece of paradise in my own back yard.
If you own a pond, or have done any reading on the subject, you may know that many pond enthusiasts are fish enthusiasts as well.  Most of us crazy pond owners have ponds full of colorful Koi and Goldfish.  Some like to baby their fish a little more than others, but for most of us we hold a soft spot in our hearts for our fish.  So, I thought I’d spend a little time talking about our fishy friends.  Maybe if we are all thinking about spring and our ponds it will get here sooner.

Most of you who have fish in your ponds feed them at least occasionally, and I would guess that most of the time you feed them store-bought fish food.  If you have never strayed from the standard fish food then perhaps this summer can be a bit more adventurous for you and your beloved fish.  Did you know that Koi are especially fond of watermelon? If you’ve never tried feeding them anything but fish food, it may take a bit of time for them to warm up to the idea of eating things like watermelon, but once they do, watch out.  It will become a very special treat for them.  Some people report that their Koi swim right up and eat the melon right from the rind.  I’ve also heard that Koi enjoy grapefruit even more than watermelon.  You simply cut it into quarters, keep an eye on it so it doesn’t clog up your filtration system, and watch the fish go crazy for it!  That should add a little zing to your usual fish feeding.
I’m sure that it will come as no surprise that fish are also big fans of worms – as long as they aren’t on a hook! If you drop earthworms into the water, the fish may look at them funny, but once one has a taste, they will all catch on. One of the not so common fish treats I’ve learned about in my years of pond building is that fish simply love fish! It’s true … watch your fish swoon over some chopped up, thawed sardines while enjoying a great nutritious treat!
Finally, a favorite for me, and any young kids that happen to be frequenting my pond, is good old Honey Nut Cheerios. The Cheerios float on the top, allowing fish the chance to get to them while the children watch the treats bob up and down as their favorite fish go in for a taste.  The Cheerios are especially nice to use if you have little guests over that are prone to putting whatever they get in their hand right into their mouth.  It’s much more pleasant than watching one of your horrified friends trying to dig fish food out of their baby’s mouth.
I’m sure that you could find many more treats that your fish will find yummy if you just start experimenting a bit.  Do a little research this winter and your fish feeding will be much more interesting come summer time.  Remember never to feed them when the water is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even in the spring.  And also, don’t go so crazy with the feeding that you mess up your pond balance.  Remember hungry fish make for a clean pond. Happy Pondering!
Doug Hurth

Water gardeners ponder New Year’s resolutions

We are approaching the grand finale of yet another action-packed year. With another year wrapping up, it is time to embrace New Year’s resolutions for our own benefit, and to make a difference in the lives of our children and the community in which we live.  The following are favorite resolution topics, but with a twist for water garden enthusiasts.

Nutrition and Diet – Relax, this isn’t about your weight. Most water garden enthusiasts can use a little guidance when it comes to feeding their fish. A saying we have in the field is: “Hungry fish make for a clean pond!”

  1. Only feed your fish when the water temperature is above 55 degrees. The fish are designed, naturally, to hibernate without eating when water temperatures fall below 55 degrees, so breathe easy. They will not starve as they will graze on algae if needed.
  2. Only feed your fish as much as they can consume in a single three to five minute feeding. If you are feeding in excess of this time frame consider yourself feeding algae and not the fish!
  3. Feed your fish in the spring and fall with a high carbohydrate food, which lists wheat germ as its first ingredient. This will enable the fish to digest their meals more easily when their metabolism is low like the water temperatures.
  4. Feed your fish in the summer months with a growth or color-enhancing food, which features fish meal as its first ingredient. This will bulk them up for their winter hibernation when they will eat little to nothing for a few months.

Lifelong Learning – Read and learn as much as you can about water gardens and fish.  You can always call us for more info. 262-268-1121.

Better Communication – Speaking another language expands your world and makes new friends, including finned ones. Are you ready for your first Japanese language lesson? Kohaku (Ko-ha-koo) is a white fish with red markings; while Sanke (San-kay) is a white fish with red and black markings. Ogan (O-gone) is a solid colored Koi fish. One of my personal favorites is Showa (Show-a), a jet-black fish with red and white markings.

Travel – Within minutes of your house are situated delightful water gardens for you to experience at various hours and seasons. Go on a self-guided pond tour at your own pace to gain ideas from these personal paradises. Call for information on The Hurth Waterscapes Charity Parade of Ponds.  262-268-1121

Tune-Up – Each October, it is important to clean out your pond filters, trim aquatic plants that have dominated your pond over the summer, and do some simple routine maintenance to prepare your water feature for the winter. Free pond-cleaning seminars are offered to teach do-it-yourselfers, or you may consider hiring a pond professional to do this dirty work. It’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it!

Health – Protect your prized pond fish from specific pathogens which could wipe out your entire collection. The most likely way for your fish to be introduced to an undesirable pathogen is by coming in contact with new fish.

To avoid this scenario, purchase your fish from a reputable fish retailer who specializes in pond fish and plan on quarantining every fish which you place into your pond!  Quarantine procedures for your pond fish can be extensive. For details on quarantine procedures feel free to call Hurth Waterscapes at 262-268-1121

Community Service – Along with having water features at homes and businesses, populations at schools, retirement centers and other community-oriented facilities can also benefit from them. Through the Ponds for Kids program or other charitable endeavors, Hurth Waterscapes is willing to donate labor to the installation of water features to help others.

Rest & Relaxation – As a result of todays busy, high-tech, cell phone-congested lifestyle, people get caught up in long work days and struggle to find time to “stop to smell the roses.” While I enjoy roses, the plants I prefer next to my water features include those that release fragrant scents in the evening. When I find myself getting home late, the star jasmine planted next to my pond not only smells wonderful, but also is beautifully illuminated under a clear moonlit sky.

This coming year, consider creating or enhancing your own water garden oasis, where you may seek soul-renewing solitude, refreshing R & R, and reinvigorating times with family and friends.

Wishing you and yours a safe and Happy New Year!

A Silly Pond Story – Pondering…A Christmas Story

Over the river and through the woods, and beside the pond, to Grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow…oh.

You mean Grandma has a pond? Why yes Virginia. She got it last summer. She has lots of beautiful plants and rocks around it, and lots of colorful fish in it. She even has a waterfall, with a meandering stream that she says reminds her of you when you laugh. She told me all about it over the phone, and she was really excited about getting it. I can tell just by looking, that you’re bursting at the seams with questions about Grandma’s new pond, but let’s wait until we get there so Grandma can answer them all herself. OK?

What Happened To All The Plants?
Grandma, where are all the beautiful plants that Mom said were all around your pond? What happened to them? Why yes Virginia, there were lots of plants in and around the pond up until about six weeks ago when the weather turned cold and I had to cut them back so they wouldn’t fall in the pond and cause my fish to have problems. But with all the white and drifted snow, the pond is still beautiful don’t you think Virginia?

Can You Leave The Water Falls Running All Winter?
It really is beautiful Grandma and I really like it because the waterfall is still going. Can you leave it running all winter? Why yes Virginia, even here in Wisconsin where it gets pretty cold, I can leave it running as long as I carefully watch the stream so an ice dam doesn’t form and cause the water to flow outside onto the ground. And as the ice forms over the pond’s surface, I may need to add a little water. But that’s easy, even for me, Virginia.

Decaying Plants? What Does That Mean?
What do you mean about the plants decaying and causing your fish problems Grandma? Well Virginia, when the surface of the pond freezes over, it prevents harmful gasses …like carbon dioxide that are created when debris such as dead plants, leaves, twigs and fish waste start to decay, from escaping out into the atmosphere. And if those gasses can’t escape, their presence in the water can hurt the fish. Another thing is that, like humans, fish require oxygen to breathe. And if the pond freezes over, it prevents oxygen from getting into the water, which would eventually cause the fish to suffocate.

So How Do You Allow The Gasses To Be Exchanged?
So Grandma, how do you let the carbon dioxide escape, and the oxygen get into the water in the winter? That’s a good question Virginia, and it’s one of the reasons we leave the waterfalls running all winter. The falling water agitates and helps oxygenate the water. And do you see that bubbling area out there on the right side of the pond? Well that’s a pump that I call my bubbler. It’s purpose is to agitate the surface of the pond, which helps to keep a hole in the surface, allowing the carbon dioxide to escape, and the oxygen to get back into the water so the fish can hibernate safely.

And What Happens If The Pond Freezes All The Way To The Bottom?

But what happens if the water freezes all the way down to the bottom of the pond Grandma? Wouldn’t that kill your fish? Well Virginia, if the pond could freeze all the way down it would definitely be a problem for the fish. But fortunately it can’t. As a matter of fact, even on the coldest days, the ice will grow to a maximum thickness of about eight inches. And since the pond is twenty-four inches deep, that leaves sixteen inches of liquid water for the fish to hibernate in.

Hibernate?
What do you mean by hibernate Grandma? What does that mean? You see Virginia, there are animals that stop eating and kind of go to sleep when Mother Nature causes the weather to turn cold. You may know that bears go into caves and hibernate for the winter. Well, fish go to the bottom of the pond and kind of park there until spring brings everything back to life. They don’t eat or do anything really. They just sort of hang around on the bottom of the pond and wait for the weather to warm up.

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