Pond Owners Handbook
Winterizing Your Pond
We at Cole’s are residents of the Niagara Peninsula, and as such; subject to a Canadian winter. Every fall, our beloved ecosystems slowly grind to a halt. It’s at this time of year that we, as pond owners need to intervene and perform what’s known as a pond closing. A pond closing can be a breeze, or a nightmare depending on how your summer and early fall went.
Regardless of the pond’s condition, a proper close out should be performed.
Remove the Plants
All tropical plants should be removed to stop them from dying and breaking down in your pond. Tropical plants like Hyacinth and Water Lettuce should be removed from the surface of the pond in small groups if possible. This will reduce shock to the pond due to a large change in the amount of light the pond receives, and how exposed the fish are. Other tropical plants should be either brought inside for the winter, or discarded before they begin to decompose.
While perennials will persist through winter, the foliage of most perennial pond plants dies back each winter. For rushes, grasses, Irises, and most other perennials, cutting the plant material back to just above the soil/roots is ideal. This annual cutting will also help keep any persistent perennial plants in check.
This cutting includes Lillies and Lotus as well, as well as having their pads and flowers cut off and removed; Lillies and Lotus should be placed below the frost layer. In Niagara this depth is 18″, keeping your plants below this depth will make sure they don’t freeze solid, and can come back in the Spring.
Depending on when you perform your closeout, you could have a layer of leaves, sticks, and garbage that has been blown into your pond. Why should these be removed now, as opposed to when you open your pond in the Spring? Leaving organics and garbage in the pond over winter provide a nutrient source, while nutrient uptake is at a yearly low. The breakdown of too much organics over the winter can lead to toxic conditions as the water warms back up. Using a net, or pond-vac attempt to remove as much debris as possible. A small amount of debris left can be cleaned up in the spring.
Filters & Pump
Filters are removed last for two reasons:
- In some cases, a pump or filter is inaccessible until much of the clean out has been completed.
- By running a filter while cutting back plants, and stirring up muck, you give yourself a better change of removing as much waste as possible.
Removing a pump and filter is relatively straightforward task. A typical pump removal will need either a union or hose clamp disconnected. After removing a filter, ensure to clean it’s media thoroughly while it’s still wet. Detritus (pond dirt essentially) from a pond can turn into a hard cake that’s near impossible to clean when dry. Ensure that any canisters or compartments such as a volute housing (front section) of a pump is dry and free of any water that could freeze. Freezing water expands and can lead to costly damage.
Depending on what sort of plumbing is involved used on your water feature, you may be fine to leave a small amount of water in your hoses. We here at Cole’s however, make every attempt to blow lines out. Using a shop-vac in reverse, or leaf blower works great for this. If any outlets or inlets are below water level, they should be plugged to stop water from entering.
Cold Weather Specific Hardware
The first must have for any pond owner is a cover net. A cover net will allow the pond to function as normal, while keeping most leaves and small debris out of the pond. This will save you a lot of time come spring when you have to open your pond.
Over the winter months, a solid freeze must be avoided. While keeping the whole pond thawed is a near impossible task, there are three popular methods for keeping a portion of your pond ice-free.
- A floating pond-deicer
- An airstone running 24/7
- Running a pump
- Either pointed at the surface of the pond
- Or powering a waterfall
The de-icer is great because so long as it is running, there will be a hole open in the pond surface. It’s downfalls lie in the amount of energy used (usualy upwards of 250w), and the lack of circulation it provides. Multiple de-icers may need to be used on larger ponds. In order to combat high costs of running a heating element all day, hook your de-icer up to a timer. Around here we have variable power rates, and as such I run my de-icer at night when power is cheapest.
An air pump running all day is actually a lot more energy efficient than a de-icer for any amount of time. Typical air pumps run at below 20w of power. An air pump will move warmer water from lower in the pond, and continually break the surface of the water – preventing freezing. Despite these ice preventing benefits, ice can still freeze over, and even when this happens, an air pump will continue to add much needed oxygen to the water.
You can run your ponds pump to break the surface and prevent freezing, this usually works but can easily be replaced with an airstone for the same effect. Covering the costs of a pump by switching to an air pump can usually be achieved in the first season of use. In addition to being lower cost, not putting the wear and tear on your expensive pump is a good thing.
This leaves us with keeping your waterfall running year round. Unfortunately for most, without a large deep pond this simply isn’t an option. In order to run your falls all winter we recomend a minimum depth of 5′, and the pump should be placed at this depth. All plumbing should be appropriately sized and water should be fast moving to prevent ice build up. Close attention needs to be paid to prevent freezing and potential plumbing bursts or pump death.
Our suggestion at Cole’s is that you run a heater on a timer in conjunction with a air pump. What do you do during your winters?