When it comes to ponds, one of the most common problems you have to deal with is excessive algae growth.
Sure, algae are important for pond health since they serve as the foundation of the food chain for fish, snails, and other species that take up residence in your pond. An imbalance, however, can be disastrous to your pond’s entire ecosystem.
Excessive algae may contaminate water, deplete oxygen, and even be toxic to animals and humans!
There are several ways to get rid of excess algae in a pond, one of the most common being hay bales. But why put hay bales in a pond? And does this method really work?
Let’s find out!
Most pond owners use barley straws to remove excess algae from their ponds, but why?
There are a few reasons why utilizing barley straw may be the best algae-removing technique:
- All natural: barley straw is a 100% natural product. This means it doesn’t include any pesticides, chemical additions, or other potentially dangerous elements that might affect the aquatic life in your pond.
- Budget-friendly: compared to other methods, barley straw is considered cheap. With two packets of barley straw for under $20, I’d think that’s a pretty sweet deal!
- Long-lasting: a single barley straw application can last anywhere between 6-8 weeks.
- Less labor input: the whole process is quick and easy.
The exact mechanism for barley straw remains a mystery to this day. However, it’s said that when the bales are exposed to sunshine and oxygen, they release a chemical that prevents algae growth.
When algae-filled water is mixed with barley straw, two things happen:
Because barley straw has a high carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, it consumes available nitrogen and phosphorus in the water as it decomposes. This minimizes the factors that encourage algae growth.
The barley straw begins to decompose. As time passes, the decomposing bales release a mixture of toxins that inhibit any algae growth.
According to some promising research and scientific data, barley straw is effective in limiting the growth of some species of algae. However, the results vary according to which types are controlled.
Generally speaking, barley straw is good for controlling planktonic algae and clarifying the green color of the algae. The findings for other forms of algae, such as mat-forming or blue-green algae, are mixed.
Some experiments for certain forms of algae show beneficial effects, while others do not. All in all, barley straw works best on planktonic algae.
Overall, the effectiveness of barley straw is determined by the number of algae in your pond, the type of algae present, and how quickly you want the job done.
Like any other natural treatment method, it’s expected to see much slower results than chemical and mechanical treatment alternatives. So, it’s important to be patient and trust the process.
If you’re worried about barley straw harming your aquatic animals (if you have any), you can rest assured that it won’t.
If used properly, barley straw should be safe for fish and plants as long as the water quality is good and there aren’t any algal blooms in your pond.
It’s important to know that barley straw eventually breaks down and generates hydrogen peroxide, which is a chemical that’s toxic to fish and other aquatic life. However, if used in low concentrations, the fish will not be harmed in the slightest!
As for aquatic plants, these guys aren’t affected by the presence of barley straw at all. In fact, aquatic plant growth has been shown to increase in certain cases following barley straw treatments. This is due to the absence of algae, which is harmful to plants!
It’s critical to note that barley straw will not kill the algae in your pond. However, the bales will only prevent the growth of new algae.
That said, the optimal time to use barley straw in a body of water is before the algae begin to grow and spread.
You may put some barley straw in your pond at any time of year, but for best results, I’d suggest early springtime. This is because temperatures are still low and the algae-growing season has not yet begun.
For example, if you apply the bales to cold water (less than 50°F), it may take six to eight weeks for the straw to start releasing the beneficial chemicals. If you add it to warmer water, say above 70°F, it’ll take about two weeks.
A good rule of thumb is to apply two or three bales per surface acre of water, keeping in mind that the water depth is unimportant.
This rule, however, is only applicable to ponds that are often not too filthy. For muddy or previously infested ponds, the specified amount may need to be doubled or tripled for the first treatment.
Be careful not to add too much! An excessive amount of barley straw depletes the water’s oxygen levels as it decomposes, which might result in fish death.
This can be especially problematic if the pond has been oversaturated with straw throughout a protracted period of warm weather.
You’d think you could just take a couple of bales and throw them in, but there’s some prep work to be done first.
The following are a few basic steps to applying barley straw correctly:
- Break the bales up to allow for a better oxygen flow in the water surrounding the decaying straw.
- Place the loose straw in a woven sack. You can use onion sacks, rice bags, or bird netting.
- Tie the sacks to any buoyant object. This keeps them close to the pond’s surface and allows them to be anchored in place. Also, it makes it easier to fetch them when it’s time to remove them.
- Distribute the sacks equally throughout the pond.
Although algae have their fair share of benefits, an excessive amount of it can be hazardous to your pond’s health. One of the most effective methods of getting rid of algae is using barley straw.
These bales will not kill the current algae, but will rather prevent any future growth. That’s why it’s critical to apply the straw to a clean pond.
Just be careful not to throw too much in, or you risk harming your pond’s inhabitants!
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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