Looks as if this week will begin the journey to more seasonal October weather. The forecast suggests night temperatures hovering in the mid 30’s, so the greenery will soon be a memory. Now that you have your leaves and debris managed with last week’s tips, lets move on to your full water garden winterization.
This week many of your perimeter and pond plants will turn brown from the continuous cold. Time to remove all tropicals and trim all perennial plants back just as you do your soil based gardens. As mentioned last week, this will keep the organic matter at a minimum in your pond and pondless water fall basin.
Unlike many warmer parts of the country, we have to make the decision whether or not to keep our pond or pondless waterfall running for the season due to surface freezing. We have experience in our region keeping both a pondless and a large pond open throughout the winter months. And although the ice formations on the water falls are unbelievably beautiful….significant time needs to be invested in the winter for this. The ice formations of course will grow relative to the weather patterns and you will need to continually add water to keep enough in the basin for pumping given the growing ice dams. The ice dams can pull water from your basins and essentially burn out your pump if left unattended. Then factor in natural evaporation that transpires all season with any water fall, and you have a committed water filling babysitting routine throughout the winter. So consider this carefully.
To shut down your water feature for the winter you will first need to unplug the pump and pull it out of the water. We find storing the pumps in a 5 gallon utility bucket handy. You can put a small amount of water @ the base of the bucket to keep the seals from drying out and makes for easy transport. The pump should be stored in a frost free location.
If you have a pond with fish you will need to keep the water oxygenated and waste gases dispersed to keep them alive. An aeration unit designed for this purpose will usually do the trick. Do not waste your time on spray head units as they will ice up and leave you no hole in the ice and probably a pump burn out! In our region, due to the degree and long periods of cold along with bitter winds we recommend combined use of a pond aeration unit and heater/deicer unit in our ponds. The new pond heaters/deicers offer energy efficiency as they are “auto temperature” engaged. This eliminates constant electricity use. The heater turns on only when the temperature dictates a need. It will not keep your entire pond ice free, just a constant hole. It is the oxygen/carbon dioxide level management that is needed to keep fish and plants healthy throughout the winter…not open water to breath. As a result of combined use of a bubbler and heater you assure oxygenation to your fish and a hole in the surface ice to allow fish and decomposition waste product gas release.
By investing in these key maintenance steps now you will keep your water garden healthy and your fish secure in their natural habitat for your enjoyment next season. Just as our plants need some attention this time of year….our fish need this simple planning to enjoy a restful, healthy winter. In the meantime…stay warm…winter is on the way! 🙂