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If you’ve recently installed a garden pond, you might be wondering what kind of maintenance you need to do to get it ready for winter. There are a few essential steps to take to make sure your pond is safe through the winter. If you have fish, there are additional steps you’ll need to take to keep them safe, as well. We’ve already had frost a few times this fall, so it’s important to winterize ponds around the Quad Cities area as soon as possible. Read on to find out how to prepare a garden pond for winter.



Clean Out The Leaves

One of the first regular tasks you’ll need to start is regularly fishing out any leaves and debris from the water. You’ll need a net with a handle to fish out fallen leaves. If your pond is quite small, you can probably get away with a kid’s butterfly net, or even a mesh kitchen strainer, to get the debris out. 

Since cleaning out this stuff is kind of a pain, consider purchasing netting for fall. You can get a cherry tree net, meant to keep birds off fruit trees, and spread it over the water before the leaves start to come off. Then use the stones from your pond or bricks around the yard to hold net out of the water. This will make it way easier to clean up the leaves in autumn.


Drain the Pond

If you have a plastic liner, you’ll want to drain it before it freezes up. As the ice expands and contracts, it can cause significant damage to the liner. The best way to keep it intact for next year is to empty the pond. You can use a pump to do this. 

If you have a long enough hose, let the water drain onto your garden beds. It will give them one last good soak before winter, and they’ll absorb the nutrients from any bacteria or decayed matter.

Once you’ve drained the water, it’s a good idea to clean out any silt and decaying bacteria from the bottom. Again, you can spread this on your garden or flower beds for soil enrichment.


Winterize Pond Pump

It’s essential to winterize your pond pump before things start to freeze up. Ice can cause severe damage to your pump. If you haven’t done it yet, pull that pump out soon! Once you’ve disconnected the pump and removed it, Know your pump most pond pumps need to stay wet so the seals do not dry out and crack.  You can do this by submerging your pump in a 5 gallon bucket of water and storing in the basement. However certain pumps need to be dried out before storage. If you have an autofill you’ll need to blow out the lines that connect to your irrigation system or faucet. If you have an air compressor, you can blow the lines out yourself. Otherwise, call in an expert. They can ensure your lines are clean and dry so they won’t crack over winter.


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Got Fish?

If you have fish, it’s crucial to do some research or ask an expert how to care for your fish species through the winter.

If your pond is shallow and you have fish, they should come out as soon as possible. If you have a really deep pond that won’t freeze solid, you may be able to overwinter fish outdoors. If not, an indoor aquarium is ideal, although if your fish are bigger, you may want to consider a different solution, like a rigid plastic pond liner in your basement.

Keeping large fish indoors is quite a bit of pond maintenance. They’ll still need light, freshwater, a bubbler, and feeding. Depending on the kinds of fish you have, you may need to cover your tank or liner to keep them from jumping out.

The least stressful way to remove fish from ponds is to drain most of the water so you can catch them and transfer them to bags or buckets with as little chasing as possible. Fish are sensitive to water changes, so don’t dump them straight into new water. Always use their pond water during the move and transition them to fresh water by allowing the pond water to warm up slowly. Prepare the indoor environment using as much pond water as possible and either place the bag containing the fish and pond water on the surface to float, or place the bucket of fish and pond water in the same room. Let everything sit for about two hours to let the pond water and new water come to the same temperature before releasing fish into their new environment.



If you can overwinter your fish outside, you’ll still need to provide some care through the winter. They do not need to be fed and should not be fed as soon as the temperatures start changing outside, as they go in a hibernation state and drop their metabolisms. You’ll also need to keep part of the pond ice-free so they can breathe. Gasses can get trapped under the ice, and make them sick if they don’t have a breathing hole. Using warm water, or a deicer, to melt the ice. Don’t bang on the ice with anything as that can shock and harm the fish. Keep in mind that sluggish fish are easy prey for things like cats, foxes, and raccoons, so consider draping netting over the water to make it less accessible.

Getting your pond ready for winter is an integral part of regular maintenance. A little bit of care now will ensure your pond is ready to start up again with significantly less maintenance in the spring. If you’d like some help getting your pond ready for winter, or you’re not sure whether to empty it or leave it full, talk to our experts at our garden center. We can help you build a plan to get your pond ready for winter. 


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