Color me blue

Any competent gardener knows that one secret to success is recycling.  Save plant tops and organic waste as compost and add it back to the soil.

Of course, nature recycles too, when autumn’s leaves drop to the ground and decompose, they provide nutrients to the trees for the next spring.   Recycling occurs in lakes as well, when dead algae, aquatic weeds, fishes and other detritus fall to the bottom of a lake, decompose, and release nutrients to the water. The phosphorus content of lake sediments is released most efficiently when the organic materials decompose in anoxic (without oxygen) conditions.  Later phosphorus mixes into the surface waters by spring winds.

Thus, I was dumbfounded to receive an advertisement from a small company in upstate New York, that advises how to remove “pond muck” from your pond, because “muck provides nutrients to feed all the pond weeds and algae that contribute to the destruction of your beautiful pond.”

Setting aside golf course managers and the owners of big weekend estates who want to impress their urban cronies, It would seem to me that for most pond owners the whole point of maintaining a pond is to savor the wildlife that thrives in it…..a chorus of peepers in the spring, the twang of a green frog as a summer evening settles into dusk, the silent arrival of a flock of Hooded Mergansers migrating southward in the autumn.  And, what attracts these creatures?   Yes, it is the aquatic weeds and algae that get nutrients from the pond’s sediments and provide food for zooplankton, caddice flies, minnows, and larger fish that will thrive in a farm pond.  Keep the bacteria in the muck happy and they will even cleanse the water flowing through a pond of excessive nitrogen from fertilizer runoff.

The same company that sells services and products to remove pond muck, also markets blue (and other) dyes to “make your pond beautiful all season long.”  A quick search of the web shows dozens of companies making lake dyes in a variety of colors.  Yet, a team of researchers working in experimental lakes in Wisconsin has shown how pond dyes, because they darken the water, shade out aquatic plants and cause a shift in the entire food web of a pond ecosystem to a state of lower productivity.

With these products and services available in the marketplace, why not take such management to the next level?  Place a thick layer of tinted plate glass on a low spot on your property, surround it with a few plastic plants, and a couple of pink flamingos and your maintenance problems are over.  Your friends will admire your pond, no mosquitoes will plague your family picnic, and the trout at the local supermarket are probably cheaper than buying fishing tackle.

Then, enjoy your summer, and let nature be damned.



Batt, R.D., S.R. Carpenter, J.J. Cole, M.L. Pace, R.A. Johnson, J.T. Kurtzweil and G.M. Wilkinson.  2015.  Altered energy flow in the food web of an experimentally darkened lake.  Ecosphere 6: doi: 10.1890/ES14-00241.1