Natural pond revival


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Hi everyone,
I have recently bought a property with a quarter acre natural clay pond. Im located in the norther suburbs of Chicago(zone5). The previous owner was not able to maintain it due to health problems. It is now run over by cattails and deep muck. I have tried a weed razer and large weed raker, to no avail. I have also tried all sort of chemicals to combat it.
Since winter is here, all the cattails are now brown and dead but I knew that they will come back by spring time. Looking for suggestions on how to control it. My plan is to mow it down by early spring. I have a small boat, waders and a brush cutter. If all else fails, I’ll be renting a mini excavator to dig it all out. Also looking at deploying a 1 hp pump to aerate and instal a fountain. Any suggestions would be appreciated on how to revive it.
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cattails are hard to control. my father in law was able to control them but he was never able to get rid of them either. he got in the pond like you and pulled a bunch out a few time a year. welcome to the group! i have a clay pond also, i put a 35 watt air pump with 2 air stones in mine and it cleared the water up good.
 

JBtheExplorer

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Hybrid and invasive cattails as well as phragmites are a big problem. Many wetlands around here have been overrun by them. Cutting will help, but not eliminate them. It's more of a control method, but it's something you'll always have to do. If you can limit the number that grow the following year, it may be easier to then use glyphosate on them, but be sure not to overuse chemicals, and only use chemicals that are specifically labelled for pond plant control.

From Cornell:

"Mowing and Cutting
Timing is everything if you decide to mow or cut your cattails. Cutting them in May stimulates growth, so wait until late summer if you are only going to cut once. If you cut the cattails below the water line two or three times in a season, very few cattails will grow back the following year. Your cutting will have deprived the roots of their important food source and reduced the amount for storage. Winter cutting will have very little effect on the food in the roots of the plant.
You should cut or mow your cattails with shears, a gas-powered weed trimmer, or another safe, sharp cutting tool. Do not use electrical tools near ponds. Cut the cattails as close to, or under, the water line, removing as much of the leaf blade as possible. Rake or pile the leaves away from the pond or add them to your compost pile. Cattail leaves make excellent, durable canes for chairs, mats, and other home crafts. A brush hog attachment on a tractor can be used only if the pond bank is stable and safely sloped. Do not operate heavy tractors on a dike."



Good luck! Maybe you'll be able to restore the pond, and hopefully introduce native species in and around it.
 
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Hybrid and invasive cattails as well as phragmites are a big problem. Many wetlands around here have been overrun by them. Cutting will help, but not eliminate them. It's more of a control method, but it's something you'll always have to do. If you can limit the number that grow the following year, it may be easier to then use glyphosate on them, but be sure not to overuse chemicals, and only use chemicals that are specifically labelled for pond plant control.

From Cornell:

"Mowing and Cutting
Timing is everything if you decide to mow or cut your cattails. Cutting them in May stimulates growth, so wait until late summer if you are only going to cut once. If you cut the cattails below the water line two or three times in a season, very few cattails will grow back the following year. Your cutting will have deprived the roots of their important food source and reduced the amount for storage. Winter cutting will have very little effect on the food in the roots of the plant.
You should cut or mow your cattails with shears, a gas-powered weed trimmer, or another safe, sharp cutting tool. Do not use electrical tools near ponds. Cut the cattails as close to, or under, the water line, removing as much of the leaf blade as possible. Rake or pile the leaves away from the pond or add them to your compost pile. Cattail leaves make excellent, durable canes for chairs, mats, and other home crafts. A brush hog attachment on a tractor can be used only if the pond bank is stable and safely sloped. Do not operate heavy tractors on a dike."



Good luck! Maybe you'll be able to restore the pond, and hopefully introduce native species in and around it.
Thank you jb!
 

addy1

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Welcome to our forum! That is a nice pond hope you get them under control
 
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Those are both a nightmare to irradiate. I Myself would drain the pond below the cat tail area and the phragmites Then like you said with an excavator dig out to below the roots. as large as you can. dig out the shore line next to it and use that to fill in what you just removed again above new water level. repeat leap frogging it wont be cheap it wont be easy but is the best bet to remove them and the local town environmentalist may have objections as you are working a wetland
 

Jhn

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Phragmite is a invasive species of plant as mentioned, your local govt should allow you to excavate it. You just need to find an approved site to take all the fill, as they won’t let you just dump it anywhere. Don’t dig it out and leave it next to the pond or in a damp area on your property, it will just start growing there.
I remove this stuff at work when recreating wetlands along the local river systems, it is an absolute pita to eradicate and control. Digging it out as @GBBUDD suggested is the way I would go, it will get you ahead of it, but it is going to be a multi year battle to completely eradicate it from the pond. You can also muck out the pond with the excavator while digging out the phragmite and cattails. Dont take a year off though or you will be back to square one that stuff is crazy aggressive, much More so than cattails.
You could have a nice looking pond with some work.
 

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I'll give you my opinion and experience.

I belong to an association that owns a 4 acre natural pond. Before we had sewer systems put in, there was no fertilizer runoff. Once that happened, in the 70s, the cattails took hold.
Over the next 40 odd years, there's been various ideas of what to do including ignoring the problem. During this era, the cattails grew to over 20' thick along three sides (the fourth had a lot more trees and was upwind re seeding). It was a nightmare as you couldn't even see the pond, for the most part.

So the association finally had to do something and we began chemical treatments. It takes time and a VERY IMPORTANT part of this is to note you HAVE To spray just before they begin shutting down for the summer, usually here in Mi about the first of September. This chemical is systemic and the cattail sucks it down into the rhizome. It WILL work but you'll not get full kill with the first application. It'll take a few seasons of keeping after it. Right now, we've got it down to 1/4 of one side of the pond (less than 15' thick), purposefully as cattails ARE great at filtering the water. We could get rid of them all but since owning my OWN pond now, I'm not advocating complete eradication. Especially if there is no replacement plant plan. Which I'd whole heartedly back but you know how HOAs can be; money and commitment are issues here.

Btw, the chemical used is safe for anything in the water as it is neutralized once it hits. i can't recall the exact name but you should be able to research it. If I remember correctly, cost is like $65 for a concentrated gallon and you can put it on with a backpack sprayer. We had to use a boat for the inside and walked the pond on the outside. It really isn't hard nor costly, but you do have to be diligent re keeping at it.

Another idea, if your pond is small enough and you're able to work the details would be to cut the cattails down to the ice level in the winter, when you can operate a brush cutter easily. If you can lower the water level, do that first and when you cut after the pond ices over, the stems will be lower than the water and some rotting of the crowns can occur. It won't completely kill them but it helps. You can also then spread some sort of hd tarp/garden weed barrier type sheeting OVER the cut cattail and weight them with concrete blocks. This wil shut them off from the light and surely kill them. You might have to do this in stages (or you can, if the pond is too large to do it all at once). Either way, you have to be diligent and keep after them.

And as noted above, you NEED something in the pond to do what the cattails are doing for you by way of filtration. For our HOA pond, the size makes this problematic ($$) but I'm working on changing minds re the future of said pond.

One last note; before you do any dredging (which of course would definitely do the job but the $ quotes I got just last summer are extreme to say the least) be careful; here in MI, they won't let you just dig up cattails as once established, the state considers the pond a wetland and they are protected. Probably to do with keeping contractors from eliminating wetlands for profit sources, but still; just be aware such exists, maybe in your part of the country.
 
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If you can’t or won’t do the above options, put on waders and good gloves, and go digging up the tubers. Pick a warm time to do so, when things are nice and wet, and go work along the banks with a big basket, digging up tubers and throw them in the basket, then empty the basket into a place where they will dry out, or you can try eating them, as they are edible.
 
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A lot of good information here. Thanks everyone. I already tried the chemical spraying. It only browned the leaves but is still standing. I have a good bushwhacker and will try that first since it looks promising. My last resort would be the excavator. I also found an old picture of our pond from some real state archives.
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brokensword

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A lot of good information here. Thanks everyone. I already tried the chemical spraying. It only browned the leaves but is still standing. I have a good bushwhacker and will try that first since it looks promising. My last resort would be the excavator. I also found an old picture of our pond from some real state archives. View attachment 135601
if you're only getting browning, you're either putting on the wrong systemic or spraying at the wrong time. You HAVE to do this at the proper time. You have to do this and let it sit untouched for at least 24 hours for plant intake to happen. The rhizome will die over winter. You'll still get some growth, as I noted above because cattails are tough. You have to be religious in your attack. Might take 5 years but from the pics and comparing to our HOA pond, you've got it easy.

It's not the stems you're interested in, it's the rhizome. The cattail/phragmite always browns yearly at season's end anyhow. Even after spraying the stems will still be standing--you need to cut them down and burn/dispose. Bushwacking will only take down the dead/season ending dead stems, not the rhizome.

Here's the chemical link; runs a bit more than I remembered. Use a good surfactant to make sure it sticks. Spray until you see a good sheen on the stems. We started mixing at the low end of suggested dose and doubled it with a lot better results.


You can choose whichever way you want but we've had proven success and it only takes diligence re timing and re-application in subsequent years.
 
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Thanks brokensword. I will try it hand in hand with the bushwhacker. I might not be patient enough to wait for years though.
I also like the idea of drowning the cattails by covering it with a liner/tarp and putting some weights on top of it. My other problem now is not to disturb the wildlife around so I might do it in phases.
 
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I would NOT cut it down. With most plants when you cut them down it forces a fight to life it would then make the plant want to send out more ROOTS the LAST thing you want
 

Jhn

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Thanks brokensword. I will try it hand in hand with the bushwhacker. I might not be patient enough to wait for years though.
I also like the idea of drowning the cattails by covering it with a liner/tarp and putting some weights on top of it. My other problem now is not to disturb the wildlife around so I might do it in phases.
Cant speak for cattails, but putting a weighted tarp over the phragmite will do nothing to it other than kill what is already growing but not the rhizomes, the rhizomes will put runners out to get out from under the tarp Or punch a hole through the tarp. Phragmite grows incredibly quick, and are very tough ( I’ve seen a runner go over a road and start to root on the other side while getting run over by vehicles). Here in Maryland the state will let you burn it, spray it, or dig it out, either Avenue requires permits at least for a contractor to do the work. The only place I deal with them is in tidal wetland areas, and as far as the state govt is concerned as long as you are replacing them with native species of plants they should be all for removing them, be it in wetlands area or not.

You could also speak to a landscaper in the area, find one that is licensed to remove invasive plant species, they will know when and what to spray the phragmite with. Once you get a head of it it just will require you to stay on top of it for awhile to wipe it out completely or it will get out of control again in short order.
 
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I have placed 2000 lb wooden mats that we drive on with up to 180000 pound loads and placed them directly on phragmites and have left them for 2 years and within one growing season the shoots covered the whole area again. they may not reach 12 foot tall but its usually full none the less
 

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Boy you have a pretty place and love your collie .I can see you have lots of work ahead .Have you considered one of those windmills that aerate the water .I have seen them at several farm ponds around here ,not cheap but seem to work great keeping water clean .The one has his hooked to a pump that has a fountainhead and lights and that looks so pretty
 
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Thanks for all the advice guys. Got tired of ice skating today so I put on my waders and jump on the pond. Cleared half of it in 2 hrs with my electric brush cutter and will finish half of it by next weekend. I know the cattails will come back again but if I keep up on top of it, I think I should be able to control it. If not, we’ll rent an excavator to root it out.
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