A Guide to Caring for Your Pond in Autumn and WinterColin Campbell-Preston
So often the proud centrepiece of the garden, your pond requires and deserves plenty of TLC to ensure it looks its best all year, and all animal and plant inhabitants have a healthy environment to enjoy. Caring for the pond in spring and summer is pretty easy, with warm, sunny days ensuring that the upkeep requirements are minimal.
Care for Your Garden Pond in Autumn and Winter
However, things get a little trickier when the clocks go back, the nights start to draw in and the frost begins to bite. Caring for the pond is significantly less enjoyable at this freezing time of year, but is, unfortunately, more important than ever. To ensure that the pond is maintained through to next spring, considered and continuous care is required. So, here we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you care for your pond during the autumnal and wintry months.
Leaves turning to a crisp orange and dropping to the ground may be beautifully symbolic of this time of year, but they can cause havoc in and around your pond. If the leaves drop into the pond and start to decay, they can disrupt the ecological balance of the waters and the life within. This makes it important to regularly skim leaves from the surface of the pond, particularly when the fall is heavy.
Filters are available to skim leaves, but these can become clogged, so manual clearance is definitely the best way to approach this problem.
Alternatively, laying pond netting over the water can catch any falling leaves – making it easier to clear the falling offenders.
Decrease the Feeding
If your pond is home to families of fish dependent upon your kindness for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s time to decrease the feeding. As the winter approaches, most fish species’ metabolisms decrease so they require less food. Resist the temptation of trying to fatten up the little fishes for winter: hibernating bears they are not. The fish should only be fed two to three times a week.
Break the Ice
If a layer of ice accumulates across the surface of the fish pond, it could be dangerous for the marine life. As organisms decompose in the water, they give off gases which could become trapped if a layer of ice prevents them from escaping the water. Keep a small area of the surface free from ice to allow the gases to escape.
However, do not shatter the ice of a fish pond, as the shockwaves could travel through the water and damage or kill the fish going about their daily swimming. Using a floating pond de-icer is perhaps the most effective way to create a small break in the ice.
Protect the Fish from Predators
In the winter months, prey can be scarce. So predators are more likely to look upon your fish pond as a delicious dining option. And the last thing you want is to arrive home to find your prize koi dodging the greedy advances of a gluttonous gull. We’ve mentioned using pond netting to prevent falling leaves from landing in the pond, but it can also help protect your fish from predatory mouths.
Deadhead and Transplant Water Plants
Any dead or dying leaves on water plants located in your pond should be immediately stripped and removed. Like the fallen leaves from trees overhead, these can disrupt and damage pond life. But if the water plants are showing signs they might make it through the winter, make sure their roots are planted deep enough under the pond to ensure they don’t freeze as the days and nights continue to grow colder.
Let There Be Light!
Sunlight can be at a premium during the winter months, so it’s important that any stretches of sunny weather are taken advantage of. Ensure that the pond receives maximum exposure to sunlight by pruning back any overhanging branches and brushing off snow which may be blocking the sun’s path.
This is vital as the sunlight allows the water plants to continue photosynthesising, growing and creating oxygen. Replenishing the oxygen levels in the water will only help the fish community living within, keeping them happier and healthier over the winter months.
Plus, the beautiful sunlight reflecting on a wintry pond can make a stunning back garden sight – which may be a rarity in the cold, dreary months.
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