The resort property I maintain has a small pond that is rapidly filling with cattails. A few were nice, but it seems now that the cattails are taking over. Is there a way to remove the cattails and prevent further infestation? — Michigan


Cattails are one of many noxious weeds that can take over ponds and ruin waterways. You may be able to gain some control using an herbicide labeled for aquatic weeds, but permanent control with the herbicides will be difficult. Another method you might try is known as installing a benthic barrier. These barriers are laid across the bottom of the waterway where weed control is needed. They can be composed of various materials including geotextile landscape and erosion-control fabrics, burlap and plastic sheeting. There are also fabrics designed specifically for aquatic weed control. You should chose one of these based on cost and longevity of control needed. Installation is not difficult, depending upon the depth of the water and the area you need to cover. You may be able to install the barrier yourself. If not, hire a professional. After measuring and cutting the fabric to fit the area, wrap it around a pole and carry it out to the area needing cover. Pin or anchor the edges using sandbags, rocks or staples. Then, roll the fabric across the area needing cover and pin it around the rest of the edges. The barrier will insure that sunlight is blocked, the crowns are physically restrained and plants don't grow. It is best to install the barrier in winter or early spring, prior to plant growth. If it's necessary to install the barrier after the weeds have started growing, you may need to pull the weeds by hand before putting the barrier in place. There are a few items to watch for. First, decomposing plants and organic material under the barrier will cause gas bubbles to be trapped and may raise the barrier. In addition, over time, sediment deposits may eventually create a thick enough soil base that the weeds will re-establish on top of the barrier. Periodically, you should lift the barrier, remove the sediment and reinstall the barrier. Finally, keep an eye out for other external factors that could affect the barrier. Fishing gear, boat anchors and swimmers may damage the barrier; conversely, the barrier may cause safety hazards for swimmers and boaters. The barriers also interfere with fish spawning and bottom-dwelling animals. Some states or localities may require permits for the installation of a benthic barrier.

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