Prepare outdoor ponds and water features for winter weather
As the weather cools, ponds in cooler climates should be prepared for winter. Even in warm-weather winters the mini-environment created by a water garden will respond to dropping temperatures and shorter daylight hours. Where hard freezes are the rule, ponds and other water features need serious winterizing.
If you have a pond with fish, switch to a ‘winter food’ when water temperatures fall to 60’ F. Stop feeding all together when water becomes colder than 50’ F. Fish are cold-blooded and as their surroundings cool, their metabolism slows. Digestion becomes sluggish and they cannot process food in the cold the way they do in the warmth of summer. Food that remains uneaten will only rot and pollute the water.
If you live where frost is likely it’s a good idea to drain fountains and shut down waterfalls. Water expands in equipment to form ice and is likely to split and even break plumbing when pipes confine the freezing water. Turning off water will help, but unless you drain the pipes, remaining water will still be able to freeze and damage the plumbing.
Clean up dead leaves and stems from water plants at the end of the season. Many water plants go dormant during the winter. Dead leaves, like uneaten fish food, will create water quality problems if allowed to disintegrate and rot into the water. Tender plants should be moved to a warm, safe place for the winter.
Should you have a pond with fish hanging out in the lower, warmer depths and the water freezes over the surface, you will need to remove some ice so the fish will have the oxygen they need. Never break the ice since the impact will vibrate through the water and endanger the fish. Instead, place a pot filled with boiling water on top of the ice and melt a hole into the surface. If there is a chance of your pond freezing solid, move the fish to a more protected location for the cold months of winter.
Ponds are one form of water feature that can add a whole new dimension to your garden. They support life within the water and help wildlife in the environment outside. Water features offer a living focal point to your landscape. If you properly prepare your outdoor water gardens for winter weather, they will likely spring back to life — healthy and more beautiful than ever — to gift you with hours of enjoyment when the weather warms..
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