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CLOSING YOUR GARDEN
POND

BY BRUCE ZIMMERMAN

Many homeowners find the closing down of their pond for the winter a labourious task and it should not be.  The normal procedure of keeping your pond clear of debris is very important not only at closing but also throughout the rest of the year.  It helps if you inoculate the pond in the spring with Bacta Pur Nutra Pak followed by regular applications of Bacta Pur Klear.  If your pond has a soil bottom then make regular applications of Bacta Pur Pond.  If the bottom of the pond is clean then it is only a matter of keeping the falling and blowing leaves out of the pond by placing a pond net over it.  As you pull the net over the pond anchor it with some of the decorative rocks from around the edge.  In areas and times of heavy leaf fall then pull the trapped leaves off before they become so heavy as to sink into the water, become even heavier and block out the light. 

 THE PLANTS 

Start the Harding off process by stopping all fertilization about one month before you plan to close the pond or before the temperature drops.  This particularly true of your nighttime temperatures they can really drop your water temperatures.

The over wintering of your hardy plants can be done by either leaving them in the pond below the freezing level of the water which is usually the top two to three feet of water or by sinking them in the garden.  If you sink them in the garden they must be dormant and trimmed back.  They are then buried so that there is about four to six inches of soil the over top of them.  The plants in the garden should Hardy White Waterlily be marked as to position and variety.  There is nothing worse than having someone till or weed the garden first thing in the spring, damaging or killing the plants.   If your pond is to shallow and may freeze then you take the chance of loosing even the hardiest of plants over winter.  They can be brought in and stored in cool temperature (40°F) in the dark and kept moist.  There are a few that will survive quite well frozen in shallow water.  These include Cattails, Horsetails, Marsh marigolds, and Variegated Manna grass, Iris, Sweet Flag and Water Forget Me Nots

Examples: Hardy water lilies, Lotus, Iris pseudacorus and Iris versicolor

The tender or tropical plants must be brought in before the water and / or air temperatures become to cold.  Some of these can Good combination of marginal,tropical pond plants be kept, as moisture-loving houseplants while others may have to be stored in laundry tubs or containers. The tropical pond plants will need at least four to five hours of sunlight and a water temperature of sixty-five degrees F. (18°C) as they may continue to grow slowly in the winter.  A friend of mine uses his downstairs bathtub to winter his plants in this group.  Needless to say his wife is just thrilled.

Examples: As houseplants - Umbrella Palm (Cyperus alternifolius) and Dwarf Umbrella Palm (Cyperus haspans). 

Tropical Water lilies are best stored in large containers with bright light.

 OVER WINTERING FISH

As the water temperatures begin to drop below 65°F the need for protein by the fish is ever decreasing so reduce your feeding and substitute Wheat Germ for their high protein food.  Stop feeding when the water temperature is below 50° F.  If your pond may freeze solid then it is best to bring your fish inside before the water gets to cold and house them in aquariums or large tanks. Do not forget to Rapid growing Goldfish and yellow Koi provide water aeration and light.  Remember my friend; his wife put her foot down when it came to fish in the sink, bathtub and no one cleaning the fish tank.  They stay in the pond and if they die, they buy more of the gold coloured Carp.  To date they have lost two Goldfish with lots of additional young ones.  Koi on the other hand can be valuable and treasured specimens can be over wintered indoors in cool aquariums or large tanks with aeration, filtration and light.

OPEN WATER

It is important to keep an opening in the ice throughout the winter. This opening allows for the exchange of toxic gases.  A build up toxic gases can be detrimental to both plants and fish.  The water can be kept open using pond de icers placed in the pond just before the first thin layer of ice forms.  It is important to make sure that they do not warm the water to much as this will keep the plant and fish life in the pond to active for to long into the fall and early winter.  When there are large fish or large numbers of fish to over winter then it is best to also put a small bubbler in the pond to oxygenate the water.  The rule is just one inch of fish for every square foot of water surface area.  This bubbler must not create a strong enough disturbance to create a current which would lower the pond waters temperature to closer to freezing because this could kill both your plants and fish.

PHYSICAL MAINTENANCE

Once all this is done now is the best time to do small maintenance things on your pond.  First check all physical parts like your electrical systems for wear and tear.  Clean all debris out of your pumps and filters.  Bio Filters could be cleaned now but remember to re inoculate them with bacteria in the spring.  Always follow the manufacture’s instructions at all times in these matters.

While there are no guarantees, but following these directions and those of the manufactures you should have good success with over wintering your plants, fish and pond.

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