Spring is the season for planting gardens and nurturing lawns. What’s a key step to stimulating healthy growth? You’re right, fertilization! It’s no different with ponds. Present water temperatures are in the upper 60 to lower 70-degree range, depending on the latest cold front and associated rainfall. The next 30-days offers optimal conditions to fertilize before temps hit 80 and above.
Fertilization has two primary benefits. First, it grows plankton; microscopic organisms that provide critical nutrition for newly spawned fish. If you’re missing healthy plankton levels, fry survival declines. When present, survival rates increase significantly to benefit all groups from the food chain to sport fish. Studies suggest proper fertilization can double and triple pond productivity.
The second positive use can be managing vegetation. However, it’s all in timing the application. Properly applied, above-mentioned plankton will grow in upper zones of the water column and block sunlight from reaching plants to stimulate growth. Improperly applied, fertilization can accelerate plant growth. Before fertilizing, consult Chad about current conditions. If not applied correctly, fertilizer can prompt side effects as negative as anything you’ve read on a medical prescription.
Fertilizers used in landscaping don’t contain sufficient phosphorus to grow plankton. We like a 12-61-0 formula applied at six to eight pounds per acre. Thoroughly dilute before broadcasting across the surface. Monitor water clarity with a secchi disk shown in the adjacent photo. As plankton develops, the disk should disappear from sight at a desired 18-24 inches. If the disk remains visible near 30-inches after the first application, call to discuss procedures for applying a second round at three to four pounds per acre. If the disk disappears from sight at 15-inches or less, plankton density may create harmful water quality issues. Call Chad immediately for instructions to treat with algaecides and/or aeration.
Fertilization pays great dividends. But, as you do before making any investment, complete due diligence. Be sure your pond is a candidate for adding nutrients. Some, especially small ones with high populations of fed fish, may not be eligible.