Getting your pond ready for a healthy spring season starts by preparing it in the fall for the cold months ahead. Even though you hate to say goodbye to the beautiful lilies and will miss the antics of your koi as they sink low to rest for winter, taking these steps now means that in only a few months’ time you can happily greet your beloved blooms, greenery and critters once again.
Remove Leaves And Debris
Skim floating debris like leaves and twigs from the surface of your pond, and remove sunken debris with a long-handled net. Doing this now will prevent organic matter from decaying over the winter and releasing toxic gasses into the water that can upset the balance of the pond and harm fish.
Cover Your Pond With Netting
Once the water is free of debris, cover it completely with netting designed specifically for this purpose. The net will keep additional debris from accumulating as the trees and other foliage begin to shed leaves. You can easily scoop excess debris off the net rather than digging it out of your pond.
When the net is properly stretched, it’s barely visible, which means you can continue to enjoy your pond throughout the season. Keep an eye on the weather and remove the net before the first snowfall. The weight of snow can drag the net down and trap or kill fish.
Trim and remove any dying plant material and cut marginals to just above the water line. You can leave some grasses, like sweet flag and ribbon grass, for winter visual interest. Cut back lilies and lotuses to about an inch above the root stem and remove the debris. That will help them prepare to bloom next spring and also leave your fish a place to hide during winter.
Your tropical plants can’t survive the New Jersey winter, so you can treat them as annuals and replant them next spring, or if you’re up for the challenge, you can try to overwinter them indoors.
Change Your Fish Feeding Habits
When the water temperature – not the air temperature – drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit switch to a cold water fish food. Keep a pond thermometer on hand so you’ll know when to take action. Fish metabolism slows down during cold months and they digest food more slowly, so you’ll need food specifically designed to aid their digestion. Only feed what they can eat within a few minutes and scoop out the rest.
Once the water temperature drops below 55 degrees, stop feeding fish altogether. They can no longer process food at lower temperatures so if you continue feeding, it will end up as excess waste and decaying matter that will upset the balance of your pond.
Add Cold Water Bacteria
When the temperature drops below 50 degrees, add cold water bacteria to help maintain water quality and dramatically reduce the work involved in spring maintenance. Cold water bacteria will act as a winter filtration system by digesting any debris that accumulates.
Preparing equipment now will help keep water healthier all winter and will make your spring startup much easier. Start by cleaning any debris nets, skimmer pads, brushes, filters and pumps.
If you’re using an electronic water clarifier, shut it down. Excess copper released by the system during winter months can kill fish.
Finally, add a deicer once you remove the netting so your pond doesn’t freeze over later. Without an opening in the surface, harmful gasses can accumulate under the ice, oxygen cannot be circulated in, and fish can die. Don’t wait until the coldest day of the year – prepare your pond now and avoid emergencies.
Decide Whether To Shut Down Your Pond
Whether you keep the pond and waterfall running all winter or shut it down until spring is entirely up to you. Keeping a pond running can result in beautiful ice formations and you can continue to enjoy the sights and sounds of running water all year. It does require some extra maintenance on your part, such as replacing water lost to evaporation and watching to be sure ice dams don’t form and divert water out of the pond.
If you choose to shut your pond down, you’ll need to perform a few extra maintenance steps now. Turn off and remove the pump then store it in a bucket of water to preserve the seals and extend its life. Keep it in a garage or basement where it won’t freeze.
Place a small recirculating pump just beneath the surface to keep water oxygenated. Don’t place it at the bottom of your pond otherwise it will circulate colder surface water down into the warmer water where fish will spend the winter.
Remove filters as well and store them where they won’t freeze. Finally, drain the plumbing to avoid water freezing and potentially damaging the pipes that connect your filtration system.
Enjoy The Season
Shutting a pond down doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it until spring. A winter pond can be just as beautiful, whether you appreciate its snow-covered stillness or marvel at the ice crystals that form on your waterfall.
If you haven’t yet, consider installing underwater lighting so you can appreciate its dazzling effects, especially as the days grow shorter.
You can take these steps to clean and prepare your pond for winter or if you’d rather leave it to the pros, get in touch and let us know. We’ll visit your home and perform a top-to-bottom white glove fall maintenance service so you can look forward to the next season and a healthy spring ahead.