5 Steps to Winterizing a Backyard Pond

Winterizing a backyard pond isn't difficult, but it does have several important steps. Learn how to prepare your backyard water feature for the winter.

by Jessica Walliser
PHOTO: Jessica Walliser

If you have a small landscape pond or water feature on your farm, now is the time to take a few steps to see it safely through the winter. Winterizing a backyard pond isn’t a difficult task, but it is an essential one to ensure your water feature has a long lifespan and that any fish or plants you have in it survive winter’s cold temperatures.

1. Keep the Leaves Out

Autumn leaves that fall into pond water and begin to decay can mess with the chemistry of the water and affect the plants and fish living there. While scooping the leaves out of the water after they fall is one way to handle this task, it’s far easier to spread an appropriately sized piece of bird netting over the entire water feature to keep the leaves from getting in the water in the first place. Pin down the edges with rocks or bricks and use a leaf blower or your hands to regularly remove any leaves that collect on the top of the netting. After all of the leaves have fallen from the trees, you can remove the netting and store it until next year.

2. Remove Tender Plants

The second step in winterizing a backyard pond is to remove any plants growing there that aren’t fully winter hardy for your growing zone. If you have tender or semi-tender water lilies, lotus, papyrus or other aquatic plants growing in your water feature, lift the pots out of the pond, cut off the foliage and either compost the plants or overwinter them in an unheated garage or cold cellar. This is easy to do by simply placing the pots in a small plastic tub of shallow water. Drain and replace the water every two to three weeks to keep it from getting funky.

3. Clean the Filters and Pump

Another important step in winterizing a backyard pond is to unplug the pump and filters, and clean out any debris and gunk gathered in and on them. If your water feature is shallow and typically freezes solid during the winter, remove your filter and pump completely and put them into storage for the winter. But, if running your pump means that your pond stays at least partially unfrozen, simply clean the pump and filters and put them back into place.

4. Take Care of Your Fish

Hardy pond fish can survive temperatures well below freezing if your pond is deep enough, but you’ll want to stop feeding them as soon as temperatures dip into the high 40s. Fish shift into a semi-hibernation state for the winter and don’t consume much food, if any. Excess food can lead to water issues down the line, so stop feeding when temperatures plummet. If your fish are not winter hardy, you’ll need to move them to an aquarium for the winter.

5. Install a Surface Water Heater

The final step in winterizing a backyard pond is not a necessary one, but it does help to keep an important water source available for birds and other winter wildlife. Electric pond heaters are useful if you want to make sure a small opening remains in the surface ice of your pond. While they don’t keep the entire pond from freezing and, depending on the power of the heater and size of your pond, they may not keep the surface from freezing solid during very cold weather, pond heaters can be very useful.

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