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Rail City Garden Center

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Winterizing Your Pond

It has become popular to run a pond or water feature during the winter. If you are so inclined, give it a try this year! Just be aware that if you have slower moving water on a stretch of stream going into your pond you will need to watch carefully during cold snaps to make sure ice doesn’t dam up and divert water outside of the liner. That, of course, would quickly empty your pond – not good!

If you choose to shut your pond or water feature down for the winter you should consider the following:

Take your pump out of the skimmer and store it in a frost-free location. It may need to be submersed in a bucket of water to help prevent seals from drying and cracking (check the manufacturer’s recommendation).

  • Remove the filter mats and biological media bags from the Biofalls, rinse them off, and store them in a dry location.
  • If any pipes or flexible lines are exposed to possible freezing they should be drained to prevent damage.
  • Container water gardens should be drained and stored so that water does not collect in them during the winter (and possibly freeze).
  • Establish a way of keeping your pond (if fish are present) from freezing over completely. An opening in the ice is needed to allow toxic gases to escape. Using a small pump (say, 150 GPH) to create a surface disturbance will do the job. Or, you can use a floating heater that kicks on when the water temp on the surface drops down close to freezing. The Thermo-Pond unit we carry in the Pond Shop would work well and only uses 100 watts – so would also be economical! There are other alternatives such as a Pond-Vent Ice Reducer, Bird Bath De-Icer, etc. (we carry several options).

What about the fish? We find that people are rightfully concerned about whether their favorite fish will be okay during that freezing weather of winter! As usual, nature has a solution that works well. The metabolism of the fish decreases as the water temperature drops. We know it will be difficult, but you need to stop feeding your fish when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees F. From that time until the water temperature goes back up in the spring your fish will stay relatively immobile in the deeper parts of your pond (18” or more). They are not going to starve during those long winter months and, in fact, could not digest food properly even if they did eat! They do, however, need oxygen in the water and that is one reason for keeping an opening in the ice. You might want to have a small pump (again, about 150 GPH) running during the winter to keep stagnant areas from developing. If you have a surface heater, be sure the pump is not directed at the heater.

The plants you have planted in your pond will do fine with a few exceptions (some of the more cold sensitive ones may not make it through a very cold winter). You can trim marginal plants down to within 1 or 2 inches above the water level and trim dead water lily leaves and stems down to about 3 inches off the base. If the plants still look green, then leave them for pruning during the spring cleanout. The main thing is to get as much dead foliage (and fallen leaves, etc.) out of the pond as reasonably possible. If a tree in the vicinity will be dropping a lot of leaves in your pond, you might cover the pond with a protective net until leaf drop is over. Remember, though, you don’t need to get every little scrap of dead material out of your pond – just the big stuff that is easy to get at!


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