Although they may be shorter and crisper those sunny winter days are a beautiful time to be outdoors and it’s the ideal time to be getting stuck into some simple maintenance projects.
After the warm seasons of growth and activity, your pond is in a dormant stage right now. Think of it like hibernation, the water has cooled and that, combined with the shorter daylight hours, slows your pond and most of its inhabitants, right down. Plants, fish if present, frogs, and other critters, right down to the tiniest microorganisms, are all running in slo-mo mode. This makes it the ideal time for a major overhaul as the impact of disturbance on your pond-dwellers is minimised.
Here’s the list of tasks you can undertake if they are needed and remember, all ponds are different so you may not need to perform all of these maintenance jobs.
If you plan to undertake a major drain and clean then save as much of the clear water as is practical. You can do this in just about any clean containers you have but the larger the better. Retaining this water allows you to put it back into the pond reducing the risk of a shock for creatures and plants as the water chemistry will be relatively unchanged.
If you are removing fish they can be placed in a larger container however you may want to run a pump or aerator in the container to ensure water is adequately oxygenated.
When adding back in add this reserved pond water before adding any new water and then add a dose of water treatment and conditioner to ensure the water is perfect before putting fish back in.
If you plan to drain your pond then you will need to carefully capture your fish. Invest in a suitably sized aquarium fish net for doing this. In larger ponds, you may find it easier to reduce the water level first. Aim to avoid touching the fish with your hands as this can damage their protective slime-coating. Fish tend to head forwards first when attempting to flee a threat so position the net in front of them while simultaneously sticking your hand or foot into the water behind them. Transfer them to some reserved pond water as quickly and carefully as possible and don’t have them out of the pond for any longer than needed. As mentioned previously you may also need to ensure the water in the storage containers is being adequately aerated.
When returning them to the pond first make sure it has adequate water for them to move around and that plants have been repositioned so they have somewhere to hide. If any new water has been added ensure it is stabilised first using water treatment and conditioner.
Showing your pond plants a little TLC now will see them burst into life as soon as the water warms up. Are your plants in pots or baskets? Then lift them out and have a look at their root systems. If they are too tightly packed in then you can divide them up and replant into multiple pots or pond baskets. You’ll likely find most need a tidy-up too – trim off any dead leaves and flowers and look for any dead roots or tubers and remove those.
As you repot make sure you add a suitable pond-plant controlled-release fertiliser to sustain growth and flowering. A handy trick when repotting pond-plants in baskets is to first line it with a couple of layers of newspaper. This will prevent any potting mix from escaping until the roots establish, the paper will breakdown over a month or so underwater. And always remember to add a layer of washed, coarse sand or fine gravel to the top of the pot to stop mix from floating or washing out.
If you have re-potted ensure you thoroughly water the pots or baskets before returning to the pond. Water them until any water running out runs clear. This avoids clouding the pond with any fine silt or other materials that may be in the mix.
If your plants are growing in the gravel on the pond bed then only disturb them is they have spread and require thinning. Do however give them a good tidy-up removing any dead material.
The Big Clean
Once your pond is nearing empty the next stage will very much depend on the condition of your pond. Remove any large material such as twigs and branches and conspicuous built-up material such as fallen leaves. You’ll find that the bottom of your pond has a layer of sludge and this is completely normal. This is a very important biologically active zone where bacteria decompose waste materials, cleaning the water.
If this sludge is excessive or very smelly then remove it, you may find a sludge-sucker attachment for your garden hose is the most effective way to do this. If your pond is formed with a liner then do not use and sharp tools such as spades to remove sludge as you make puncture your pond. You can spread this sludge around the garden as it will quickly breakdown and feed the soil.
If you have pebbles or gravel on your pond bed it’s wise to remove the sludge from the top leaving the pebbles, and the sludge between them, undisturbed. This will leave a reservoir of beneficial microorganisms for when you refill. If you have any feature rocks or cascades then now’s a good time to give them a clean with BioNatural Feature Clean. Check all of your pump and filter fittings and hoses and replace any that are showing wear or age. It’s the perfect time to give your pump and filter a clean too.
Remember when you refill your pond to add the reserved pond water before adding fresh tap water and to add a dose of water treatment and conditioner before returning fish.
An excellent preventative measure is to add a treatment of Bio natural 3-In-1 to eliminate any potential algae issues and to eliminate excess sludge. For an extra boost add a dose of beneficial bacteria too with a product such as Booster Balls.
A project like this is perfect for one sunny morning and at the end of it, you’ll have a sparkling clean, happy, and healthy pond that’s going to boom come to the warmer weather.