Cattail and algae management in ponds

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by dustyangel, Feb 27, 2005.

  1. dustyangel

    dustyangel Member

    Messages:
    11
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2005
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    We purchased our first home last spring and we've got a pond in our back yard. It's 50 feet wide and 115 feet long (approx. 12,500 gallons). One end is rather shallow, only about 3 feet deep, while the other end is about 8 feet. It's fed by a spring and runoff from the neighbor's hay/corn fields and through the back of our horse pasture. The horses do not have access to the pond, however. We don't plan to use the pond for swimming, etc. but just as a nice view and something to fiddle with.

    When we moved in, the pond was frozen over. With the melting of the snow and the frequent rain showers in the spring, the pond was overflowing constantly through the overflow drain to a drainage creek. By mid summer, it would only flow over after a rain shower. That's when we started to have problems with unwanted aquatic growth.

    We had thick stringy/clumpy (filamentous) algae growing in the shallow areas of the pond. We tried raking it out but couldn't keep up. We tried some "good bacteria" to clean it up, but had limited successes. I don't know if we just didn't treat as frequently as we needed.

    Late summer, we also had problems with cattails growing around the perimeter of the deep end, and in the center of the shallow end. I don't mind a few on the edge, but they were overtaking a good portion of the pond. The pictures that were displayed when we looked at the house showed a nice clear pond.

    What treatments would you recommend for controlling both algae growth as well as cattails? Would bacteria or dyes work better? Do we need a separate herbicide for the cattails? The pond is frozen over again right now and we'd like to take action as soon as we can when it melts.
     
  2. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

    Messages:
    2,173
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2004
    Location:
    Pell City, AL
    I don't have alot of knowledge with farm ponds so anyone feel free to correct me, but drawing from my experience with aquarium maintenance, it sounds like you need to deal with the problem. The problem is excess nutrients in the water not the algae. Algae is a part of life if you have water with nutrients in it that is exposed to sunlight. Eliminate the nitrogen and the algae will die back. Dyes would also cut off the sunlight to the algae but probably wouldn't do anything to the cattails. Fertilizers coming from your neighbors field and manure coming from your horse pasture are supplying the nitrogen and other nutrients. Try planting lots of plants that are not as invasive as the cattails, to suck up any nitrogen that is leaching into the pond. Plant something around the perimeter that requires lots of moisture and lots of nitrogen.

    You could try getting some ducks. They should help some with the algae, but they'll also contribute to the nitrogen problem with their poop. Airation would help too. There are also carp that are stocked in ponds to help clean up weeds.
     

  3. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    561
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2004
    Location:
    ontario
    If I'm not mistaken, you could throw a bail of barley straw in the pond to control algea, and check out the walmart of the swamp on catails,(plant identificaiton forum) they're very edible.
     
  4. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    15,981
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2004
    Location:
    Michigan's thumb
    As mentioned, your problem is nutrients. Any pond owner will tell you that algae bloom in the spring is normal. It just takes longer for other plants to get going and the algae blooms. I like blanket algae because I could just pull it out and put it in the compost.

    What plants do you want in your pond? Water lillies? Plant them. There will still be algae bloom in the spring, but once the lillies get going they will use the nutrients as well as shade the pond. The algae won't grow without light. Put some other forms of plants out there, seaweed basicly. I suppose you could grow vegetables hydroponicly as well. Where the overflow is, you can plant marsh plants, such as marsh marigold, cardinal flowers, native iris, etc.
     
  5. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    15,063
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    You must remove the nutrients from the pond. Probably the most effective and quickest way of doing this is to dredge the muck out of the bottom of the pond until you hit soil.
     
  6. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    Can't kill a cattail in Minnesota without getting nasty letters from the control freaks. There is a type of Roundup called 'Rodeo' that is safe(r) for ponds and will control green plants - if you don't get thrown in jail for it where you live.

    For the algae barley straw can be a fair control. Being real careful how you fert your lawn and keeping extra N, P, & K from washing in will help.

    --->Paul
     
  7. dustyangel

    dustyangel Member

    Messages:
    11
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2005
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Right now, most of the runoff from the fields goes directly into the drainage creek through our yard, but some of it does run into the pond as well. We're planning on extending/improving the drainage creek upstream of the pond to prevent more of this nutrient-rich water from getting into the pond. I'm not worried this will impact the pond water levels much because the water level stays up long after the runoff areas and drainage creek dry up for summer.

    We will check out dredging the pond to get rid of the accumulation on the bottom. I know that stuff helps provide food for algae.

    I had heard of barley straw as a fix before. Does that work well for a pond of this size? Most of what I had seen advertised was for ounces that cleared about 1000 gal. Should I just use several of these? Most places seem pretty pricey, but I found one place that sells treatments for 2000 gallon ponds for $12. I could buy 6, I guess.

    We didn't have any problem with the algae in spring. It didn't start accumulating until June. It quickly overtook the entire shallow end of the pond...enough that you couldn't see the water. Looked like you could walk out there :) The deep end never got any except around the edges. I know that in this area, the light can't get to the bottom to promote growth. I tried raking it out for compost, but I couldn't reach it all and there was just too much of it.

    I hadn't intended to have any plants growing in the shallow end of the pond at all, but I can check some out. If water lillies etc. will help, I'll try them.
     
  8. chas

    chas Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    549
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2004
    Location:
    western pa
    In western Pa I have the same problem.
    In my 1/4 a. pond we put double the triploid carp in, and a couple dozen also of Koi. Koi will reproduce if protected from preditors.Ive heard of throwing old or extra flour in like the barley straw.
    Grandkids pull what few cattails that manage to grow.
    I also started deep red water lilys to shade the water.Our yellows and white lilys are too invasive,much worse than the cattails!
    Put water cress at the over flow and you can harvest some of the tangy zinc loaded sandwhich material there is. I put manaise on it.
    By the way if possible divert as much of the farms runoff as you can and enjoy the safest source of fish you will find.
    P.S. my fish tripled in size in one year from all the food.One bass in three years was 23 "
    I have rock bass, blue gill. yellow perch, crappie,and so far large and small mouth bass.
    Good luck
     
  9. flutemandolin

    flutemandolin mark an eight, dude!

    Messages:
    721
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Location:
    MN
    Just to clarify...I don't know how it is in Wisconsin but in Minnesota, if the pond is less than 10 acres in a rural area or 2 acres in an urban area, it is generally not classified as a "public water" and you can do whatever you want with the vegetation. Use Rodeo for the cattails and a product that contains copper sulfate for the algae. And yes, make sure the nutrient issues are taken care of or this will be a constant battle.

    I am a former "vegetation control freak" for the State of Minnesota. :p
     
  10. BJ

    BJ Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    532
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2004
    Location:
    Mid-Missouri
    I'm in Missouri and I'm going to refer you to a great website....http://www.conservation.state.mo.us/ once you there click on the "Privant Land Assistance" tab at the top of the page. There you will find some great pond maintenance information. Your local conservation office also can help you with your pond problems.

    We had an old pond cleaned out by a GREAT old dozer operator. He told us the cattails grow in shallow water and the edges of the pond need to be deep to help prevent their growth. Our new pond is now 2 years old and last summer some grasses started showing up. We stocked the pond from a local hatchery with a healthy balance of fish. We also added 3 Grass Carp who eat 3 times their weight in grasses and also eat newly sprouting cattails!

    I've read somewhere that when the pond is frozen over you should cut off the cattails down to the ice. Once the spring rains begin the water level will rise and drown the cattails. I don't know if that is true...but could be worth a try. Most important thing is to keep them from going to seed. If you can limit their growth...they do draw Red Wing Blackbirds as they like to nest in them. They do have a beautiful song in the evening :)
     
  11. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,510
    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2004
    So if I were in Minnesota and had a 500 acre property and in the center I had a 100 acre lake the state would consider it "public water"? What does such a classification entail? I couldn't do what I wanted to with it? The state would have a say so in my management practices? I'm really curious.
     
  12. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    15,063
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    Thant's right, Quint. It doesn't make any difference who owns the land around the lake...it is a public water. Now mind you, in your scenario, the "public" would be tresspassing to get to the lake unless they used a helicopter or float plane.

    And as far as the cattails and algae go, if you kill them with a hebicide they'll likely come back after a while. My recommendation is to get rid of the food source (nutrients) if you want long-term control.
     
  13. Old John

    Old John Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    2,892
    Joined:
    May 27, 2004
    Location:
    Indiana
  14. NWSneaky

    NWSneaky Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    266
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2005
    Works like a dream. Put any small or large bale of hay in the water every 50 to 100 feet; the older the hay the better --- cheap and simple.

    Easiest way to get rid of cat tails is to graze cattle in hot weather. They kill them out.
     
  15. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    7,576
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Canada
    I would try the straw bale trick. Also, for your pond being that small, rather than 'fix' it with chemicals, you might just as well pull up and/or rake the excess growth in the water and compost it. I might also put a few suckers in there to work on the algae.
     
  16. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN

    Neighbors got letter when they cut road ditches for hay and there were 2-3 clumps of cattails in the newly rebuilt road ditches on top of the hills - minor dip in the road ditch construction. Not exactly natural ponds, and not more than 30' square.

    Seems silly to me. But how it is.

    --->Paul
     
  17. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    The state has a say in how I tile my farm, how I cultivate/ farm the steeper slopes, and they have domain over any wetlands. A wetland is defined as anything that can hold a couple inches of water for 2 weeks; or has subsurface water to near the surface for a long time; and if aquatic plants are growing within 3-5 miles of the location.

    I am always amazed at what you folks all get by with on your 5-10 acres throught the country. i can't change waterflows, I can't plow up my pasture, I can't destroy certain vegitation, I can't drain ground without permits from 2 govt bodies, I need to farm 'their' way on Highly Erodable Lands.

    Farming is extremely regulated here in Minnesota, & I'm in a very rural area.

    Not sure how you all get by with the stuff you do. Perhaps I sound a bit bitter, but it's hard to live with a double standard like this, and then sometimes ag gets blamed for all the problems in the world too yet.... ;)

    --->Paul
     
  18. sylvar

    sylvar Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    388
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2004
    You can only do that in a big pond though. Thats the easiest way to kill all the fish in a small pond.
     
  19. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,808
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2003
    Location:
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    koi and goldfish will eat the green.
    you have a bloom because of high nitrogen and phosphate runoff. drop an airiator in the center to get the oxygen level up so the bactria will grow... without oxygen the good bactreia that cleans the phosphate and nitro out of the water, will die.

    why aint you harvesting the cat tials????

    cat tail roots make FLOUR... very good flour too.
    crush the root stalks in clean water and the starch will settle to the bottom and you drain/dry.
    chopped cat tail root and shoots make great veggies.
    cat tail leaves make good weaving material.
    cat tail head make good stuffing material...
    GREEEN cat tail head while still firm and green can be boiled and eaten with butter like corn on the cob...

    I used to gather ctails a lot, but theyve civilized this area into a place where nothing civilized will grow.
    all the wet spots have been sprayed with agent orange type crap or just bulldozed for housing plans.

    youve got a food crop going there! harvest it!!
     
  20. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    15,063
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    So Comfortably, where do the good bacteria put the nitrogen and phosphorus after they clean it out of the water?