It’s the peak of summer now and your garden is in full bloom. Many people may not be doing quite so well. Wilted leaves, brittle stems and just a generally dead look plague many gardens, but there has to be a way to fix this. This is where using better fertilizer comes in, and one surprising fertilizer that many homeowners are using in their gardens is pond sludge.
Sludge, muck or scum, whatever you want to call it, is chock-full of essential nutrients. In this post we’ll go over some of the pros and cons of using pond scum in your garden, and some things to keep in mind when trying it out.
Why should you fertilize with pond sludge?
There are multiple benefits to using pond sludge as a fertilizer in your garden. First of all, the decaying algae and other plant matter that make up this sludge is abundant in important nutrients your garden needs, including phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium.
Secondly, removing sludge and muck from your pond can be very beneficial for the plants and fish there as well. Professionals recommend you clear out sludge regularly. By using it as fertilizer you could be killing two birds with one stone!
How to harvest it
Harvesting pond sludge for use in your garden is relatively simple, but will definitely require a bit of hard work. You can remove the sludge from your pond using a net, a pond vacuum, a siphon, or simply a bucket and a wheelbarrow.
A pond vacuum is the easiest method of doing this, but it will cost you some money. One of these will typically cost between $250 and $500. These vacuums are essentially a modified shop vac with extreme suction and a long hose to suck up the muck from the bottom of your pond. A pond vacuum is a great option for the deep parts of the pond.
For scum and debris on the surface you’ll probably just want to use a fine pond net or a bucket. This is also definitely the most affordable method, as odds are if you have a pond you probably already have a net or a good bucket.
Once you’ve pulled the scum from the pond, dump your new pond sludge compost into a wheelbarrow to take it away.
How to apply it in your garden
Once you’ve harvested it, there are a few different ways you can apply the pond sludge in your garden to get those plants growing high. First you need to make sure your pond sludge has composted enough to be ready to use. You can tell when your compost is ready when it looks more like dirt than the pond sludge it started as.
It will be a medium to dark brown color with a crumbly, but not overly wet texture. You can sometimes speed up this composting by mixing the sludge with your regular food scrap compost, which will help to provide a wide variety of nutrients for your garden.
One method of application is simply to use composted pond sludge to make garden soil. You can do this by mixing your compost with potting soil or even coarse sand. This will make a rich garden soil with plenty of nutrients for your plants to grow in.
Another method is to save the pond sludge in a bucket so it continues to break down and compost, and then just take it out a bit at a time whenever you need to give your plants a little extra boost.
Downsides of using it for your garden
There are usually no major downsides of using pond sludge as fertilizer, other than the little bit of extra effort required to use this method as opposed to traditional fertilizer. The only thing that could cause problems is if your pond has any serious pollutants from chemicals or other things that might be harmful for your garden.
Farm chemicals, pesticides, gas ,and oil can cause serious problems in your garden if they work their way into your pond and then into your pond sludge compost. Make sure you test out your pond compost by using it on some non-edible plants first and seeing how they react compared to the normal plants. This should give you a good idea of whether your pond sludge is good to be used in your garden.
You can also purchase a soil test kit to determine if there are some toxins in your pond sludge. In addition, you could have it tested by a professional.
Will this affect the pond ecosystem?
If you have a pond on your property and you want to use its sludge to fertilize your garden, you could be helping the pond at the same time. As pond scum accumulates and builds up in the bottom of a pond, it decomposes plants that grow on the bottom of the pond and begins to reduce the oxygen levels of the pond.
Without oxygen, many of the beneficial bacteria that help the pond to thrive begin to die, and the stagnant water just gets dirtier and dirtier until everything dies. The first thing that usually dies from this sludge is actually the plants that make oxygen to combat it. If you own a pond it’s a wise practice to skim the muck off the top and scrape the sludge out of the bottom about once a year anyways. If you do it during the spring it’ll be perfect timing to fertilize your garden too.
Other nutrient rich things in ponds
Now if for whatever reason you’re not too keen on using the muddy pond muck in your garden, there are still plenty of nutrient rich things in the pond that could help you out. Harvesting freshwater seaweed, algae or other pond plants can be a great addition to a regular compost bin you already have with scraps from your home.
By using your pond sludge as garden fertilizer you can help to improve both the pond and your garden, and your whole property as a result. As a final tip, pond sludge works especially well to fertilize broccoli, potatoes, and cabbage. These plants like soils rich in nitrogen which is exactly what the pond sludge compost is good for. Many people report that their plants grow up to twice as fast with composted pond sludge fertilizer. If you do it right you may be able to see the same effects.