It is finally starting to feel like spring, mostly due to the influx of pond questions that I am receiving.

As the temperatures warm for the season, pond problems begin to arise. The most common pond questions I receive are related to managing aquatic plants and fish.

Aquatic plants, such as algae, are naturally occurring in ponds. In small amounts, they can be beneficial to your pond ecosystem, helping to oxygenate the water as well as providing cover and food for any aquatic wildlife living in your pond. Problems arise when an excess of nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and bacteria enter the pond, causing explosive plant growth.

Excessive plant growth not only makes for an unsightly pond, but it also can harm aquatic wildlife. Common sources of these excess nutrients and bacteria include:

>> Bacteria from pet waste.

>> Bacteria from water fowl excrement.

>> Excess fertilizer.

To tackle these problems, a vegetative buffer is a great solution. Shoreline vegetative buffers surrounding a pond can provide a great natural enhancement to the aquatic environment. Buffer zones help to improve water quality and prevent algal or other aquatic plant blooms by filtering out excess bacteria and nutrients before they get into the water.

Vegetative buffers also help to stabilize shorelines, preventing erosion and sedimentation into your pond. A common misconception is that buffer zones can provide breeding habitats for mosquitos, when in fact, it is the contrary. A properly maintained buffer zone can provide habitat for birds, which help to deter and control mosquitos.

If nuisance Canada geese are taking residence at your pond, a dense, three-foot tall vegetative buffer zone will help to deter those geese from landing in and around your pond, as they prefer to land and graze in open areas, safe from predators.

Pond maintenance can quickly become expensive and time consuming. To help reduce maintenance and cost, it is important to properly maintain your shoreline buffer.

By choosing native grasses, sedges and rushes, you can create a buffer zone that adds to the aesthetics of your pond. Plants such as cattails and trees can potentially cause problems if left uncontrolled. Luckily, there are many attractive native plants that are easy to grow and suitable for most buffer zones.

For more information on vegetative buffers, be sure to read the fact sheet “Shorescaping Freshwater Shorelines” on our Home & Garden Information Center website: hgic.clemson.edu.

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