Maintaining backyard ponds during winter

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Jan 29, 2024

backyard coy pondEven as it gets colder, it’s important to remember that maintaining your customers’ ponds and other water features are mandatory.

For customers with decorative ponds on their property, especially ones that harbor fish, it’s important to talk to them before the extreme cold sets in. If you live in an area where it stays fairly warm throughout the winter, there’s not much extra maintenance you’ll need to perform. For those who experience cold weather, snow and freezing ice, talk to your customers about whether or not they wish to keep their ponds up and running during the season.

For those who would rather take a break from their pond this winter, unplug the pump and pull it from the water. The pump should then be stored in a frost-free place and should be submerged in a bucket of water to keep the seals from drying.

For customers who do wish to keep their ponds operating, there are a few simple maintenance tips you can use to keep the waters clear, the wildlife happy and the surrounding plants healthy.

Plant care

Start the sprucing process by pruning yellowing leaves off the plants surrounding the pond. If there are lilies around it, they should continue to thrive and stand strong until at least the first heavy frost.

When the weather gets cooler, hold back on fertilizing to let the plants know the season is officially coming to an end. Be sure to keep dead plants and plant material cut back, and remove the tropicals. If there are cattails, you can cut them above the water level or leave them up to thrive throughout the winter.

Water care

Keep an eye out for neighboring trees and their fallen leaves. As leaves continue to fall, the skimmer’s debris net will need to be cleaned every day to keep up with the overabundance of leaves.

If you spot some leaves making their way to the bottom of the pond, it’s best to remove them as quickly as possible, as having too much debris can cause the water to turn brown. If a few leaves happen to stay around, they can add some shelter for frogs and insects as they overwinter. If you do see the water turning colors due to debris, remove the debris and add activated carbon to the water to clear it.

Fish care

If your customer’s pond has fish in it, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to ensure they are taken care of as winter sets in.

Once the temperature has reached about 50 degrees F, stop feeding the fish. If you continue to feed them, it could potentially create health problems for them since their digestive systems are just starting to slow down for the winter.

For ponds that have fish present, a pond aerator or small re-circulating pump that will bubble at the surface of the water will provide the necessary oxygenation for the water.

If the temperatures do not reach extremely cold levels, the bubbling of the pump can also help keep a hole open in the ice. This will allow a gas exchange and keep the fish alive; it’s not necessary to keep a hole open in the ice if your customers do not have fish in their pond.

For areas that do experience extreme cold, suggest the addition of a floating pond heater and de-icer. These are controlled by a thermostat, and the unit will only run when the temperature of the water is at or below freezing. It will then heat the water to just above that temperature and then shut off.

If your customers do want a floating de-icer, make sure it is placed away from the bubbler. The water’s movement can move the heated water away from the de-icer, which can make it run more than it needs to.

For customers with ponds that feature waterfalls, talk to them about the possibility of leaving it running. If they aren’t sold on the idea of using aerators or pond heaters, keeping the waterfall going could help keep things running. It may take more time and attention to make sure an ice dam doesn’t form, and any water lost must be replaced so the pump can keep functioning properly.

The Attachments Idea Book
Landscapers use a variety of attachments for doing everything from snow removal to jobsite cleanup, and regardless of how often they are used, every landscaper has a favorite attachment.
Attachments Idea Book Cover