October is time to think about preparing your water garden for winter.
If you have deciduous trees near the feature, it is a good idea to cover
your water with a net to prevent leaves from collecting in the pond.
Should this approach prove to be impractical, either skim out the leaves
every couple of days or use a spa vacuum to gather them from the bottom.
It is important to eliminate the leaves, as well as the nuts from pecan
and oak trees (they contain acids that will harm the fish and stain your
water either black or brown.
If your pond needs a total drain and clean (due to excessive sludge
buildup or neglect), then Fall is the best time to do it. Wait until the
leaves have fallen from the trees before you undertake the total
cleaning. If this is the pond's first season, it is not necessary to
take part in the ritual; although, depending on when the system was
setup, there may be a need to divide the plants.
To accomplish a total clean, drain all of your water, collect the fish
and house them in containers (buckets and tubs work well), set your
plants aside to divide and re-pot, vacuum out all the debris that has
collected at the bottom, add the proper amount of chlorine remover and
begin filling the pond with new water (it is best to add chlorine
remover at 15 to 20 minute intervals, instead of all at once.)
Allow the fish to float (in their containers in the pond) while you are
refilling the feature. This will let them adjust to any changes in water
temperature (expect the fish to float for 30-45 minutes.) Test the water
pH to ensure there is not a drastic change between the new and the old
water. You will need to lower the pH if there is a difference larger
than 5%. Mix the new water with the water in the containers 2 to 3 times
before you release the fish. Net your fish out of the containers and
dump the old water in your flower beds or lawn.
When dividing and repotting underwater plants, use pots that do not have
holes in them. Heavy clay soil works best for the planting medium (cat
litter without additives may be used.) Fill the pots 3/4 with loose soil
and pack it down firmly to remove air pockets. Either ruse moist soil or
saturate the pot with water. Apply the fertilizer and lightly cover with
dirt. Prepare all pots before you start dividing. Pea gravel may be used
for a medium if you use baskets or pots with holes in them. Never use
potting soil or any light weight/organic planting medium. They ten to
float and mess up the pond.
To divide most of the bog or marginal plants, mentally group the plants
into smaller sections, separate the leaves or stems, and cut through the
soil with a hand shovel, trowel or knife (you may need a saw or shovel
to take on larger plants.) Bog or marginal plants are to be centered in
the pot. Stand them upright, anchor the roots with soil, and spread
gravel to cover.
A hardy lily may be divided by locating the best growing tip and cutting
or snapping it off. If you desire more plants, continue severing tips.
Give away or compost the excess. It is a good idea to keep your lilies
sorted by variety as you divide them. To repot, place the growing tip of
the lily with the cut end against the side of the pot. Slightly point
the growth up (around a 45 degree angel.) Anchor the roots with soil and
top off with a layer of gravel.
Lotus require special care when dividing. They have delicate root
systems and do not take well to abuse. The root looks like a series of
small "bananas" that are connected end-to-end. At least 2 complete
(whole) connected "bananas" are needed for transplanting. Lay the root
in the prepared pot and trace the outline in the soil. Remove the root
and dig out a shallow trench (about 1/2" deep). Place the root in the
depression and cover with soil. It is important not to "bury" the root
too deeply (1" to 2" of soil.) Top off with gravel.
Transport the plants to the pond and slowly lower them into the water.
This helps to avoid leaching soil and debris, as well as to allow excess
air pockets in the soil to fill with water, and prevent the plants from
uprooting or floating.
Tropical lilies are to be left alone until the spring.
- Routine maintenance will still need to be done on pumps, filters
- In the winter, water at the surface of the pond is cooler than
water at the bottom so raising the pump closer to the surface mixes
water more effectively and provides a larger warn area for the fish.
- Keep the pump and filter running. If a hard freeze is expected,
disconnect the waterfall tubing from the pump (freezing water can
chip away at the rock.) Elevate the pump to be sure the water flow
breaks the surface. Inspect out-of-pond filters frequently during a
hard freeze to avoid freezing.
- Do not break up ice if it temporarily covers the water surface -
prepare by putting empty plastic milk jugs or rubber balls in the
water to create openings (trapped gasses may pose a problem only if
the water remains frozen for several days.
- Lower the plants to the deep end once there has been a killing
frost or light freeze.
- The Thanksgiving deadline covers discontinuing fertilization of
plants (iris are the lone exception - continue to feed iris once a
- Bring cold sensitive plants inside if the winter is more severe
than normal or if there is a hard freeze for a sustained period. If
bringing plants inside is not possible, cover the pond with clear
plastic to create a greenhouse effect.
- Enjoy the short break the weather has to offer. Remember you
have finished the toughest part of pond-keeping and can enjoy the
spring days beside the garden rather than waist-deep in it.