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Pond Winterization – Part II

Warning: Slow-Moving Streams

There is nothing more breathtaking than a waterfall covered with ice formations and snow during the winter. You must, however, be careful with ponds that have long or slow-moving streams. In such cases, ice dams can form and divert water over the liner.

A waterfall in the winter

Will the filters and pipes crack?

Most good filters are constructed out of rotational-molded polyethylene, and are designed to bow and bend with the freezing and thawing effects of winter. The PVC flex pipe is reinforced and will not crack unless water is left in the pipe over the winter and allowed to freeze. If you decide to keep the pump running all winter long, there will still be a constant flow of water traveling through the pipe, and the moving water will not freeze. If you decide to turn the system off for the winter, most of the water in the pipe will drain back into the pond when the circulation system is removed.

What should be done with the pump once the system is shut down?

Remove the pump from the system and store it in a frost-free location, ideally submerged in a bucket of water. The water around the pump housing will prevent the seals on the pump from drying and cracking. Since most submersible pumps are oil-filled, it is not suggested to let the water freeze solid.

Tip: To extend the life of the pump, it is suggested to clear the impeller shaft free of any debris before winter storage. It is also beneficial to spin the impeller a couple of turns by hand before turning it on in the spring. This will prevent any corrosion or debris from seizing the impeller and interrupting proper pump function.

What about the filter?

When preparing the pond for winter, remove the filtration media and rinse it down. It is recommended to store any such media in a frost-free location like a garage or shed. If left over the winter, all of the filtration media may freeze into a solid block, causing unnecessary delays during the spring clean-out.

What about the fish? Will they be okay?

Ornamental fish will do just fine in two feet of water, as long as some form of oxygenation is provided, and a hole is kept in the ice to allow the escape of harmful gases. It’s recommended to place the waterfall pump in a basket, bucket, or pump sock and surround the intake of the pump with stones to prevent clogging. Place the pump on the second or third shelf of the pond so the surface water is broken by the aeration. The agitation from the pump will prevent freezing and provide oxygen.

A pond de-icer

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for winterization is maintenance. Roughly 70 percent of pond owners in the colder climates decide to shut down their system because they don’t enjoy tending to their water garden during the bitter months of the winter. The aesthetic rewards of the “winter pond” are absolutely worthwhile, so by all means, don’t be afraid to keep the system running as long as possible. Shutting down a pond during the winter is also an option. Just be sure you take precautionary measures to preserve fish, plant, and pump life.

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