Although cattails are pretty to look at and do offer some ecosystem benefits, if left unchecked, cattail can quickly over take your pond. Below you will see before and after photos taken of our own acreage pond. When we initially purchased our acreage in late 2013, we knew we had some work to do in order to clean up the pond. From the before picture, it doesn't look too difficult. Boy, was I ever wrong! It took a lot of sweat equity to clean up this pond.
First things first, you need the proper tools. The very first thing you want to do is purchase an aquatic herbicide specially formulated to kill cattail, yet safe for around ponds and fish. I used a product called Rodeo aquatic herbicide. It came in a 2.5 gallon jug, but it also works on other aquatic weeds. Please don't use regular Round Up as this is not recommended for use around ponds. You may kill your fish and Round Up, if you can believe it, won't even touch cattails. You will also want to purchase a surfactant or spreader sticker. Surfactants are additives that make your chemical spray adhere better to the waxy plant foliage. I add surfactant to my lawn weed sprays as well. It helps "spread" the chemical over the leaves of weeds giving you better coverage.
Mix your aquatic herbicide according the the instructions and spray the cattails. Try to get complete coverage of all the cattail leaves exposed out of the water. If some are under water, the spray will not work. A 2 gallon pump tank sprayer worked for me, but if the cattail are far out into the pond, you might need a boat in order to reach them. Depending on the amount of cattail in your pond, this will be an ongoing battle. Ours lasted a good two years before we got it under control. Once you have sprayed, you must wait about 14 days. During this time, you will notice the cattails starting to brown slightly. Even after 14 days, the cattails may not be totally brown. You want it to kill down to the root so it will not grow back again.
Now it's time to cut the cattail! I purchased a couple other tools to aide in the removal of the dead cattail. One tool is called the "Weed Razor". It's a heavy metal pole with shape blades that angle out like a jet wings. The pole also has a long rope attached at the end. Make sure that is tied and secure as you will be pulling on that rope a lot! To use the weed razor, you simply throw the weed razor out into the pond, let it sink, and pull it back in using the rope. It's best to pull it back using short "yanks" of the rope as you cut the cattail. Depending on the age and growth of the cattail, several passes with the weed razor may be needed. It's TOUGH work and very sharp blades, so wear good gloves and be careful. The weed razor also came with a blade sharpener. I would have to run the sharpener over the blades about every ten passes in the pond. Keep it sharp and it will cut through cattail easier.
Now that all the cattail are cut, some will be floating and others might have sunk. You will need to rake them out of the pond for disposal. Leaving them in the pond will cause excessive nutrients in the pond and may help the growth of algae and muck. Step three is where a good pond rake comes into play. I purchased a couple pond rakes, one with short tines like a sand bunker rake at a golf course and one with long plastic tines.
For cattail cleanup, I used the one with long plastic tines. The longer tines allowed me to grab more cattail and drag them out of the pond easier. Both rakes are about 12 to 15 foot in length and have a 50 ft rope attached to the end of the pole. Simply toss the rake into the pond and allow it to sink. Then use the rope to drag the rake and cattail out of the pond. Several passes may be required to get it all. Be sure to spread the cattail out along the ponds shoreline to help them dry. Usually a couple days in the sun and they are dry enough to handle easily. I ordered a roll off dumpster the first time I cut cattail down. This was because I had so many piles and no where to dispose of them. After they dry a little, simply use a hay fork and scoop them into a wheell barrow or cart and dump them!
Before Photo - Only shows about half the cattail
After Photo - Taken from house to capture entire pond.
Your done! Well, not quite. In another month or so, you may have a high chance of seeing more cattail pop up from your water level. If you do, repeat the process above when you think the cattail are tall enough to spray and get a good coverage of herbicide on the leaves. Each time, the work is less dificult as your dealing with young growth cattail. We did this process a couple times a year for two years and we finally managed to get the cattails under control. You can let cattails grow in certain areas, but you must be vigilant in keeping them under control. They are good at spreading quickly!
Stay tuned to my blog as I will be posting additional information about ponds and pond maitenance soon!
Photos taken and content written by The Millers with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador. Copyright 2016. If you would like link to this article on your site or blog, please contact us beforehand.