Seasonal care of your pond or water garden is an important part of your overall maintenance routine. The climate that you live in plays a major role in what steps need to be taken, as well as what equipment will be helpful.
For those of us who live in northern states, and cooler climates, fall means leaves. Left unchecked, falling leaves can cause disastrous conditions in your pond or water garden. Leaves and other debris can clog filters, damage pumps, block spillways and reduce water quality. The best approach is a good defense; here are the products that will give you the best results.
Pond Netting: This is probably the easiest and most effective method for preventing leaves from getting into your pond. Pond Netting is a lightweight, easily installed barrier that shields your pond from leaves and other light debris. Pond Netting also has the added benefit of predator protection for your fish and frogs.
Pond Skimmer: These filters are designed to constantly skim water off the surface of your pond, trapping any floating leaves or debris, before it can sink and break down. These skimmers work well year round, used with Pond Netting; they can greatly reduce the amount of debris that makes it into your pond.
Skimmer Net: This is a broad sturdy net designed to catch leaves and other light material that may be floating in your water.
Inevitably leaves and other debris will make it into your pond, break down, and result in an organic sludge build up in your pond and filter. This sludge should also be removed as much as possible. These products will help with removal.
Pond Vacuum: These can be either pump powered or gravity powered, use the vacuum to suck out debris and sludge
Bottom Drain: By placing a bottom drain in a low point of your pond you can increase the amount of material that gets trapped in your filter.
Biological Pond Treatments: Special bacteria cultures have been formulated to maximize your biological filter efficiency, and to break down waste and debris biologically.
Once winter has set in, another serious concern in northern climates is ice. As organic material in your pond decomposes toxic gases are released. Under normal conditions, these gases escape into the atmosphere through the water surface. If your pond is allowed to be completely covered in ice these gases cannot escape and they can concentrate too dangerous levels. Using a Pond Heater will fix this problem. Floating heaters are designed to keep a small area of the pond surface ice free, allowing gas exchange with the atmosphere. Floating heaters are not designed to heat the pond significantly; in cold weather most of the pond will remain frozen.
Winterization of your pond filter also depends very much upon the climate in which you live. In warm climates, or climates in which temperatures do not stay below freezing you can leave your filter running year round. If you live in a cold climate where temperature are below freezing, or even if your climate has the potential to dip below freezing for a several days, shutting down and draining your filter and plumbing is the safest path to take. Water expands as it freezes damage to your pumps, plumbing and filters can be extensive. Damage to plumbing, or ice dams in spillways can cause rapid draining of your pond, it is not a risk worth taking. Remove your pumps, Ultraviolet sterilizers, and external filters, drain them, clean them and store them out of the weather until the threat of freezing weather has passed in spring.
Water temperature plays a major role in your fish keeping; you should always have a thermometer for your pond, and know your temperature. Most of your work on the fish should have been done in the months leading up to winter. During the summer when water temperatures are above 65 degrees your fish’s metabolism is in high gear and the fish have a hardy appetite. Use a high protein staple food during this time, this will allow fish to gain maximum weight and build up a fat reserve. Once fall arrives and your water temperature falls below 65 degrees, switch to a spring/fall food. Usually a wheat germ based food, spring/fall foods are easier to digest, and are safer to use as the fishes metabolism slows. Decrease feeding as water temperatures approach 50 degrees, two to three times per week is fine. At temperatures near 50 degrees it can take several days for fish to digest a full meal, overfeeding at this point can harm or even kill your fish. Once your water temperature has fallen below 50 degrees for an extended period of time stop feeding your fish! Your fish’s metabolism has slowed to a point where it is dangerous to feed them, they can now rely on their built up fat reserves until spring. Do not start to feed your fish again until your water temperature has stabilized above 50 degrees in spring.
Once fall has set in and your plants have stopped growing you can prepare them for winter. You should have stopped feeding your plants at this time. Hardy marginal pond plants and lilies should be trimmed back, removing all the old growth and dead leaves. Place these plants in a deep section of the pond to protect their roots from a hard freeze. Hardy plants will go dormant and survive the winter outside with few problems. If you have a pond that is too small, or freezes solid, you can bring all your plants inside. Store them in a container in the garage or basement where they will stay cool and stay dormant till spring.
Many tropical plants can be brought inside and used as houseplants for the winter, Umbrella palms, Taros and Cannas will do well in sunny rooms so long as their pots are kept moist. Tropical water lilies can be kept in small containers if you have a sunroom or and area where they can get at least 6 hours of direct light. Otherwise they can be stored in containers in your basement till spring. Water lettuce and Hyacinth can also be brought inside; however they require high amounts of light and temperatures above 70 degrees to do well. In most cases it is easier and cheaper to dispose of your Lettuce and Hyacinth and replace them in the spring once your pond has warmed up.