Fall and Winter Maintenance
In the fall, water is almost always very clear because of the cooler temperatures and the full, lush plants. Enjoy the good water quality! Here are some things that you can do to keep your water garden looking good. Note: Several of the steps do not apply to Pondless® Waterfall systems.
The most important thing is to have fun with your water feature all year long. Keep some of these key maintenance issues in mind, and it will be smooth sailing. In the meantime, stay warm!
- There may be an increasing numbers of yellow leaves this time of year, so prune them off all of your plants. Your lilies – tropical and hardy – should still be going strong, at least until the first heavy frost.
- Stop fertilizing when the weather becomes cooler. This lets the plants know the season is coming to an end.
- When the water temperature is around 55 F° (10° C), stop feeding your fish. Continuing to feed them could cause health problems or death for them, since their digestive systems are beginning to slow down for the winter.
- As leaves falls from nearby trees, you’ll probably have to empty the debris net every day to keep up with the influx of leaves. Some of them will undoubtedly sink to the bottom, try to remove as many as you can, however a few left in the pond will give insects and frogs a place to over winter.
- If you leave too much organic matter in your pond, the water may turn brown. If this happens, remove the excess debris and add activated carbon to clear the water.
- As it gets colder, your aquatic plants will have all but died for the season. Now you can cut back the dead plant material and remove the tropicals. Cut back the cattails above the water level, or better yet, leave them up to see how magnificent they look in the winter.
- If you’re fortunate enough to be where it stays warm all year round, you’re set for the winter.
- If you live up north, where the surface of the pond freezes, you’ll need to prepare for winter by deciding whether you want to keep your pond running or shut it down.
- To shut your pond down, first unplug your pump and pull it out of the water. The pump should be stored in a frost-free location, submerged in a bucket of water to keep the seals from drying.
- If you have fish, a small re-circulating pump that bubbles at the water surface is necessary to oxygenate the water. In all but extremely low temperatures, the bubbling of the pump will also keep a hole open in the ice to allow for a gas exchange, keeping your fish alive. It is not necessary to oxygenate the water or keep a hole open in the ice if you don’t have fish.
- If your area experiences long periods of extremely cold weather, you may consider adding a floating de-icer. Controlled by a thermostat, the unit only runs when the water temperature is at or below freezing, heats the water to just above that, and then shuts off again. Ask your installer or local supplier for products to help your pond during the winter.
- If you use a floating de-icer, place it away from the bubbler. The movement of the water can move the heated water away from the de-icer, making it run more than necessary.
- You can also choose to keep the waterfall running. This will require a little babysitting to make sure an ice dam does not form which could cause water to run out of the Pondless® Waterfall/ Pond basin. You will also still need to replace water loss so the pump can continue to function properly (see “The Water Level” above). This extra effort during the winter will reward you with the most beautiful ice formations and patterns around the falls and streambeds.
Spring is simply the most exciting time of year. As things slowly awaken from their winter hibernation, there are some things that you can do to make sure your water feature gets off to a good start this spring.
Does your water feature need a full clean-out this season or does it just need to be tidied up a little? There are a couple of things that you can look for to help you decide. First, if there is a layer of “crud” at the bottom of the pond and the water is dark in color, it would be a good idea to do a full clean-out.
On the other hand, if there is just a small amount of debris that you can stir up and capture with a net and the water looks clear, a little tidying up is all that’s in order. Plan on spending a half to a full day to complete a pond clean-out. A Pondless® Waterfall will take considerably less time.
The best time to perform a pond clean-out is the early spring, before your water garden completely awakens from its winter dormancy – ideally before the water temperature in the pond creeps above 55º F. If a clean-out is performed when the water is warmer, after bacteria colonies form, the balance of the ecosystem will again be thrown off and your pond will go through another “green phase” before the bacteria colonies re-establish themselves again.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- A clean-out pump with approximately 25 ft. of discharge hose
- A high-pressure nozzle for your garden hose, or a power washer
- Garden shears for trimming plants
- A child’s swimming pool or a similar sized container to hold fish and any other critters you find during the clean-out
- A net or something similar to place over the fish container to keep them from jumping out
- Two five-gallon buckets to collect leaves and debris
- A fish net
- EcoSystems® EcoStarter™ Plus water conditioner to remove chorine and chloramines prior to putting fish back.
- EcoSystems® EcoTabs™ fertilizer tabs.
Drain the Pond/ Pondless® Waterfall
- Place the clean-out pump in the deepest point of the pond or in the Pondless® Waterfalls Snorkel™ in order to remove the water.
- Drain the water into the surrounding landscape. Be sure to relocate the pipe two or three times to allow the water to seep into the ground and not flood the yard.
- If you have fish, use some of this pond water to fill up the holding pool. The fish can be removed from the pond using a net once the water is low enough so you can easily catch them.
- Don’t keep the fish in the holding pool for more than several hours. Keep them in a shady spot with a net over the top of the pool to prevent them from jumping out.
Don’t Overdo the Cleaning
- Rinse the inside of the pond. You can also use a pressure washer to help remove debris from the rocks and gravel.
- Don’t try to scrub all of the algae away. Some algae on the rocks will prove beneficial in developing your ecosystem. For an average size pond (11' x 16') this should take around 15 minutes.
- Use the gentle stream from a garden hose to rinse the rocks and gravel. Start at the top and work your way down to the bottom. Periodically turn the clean-out pump on to remove the dirty water. You can discontinue the periodic pumping once the water rinsing down to the bottom begins to look clear. Remove the pump and begin filling the pond.
Cleaning the Filters
- Remove any debris from the bottom of the skimmer and Snorkel™ Vault. This can be done by hand or by using the cleanout pump.
- Remove the media nets and filter pads from the BioFalls® Filter. (Not included with the Pondless® Waterfall). If you have the optional drain kit attached to your Signature Series™ BioFalls® Filter, you can open up the valve and rinse the media and filters. Once the filters have been removed rinse them free of accumulated debris.
- The filter media and mats can be put back into place and the waterfalls pump can be reattached in the skimmer or Snorkel™ Vault.
Putting Your Fish Back Into Their Clean Home
Your pond clean-out is now done and it’s time to put your fish back into their home. Once your pond is half full, you can perform these steps to safely place your fish back in the pond:
- If you’re on city water, it’s imperative that you add a de-chlorinator to the water so it is safe for fish.
- Dip a five-gallon bucket, or similar sized container, in the holding tank and fill it with water.
- After you’ve caught a fish, place it in the bucket and set the buckets in the clean water.
- After about 15 minutes, periodically begin splashing some pond water into the bucket.
- By now, the temperature of the pond and the bucket water should be close to the same. You are ready to spill the fish into their spring-cleaned home.