Why You Need Beneficial Bacteria In Your Pond

Before we can talk about beneficial bacteria in your pond, it is important to understand the basics of why you use them.

Bottom line – the water will be healthier faster if you add them. If you do not add them yourself, the beneficial bacteria will appear but it will take them anywhere from a month to eight weeks to become effective

If You Have Fish in Your Pond

And we really only worry about adding pond bacteria if we have fish in the water. If no fish, then in a practical sense, it is not vital to add beneficial bacteria. (useful but not vital to the plant health)

Nitrogen Cycle – The Simple Explanation (but useful to know)

We add beneficial bacteria to deal with the”Basic Nitrification Cycle”.
Now before you go and turn off your mind with this term, it really only means that fish excrete waste and this waste is ammonia and the water has to handle this poisonous material if it is to remain healthy.

Bacteria have been doing this in nature and we need to establish these beneficial bacteria in our pond. That’s the basics.

You can add it yourself or you can let Mother Nature take her time to do it. Adding it is faster but Mother Nature will do it for you

If you’re still with me, then let me take you a little deeper into this fascinating world. In a mature pond, the pond bacteria in the work on the water going across its media and turn the ammonia into a form of nitrogen (ammonia is another form of nitrogen) called nitrites. Then a second bacteria gets into the act and converts the nitrites into nitrates.

While the ammonia and nitrites are poisonous to fish and plants, nitrates are not.

All this happens in the biofilter and you can see why it is important to have this filter properly sized for the pond and the number of fish you intend to keep.

Why It is Important To Size Your Biofilter Properly

If the fish produce more waste (ammonia) than the biofilter can process, your pond will go out of balance and you’ll have water problems (dead fish included).

And just to make life even more interesting, the kind of fish you keep can determine the load on the filter.

For example, koi are huge feeders and eat approximately three times more than goldfish. This means that they excrete three times more than goldfish too. (roughly). If one koi excretes three times the ammonia as a goldfish, you can keep one koi or three goldfish of the same size for the size of the filter. In other words, you can keep three times more goldfish in the same pond than you could koi.

The Problem with Overfeeding Fish

If you overfeed your fish, you’ll also have higher levels of ammonia to deal with.
Remember that in a natural lake, the fish population is not as concentrated as in your pond, the population densities are much lower. And this gives the natural filters time to do their work; the beneficial bacteria congregate on all the minute cracks in rocks, between sand grains, etc to work on converting pond ammonia.

Beneficial bacteria also require oxygen to survive. This is why it is important to have a good water flow so that the oxygen can be absorbed by the water. This absorption takes place at the water surface and if the water is kept moving, more oxygen molecules can be put into contact with water molecules.

Role of the Biofilter in All This

The biofilter then is a critical component of our pond as it works to keep the bacteria alive and also as an effective interface between oxygen and the water surface. You’ll find an entire industry advocating that you use its filter material to produce this interface. As a rule of thumb, the more surface you can create for bacteria to live in your biofilter, the better.

And yes, you do have to run your filter 24/7 if you want your pond to stay healthy and alive. The minute you take the oxygen away from these nitrifying bacteria, is the minute the bacteria start to die and your pond starts to go bad. Small ponds (hard plastic preformed liners) can use filters that are installed in the pond. Bigger ponds will require a separate biofilter.

Remember that is easy to create a system where there isn’t enough oxygen in the water to handle the bio-load. It is impossible to put too much oxygen into the water so do design a beneficial bacteria system that will handle your projected fish and plant counts.

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The Bottom Line

Beneficial bacteria jump-start the workings of the bio-filter and are a way to get your pond clear faster in the spring. Mother Nature will do it but still – doing it yourself is faster to get rid of green water and get that filter working.

Sources for Products Mentioned on This Page

Multiple vendors of beneficial bacteria for ponds and different sizes for small to large ponds
Different sizes and models of biofilters for your small or large pond


How To Control Botrytis In Your Garden

This fungus is the major fungal problem in our gardening world. It is the grey mouldy stuff that appears on spent blossoms and attacks wounded leaves.

Think of it as Mother Nature’s shock troops – when there’s something that’s ready for composting, botrytis is sent in to start the job. When it’s done, other organisms take over.

This gives us the first clue about how it gets started.

The plants are under stress. This is normally being too crowded on the growing tables or garden.

High humidity is beloved of fungus everywhere and it’s no exception here.

Darkish conditions – either from shading or too much cloud cover outdoors is also a huge benefit to botrytis.

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So what you’re looking at here is cleanliness is next to godliness. (at least that’s what my mom used to tell me when she looked into my bedroom while shaking her head) – leaving any kind of infected material around is a sure way to get other plants infected.

  • Space out your seedlings, and garden plants to the correct distances.
  • With seedlings, keep at the right temperatures
  • In both the seedling trays and garden, make sure there’s adequate ventilation to keep those leaves dry.

Do those things right and your need for a spray will be eliminated.

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6 Butterfly Garden Design Rules

These are the easiest and most important things you can do to attract butterflies to your garden

Photo by Justin DoCanto on Unsplash

Do Not Use Pesticides

The first thing to understand is that butterflies are the adult form of caterpillars.

So in order to get the butterflies you have to encourage the first stage of their development — caterpillars. Spraying with chemicals to prevent plant damage will kill caterpillars.

You need to allow the caterpillars to grow and eat freely so they’ll develop enough strength to turn into butterflies.

Butterflies Love Hot Colours

This means you emphasize yellow and red flowers in the butterfly garden.

Plant in Big Clumps

You want to attract butterflies — there’s not much brain power there so you have to give them a really big target. Plan on putting in large clumps of their favorite plants. In this case, bigger really is better. For example, instead of planting a single yellow Marigold or a long line of them, plant in clumps of three to give a larger target.

In other words, put a minimum of three of any one kind of plant in a clump to create a large bloom display.

Full Sun

Butterflies prefer full sun so your garden design efforts should focus on creating that full sun garden for them. The sunnier the better. If you have to choose between morning sun and afternoon sun, go with the morning sun.

But I have a shade garden! Sorry but this isn’t going to be a major butterfly garden.

A second characteristic would be to have the garden protected from high winds. I often watch butterflies tack back and forth in the wind off our island garden and it’s a lot of work for them to make headway. Make it easy if you can.

Add water.

Now this is something most gardeners ignore in their butterfly garden design work.

Adding water is a simple thing because you don’t need a pond. Here’s how you do it.

  • Dig a very shallow, round depression (24-inches across by 6-inches deep) and …
  • Either line it with plastic (garbage bags work well and are inexpensive) or sink a plastic garbage can lid in it (the garbage can lid works really well).
  • Do not puncture it for drainage. The objective is to create an area where it stays very muddy.
  • Put the soil from the excavation back into the depression and water heavily and often. Hint: do not leave standing water, you want the butterflies to land on muddy ground, not on the water.
  • Butterflies will congregate on this very muddy ground regularly to sip up the water.

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Important Note About Landscaping Around The Water.

My advice is to leave the area around this mud hole bare — don’t plant tall flowers to make it pretty. This way, you can watch the butterflies sitting on the ground in one spot and the butterflies can see cats and other predators. Put plants for the butterflies and caterpillars in other parts of your garden.

Add Stones

Put some stones around the muddy area so they’re in the morning sun. These stones will heat up and butterflies (which love the radiant heat0 will often be found snoozing and overnighting on these rocks.

Rocks in the afternoon sun heat up too late in the day to get the butterflies moving and will be far less effective.

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What Kind Of Plants Come Back Every Year?

Annuals are killed off by frost

Biennials grow leaves in year one, flower in year two and die after that.

Perennial flowers come back every year. Until they die – which could be anywhere from 3 to 50 years. So just because a plant is labelled “perennial” doesn’t mean it will live forever.

And that my friends is the quick answer to what kinds of plants come back every year.

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The One Thing You Need To Do Before Planting Flowers or Vegetables

If you’ve started your own perennial flowers, (or any other plant) the first thing you really need to do before planting flowers or vegetables is acclimatize them.

This means slowly but surely introducing them to outside conditions.

The short version of this is to get them ready to go outside by putting them outside for:

  • One hour on Day 1.
  • Then two hours on Day 2.
  • Then three hours on Day 3.
  • Then four hours on Day 4
  • Day 5 leave them outside (unless there’s a frost forecast) all day
  • Day 6 – leave them outside all night too.
  • Day 7 – transplant into garden.

Yes, even perennials need to be acclimatized.

Tender vegetables really require this. (All vegetables are “tender”.)

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What If You Purchased Your Transplants?

I’d do the same thing if they were in a greenhouse. Start right at Day 1

If they were on racks outside, then I’d begin with Day 3 or 4.

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4 Tips on Landscaping with Rocks

Here are a few guidelines you’ll want to consider to make your garden look natural

When it comes to landscaping with rocks here are four design suggestions to make your project work.

Bigger is Better

The first is that bigger is better. Yeah, I know it ‘s a cliche but the rule of thumb in my old landscaping when I built a rock garden was that if I could pick it up easily — it was too small. If I had to use my tractor, it was getting to the right size.

What you ‘ll find is that a lot of small rocks here and there simply look “busy”. Take a look at any pro-landscapes and you’ll see they seldom (if ever) use small rocks.

More is Less

This falls into the rule above because when we ‘re landscaping with rocks we use fewer and larger stones than smaller and more.

Again, if you can pick them up easily — they won ‘t make a statement in the garden but rather just add a sense of too-much

Yes, it’s man-made. Image by author

Naturalized Landscaping With Rocks

One of the reasons folks use rocks in the landscape is to make the garden look “more natural”. Take a look at any natural area and the first thing you‘ll see is the small rocks are almost always covered over with either soil or vegetation.

They seldom just “sit there” on the surface. And they seldom just sit there in an area that‘s not an alpine garden.

What you see are the larger rocks — the ones you can ‘t carry.


There are “rocks” and there are “rocks”. If you ‘re going to have rocks in your garden — do you want them to look natural or do you want them to look interesting and sculptural?

This is a serious question because a lot of rocks scattered here and there looks busy and un-natural. (Hint: if you really have to use a lot of smaller stones, then put them very close together (as in touching) so they look more natural but don’t scatter them randomly through the garden.

A single rock — an interesting shaped or colored rock — can be a sculptural element and stands by itself.

This speaks to the notion of garden design — is the design to be sculptural or is to be natural looking.

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Bottom line On Landscaping With Rocks:

Assuming we’re not landscaping with rocks to create an alpine garden — the rules of thumb are to use single stones that are “interesting” or multiple large stones that add a landscaping value and look natural.

I note that a single large rock dumped into the middle of a front yard doesn’t look natural nor sculptural. It simply looks lonely surrounded by it‘s obligatory bed of annuals and a few evergreens.

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