I have a terrible confession to make. I’m not proud, but here it goes:
I’ve been using the wrong pond net. For years. For more than a decade. Just completely wrong. My pond is directly beneath a beautiful oak tree, and I’ve been using a net that isn’t fine enough to stop acorns.
Why have I been committing this travesty upon my pond? Because the nets with bigger holes are cheaper. Or, at least I thought they were. This year I found out just how wrong I’ve been on that score.
The Cost of the Wrong Net
In my case, the net was wrong because it didn’t hold back the acorns that fall so, so, so much in the autumn and early winter. These acorns had a much bigger impact on my enjoyment of my pond than you might think. First, there’s the untold hours that I’ve spent in the cold spring pond getting my legs nibbled at by the koi (it tickles), pulling acorns out by the handful. Because they’re close in size to the river rocks in our pond, they’re exceptionally difficult to vacuum up, so into the pond I go. The acorns have to come out not only because they’re unsightly (and they are), but because their decomposition throws the nutrient balance in the pond way off (string algae and green water, here we come). They’re also a primary component in my water garden of the pond sludge layer, which causes or worsens a slew of water health problems. Plus it’s gross.
Along with some other plant debris, acorns also tend to stain the water as they decompose, giving you orangish tea-colored water. While this staining isn’t of itself too terrible for the health of your pond, it’s unsightly, and the whole point of a pond is that it’s nice to look at. Every year, we open the pond to find it orange. This staining of the water can be cleared up eventually with a combination of partial water changes and activated carbon, but that takes time (and won’t really work until you’ve gotten the source of the staining out of your pond).
Tea colored water is something that we’ve always just associated with Spring, like pollen and Dogwoods. This winter, though, we finally used the right net, a tight weave that let not a single acorn through. It was amazing to open the pond up and find the clear, beautiful water that we normally don’t see until well into the season.
Those two pictures were taken less than a year apart. Same pond, same fish, same camera, but wildly different water color. Purely because of using the right net over this past winter. The costs of using the wrong net, from the money and time spent getting the pond right in the Spring to the time not enjoying the pond, vastly outweigh the relatively small price difference between the fine and loose mesh.
The lesson here, though, shouldn’t be that a tighter-woven net is better. What’s important when selecting a pond net is to consider what you’re using it for and get the right net for that purpose. You have to balance your needs against the cost of the net, both in what you pay for the net and in how the net interferes with your enjoyment of the pond while it’s up. Your goal should be to get a mesh fine enough to keep out what you want out, and no finer. For acorns in Autumn, you’ll want a fine mesh. For raccoons in Spring, you can get a nice, wide mesh that is almost invisible on the water (most raccoons, in my experience, are bigger than acorns). Just, for your pond’s sake, don’t spend years using entirely the wrong net.