Ready your Pond for Winter


the Pond

Signs of autumn are springing
up everywhere. Leaves are turning colors, birds are
gathering for their flight south, pumpkins and apples
are being harvested and the blankets are being put back
onto the beds. Sunscreen is being traded for sweaters
and sweatshirts. Water lilies and other vegetation in
your pond are slowing their growth and fading. They
are getting ready for dormancy. Fall is upon us. Time
to start preparing our ponds for winter and our fish
for their long winter’s nap. Transplanting and dividing
of your pond plants should be left until spring. Now
is the time to remove all fading foliage from marginal
plants. I do not trim my marginal plants down until
after the first frost. In areas where the water lily
beetle is prevalent, they love nothing better than the
dying foliage of your marginal plants where they can
hide for the winter. Do not fertilize your plants anymore.
Remove and bring indoors your tropical marginal plants
before the first frost. To protect your hardy water
plants, lower them to the bottom of your pond.

Now is the time to install
a protective net over the pond if you have a lot of
falling leaves. Plastic bird netting is available at
most garden centers. You can insert a stick or garden
rake into a potted plant to give your net a higher point,
like a tent. This will allow the leaves to be swept
from the net. Do not allow the net to drape into your
pond. Fish and frogs can become entangled in the net.
Remove the leaves regularly from both pond and net.
Keep them picked up from your yard so that the wind
does not blow them in the pond. Repair any damages and
leaks before winter. Reseed your biofilters with bacteria.
This will help maintain good water quality during fall.
I use a product by Microbe-lift called Autumn Prep.
This is for winterization of your pond and works in
water temperature under 55°F. It will help to decompose
the leaves, scum, sediment, and other organic matter
during fall and winter. It is also all natural, nontoxic
and nonpathogenic and contains psychrophilic which is
a cold weather bacteria. You can purchase this at almost
any nursery that sells pond supplies. There are other
products out there but I have never used them. Remove
all dead leaves and such from your pond. If you have
a skimmer you will want to clean it at least once day
to prevent blockage.

Start feeding your fish food
that is higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein.
Carbohydrates will fatten your fish up for the long
winter. Your fish do not hibernate during the winter.
Their metabolism slows down as the water-cools down.
If we fatten them up before we quit feeding them they
will have enough to live on through the cold winter
months. Start feeding your fish only once a day until
the water temperature stabilizes below 55°. DO NOT
WARMS UP ABOVE THAT POINT. Even if we have some warm
days during winter, do not feed. Several new pond owners
lost their fish this past winter because they could
not resist the temptation to feed their fish. Now your
fish do not have the cover of the plants to hide from
predators. Keep an eye open. The herons can still get
to your fish through a net. Try some fishing line around
your pond, about six inches from the ground. Crisscross
the line across your pond also. A milk carton, large
planter turned upside down with a hole in the side,
drainage pipes or anything else that your fish can hide
in will protect them from raccoons and other predators.
Make sure there aren’t any rough edges for your fish
to cut themselves on. I use four large pots with a weighted
down sheet of plywood laid on top (non-treated wood).
This gives my fish someplace to hide under for safety
to feel safe and also protects my plants. You can also
use a liquid shade to darken your pond. This will also
keep the burst of algae down in the sunny winter days
and early spring.

Clean your filters and store
any pumps or equipment you won’t use during the winter.
Remember to store oil-encapsulated pumps in a bucket
of water that won’t freeze to keep their seals from
drying out. Place your de-icer or bubblers in the pond.
Whatever method you use, remember to always keep an
opening in the ice (pond) so that the gases can escape.
Your fish will survive in as little as 18 inches of
water as long as it does not freeze solid.

Enjoy the fall colors but
do not get caught out in the cold.

The Pond Lady / Darlene Jennings

President, Mid-Michigan Pond & Water Garden Club

MSU Advanced Master Gardener



How to Choose a Pond Site
Designing a Pond
Edging for a Pond
Spring Cleanup
Summer Cleanup
Water Gardens

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