Farm ponds can get mucky and dirty pretty quickly. A number of issues, such as animal waste, agricultural runoff, excessive sun exposure, drastic weather events and much more can wreak havoc with the quality of water in your pond. In this article, we discuss these influences and provide sound advice on how to counter them and how to clean a farm pond (and maintain it). Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- What Are The Negative Influences On Farm Ponds?
- Farm Pond Maintenance – Tips & Tricks
- Prevention Is Always The Best Solution
What Are The Negative Influences On Farm Ponds?
The effects of climate change such as sudden and dramatic temperature fluctuations, large amounts of rainfall and resultant flooding, excessive heat and the ash from fires can cause problems for any small body of water.
Additionally, animal waste and agricultural runoff can cause nitrogen and phosphorus spikes. This, combined with lack of shading and excessive sunlight promote algae blooms.
If the purpose of your farm pond is to provide a source of water for your animals (see our article on duck ponds) and drainage for excessive water, it’s may not be possible to eliminate animal waste and agricultural runoff, but there are things you can do to mitigate these problems.
Farm Pond Maintenance – Tips & Tricks
If you are using your farm pond as a swimming or fishing hole and/or as a wildlife refuge, these tips also apply.
1. Provide shade and a natural filter
Instead of having your pond ringed with a muddy, mucky mess, plant some vegetation and shrubbery around the verge. A good riparian strip will act as a natural filtration system during times of moderate flooding or when agricultural runoff flows into your pond.
Taller plants provide some shade to help discourage algae bloom. A good combination of groundcover and tall plants help secure the dirt around the verge of your pond in place and prevents erosion.
2. Create a stone barrier
In addition to vegetation, a border of large stones (aka: rip-rap) around the edge of your pond can help prevent runoff and debris from pouring in. Large stones look nice, provide a nice place for sitting and fishing and help prevent erosion of the shore.
Five Tips For A Healthy Pond: Penn State Extension
3. Opt for natural, organic soil amendments
Chemical fertilizers are high in phosphorus which tends to wash out of the soil and run off into your pond and into waterways wreaking havoc.
Instead of using chemical fertilizers, manage manure, lawn clippings and other organic waste by composting it and using it as a soil amendment in your fields and in the grassy areas around your pond.
4. Remove sludge and muck by raking
Even with all of your efforts to prevent debris from getting into your pond, some things will make their way in.
For example, in the fall, leaves will blow in and there’s not anything you can do about it. Leaves and debris that manage to find their way into your pond will decompose and settle into a layer of sludge and muck at the bottom of the pond.
This process has the effect of reducing oxygen and throwing the balance of your pond out of whack. Lower oxygen levels encourage algae bloom and aquatic weed growth and negatively impact the health and well-being of any fish and other beneficial fauna you may have in your pond.
To deal with this problem, you’ll need to purchase a good pond rake and use it frequently to rake around the verges of your pond removing any leaves and other debris that you’re able to reach.
It is most important to go out after heavy rains to quickly remove new debris before it has a chance to settle and begin decomposing.
You should also do a thorough raking when the weather begins to warm up in the springtime. Starting the warmer season with a clean pond can save you a lot of trouble as summer time progresses.
5. Add aeration
Keeping oxygen levels high is a good way to keep a healthy pond. You can install a bottom diffusion aerator and/or a surface aerator. Both of these contribute greatly to fish health by keeping oxygen levels in the water high. Ample oxygen discourages the growth of fungus, bacteria and algae.
If you’re choosing between a surface aerator and a bottom diffusion aerator, go with the bottom aerator. This is the thriftier choice in terms of operating costs, and it works more effectively and more efficiently.
If your pond is intended for decoration as well as function, a fountain, waterfall or other water feature can help aerate and filter your water.
How To Rid Your Farm Pond Of Scum And Algae
6. Eliminate algae naturally
If you have a lot of algae, you may need to apply a chemical algaecide to get it under control initially; however, regular use can disrupt the balance of your pond. For a more natural solution, once you’ve reduced your algae problem, toss in a bale of barley straw to prevent regrowth.
As the barley straw breaks down and decomposes, it releases humic acid into the water, which begins to get algae under control. In warmer weather, exposure to sunlight and oxygen cause the humic acid to become hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) which is a powerful, natural algaecide.
Remember that H2O2 is made up of two molecules of hydrogen and two of oxygen, so it naturally adds extra oxygen to your water and discourages the growth of fungus, bacteria and algae.
While it might be tempting to just pour hydrogen peroxide into your pond, you should resist the urge. Having the substance form naturally and gradually makes it safe for fish and other beneficial fauna in your pond.
The process of transforming humic acid into hydrogen peroxide is quicker and more effective in warm weather, so add barley straw to your pond in the springtime, after raking, to prevent and control algae throughout the summer.
In this video, the presenter adds barley to the filtration system of his backyard pond. For a farm pond, you could use a bale of barley straw and simply sink it in the pond. If you are aerating your pond (as you should) place the bale near your aeration system for best effect.
Prevention Is Always The Best Solution
Just as with any other aspect of your farm, regular maintenance and attention will help keep your farm pond clean, even during the winter months. If you neglect your pond, you may find yourself needing to start all over again. This involves draining and re-digging the pond, which is a major undertaking.
In the final analysis, keeping a farm pond is a surprisingly complex task. If you’ve ever kept a swimming pool or even an aquarium, you know about the many aspects of chemical balance, pH levels and other challenges you face in keeping a clean, healthy body of water.
Follow the tips presented here to successfully clean and maintain your farm, including your ponds.