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The do’s and don’ts of spring water feature maintenance

April 4, 2022 -  By
After removing water from a fountain feature, be sure to clean the pump before adding clean water. (Photo: Hidden Creek Landscaping)

After removing water from a fountain feature, be sure to clean the pump before adding clean water. (Photo: Hidden Creek Landscaping)

Water features are popular additions to design/build projects. Demi Fortuna, director of product information and education for Atlantic Water Gardens, and Ron Malloy irrigation lead for Hidden Creek Landscaping in Hilliard, Ohio, share what types of maintenance water features like fountains and ponds need.

Malloy says Hidden Creek Landscaping — which provides 40 percent landscape maintenance and snow removal and 60 percent design/build services to a 55 percent commercial and 45 percent residential clientele — aims to get all of its clients’ water features up and running by the end of March. Malloy says this deadline is so the company’s crews can focus on getting its clients’ irrigation systems ready for the season.

Hidden Creek’s water feature maintenance package includes inspecting the water feature for damage or cracks, cleaning or replacing pump filters, and removing debris in the spring.

Fountains and waterfalls

Fortuna says fountain features and pond-free waterfalls are the simplest to maintain in the spring. Use a shop or pond vac to drain existing water and clean out debris. Clean the pump and add clean water. The same goes for fountains and water features with underground basins including basalt columns, spillways, spouts, colorfalls, waterwalls and more.

“If there’s debris on top of the gravel bed that typically covers the reservoir, you sweep that off,” he says. “You pull the pump, clean and inspect the pump and treat the water, sweep all debris off the top of the pump and turn it on and verify that it’s functioning.”

For water features with a volume of water that can’t be easily drained and replaced, Fortuna says contractors should apply a water treatment like an enzymatic pond cleaner to remove organic debris from winter.

Malloy says as he and his crews start up water features for the year, the Hidden Creek team communicates with clients about not putting water features on timers. Water constantly moving will keep the buildup down. Hidden Creek monitors the water level of the larger water features throughout the spring to make sure there aren’t any leaks. Malloy says rodents can chew water feature hoses, especially if they’re below ground.

Demi Fortuna says pond vacs can clean up ponds in the spring without disrupting fish or good bacteria. (Photo: Atlantic Water Gardens)

Demi Fortuna says pond vacs can clean up ponds in the spring without disrupting fish or good bacteria. (Photo: Atlantic Water Gardens)

Pond maintenance

Pond maintenance is different than other water features, Fortuna says. Many have koi and are complex ecosystems that depend on colonies of good bacteria. To clean ponds, he recommends using a pond vacuum to clean up debris without disrupting either the fish or the bacteria. Clean and refill filters and use a bacterial starter in the water to get it ready for spring.

While many contractors who service ponds may want to remove the fish and give the pond a really deep clean, Fortuna says spring is the worst time to do so for the health of the fish. It’s a stressful process and the fish are at their weakest because they haven’t eaten all winter. A sparkling clean pond, too, lacks the bacteria to process any waste from the fish as they start feeding and excreting ammonia again. Essentially the fish poison themselves, causing them to die. Fortuna says replacing koi can cost thousands of dollars, too.

Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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