Pond Netting for Garden Ponds
Pond netting is often used to help keep leaves and other debris from falling into the water garden. Such debris is not only unsightly, but as it decomposes, it releases various compounds that stimulate algae growth or threaten fish health. Large accumulations of dead leaves are often associated with ponds that experience significant "winter kill."
Purchasing Pond Netting. As our customers have often pointed out to us, all pond netting is not the same. In particular, the mesh size varies widely from manufacturer to manufacturer, and sometimes even within the same product line. Fairly coarse netting catches larger leaves fresh off the tree, but shrinking, dried leaves sift right through, along with any smaller leaves and debris. In addition, some coarser nets act as "gill nets", trapping and killing unfortunate fish that get entangled when the netting droops into the water. Good pond netting will have a mesh of no larger than 1/2" - 3/8" is even better. Finer mesh can catch not only leaves, but even some larger seeds like acorns and those Maple tree "helicopters". Coarser pond nets are more appropriate for helping keep fish from jumping out, but even then the netting needs to be suspended well above the water.
Installing pond netting. The simplest technique is to just lay the netting across the surface of a smaller pond, and stake the perimeter every few feet with tent stakes, clothespins, wire or whatever else your imagination comes up with. If the netting sags into the water, lay pieces of inexpensive PVC pipe across the longer reaches for support. Better yet, build a frame or frames from PVC pipe, attach pond netting with inexpensive cable ties, and lay the frames across the pond to achieve a neater look AND make maintenance easier. The netting should ideally be supported above the water level so that little, if any, of it is in contact with the water. This reduces the risk of fish entanglement, keeps the pond surface free of debris that cuts off surface area, and slows down the leaf decay process.
Maintenance. Periodically, leaves should be removed from the netting. Otherwise, they'll begin to crumble and fall into the pond anyway, making the effort a bit pointless. In addition, an accumulation of wet leaves will weigh enough to start tearing the netting or at least stretching it to the point of touching the water. Leaf removal is very easy if you made smaller PVC frames: just flip them over onto the lawn and rake them away. If using the staked method, remove the stakes along one side of the netting, fold it in half, and either flip the leaves out or un-stake the rest and drag it a few feet away and dump. Larger sections of netting, whether framed or not, are best handled by two or more people so as to minimize accidental spillage into the pond.
As a fish deflector. In addition to keeping leaves and other debris out, pond netting can also be used to help keep fish in. New arrivals in particular are often prone to strolling around the patio instead of finding a comfortable place in the pond. We generally keep new arrivals covered for at least the first week. As mentioned earlier, a fairly coarse mesh can be used for this purpose. However, it can't be coarse enough to let the fish through, or worse yet, halfway through.
As a pest deflector. Pond netting also discourages some pond pests and predators - especially herons and other birds. For this purpose, a smaller mesh and darker color will be more easily seen, so the pests will be less likely to get themselves wrapped up in it.
Related article: Autumn Care Guide for Garden Ponds
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