The winter weather is upon us! The good news is there are still nice days in the forecast to get your landscaping elements ready for the cold. We’ve already talked about how to prepare your lawn and trees for winter. So, today, let’s focus on water features.
When a freeze is about to hit, we are always reminded to drip the faucets and open the cupboards to avoid those nasty pipe bursts. That’s because water expands when it freezes.
And water is strong enough to break even the sturdiest of metal and PVC piping. It’s important to remember your outdoor water features can suffer the same consequences as your indoor ones.
They are even more at risk because, most of the time, they are completely exposed to extreme temperatures and don’t have access to heating elements.
Whether you have a large pond with a thriving ecosystem on your property or a simple birdbath, some special care to preserve and protect it through the coldest winter months is required.
All you need is preparation to keep your water features and fish living, and enjoy them all winter long!
Prepping the Pond
For most, your pond is the crown jewel of your landscape. Whether it is small or large, stocked with koi or goldfish, professionally or do-it-yourself installed, your pond is a valuable feature that needs your protection.
A little tender loving care during fall and winter will ensure that water plants are ready to bloom again in spring and that fish and other pond critters are safely tucked away until the temperatures warm up again.
Each plant in your pond will require different care. You need to trim marginals to just above the waterline. Lilies and lotuses need to be cut back to just above the base of the plant.
You need to remove tropical floaters since these won’t be able to endure the winter. And here’s a treat: if you bring tropicals indoors, they will make great container plants and give you a colorful boost during those winter doldrums!
Scoop out free-floating leaves or other debris with a net. And do a little due diligence by dredging the pond and removing anything that has sunk to the bottom of the pond. It’s important to remove all decaying organic matter because it can pose the greatest threat to the health of your pond and fish.
Fish Gotta Swim…and Breathe!
Although koi are not fans of winter, they can survive it with your help. Take the steps required to create a protective winter environment for them.
Since fish metabolism slows during winter, you will need to stop feeding your fish once the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fish may not need food in the winter, but they still need oxygen. To provide them with plenty of air, be sure to keep an aerator or bubbler running near the top of the pond.
When using an aerator, keep them shallowly placed to keep from disturbing the warmer water below where your fish will be nestled waiting for spring.
And keep in mind that although fish can survive winter, they cannot survive being frozen in a block of ice! Use a de-icer if there is any chance that the surface of your pond will freeze over.
If you love your frogs and snails, never fear. These steps will protect them too. They will find sandy and muddy spots where they can burrow and rock crevices to nestle into until the spring returns.
Preparing Your Waterfall
Waterfalls come in a multitude of shapes and sizes and can be placed in a variety of places throughout your landscape and pool area. Wherever your waterfall, you have two choices: shut it off and leave it on.
To shut off your waterfall, simply turn off and remove the pump until spring. Leaving your pump in the pond while it’s not running can cause costly or irreversible damage to the equipment.
To help preserve the pump and extend the life of the seals, store the pump in a bucket of water in a garage or shed where it won’t freeze.
Having a functioning waterfall can be one of winter’s greatest joys-even when the temps are extreme. You’ll need to do some extra maintenance, but you’ll be rewarded with beautiful water and ice formations that can add motion, texture, and visual interest to an otherwise still winterscape.
If you choose to leave the pump running, periodically check to be sure that your waterfall doesn’t form ice dams. Ice dams can divert water and drain it – and even drain a pond. You’ll also need to replenish water lost due to evaporation periodically.
Water Fountains Aren’t for Winter
Waterfalls have the depth and power to overwinter, but fountains are too shallow to keep running without freezing over.
Your outdoor water fountain is designed to withstand the elements, but frozen water will cause them to crack and can ruin the pump. If possible, drain your fountain and store it dry in a garage or shed.
If you can’t store your fountain, then make sure to drain it before freezing temperatures set in. Remove and clean the pump and store it in a garage or shed. Clean out the fountain so it will be free of dirt and algae and ready for spring.
Then cover your fountain to help keep moisture out. There are specially designed waterproof fountain covers that have a drawstring at the bottom for maximum protective benefits.
Birdbaths are perfect pick me ups in winter. Not only will you enjoy watching the birds at the birdbath, but you will help keep your feathered friends hydrated and healthy. It’s important to note that not all birdbaths can be winterized.
Even a heated birdbath can get icy around its edges, and as water freezes and expands, delicate materials can be harmed. Solar glass–ceramic and concrete bird baths are subject to freezing damage.
Plastic, fiberglass, and metal bird baths, on the other hand, are materials that can survive all year round.
If you want to use your birdbath throughout the winter, just a few simple steps are necessary to maximize its efficiency and keep it safe and practical for winter use. Empty and clean the bath thoroughly and sterilize it with a weak bleach solution.
If you can, move the birdbath to a sunny area where it is easy to refill and clean when needed. Add a dark plastic plate or sheet of black plastic to the bottom of the basin to help absorb more solar energy(warmth) throughout the winter.
Add an immersible heater to the bath if available. These heaters will prevent most ice from forming.
You can even float a tennis ball in the birdbath to help break up ice as it forms. Or add some twigs for the birds to use as perches to more easily access the water.
Water Features Are Wonderful Additions to Your Landscape
They provide interesting color and texture, a place for beneficial wildlife to cool off and have a drink, and the sound of running water is soothing to listen to and can mask other displeasing city sounds. They are also a significant investment that we know you want to protect.
It’s important to take proper care of your water feature, especially during the winter months. Water features can be delightful year–round when made of the right materials and properly maintained.
Maintaining your water features doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are times when you may need help prepping them for the winter weather. That’s where we come in.
We Maintenance Commercial Property Too
If you are in charge of a commercial property that has significant water feature installations, we are available to come on a regularly scheduled basis to make sure that your systems are running efficiently and your pools, ponds, and other vessels are clean and clear.
If you are a homeowner and have any doubts about best practices or don’t have the time or resources needed to winterize your water features, our team is here for you.
The Complete Landsculpture team is just what its name implies— a complete solution all of your landscaping and lawn care needs. We are locally owned and have been operating since 1985.
Our team consists of:
- General contractors
- Project managers
- Maintenance specialists
We’ll stand by you from design through installation and construction to maintenance and management; you can depend on us before, during, and after your project.
Our specialists are available year–round to keep your landscape beautiful and well-maintained. And if you are still in the dreaming stages, our designers and planners can help make your dreams a reality.
That way, come spring, you’ll be enjoying all the benefits of a beautifully landscaped yard- complete with water features!