It’s been a long hot summer throughout most of the U.S. but as we watch the colors of the leaves turn from green to shades of yellow, orange, and brown, we can finally say the worst for most ponds is over, at least as far as the heat is concerned.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that finally fall has arrived, and it won’t be long before winter will arrive. So as we usually do, it now seems appropriate to talk about how to care for your pond throughout the colder seasons.
In an effort to keep this simple, efficient, and effective, let’s address the main areas that you can focus on in regards to winter pond care to help your pond, fish, and plants get through another frosty few months.
Aeration Is Important As Usual
If any summer proved the value of aeration in hot weather this one sure did. Fish were being lost throughout the country in ponds that never had a problem before. But hot summer weather isn’t the only time you can run into issues. Ice cover can prove dangerous too. Generally speaking, for larger waters, ice coverage that extends for weeks or months may trap a lot of unwanted toxic gasses in the water and limit any fresh oxygen from coming in, and so winter fish kills can and do occur. The solution to this is to keep a spot open and free of ice, and a diffused aerator will do a good job of this if it’s placed in shallow water. You only need a small area kept open, not the entire surface, and if part of the deeper section of the pond is left undisturbed the fish can go there for warmer temps and a bit more comfort.
Ice can also do a lot of damage to structures like boat docks and boat lifts, so in using a pond circulator you can keep specific areas of the water open (see picture above).
For small ponds, ice can also be problematic, in some ways just as with large water, you want a spot kept open for air and gas exchange. By the same token, many smaller backyard ponds aren’t all that deep and you want to avoid having a full freeze up which obviously is not healthy for fish. In this case, an aerator can make sense, and it can be combined at times of extreme cold, with a pond deicer, for added protection.
Pond Netting And Covers
Fall is, well commonly associated with falling leaves and these are things you simply don’t want in your small pond. You may not stop everything but leaf netting can certainly help keep some of the big stuff out. It’s also useful for protection against migrating water birds such as herons that may find your pond on the way south. At any rate the more you can keep the organic stuff out of the pond the better off you’ll be. It makes cleaning the bottom a good bit less intensive, and with a skimmer it place that should capture some of the floating leaves before they sink.
For accumulations on the bottom of the pond, it’s a great idea to remove those manually or with a pond vacuum. I think fall is a good time to do a little shop keeping if you plan on running things through the winter. If not, you could wait for spring of course, but I’d still suggest covering the pond over to keep the crap out of it. Why not enjoy the spring a bit more and not work so hard when you start things up again?
Oh and before I forget to mention it, if you’ve had plants in the pond, it’s probably time to get them out now that cooler weather is coming in. Don’t leave dead or dying vegetation in the pond as it will only cause issues down the road. Cut back what you may winter over and toss out those that you won’t.
Pond Deicers And Heaters
Finally we need to mention the use of a deicer for ponds that will likely freeze over in the winter. Like a small pond aerator, deicers are intended to keep a small hole open in the ice to allow air in and bad gasses out. Deicers do heat up, but they shouldn’t be confused with a heater. Deicers are designed only to come on when the temperature get’s cold enough to freeze the water. Otherwise they’ll just sit there and look pretty. Heaters, which by the way, are much less commonly used, actually are intended to warm the water and keep it at a constant temperature.
When you peruse the pond market for winter supplied you will likely find many types of deicers but few if any heaters. The latter just isn’t required for most ponds and a deicer will cost less to purchase and to operate. They are normally rated by wattage and there are temperature charts available that will provide deicer suggestions for your particular climate. Most are fairly affordable and will last a number of years.
Enjoy Your Winter Pond
A pond for all seasons can really be enjoyable for a lot of people. Now, I’ll grant you that many small pond or water garden owners simply shut their features down for the winter and that’s just fine. To each their own. But for those that do decide to try a winter pond, there are definitely ways to keep them in better shape, keep your fish happy and healthy, and maybe make those long winter months a little more tolerable and enjoyable.
Before I go, here’s a note about safety. Above all, for small and large ponds alike, be sure to be safe if you’re dealing with ice cover. Use proper precautions to insure that the ice is strong and stable enough to support your weight (should you decide to venture out on it for recreation, etc.) and don’t take chances when you’re not sure of things. People do, unfortunately drown because of winter pond accidents and I certainly don’t want that to happen to you!