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Fall Pond Maintenance: 7 Tips to Employ during the Changing Seasons

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As fall starts to take hold, it's time for us pond enthusiasts to shift our attention to fall pond maintenance. Proper care during this season ensures that your backyard pond remains healthy, beautiful, and protected through the winter ahead. In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps to take during the fall to ensure a healthy pond come spring.

1. Remove Fallen Leaves and Install Netting

Because leaves can disrupt water clarity and quality, itís important to remove them as soon as possible if they make their way into your pond. Leaves have a negative effect on pond water in a number of ways: their tannins can stain your pond water a tea color, leaves that pile up on the bottom of a pond add additional muck and they increase the organic load. Additionally, when leaves break down they consume oxygen, limiting availability of this essential element for fish and the pond ecosystem.

Remove as many leaves as possible using a tool such as a long handle leaf net. If youíre late to the game and already noticing issues from decaying leaves, there are solutions that can help like all-season sludge removers and activated carbon. Call us for details on how to apply.

If you havenít already, itís a good idea to install pond netting over your water to prevent more leaves from entering. Make sure the netting is stretched tight or build support underneath. For small ponds, pull netting tight and secure with ground stakes or perimeter rocks. For larger ponds, itís a good idea to build a support system underneath your netting with something like nylon rope. There are lots of options here, though. Weíve even seen customers build domes out of PVC pipe to keep netting out of the pond. (You could also go the easy route and pick up a pond tent from us here.)

However you go about it, just make sure leaf netting doesnít hang in the pond. If leaves on top of the netting are causing it to hang in the water then leaves are still in the pond contributing to all of the previously mentioned problems. Fish can also get caught in netting thatís hanging in a pond.

2. Trim and Prune Hardy Pond Plants & Winterize Tropicals

During fall and winter, any hardy plant can stay in the pond. Cut back the foliage leaving a few inches of growth visible (just enough so the plant can sense sunlight come spring). Once plants are cut back, move them to the bottom of your pond below the freeze line. Floating plants are difficult to overwinter and are cheap to replace, so most pond owners decide to discard and repurchase every spring. For tropical plants you can do one of two things: throw away each season or overwinter indoors. Most customers treat tropical lilies like hanging plant baskets and replace them every year. If you want to overwinter indoors, call us for a detailed explanation.

3. Switch to Wheat-Germ Fish Food

As temperatures drop itís important to switch to a wheat-germ based fish food. This food has less protein and is easier for fish to digest. It will help build fat reserves on fish until spring. Generally youíll feed wheat-germ food when your pond temp is averaging between 40 and 55 degrees fahrenheit. When your pond temperature is below 40 stop feeding altogether.

4. If you leave your pond running

If you decide to leave your pond running through the fall and winter, be mindful of your equipment. Pressurized filters and UV Clarifiers could crack and break in freezing weather, and manufacturers wonít generally warranty damages caused by the cold. (If you expect a deep freeze youíll need to winterize your equipment. See tip number 5 for recommendations.)

Water loss due to evaporation and splashing is bound to happen. Have a garden hose and conditioner on hand to top off the pond. Make sure to keep your garden hose indoors, so water inside doesnít freeze and make the hose unusable.

Keep a watchful eye out for ice dams forming around your waterfall. These are pretty much what they sound likeóice that forms on your waterfall blocking or diverting water flow. These dams can result in water running out of a pond. If you do notice ice dams forming, try to melt them with a pot of boiling water.

5. If you shut down your pond

If you decide to shut down the pond, youíll need to winterize your equipment. Remove the pond pump and clean it before storing indoors for the winter. Protection from the outdoors and cold weather will lengthen the life of the pump. Follow these same steps for removable filters. Removable or not, make sure to clean and drain filters completely. Cover filters that are not possible to move indoors. Next, drain all the plumbing.

As it gets colder, itís important to keep an opening in any ice that may form at the surface of the pond. This ensures proper gas exchange continuesóallowing toxic gasses to escape and oxygen to enter. Be proactive and add a floating de-icer before the pond freezes. Most any de-icer these days are thermostatically controlled and wonít turn on unless the water temperature gets around freezing, and will automatically turn off after a period of warming. You can utilize an aeration system to maintain an opening in the ice, too. Simply relocate diffusers near the surface. The moving water will maintain an opening in the ice.

6. Switch to cold water bacteria

When pond water temperatures average below 50 degrees fahrenheit itís time to start using cold water bacteria. This bacteria has strains that are designed to work in lower pond temps than standard beneficial bacteria. This will help maintain water quality and clarity throughout the fall and winter by breaking down slow to degrade organics, and will reduce maintenance needed come spring. Adding bacteria is the easiest way to maintain quality throughout winter.

7. Think ahead to winter safety

For those of you that live in areas that get winter precipitation, itís a good idea to mark the outline of your pond before a snowfall. Purchase inexpensive marker flags and mark the perimeter. This can help prevent dangerous falls into the pond for anyone that enters your yard.

Fall pond maintenance is essential for preserving the beauty and health of your water garden. By taking these steps, you can enjoy a thriving pond throughout the fall and be well-prepared for the challenges of winter. Keep your backyard oasis in top condition, so you can enjoy it to the fullest again come the happiest time of year for pond keepersóspring opening time!

Article Posted: 10/11/2023 09:20:59 AM

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