Since it stopped for a very short while yesterday I knew I had to finally "take the plunge" into the very cold water and get the cleanup done. Thankfully the only part of me that had to go in the water were my hands and arms, but I really was hoping for at least a sunny day to do this job. Living in Zone 8 I'm pretty lucky that there isn't a lot I need to do, but there are basic things that are important for any pond owner to do before the cold and freezing weather is here.
*Earlier in the season (about a month ago) I added Crystal Pond which is a natural enzyme to help breakdown any sludge at the bottom of the pond.
*An important thing to know, if you have fish, is to stop feeding them when the weather cools down below 50 degrees. The fish cannot digest the food and it becomes toxic to them.
*I always scoop as many fallen leaves out that I can with my net. By now most of what's going to fall in has already done so, I rarely have to net it out until next fall. When the neighbors had a large leaf Maple tree I would put bird netting over the pond in the fall to prevent so many from falling in and making such a mess.
*I also give my filter, which is a simple pump inside a biological filter, a good cleaning using the hose.
*I cut back any of the perennial plants that are dying back and any of the lily pads that I can reach as well. All those pads and plants will sink to the bottom and contribute to the "sludge" at the bottom.
Before netting the pond and cutting back the plants it still looks pretty good, but all it will take is one hard freeze and they will all turn to mush. It's not much fun trying to work on the pond when it's freezing cold.
*I leave my filter and pump running all winter. It's rare that our pond freezes more than a few inches (enough to support the weight of our 12 pound dog which insists on scaring me by walking across it). The waterfall running is enough to keep the ice open and to provide oxygen for the fish.
*Some people just use an air stone to help the fish with oxygen. Other people use pond heaters to help keep the ice open. I'm very lucky not to need to do either.
*I notice as the temperatures get cooler that string algae can become a problem and I have to be sure to scrub the waterfall occasionally during the winter with a special brush that I found for cleaning birdbaths.
When Spring is closer I'll share how I get my pond ready for Spring and Summer.