Our blog for gardeners have included articles on all sorts of topics from maintaining a garden through the seasons to how to recognize specific diseases affecting
your plants. We have also discussed how to create and maintain a garden pond.
Now that winter is settling in you should take steps to prepare your garden pond for the cold and snow.
Your initial activity should be to clean out the pond. This would include removing any dead plants, flowers, leaves, algae and other debris. Keep in mind that rotting foliage will produce gases in the water underneath the ice that could prove fatal to the fish if you decide to keep them in the pond. When removing dead vegetation, be sure not to accidently remove floating pond plants that will grow again next spring.
Of course, the first concern is to protect the plants in and around the pond. It is suggested that you trim back or prune plants as they turn brown. Water lilies should be clipped down to their base and bog and marsh plants should be trimmed. Leave any division or repotting for spring. If you do the repotting too soon, the plants may become weak over the winter. Begin removing plants once the average daily air temperature has fallen to below 60° F and they have started to turn brown. The tender plants should be brought indoors for the winter. The hardier plants in pots can be submerged in a portion of the pond where it is deep enough that ice will not form.
Take the tender plants and immerse them in a tub or container filled with water so that they are 1-inch to 2-inches below the surface, then store them in a cold room like an unheated basement. As an alternative, you can wash the plants thoroughly, remove old stems and roots and bury the underground stems and lateral shoots in a bucket filled with clean, damp sand or damp sphagnum moss. Check the plants often to be certain that the roots don’t dry out.
If you have a small garden pond and the weather is relatively mild in your region of the country you don’t have to drain the water from the pond. However, if the region of the country in which you live experience harsher winters, it might be best to prepare housing for the fish and aquatic plants. If your pond is large, it probably is more feasible to keep the fish in the pond. As mentioned above, bring the tender plants indoors and prepare an indoor tank several weeks in advance to accommodate the fish if you intend to remove them.
When you are ready to transfer the fish, drain the pond to a level where the fish can continue to swim, but you can see and catch them in a bucket. You want to use a bucket instead of a net so that you can avoid removing any of their slimy coating. Once the fish are safe within the indoor tank, you can empty the pond completely and cover it, or just remove the mechanicals, and cover the remaining water and let it freeze solid.
If you intend to leave water in the pond, move the filter to the surface so that the air bubbles break the surface of the water. This may prevent the pond from freezing totally. If you intend to empty most of the water out of the pond, remove the filter and store indoors.
Once the plants have been removed, vacuum the pond to clear out dead plants and other debris to prevent the creation of toxic gases that can kill the fish if you intend to keep them in the pond.
Feed the fish less as the temperature gets colder. Stop feeding the fish completely when the temperature drops below 50° F to ensure that they won’t create more waste products that the remaining plants can process. The fish will be in semi-hibernation, so there will be enough nutrients in the pond for them to survive the winter.
Once the temperature drops below 40° F, remove and clean the pump and filters and store them for the winter. If your pond is properly designed, warm water will settle near the bottom. The pumps circulate the warm water from the bottom to the top. It is best to remove the pump for winter so that the warm water at the bottom is not disturbed.
You should keep at least a portion of the garden pond from freezing so that toxic gases can be released and oxygen can be allowed into the pond. So use a floating pond heater or de-icing unit to assure that the pond does not totally freeze over. Keep in mind that you don’t want the heater to actually heat the pond. Water temperatures over 50° to 65° F can cause bacteria to breed and they can harm the fish. The purpose of the heater is only to prevent ice from forming on the surface.
Cover the pond with a screen like shade cloth, netting, or landscape fabric so that debris and leaves won’t fall into it. This will permit easier pond preparation when spring arrives.