Iron Stains from Pond Water Irrigation

This pond functions to manage stormwater and irrigate landscape

Proper pump intake placement and aeration can help prevent stains from irrigation water.

I’ve been asked for information about removing iron from your pond water being used for irrigation. We have dealt with this problem many times during our 31 years in business. Rust from oxidized iron in irrigation water can stain driveways, sidewalks, fences and even ornamental plants. Lakes and ponds can be very good irrigation water sources. But, just like all other water supply sources, problems can occur that need solutions.

It is important to know that high iron is not the only potential cause for yellow, brown, orange or red stains from irrigation water. Planktonic algae and tannin pigments from decaying leaves and pine straw are other potential sources for the discoloration. I will assume that your problem is indeed high iron content.

Iron can occur in several different forms in your pond. The depth, chemistry and dissolved oxygen content of the water determine the form of your iron. There are also certain bacteria in water that may affect the form and availability of iron in your water. Acidic water (pH less than 7) favors the dissolved (ferrous) form. The precipitate (ferric) form is rust because the iron is oxidized by being exposed to oxygen. Rust will usually settle to the pond bottom but may change back to the soluble form if the bottom water is oxygen deficient. Agricultural lime can be added, usually 2 – 3 tons per acre of pond surface, if acidic water is an issue.

Irrigation problems with water high in iron are common and several solutions are relatively simple and inexpensive. In my experience simply aerating and circulating the water along with properly positioning the irrigation pump intake solves the vast majority of the problems. If that is not sufficient, the solution to your problem will require determining the form of iron causing your problems. Analysis of a properly collected water sample can help determine the most cost effective solution, usually some sort of filtration.

One of the easiest solutions is having the irrigation pump intake at the proper depth in the water. The pump intake should be between 18 and 30 inches from the pond water surface. Intakes too close to the pond bottom can suck up iron rich sediment that has settled to the bottom. Intakes too close to the surface can suck up iron fixing bacteria and more of the oxidized form of iron that has not settled to the bottom. The depth of the pump intake can be set by suspending the intake below a float or building a rack or stand for the intake. We usually suspend the intake below a float. Then, it is easy to lift the float and clean the intake if it becomes clogged.

Most of the iron in problem ponds I have seen can be precipitated and caused to sink to the bottom of the pond if the pond is aerated and circulated. Diffused air systems are usually very efficient and cost-effective for aerating and circulating ponds. Diffused air systems use a small compressor, located on the pond shoreline, to push air through weighted tubing to diffusers installed on the pond bottom. The diffusers produce millions of small bubbles with the compressed air. The bubbles each enlarge as they rise towards the pond water surface (due to declining pressure) and the column of bubbles spreads out significantly as it rises through the water column. The resulting column of bubbles transfer some oxygen to the surrounding water and, more importantly, pulls a very large volume of water from the pond bottom to the surface. At the surface the water is exposed to air as it spreads out in all directions from the “boil” of bubbles.

The iron in the water is oxidized by the oxygen in the bubbles and atmospheric air at the surface. The water is circulated throughout the water column. Diffusers in deeper water are more efficient because they circulate greater volumes of water. Much of the oxidized iron will form a precipitate (particles of rust) and settle to the bottom of the pond. If the pump intake is suspended off the bottom of the pond the “rust” will not be pumped into the irrigation system. The size of the compressor needed will be determined by the number of diffusers needed. The number of diffusers will be determined by the depth and the shape of the pond. We are experts at designing these systems and most customers are surprised at the low cost for purchasing and operating the systems.

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit:

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Pond Weed Control by Mechanical Harvesting: Advantages and Disadvantages

Mechanical weed control

Mechanical weed removal can require a lot of labor

Although it is often exhausting, messy and frustrating, mechanical harvesting of aquatic weeds and algae has its place in lake, pond and stormwater device management. Mechanical harvesting can range from dipping filamentous algae with a net to large barges equipped with cutters, conveyors and storage hoppers. Various weed rakes and an assortment of handheld or small boat mounted cutters are also available. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages I’ve noticed over the past 30 years.


  • Removes nutrients from system – Plant biomass that otherwise would decompose and release nutrients fueling more weed growth is removed from the ecosystem.
  • Inexpensive equipment – Most nets, rakes and small cutters are inexpensive and require little expertise. They also do not require a license or permit.
  • Selectivity – Invasive, aggressive or nuisance plants can be removed while desirable plants are undisturbed.
  • Safety – Very little personal protective equipment is necessary. No chemical toxicity issues are encountered. There are no storage or spill problems. There is no danger of damaging desirable plants or lawn areas with spray drift.
  • Simplicity – You do not need to calculate pond water volume, determine the proper spray mix surfactants, know which plants are susceptible or know the suitable environmental restrictions.
  • Immediate gratification – Once the nuisance vegetation is removed, the pond is more attractive immediately.
  • Produces mulch or compost – Harvested vegetation can be a good source of mulch for gardens or plant beds and can easily be composted for slow release nutrient availability in gardens.
  • Exercise – Cutting and dipping the vegetation, piling it on the shore and picking it up for disposal can be strenuous exercise working the entire body.


  • Hard work – Aquatic plants are heavy and removal often involves a lot of leaning over, lifting, pulling, wading and reaching. The weather is often hot and humid. The removed vegetation requires hauling to a disposal site. The process is very labor intensive.
  • Frustrating – Filamentous algae may return within a week or two and aquatic plants mechanically harvested often return or regrow very quickly. Plant fragments may actually float to new areas and regenerate.
  • Disposal required – Harvested plants must usually be piled on shore to drain and then be hauled off to a disposal site. Piles of vegetation left on shore will stink, kill grass underneath and look bad.
  • Shoreline access may be limited – Most small scale mechanical harvesting is done from the shoreline or wading in shallow water. Underwater obstructions such as logs, dense vegetation, fish habitat or even fish nests you don’t want to disturb may exist. Shoreline brush, briars and trees may limit access. Removal of plants and hauling to a disposal area is very difficult from a small boat.
  • Labor cost is very high – Depending upon whether you consider it work or recreation, the cost of labor may be excessive. Hired labor for significant vegetation removal jobs can be many times greater than control with aquatic herbicides.

Effective (especially cost effective) aquatic vegetation management must consider biological, chemical, cultural and mechanical control methods. Most lake, pond and stormwater device owners don’t know enough about the chemical, biological and cultural management techniques. Mechanical control with dip nets, rakes and cutters may be the only technique available to them. We use mechanical removal as one tool in our vegetation management arsenal. Contact us if you want to know when it is appropriate and learn about your other options.


Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit:   


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Property Managers Shouldn’t Limit Tools Available to Lake and Pond Managers

Lake full of nuisance vegetation

Don't limit tools available to experienced professionals wanting to add value to property.

Property managers are extremely important to Foster Lake & Pond Management. Most of our business comes from them. Personally, I couldn’t do the work. They only hear complaints and often the people complaining have self-serving objectives that conflict with whatever is good for the group. Furthermore, property managers must be at least somewhat knowledgeable about an enormous number of diverse subjects.

Recently we had an instance where a property manager asked us to quote some work based on a request from a homeowners’ association. They wanted us to control nuisance vegetation in a stormwater pond system. The problem was they wanted the quote limited to applying one aquatic herbicide in two applications one month apart. I was able to explain that limiting our options and not considering our expertise developed over 30 years of experience was not in their best interests. Here is a portion of my explanation. I hope it resonates with other property managers.

I would like to reply to your request in detail because you have paid for and deserve our professional opinion and expertise. Please let me explain why I would not recommend that strategy. Limiting the tool choice for managing aquatic vegetation to just one chemical is not wise, both from an environmental or cost perspective. Furthermore, two treatments with that chemical will provide very inconsistent vegetation management. Your property owners would not be satisfied.

The desired chemical is a contact herbicide that simply burns back any vegetation it contacts. It may not kill the roots or entire plant. The plants will return. The plants may easily spread, too. You will have no choice but continual treatments. That chemical kills any plant surface it touches, being very non-selective. That means beneficial vegetation is damaged just like nuisance vegetation. That chemical is relatively expensive and would certainly not be cost-effective for controlling filamentous algae (for example). Other chemicals and other formulations can be much more effective long-term. Our strategy is to study and know what products and techniques will be most cost-effective over the long term. An example would be granular products that sink and contacts susceptible plants deep in the water column. Much less chemical can be used. Many are also much less expensive to purchase and apply than the chemical you requested.

We know from over 30 years of experience managing lakes in North Carolina that the most effective approach is to utilize all of the available tools: chemical, biological and mechanical vegetation management. Sterile grass carp are often the most effective tool for long-term cost effectiveness. Chemical treatments alone are affected by water depth, temperature, clarity, hardness, nutrient levels, amount of rainfall, amount of sunlight and a multitude of other factors. Nuisance plant species grow at different rates, too. Limiting management to two applications means some species won’t be affected at all and some species will reach nuisance levels before being treated.

Aquatic vegetation management is complex and over simplification does cause harm (both in terms of ineffectiveness and wasted money). We believe the lack of an integrated management strategy in the past has increased your vegetation problems. If the beneficial plants were allowed to survive and the nuisance plants were controlled more consistently, we are convinced the lakes would be healthier and the residents would be more satisfied.

Your lakes are valuable amenities for your property owners. Your “one chemical only management” strategy ignores all of the other lake management factors that will maintain the value. Fisheries, aesthetics, water quality maintenance, wildlife habitat, erosion and sedimentation will be ignored. Knowing how those conditions are developing will allow corrections to be made before they become expensive problems. Property values benefit with consistent maintenance and knowledgeable management.

We understand your obligation and appreciate your commitment to keep costs as low as possible for your property owners. We also know from our vast experience that lakes (just like landscaping except more so) must receive comprehensive monitoring, regular maintenance and timely repairs or their value diminishes. We know that simply applying that chemical twice per year would not satisfy your property owners, particularly over time. That would cause our reputation to be damaged. We cannot survive unless we are competitive in cost and we know we provide the best service for the cost in North Carolina. Anyone in our company will be happy to discuss this in whatever detail you want whenever you want. We are making these comments because we care about the health of your lakes, the satisfaction of your property owners and our relationship with you and your company. Please let us know if there is anything we can do better!

Fortunately, the property manager involved agreed with the explanation and was able to convince the homeowners’ group to reconsider. I’m convinced the lakes will benefit long-term for little or no additional cost. Please be careful when limiting the options of experienced professionals who sincerely want to provide value and satisfy customers.

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Don’t Let Your Fountains Get Damaged During Freezing Weather

Ice forming around an operating fountain

Don't let the water freeze around the fountain propeller!

Be sure to either leave your fountain running 24 hours per day or don’t let it run at all until the weather moderates. This ridiculously cold weather will cause most lakes, ponds and stormwater devices in North Carolina to freeze over solidly. A fountain will usually keep the water around it from freezing while the fountain is running. However, when the fountain timer cuts the fountain off (maybe late at night), the water surface will freeze. The propeller that discharges the water through the spray nozzle is just below the water surface. If the lake surface freezes around the propeller, the propeller cannot spin when the timer cuts the motor on in the morning. If the motor is running and the propeller cannot spin, the motor could be seriously damaged.

Forecasters are predicting the coldest weather in 20 years. We usually don’t have to take freezing water precautions with fountains in North Carolina. However, this is an exception. Further north most fountains are removed during the winter because of issues with freezing. We usually don’t have frozen water surfaces for more than just a few days and the ice is rarely thick enough to cause problems. This will probably be different.

Diffused air (bubbler) systems are different and will not be damaged. Nevertheless, they do not usually need to be operated during the winter and most property owners cut them off during the winter.

Either cut your fountain off completely until the ice is gone or let the fountain run constantly so the ice will not interfere with the spinning propeller. Leaving it on may produce spectacular ice formations, but cutting it off will be safer.

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I Am So Very Thankful!

For God’s blessings that make everything else that I’m thankful for possible.

For loved ones that are truly good, well-adjusted people.

For Foster Lake & Pond Management team members who are honest, committed, hard-working people that act and feel like family.

For my many friends, both extremely close and casual, who truly care and provide so many opportunities for real fun.

For property managers who are key partners in our business and perform masterfully, but never hear anything but complaints.

For private recreational lake and pond owners who have a vision and passion for their property and create so many fun opportunities for our company.

For living near Garner, NC an authentic All-American City with a robust economy, stimulating weather changes, abundant natural resources and genuine southern hospitality.

For the architectural firm, Innovative Designs, helping to create a cost-effective sustainable business operations center for our company on my own land.

For holidays like Thanksgiving that keep us from thinking about government ineffectiveness.


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What is that Surface Scum on my Pond? Cyanobacteria… What?!


Cyanobacteria surface film

Surface film of cyanobacteria (formerly called blue-green algae)

Until recently, this surface film was considered a form of “blue-green algae”. We now know that there is no such thing as “blue-green algae”. Blue-green algae are actually classified as bacteria and are correctly called cyanobacteria. As bacteria, they are mobile and can rise and sink through the water column. They have chlorophyll and can produce food for themselves through photosynthesis. Possible colors range from yellow to red to violet to green to deep blue, blue-green, gray and black.

Probably the oldest living forms of life, cyanobacteria are not well understood. They exist everywhere. Nevertheless, nuisance blooms are increasingly troublesome throughout the Southeast. Cyanobacteria blooms are nuisances because they are ugly, smell bad and can produce toxins. Rarely the toxins have been associated with deaths of fish and livestock drinking the water. The blooms are not very stable and often crash in a relatively short period of time.

Unlike desirable plankton, cyanobacteria do not contribute significant amounts of dissolved oxygen. Cyanobacteria reproduce relatively slowly, about 1 time per day. Dead decomposing cells consume available dissolved oxygen. They are also not good oxygen producers like green plankton algae. The slow recovery of low oxygen levels contributes to occasional fish kills.

Excessive blooms are not likely in lake and ponds we manage. As a result of “Preventive Year-round Service” (our routine management), you are not likely to see fish kills and toxicity. We usually see short-lived thin surface films that are simply unattractive. Managing cyanobacteria is very important to us. We’ve diligently researched the physical/chemical and biological factors that may potentially provide control. The factors include:


            Agitation – Flushing, mixing and turbulence all reduce cyanobacteria growth. If water flushes through the lake faster than the nuisance can bloom, problems are reduced. If mixing can overcome the ability of the bacteria to maintain its position in relation to light and available nutrients, growth is reduced. Shear turbulence can disrupt colonies and break up filaments. Aeration with fountains, and even diffused air bubbles, can significantly reduce surface film formation.

            Shading – With limited light available, photosynthesis is inhibited. The concentration of the bloom and the composition of the species present are affected by the amount of light available and the depth of light penetration through the water. Shading can be effective for reducing numbers. Lake colorants are one way to provide shading.

            Temperature – Warm water temperatures, above 80oF. are associated with cyanobacteria blooms. Warm water is less dense than cooler water. Therefore, the warm water actually “floats” causing stratification allowing surface water to warm dramatically. Through contact with the air at the surface of the water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide can be used by cyanobacteria as food sources.


            Excess nutrients – High levels of phosphorus are associated with cyanobacteria blooms. If the nutrients are reduced for months and years, blooms have been shown to diminish.

            pH – Low pH (acidic water) tends to inhibit growth of cyanobacteria. When the pH is above 8.0 problems increase. Regular additions of lime can buffer the pH and reduce high pH conditions.

            Salinity (or salt content) – Although cyanobacteria occur in salt water, research shows the nuisance species can be controlled by 1 – 5 parts per thousand of salt. Therefore, each acre-foot of water would require 270 – 1,350 pounds of salt. We have been very unimpressed with results from using salt for control.

            Iron – Apparently, cyanobacteria are capable of out-competing algae for limited levels of iron. When high nitrogen and phosphorus levels exist in the lake, adding iron may encourage the growth of desirable green algae. We are still trying to learn more about possibly adding iron.


          Fish: Tilapia are fish that eat algae and will grow while eating cyanobacteria. However, the fish are tropical and will die when water temperatures drop below about 50oF. Therefore, they have to be stocked each spring. We have found that if we stock 50 – 100 tilapia per acre in the Spring, they will effectively control nuisance growth of some algae. Tilapia reproduce abundantly. However, availability is limited and predators may eat small fish. The fish cannot be stocked until the water temperature is consistently above 70oF in the Spring. We have had trouble maintaining effective populations in some lakes and ponds. 

            Beneficial bacteria concentrates: Although results are somewhat inconsistent, beneficial bacteria concentrates may compete with cyanobacteria for available nutrients. Revive is the product we use. It is a dry powder with 25 billion viable microorganisms and 18 billion spores per gram. A bran carrier contains a “conditioned” media that serves as nourishment when the powder is mixed with pond water. Supposedly, this allows the bacteria to double every 20 minutes. Furthermore, the spores germinate to the vegetative, active growing form.

            Barley straw: We are not allowed to claim barley straw might “control” algae growth since it has not been registered as a pesticide by the United States EPA. However, it’s popularity for “clarifying” ponds in Europe for generations has spread to the United States. We use it in some situations, but results have not been consistent.

 All of these factors are considered in our control activities. The surface film types of cyanobacteria actually represent a very small volume of material in lakes/ponds. If you could strain it out, it would only be a “handful”. It is simply very noticeable. We are fairly successful sometimes at controlling the volume, but we have not been able to entirely eliminate the persistent species. We believe many times treating cyanobacteria with chemicals simply makes it persist longer. Often we find that if the client is willing to live with it for a week or two, it will go away.   

 As the summer progresses the problem will be going away as the water cools and the sun gets lower in the sky. Depending upon your lake’s characteristics, our strategy for next year may include:

·         Adding a phosphorous binding chemical that reduces one essential nutrient required for cyanobacteria growth.

·         Adding an algaecide that kills the cyanobacteria cells and includes a phosphorous binding chemical to reduce the essential nutrient.

·         Adding barley straw twice per year.

·         Apply the Revive beneficial bacteria/enzyme concentrate at 3 pounds per acre-foot in March and at least 1 pound per acre-foot each month through September. Treatments lost to flushing will be re-applied. We expect the beneficial bacteria to consume the nutrients required by the cyanobacteria.

·         We will continue to add the colorants as necessary to limit light penetration.

·         Depending upon size, we may stock 50 – 100 blue per acre in May. The fish will be filtering the cyanobacteria from the water and growing.

·         We will monitor stratification of the water column. Aeration with diffused air or fountains is always advantageous. If we find the fountains are not mixing the lakes, we can often add a sleeve so the fountain water intake is close to the lake bottom.

·         If determined to be effective, algaecides will be used at a higher rate as a last result. We believe our past methods allowed a resistant species to endure at relatively low but ugly levels. 

Additional options to consider include liming the lakes and reducing the amount of fertilizer entering the lakes. Adding lime should buffer the water chemistry and reduce the high pH levels often found during the afternoon. We have specifically formulated lawn fertilizer available for use in lake watersheds. Adding non-invasive shoreline plants or particularly floating plant rafts should reduce nutrients. Very shallow ponds can benefit from dredging to make them deeper. We will be happy to provide more information if you are interested.

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit:    

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Hot Summer Fish Stocking can be Risky


Truck unloading fish for stocking pond

Avoid stocking fish in July and August

It is happening again. Customers call or stop by wanting fish for stocking into their ponds and we have to tell them we are sorry. Perhaps they want sterile grass carp to eat nuisance vegetation. Some have lost fish as a result of recent flooding. Or maybe their fish just don’t seem to be growing fast enough and more forage fish are desired. The customers may be disappointed or surprised when we say we don’t have fish available during the hot summer months. However, they genuinely appreciate our decision when they understand our reasoning.

As a rule we try to avoid stocking any fish into lakes, ponds and stormwater devices during July and August. The hot weather and warm water temperatures are simply too stressful on the fish. We know you want the fish you purchase to survive and be in good condition. That cannot be guaranteed during the hot summer months. We want every one of your fish to not only survive but be in good condition.

Remember that your fish fingerlings must be harvested from the hatchery ponds that may water temperatures exceeding 90 degrees F. At the hatchery a seine net is pulled through the pond and the fish are bunched up into a corner where they can be dipped out and put in transport tanks on a truck. Those fish are transported to the hatchery holding system, which contains cool water maybe about 70 degrees F. The fish are transported to our holding system in cool water and we keep them in chilled water until they are ready to be transported to your lake or pond that may be 90 degrees or more again.

Fish are “cold blooded” animals, meaning their body temperature is the same temperature as the water. Their metabolism (and therefore their demand for oxygen and food) is much higher in warm water. That is why we emphasize the importance of properly tempering or acclimating your fish when stocking. (See the previous blog article: for details.) It takes time to allow the fish to adjust to changing water temperature and extreme changes are much more stressful for the fish.

We constantly try to avoid stressing the fish. Unstressed fish are very capable of fighting off disease, parasites and minor handling damage. They become active quickly so they can avoid predators, start feeding and growing immediately after stocking. Stressed fish may be slow to recover and suffer chronic problems even if they don’t die outright during holding, transport and stocking. We have learned that not stocking fish during the hot summer months is one of the most important things we can do to avoid stressing the fish.

So even though we hate not being able to sell you fish when you want them, we know you want happy and healthy fish. We want your continuing business. Therefore, we don’t want to sell you stressed fish that may not thrive, grow, reproduce and contribute to a sustainable population. As soon as the nights start getting cooler and longer and the water temperatures drop to comfortable levels we will be happy to sell you some happy fish.

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit:   

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Six Beneficial Shoreline Plants for North Carolina Lakes and Ponds


Attractive non-invasive plants

Beneficial lake and pond shoreline plants can be attractive too.

Gone are the days when property owners expect a lake, pond or stormwater device to have absolutely no plants. Aquatic plants can be very beneficial environmentally. They remove excess nutrients from the water, provide habitat for all kinds of aquatic organisms and can actually look very attractive. For the purpose of this article I will limit my comments to emergent aquatic plants that are attractive and native. Submersed plants and floating plants are often more difficult for the property owner to manage and may not be attractive. There are many shrubs, trees and ground covers that are suitable for planting in very wet shoreline situations. They also provide all the benefits. However, this list includes plants that are easy to obtain from nurseries, have a reasonable chance of surviving when planted and are relatively diverse. You should expect to have reasonable success planting these plants.  

  •  Blue Flag Iris: These are very attractive plants that are resistant to being eaten by
    Beneficial lake and pond shoreline plant, blue flag iris

    The flowers of the Blue Flag Iris are very pretty

    muskrats, waterfowl and other animals. They form dense clumps of rhizomes (enlarged underground roots) that can be separated and spread out. They grow to about 3 feet high and rarely grow in water deeper than about a foot.


  •  Pickerel Weed: This plant is also attractive, hardy and grows
     Pickeral weed flower and leaves
    Pickeral weed will spread in shallow water but is not invasive

    rhizomes that can be split and propagated. They grow three   to four feet tall and can grow in water up to about 2 feet deep. The large spikes of clusters of violet-blue flowers are very ornamental. They also attract bees and butterflies.   


  • Duck Potato: This versatile rapidly reproducing plant can grow in water 6 – 12 inches
    Beneficial shoreline plant for North Carolina lakes, ponds and stormwater devices
    The Duck Potato (or Arrowhead Plant) is a non-invasive beneficial shoreline plant

    deep. It’s rhizomes, seeds and foliage can be good wildlife food. When established the dense clumps of plants reduce shoreline erosion, provide cover for aquatic animals and remove large quantities of nutrients from the water and shoreline soil. The plants can grow to 4 feet tall.


  • Lizard Tail: Grows in small colonies through underground runners. The white flowers
    Beneficial shoreline plant called Lizard Tail

    The flowers of the Lizard Tail plant are distinctive

    look like drooping bottle brushes 4 – 6 inches long. The plants typically grow 1 to 3 feet tall and do well in partial shade. Maximum water depth for growth is about 18 inches.

  • Water Willow: Will grow up to 3 feet tall in water up to about 4 feet deep. The plants
    Water Willow plants growing in the edge of a pond
    Water Willow will spread into fairly deep water, but is easy to control by hand pulling

    don’t grow as dense as most of the others, but provide excellent fish habitat. The leaves look much like weeping willow leaves. The small but attractive white or pale lavender flowers bloom from May through October. Although it is very effective for protecting  shorelines the plants may grow out further from shore than many   property owners prefer.

  •  Native sedges and rushes: There are many grass-like aquatic sedges and rushes native
    Rush plants are beneficial for lake and pon shorelines
    Rush and sedge plants are beneficial and do not spread into deep water

    to North Carolina. Some examples are bulrushes, soft rushes and White-top sedge. Sedges grow in shallow water and usually have triangular stems. Rushes often grow in clumps and have usually have cylindrical stems. Their shallow spreading surface roots hold shoreline soil and reduce erosion. White-top sedge is a showy 2 foot tall spreading sedge bearing attractive white flowers throughout the summer.

These plants can be expected to spread, but are not aggressive. You can dig up plants, separate tubers and spread them where you want them. If they are expanding past where you want them, they can be controlled by hand pulling or using aquatic herbicides on the plants that are not where you want them. You will find that they only need controlling once per year or less. You will also probably find that these plants will reduce problems with more invasive and aggressive aquatic plants. Your shoreline will look more natural and attractive, too. 

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration. We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit:

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I Believe Floating Plant Rafts will Revolutionize Stormwater Management


Floating plant raft in pond

Normally planted with native wetland plants, this floating plant raft is planted with lettuce

The concept of floating plant rafts reducing nutrients in stormwater intrigues me. The floating rafts can be planted with a huge variety of different plants. The plants do not have contact with soil, so they must get all of their nutrients from the water in the pond. Reducing nutrients in stormwater makes the pond more effective as a treatment device. It also reduces problems with ugly growths of algae and unwanted weeds.

We have been trying different types of rafts for seven or eight years. I am always very impressed with their appearance. Wetland plants, ornamental flowers and even some vegetables grow well on the rafts. (We don’t recommend eating vegetables grown in stormwater. I have lettuce growing on a raft in my recreational pond that does not capture stormwater.) Even though I have not measured their performance, the floating plant raft concept makes sense. I can’t help but believe they will be effective. The plants are much easier to establish on the rafts because the water level is always ideal and there are fewer problems with animals eating the new plants when they are anchored away from the shoreline. In a short time long, lush, thick growths of roots extend under the raft. The roots obtain all of the nutrients the plants need to grow from the water. The roots also provide excellent habitat for bacteria, micro-organisms, worms and insects. Little fish are attracted to the cover and supply of food. Larger fish are attracted to the small fish and shade provided by the raft.   

I began using foam rafts with holes cut for containing various size potted plants. We also tried some rafts that had holes cut in foam covered with coconut fiber netting. A special growing medium was placed on the netting in the depressions. Plants were planted in the growing medium and the roots grew through the netting into the water in the hole of the raft. We also tried thick recycled plastic matrix rafts. Plants were planted in growing medium in depressions in the raft. The plant roots would grow throughout the raft matrix and into the water. 

This is certainly a science which is still developing. The best design and best materials have not yet been determined. But, so far I really like a new raft system I am trying this year. It is called the BeeMat. They are distributed out of Florida. I had been aware of their product and had looked at their website. I was interested and decided to give them a try. My daughter goes to college in Daytona Beach, FL and I arranged to visit her and travel the short distance to New Smyrna Beach, FL to visit Steve Beaman, President and Owner of BeeMats. Steve has well over 30 years experience growing wetland plants in Florida. Steve and his owner son Forest now have a patent on the growing system. When I visited, Steve had many rafts planted with all kinds of plants in ponds at the farm. Some were even planted with leaf lettuce.

After I got back to work, we ordered a pallet of BeeMat materials to demonstrate the growing system to some of our clients. I mentioned the idea to a good friend of mine, Ken Walker, who owns Ken’s Produce and Garden Center on Hwy. 50 South of Garner, NC. Ken was very interested in the floating plant raft concept and decided to provide support by donating some leaf lettuce plants for me to try.

Here is the procedure I followed to plant the lettuce:

·         I removed the plant from the plastic growing tray and placed it in a bucket of pond water.

·         I rinsed all of the potting mix off the lettuce roots. (Rinsing off any soil is an advantage when planting natural wetland plants since you will be removing any duckweed, watermeal or other undesirable plants preventing their introduction.)

·         A small rectangle of coconut fiber matting is rolled around the bare root plant similar to a burrito.

·         The plant burrito is placed in a plastic plant pot containing slits cut in the sides.

·         A special clip is placed into two of the slits to keep the plant securely in the pot.

·         The same clip is used to secure the plant pot in a circular hole cut into the floating raft mat. (A 4 foot by 8 foot floating mat has 80 holes.)

Native wetland plants in stormwater pond
Native wetland plants can be attractive while being very effective

The rest of the plant rafts will be planted with native wetland plants and deployed in clients’ ponds as demonstrations. I like the idea of being able to remove the plants from the raft in the winter. We will be removing all of the plant biomass resulting from the uptake of nutrients from the stormwater. The entire plants including all of the roots, stems and foliage is removed when the pot is removed from the raft.  When the plant is removed it does not die, decay and release nutrients back into the stormwater pond. Also, there is no raft of brown dead plants in the middle of the pond throughout the winter.

I have already picked enough of the big leaves off the lettuce to make three or four salads. The plants are doing fantastic. There are a few dead leaves that were touching the raft surface that I knew would turn brown and die. I checked the plants today, which was eight days from when they were planted and there still are no roots extending through the pots. I think it will be interesting to see how much of a root system the lettuce develops.

I know native aquatic plants will develop a heck of a root system since I have seen the mass of roots from pots I have planted in previous rafts. I just can’t help but believe floating plant rafts are going to reduce nutrients, improve performance and make stormwater devices more effective.  They are bound to be important to stormwater management in the future. I want our company to be pioneers in their utilization.

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit:

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Tempering Your Fish Before Stocking Your Pond


Before stocking bagged fish, be sure to temper them

Bags of fish fingerlings inflated with oxygen is a good inexpensive delivery method

Don’t just dump fish you have purchased into your lake or pond. Water is the complete environment fish live in and water from different sources is different. If the water temperature or chemistry is significantly different, you make shock your fish. If your fish are shocked they may die or be unnecessarily stressed. Tempering your fish will minimize the shock and doesn’t take much time or effort.

When we deliver your fish, we always take the time to temper them. You don’t need to worry about it. However, many people prefer to save the delivery charge by picking up their fish at our holding facility. We put the fish in plastic bags with cool clean water, inflate the bag with oxygen gas and seal the bag. The bag is put into a cardboard box and loaded into your vehicle. When you get to your lake or pond, just take the box (along with a bucket or jug) to the deep part of your pond (usually near the dam). 

Here are the steps to take: 

1. Open the bags containing your fish.

2. Pour about one quart of your pond/lake water into each bag.

3. Gradually add more pond water to each bag until about eight quarts have been added over 15 minutes.

4. Use your hand to compare the water temperature of the pond water with the water in the bag.

5. If the temperature is significantly different, add more water to the bag until equal.

6. Do not release the fish in shallow water if the water is very warm. By releasing them in deeper water, they can seek out their preferred temperature.


Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit:    

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