It’s winter and many of you are spending much more time indoors. That warm summer sun certainly seems like a distant memory. Lounge chairs have been stacked, floats deflated and tucked away in the shed, and the busy sounds of summer have been quieted by the bitter cold. For many of you, this is a peaceful and relaxing time of year. A little downtime is definitely in order.

Aquatic weeds and the problems that they pose also seem to be mellowing out. We made it through another aquatic weed year and it seems as though we don’t have to worry about hydrilla and other nasty invasive aquatic plants until next spring…

This is no time, however, to forget about what lies ahead. Aquatic weed treatment year 2014 is just around the corner and now is the time to make sure that you are ready. Below are just a few tips to keep you prepared for the upcoming year.

• Begin Planning for Treatment
2013 may have seemed like an “off” year for hydrilla, and for good reason. Record rainfall produced a great deal of turbidity and water depths that inhibited submersed plant growth. Although we may have seen a decrease in growth during 2013, hydrilla tubers (see “dormant demons” from previous article) ensure that hydrilla can come back as strong as ever next year. For those of you on Kerr Lake, now is the time to get contracts started with your local applicators should you want treatment in 2014. For those of you on Lake Gaston, the 2014 Aquatic Weed public treatment will not be announced until late spring. Go ahead and get a plan together with your neighbors to privately treat your respective areas should they not be selected for public treatment next year. Try to remember what types of problems you had this year with aquatic weeds and communicate those problems with applicators. Getting a solid plan together now can save you a lot of time and help get you on a treatment plan before the spring rush. For those on Kerr, a list of applicators is available in the web links above. For those on Gaston, a list of local applicators can be found at Dominion’s site in Appendix E also posted in the web links.

• Don’t “Feed the Weeds” with Yard Waste
Many of you have been or will be raking/blowing leaves for the next few months. Please do NOT blow your yard waste into the lake. Excess organic material in the lake equals more nutrients for aquatic plants in the spring. Decaying leaves blown into the lake can also mean depleted oxygen levels for fish and other aquatic species. Leaves also contribute to sedimentation and can potentially reduce the depth of an area over time, opening up newly shallow areas for aquatic nuisance plants to establish.

Also, If you have lawns near the lake shore, please limit or do not fertilize as any fertilizer can promote aquatic plant growth. Rather than blowing your leaves into the lake, consider collecting and finely mulching them and spreading them where you may need more soil in your yard. Avoiding providing extra nutrients to the lake will save you a lot of headache in the spring and summer.

• Have your Septic System Inspected
Now that summer visitors are gone and the demand on your system is lowered, the fall and winter are a great time to have your septic systems inspected. Failing septic systems cause big problems for water quality and have been known to seep into local waters, contributing excess nutrients that can be linked directly to increased aquatic plant growth. Figuring out the condition of your septic system now can save your entire neighborhood from suffering the potential consequences later.

• Have your Water Quality Tested
Many of you get your drinking water via well. Typically, it is recommended that homeowners with underground wells get their water tested annually. Well water is particularly susceptible to contaminants around the influence area of the well. If nearby contaminants are discharged into the ground the water may become contaminated. If you are on a community system, consider having testing done on the community level. You can send off a sample to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for around $5. Visit the NCDA&CS website for more information.

As winter turns to spring, let’s all make sure we are prepared for the 2014 aquatic weed treatment year.

*Picture: The winter months are some of the busiest months for research on both Kerr and Gaston. This work can range from plant surveys in late October to tuber collection lakewide in December and January. Pictured is your aquatics extension associate, Dr. Brett M. Hartis holding tubers pulled from Hamlin creek in Lake Gaston. This research provides valuable information to inform management decisions in the coming year.

Web Links For Additional Information:
Kerr Lake Approved Applicators
Dominion Appendix E

If you have questions, comments or would like more information, please contact your Aquatic Extension Associate, Dr. Brett M. Hartis, at (919)-515-5648 or email at bmhartis@ncsu.edu.