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A checklist of essential pond projects
. . .
When Autumn Leaves
Start to Fall
by Joe Summers, St. Louis, Missouri
Images by Louis Belloisy - Click to enlarge
Autumn ushers in a colorful change in the landscape. This
means change in your water garden. Analyze your fall maintenance
this year and perhaps you can become more effective in this most
important pond undertaking.
Before tree leaves begin falling, give attention to four pond-care
categories - netting, plants, fish, and filters. Each category
relates to the other. Divide them up to tackle one at a time,
to make your task of pond winter-preparation easier.
Netting. Netting over the water is
a vital pond-maintenance concept, and netting the pond is the
most essential project for winter preparation. It seems that
a water garden attracts leaves as a magnet attracts thumbtacks.
Even if no trees grow in your yard, leaves from area trees tend
to end up in your pond. Keeping them out of the water does matter.
Discolored water signals the first noticeable change when
excess leaves gather in the pond. Your once-beautiful, healthy
pond can quickly become a pool of tea-colored water. If you allow
too many leaves into the pond, the water may turn gray. This
means that decomposing leaves are making the dissolved oxygen
level too low. At this point, fish cannot survive unless you
do something quickly.
Rate installing a net over your pond as the most important project
to accomplish in the fall. This prevents the leaves from entering
the water and fouling it. Inexpensive nets made of plastic last
a few years; nylon nets last a lifetime. The key when netting
the pond is to prevent the net from resting on the water surface.
Install netting like a dome or tent over the pond. When you accomplish
this properly, tree leaves do not enter the water.
If you overlook netting your pond before leaves drop, then
daily remove as many leaves as possible with a scoop net. This
cold and dirty job may remind you next season to install the
netting before trees shed their foliage.
Plants. Water plants, just like non-aquatic
plants, are either hardy (can survive outdoors all winter) or
not hardy (cannot survive outdoors all winter). Hardy aquatic
plants are easy to care for during fall and winter because all
you need to do is remove the foliage after a heavy frost and
then make sure that their roots rest safely below the ice. Cut
and remove all the plant material - leaves, stems, flowers --
to avoid problems down the road if too much decaying plant material
remains in the water. If you chose not to bring tropical plants
indoors, and then take them out of the pond after heavy frost
so the dead matter (great for composting) does not foul the water.
Fish. Ah, the fish may cause you to
worry, but you should not. Fish that usually inhabit water gardens
are hardy. Therefore, the goldfish, golden orfe, and (in milder
winter climates), mosquito fish and your prized koi may over
winter outside quite happily. They should be just fine as long
as your pond measures at least 18 inches (46 centimeters) deep.
Check your pond thermometer. When your water temperature falls
below 65 F. (18 C.) degrees, feed your finned friends a food
specifically made for cool weather. Fish more easily digest the
special low-temperature food containing less protein and more
fat. Easy digestion matters because fish have a reduced metabolism
when the water cools. In fall, they store extra fat to consume
slowly over the long winter fast.
Filters. Just like changing fish food because of cooler water,
change how you treat your filter(s) as water temperatures tumble.
A filter is a living, breathing part of your pond. Countless
beneficial bacteria reside and work in the filter. During summer
months, warm-water bacteria inhabit the filter. However, during
autumn as the pond water cools, add bacteria that thrive in cooler
water. Suppliers usually blend into their bacteria products specific
cold-tolerant bacteria that consume both plant waste missed during
the plant-trimming activity and the leaves that fall into the
Take time to prepare your pond for winter. Your fish will
thank you. Moreover, you will have more time to enjoy autumn's
colorful shades and winter's stark beauty.
Learn how to survive the impeding ice in the next issue.