Pond Preparation for Fall and Winter


Aquascape’s Dave Kelly, The Tech Guy, teaches you all of the pro tips and tricks for properly winterizing and prepare your pond for fall and winter.

Preparing your Pond, and Its Inhabitants, for Winter

Enjoy the cooler temperatures of this beautiful and changing time of year!
By Aaron Powers
Can it possibly be fall already? In the north, it feels like summer just got here. In the south, it feels like it may never cool off. Either way, summer goes by too quickly and now it’s time to think about getting ready for a change of seasons. That means something different, depending on where in North America you live.
Tropical water lilies and other plants have reached their maximum potential. The temperatures are gently dropping, making it more comfortable to enjoy our outdoor activities. Water clarity is usually at its best in the fall because of fewer battles with algae. Meanwhile, the plants in the garden have filled out and reached maximum size and, if you chose your plant selection well, you still have lots of bloom left. It truly is an enjoyable time of year. But what does this time of year bring for the water gardener?
Pond Critters
•Fall is the time to make sure that you are generously feeding your fish. They need plenty of food now so they can store excess nutrients to help get them through the winter months. Now, this is not a license to overfeed your fish. The usual rule still applies … only feed them what they can eat in five minutes. Just make sure you’re feeding them.
•Continue to feed your fish as long as they are active and the water temperature is at least 55° F. At temperatures below 55° F, their metabolism and overall activity slows down while they prepare for hibernation.
•Make sure there are a few rock structures and small crevasses in your pond that frogs, toads, and newts can crawl into to hibernate through the winter.
•To further help the burrowing creatures (like frogs and toads) find a place to sleep through the winter, many people place a shallow plastic container of sand and chopped leaves at the bottom of the pond. This provides even more space for critters to over-winter in your pond. Just be careful not to spill the mixture when placing it in your pond. It can be removed in the spring during the pond cleanout.
Clean-up Duty
•Enjoy the good water quality that the cooler temperatures bring! In the fall, water is almost always very clear because of the cooler temperatures and the full, lush plants.
•About this time, the leave starts falling off the trees and can accumulate in the pond. This is one time of year when your pond may require daily maintenance. If you have a skimmer, you’ll probably have to empty the debris net every day to keep up with the influx of leaves. Some of the leaves will undoubtedly sink to the bottom. Although you can net these pretty easily before they start to break down, don’t knock yourself out snagging every single leaf. Some left in little areas here and there will give insects and frogs a place to overwinter.
•An abundance of dead leaves, flowers and other plant debris left in your pond can quickly decompose, resulting in toxins, which foul the water, and can be very harmful to your fish.
•Leaves and other pond plant debris make an excellent addition to your compost pile!
•If you want to give your pond landscape an additional layer of interest, now’s the time to plant spring blooming bulbs around your pond for a show next spring. See the article on page 18 for more information.
•If you live in a cool climate, it’s the time of year to take a look around and assess the fall color in your garden. And when you’re considering fall color, don’t stop with the leaves – perennials are also a great way to add fall color to your garden. Hardy mums, asters, and other late bloomers do a great job of extending the color in the perennial border around your pond. Fall is a great time for planting!
Preparing Your Pond Plants for Winter
•There may be increasing numbers of yellow leaves this time of year, so prune them off all of your plants. Your lilies – tropical and hardy – should still be going strong, at least until the first heavy frost.
•Stop fertilizing your aquatic plants when the weather starts getting cooler. This lets them know the season is coming to an end.
•For those of you in the south, Cliff McCready at Aquatic Designs, in Gulf Shores, Alabama, recommends removing your tropical lilies and storing them in a water-filled container located in a place that won’t freeze. “They usually over-winter just fine on their own, but you can never predict just how cold it is really gonna get,” he explained.
•In preparation for winter, pond perennials (just like the perennials in your garden) should be cut back with their leaves and stems removed.
•Any other tropical aquatics that you intend to over-winter indoors, should be removed from your pond, potted, and brought indoors.
During the Winter in a Cold Climate
•If you live up north, you’ll begin to see ice forming on the waterfall and stream. Some areas may still have plants growing, and frisky fish, but the majority of us look at our ponds from the inside for the rest of the year. If that sounds familiar, you have a choice. You can either keep your pond running, or shut it down.
•Your fish will do just fine in two feet of water as long as you keep a hole in the ice to allow for gas exchange and re-circulate the water for oxygenation. Any debris left in the pond will continue to decompose and produce gases that can be harmful to fish.
•If your pump moves at least 2000 gallons of water per hour, you can run your waterfall throughout the winter. This will keep holes open in the ice as well as help oxygenate the water.
•When you run your waterfall during the winter, Mother Nature makes extraordinary, natural ice sculptures that result in some especially beautiful winter scenes. Some caution must be taken with ponds that have long or slow-moving streams. Ice dams can form and divert the water over the side of the liner. On extremely cold days, keep a watchful eye on the stream to be sure everything is running smoothly.
•If you choose to shut down your waterfall for the winter, then you will want to consider using a small re-circulating pump. You can place a pump (one that pumps at least 150 gallons per hour) below, but close to the water’s surface. By allowing it to bubble about one inch above the surface, the agitation will keep a hole in the ice and oxygenate the water until the air temperature drops below 10 ° F.
•If your area experiences long periods of sub-zero weather, you may consider adding a floating de-icer in order to maintain the hole in the ice. Controlled by a thermostat, the unit only runs when the water temperature is at or below freezing, heats the water to just above that, and then shuts off again.
•Please note, a floating heater alone will not oxygenate the water, and therefore can be deadly to your fish. Large fish, and/or fish in heavily stocked ponds, require water to be actively oxygenated in order to guarantee their survival.
•Keep the heater/de-icer and recirculating pump about five feet apart, otherwise the pump will circulate the warm water away from the heater, causing the heater to run more than necessary.
read more: www.aquascapeinc.com
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Author: Bobby Kenyon
Bobby Kenyon is the Creative Solutions Guru for C.E. Pontz Sons who has over a decade plus experience in the Landscape & Water Garden industry . He enjoys long walks on the beach and grocery shopping but has a strong dislike for regular cake and off brand paper towels

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