NANFA-- Convention/Pond Update

Jeff Fullerton (
Wed, 4 Aug 1999 01:30:15 -0400

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Hello All
Finally got my last shift out of the way and now in final preparation for the long drive to the NANFA convention at Champaigne / Urbana which will begin at first light the day after tommorrow. (Actually tommorrow now)
Looking forward to seeing everyone there! Will have slides taken of my pond for presentation after hours in the NANFA room. Mike Quispe & I will be staying at the Ramada which is about a mile from where the convention will be - or so Mike said when I talked to him last.
Yesterday I made a windfall in the purchase of a huge bale of barley straw from Agway for only $3 as opposed to those dinky foot long bricks from a local garden center which cost about $11. That's what I wanted to do in the first place but have been frustrated by the sporadic availibility of barley straw locally.
Since the original application in May I have experienced a dramatic reduction of algae that was choking my plants - especially troublesome to the milfoils which cannot shed the algae readily as Cabomba and Vallisneria. Up to now, the only species that could hang on was the Variable Milfoil - Myriophyllum heterophyllum - now I have some M. verticiliatum (red stemmed milfoil) doing well and hope to maybe try a few other species.
According to most sources barley straw should be applied twice a year , starting in March and then replacing the bales in mid to late summer. I am getting good results with 4 bales for my 16'x 20' pond (ca 2,000 gal- rough estimate) which may be a little on the side of overkill since my source reccomends one bale per 1,000 gal. To replace the old bales I removed the spent straw from the plastic mesh bag that the little bale comes in and stuffed it with finely chopped fresh straw from the bigger bale. I am trying a phased replacement over the next month to allow for the time it takes (about a month or more for new straw to become active). The bales are naturally bouyant and need to be held down by a peice of fishing line anchored by a stone or other weight that suspends the bales a few inches of the water surface (need to be near the surface for max effectiveness). To start out from scratch - I recommend using a plastic mesh onion bag to stuff the straw in.
Because the barley straw was slow to kick in (for a while I even had algae growing on the bales!) I was starting to get skeptical. But now I'm convinced that it works well. Like Pine Straw used previously , I think barley stablizes pH too - since our last pH reading taken Monday was at 6.4 at 17:00 hours - which suggests that it does provide a buffer. When the pond is not buffered pH levels will fluctuate as high as 7.4 in the evening from the photosynthetic activities of plant life. I will have to take a series of readings to make sure.
In addition to the delightful results with straw- we had a series of refreshing rains that broke a heatwave and somewhat mitagated the ongoing drought conditions which had the water levels in the pond down significantly. Unfortunatly not in time to save local farmers - the region is to be declared a federal disaster area.
Despite the heat wave native fishes that I keep in the pond have for the most part thrived and reproduced. I had at least 3 nestings by dollar sunfish and hopefully the bantams as well. The starhead topminnows - Fundulus escambiae have also reproduced prolifically again - have fry going in a stock tub plus the pond and one of the satellite ponds into which eggs have hitched a ride on plant cuttings. I now hold trimmings a while before composting them for this reason!
Unfortunately the Northern Redbelly Dace and Weed Shiners did not reproduce well. The adults thrive but the spawns are not successful because apparently the fry do not compete well in the community. The presence of Fundulus and Gambusia may have something to do with it. I did try spawning them in separate tubs but probably need to devote more attention to retreval and rearing of the eggs.
Better luck next year.
Jeff from PA