Short crisp days, long cold nights and Jack Frost is knocking at our windows. Winter is just about here!
The old school of thought regarding ponds was simply to turn off your waterfalls and wait for spring. In other words, forget about your pond until it warms up in the spring.
One of the main problems with this process is you miss out on the entire winter wonderland experience. Having a winter pond is actually a way of making our dreary winters much more enjoyable and something to look forward to.
The breath taking ice sculptures alone, created by the waterfalls and streams, are well worth the experience. As in snowflakes, no two are ever the same. This results in ever changing designs in your pond. The ice sparkling on a sunny winter’s day can’t help but lift your spirits.
There really is no good reason to turn off your waterfalls for several months at a time, regardless of the season. Your fish, plants and overall water quality will remain healthier and alive if you do leave it running as much as possible. Any time you shut a pond down for any great length of time, your pond’s ecosystem will become unbalanced. Usually resulting in stale and smelly water. The stagnant water will result in an anaerobic environment in which sludge buildup increases and thus the poisonous gas levels will rise in your pond.
Here are some frequently asked questions that will help you understand your winter pond:
Q: How can I avoid a lot of debris in the bottom of my pond so I don’t get high poisonous gas levels?
A: Leaf nets are great for catching the fall leaf droppage. They will aide in keeping the leaves out so you don’t have to scoop all of them out. Deadhead all your aquatic plants and remove the foliage from the pond. This will keep your plants from decaying inside the pond. This can be done before it ever gets cold outside.
Q: What do I do when the pond starts to freeze over?
A: Floating de-icers are available for your pond to keep an airhole on the surface to allow poisonous gases to escape. They are thermostatically controlled so simply plug in and let them do their thing. It is important to note that they are NOT meant to heat your pond.
Q: Do I have to turn off my waterfalls during the winter?
A: Waterfalls are an important part of enjoying your pond. Just be sure and watch the ice buildup created with your ice sculptures. The could dam up your water resulting in diverting the water out of the system. If this looks to be the case, simply unplug your pump and wait for it to thaw out some and then plug it back in.
Q: Do I have to take my pump out when I shut it off?
A: No. Most manufacturers suggest storing your pump in water if you pull it out of the water. It is much easier to leave the pump in the pump box, and then simply plug it in again as soon as you can.
Q: What about evaporation in the winter?
A: In most cases you will lose very little water due to evaporation. The ice in your pond is made up of your pond’s water so if there is a lot of ice, your water level could drop a little. But when it thaws out, it also goes back into your pond. You replace water in the winter the same as you did in the summer. You should rarely have to do it.
Q: What happens to my fish?
A: Your fish are in a semi-hibernation state right now. Their metabolism slows way down. They will usually hang out towards the bottom of the pond and occasionally will come to the surface on warmer days. Do NOT feed your fish in the winter as it can actually do more harm than good. Wait for spring when water temperatures stay above 50 degrees before you start feeding them.
Q: What about winter string algae blooms?
A: Yes, on occasion you can get string algae in the winter. Unfortunately, most of the products that you used all summer long do not work in the cold water of winter. However, over the last couple of years manufacturers have come up with several products that will work fairly well in cold water.
Q: Is there any way to aide my beneficial bacteria levels in the winter?
A: There is an Autumn/Winter Prep product that works in cold water that aides in keeping beneficial bacteria levels up and running to keep your ecosystem healthier and help breakdown the sludge buildup.
Q: Is there ever a situation when I should shut down my pond?
A: If you will be gone for an extended period of time with no one to watch over your pond, you will certainly want to shut down your pond while you are gone.
So for now the real question…why create an unhealthy ecosystem when you can have the enjoyment of a beautiful winter water garden? Winter is a time for slowing down and simply enjoying the sights and sounds of your personal winter wonderland.