Winter is coming so these tips for winterizing your pond or water feature will help you prepare for the coming cold weather. Getting ready early and being prepared will make the process a lot easier, and that will help your pond, plants, and fish get through the winter in better shape.
Because knowing the water temperature will determine when certain things should be done with the pond regarding fish and plants it is necessary to have a pond thermometer that you can leave in the water. These thermometers float and have a string that you can attach in your skimmer or next to a rock or plant pot. Once winter sets in it would be a good idea to take it out until late winter or early spring.
Providing the correct diet for your fish before hibernation is important for their health. Fish metabolism and digestion begins to slow down as the water temperature changes. Water temperature in the lower 60’s (°F) is a good time to start feeding fish a wheat germ based food. This food is easier to digest. When the water starts to consistently get around 45 degrees you should stop feeding the fish altogether as their body metabolism slows and food will cause them to bloat because they aren’t able to digest it well.
Pond plants are divided into 2 groups tropicals and hardy perennials. Tropicals will not survive the cold temperatures and they should be removed completely from the pond. The perennial plants will die back in winter re-emerging in spring. As they begin to yellow and turn brown they should be trimmed back as much as possible. This will minimize the amount of plant debris that stays in the water over the winter.
LEAVES AND DEBRIS
Leaves will be the biggest challenge for ponds in the fall and winter. Even if the pond has a skimmer that catches debris it is highly recommended that a net be installed to keep the leaves from getting in the water. A skimmer would need to be checked more than once a day in the period of heavy leaf fall. If the water feature is a pondless system it is not usually quite as critical, but a net will reduce your maintenance chores considerably.
A pond net is the easiest way to manage leaves. If netting is properly stretched and anchored to the sides of pond it will be barely visible. Installing your pond net should be done before leaves begin to fall. This will help keep debris out of the water where it will decay and form a muck that will have to be removed in the spring.
Some people will use long-handled pond net to remove leaves and debris, but this is a very labor intensive method and will only get a small amount of leaves that fall. For that reason it is not recommended for best results.
There are a couple of ways nets can be installed. The easiest way is just putting the net directly over the water and pulling it tight. The problem with this is that the leaves will collect in the middle and weigh down the net so the leaves will still be in the water. The net should then be pulled back periodically to remove the leaves and then reattached.
A better way is to create a dome where the leaves slid off to the sides of the pond so they do not get into the water. To set up the dome we use 3/4″ or 1″ PVC pipe and anchor it with pieces of rebar put in at a 45 degree angle on the edges of the water feature. The pieces of PVC will fit over the rebar and form a dome. The netting will go over the dome and be attached with zip ties. Since the netting is black we spray paint the PVC black and this helps to make the net less noticeable. As you can see in the image below the net is almost invisible.
LEAVING YOUR POND RUNNING OR SHUT IT DOWN?
A big question to be asked is whether the pond should run through the winter or be shut down. There are a number of factors that play into this decision. Even in below freezing weather most ponds and pondless systems can run through most of the winter.
If you do decide to keep your water feature going you will get to enjoy the ice sculptures that form on the rocks that can be very interesting. It will require a little bit more maintenance, however. Because ice formations takes water out of the pond or pondless reservoir it will be necessary to keep an eye on the water level. Keep your water feature topped off on milder days so you will not have to get the hose out in very cold temperatures.
In the picture below the water is still flowing under the ice. The ice actually insulates the water from the very cold air.
When the water drops into the pond from the stream or waterfall a small area will almost always stay open. This is very important to fish. If a pond freezes over for any extended period this will be harmful to the fish and many will die due to ammonia gases building up in the water. A small patch of open water will be enough to let these toxic gases to escape.
When it gets very cold we recommend using a small donut heater to create and maintain an opening in the ice. Another option is to use a pump that will keep the water agitated so it doesn’t freeze. Check your pond store for these options.
If you do decide to turn the system off and you have a pond you must use the donut heater or water agitator. You should also disconnect the pump and remove it from the pond. Some systems will have a check valve which is made of hard PVC that prevents water from draining downhill back into the pond. This will need to be disconnected or the hard plastic will crack from the water in the pipe that freezes.
So while winter is considered the off season for a water feature there is still a lot of enjoyment to be had. Just keep in mind these winter maintenance tips. If you allow some time and are strategic in your planning when spring comes your water feature will more than likely be in good situation.
For other questions or comments visit our website http://goodearthoutdoor.com. Or contact Good Earth Outdoor at (913) 749-8090.