Pond ideas for small yards are almost limitless, but no matter what type of pond you have one thing remains the same: the need for regular maintenance. This is the biggest complaint we hear from people considering installing a pond on their property. They are leery about all of the work involved, but the fact of the matter is it’s really not that difficult at all…it is just a matter of knowing what to expect and establishing a regular maintenance routine.
Fall and winter are when most of the plant life begins to die off and fish slow down their metabolism to endure the long, cold months. Just as with any standard garden, a pond or water garden needs to be prepared for the cold so that it doesn’t sustain damage. This is particularly important for ponds as they are actually small ecosystems of their own. That means they need all of the various parts of the ecosystem to work properly for the whole to stay healthy.
So what does this mean for the pond owner? Well, when considering pond ideas for small yards in relation to seasonal maintenance, this means addressing several main parts of your pond: the plant life, the fish and the mechanics of the pond. Each of these must be addressed so that the pond will hold up over the winter. This is particularly important in areas where the winters can be very harsh. The colder your temperatures get, the harder it can be on your pond, so you need to be even more prepared.
In the fall, as temperatures begin to drop, leaves will drop and collect in the pond, which can clog the filter system and cause mechanical issues. You need to stay on top of this all throughout the fall by skimming the pond to remove leaves. If your pond has a mechanical skimmer be sure to empty the net in the skimmer as the leaves will prevent water flow to the pump. Another option is to tent your pond with a pond net to prevent the leaves from landing in the pond. Likewise, be sure to deadhead your aquatic plants. Deadheading, cutting away the dead or decayed parts of the plant, not only helps to prevent debris from accumulating, but it also promotes new growth, keeping your plants healthy and strong.
Once the temperature hits 55 degrees, most fish will begin to slow their metabolism in preparation for the winter, so you need to stop feeding them regularly as their digestive systems won’t be able to handle too much food. For areas where the temperatures don’t cool down drastically during the winter, that’s all that is really required for fall/winter maintenance. Just stay on top of the debris by emptying your skimmer net once a day.
In areas like the Albany/Schenectady/Saratoga County region, where the temperatures tend to drop quite drastically, you’ll need to add a few extra steps to ensure both the health of your pond and the proper function of your mechanical equipment in the cold. Cold temperatures and machinery often don’t get along and this is certainly true for the delicate workings of the pumps and filters necessary to run a pond.
When discussing pond ideas for small yards that pertain to winter, the important thing to remember is that ponds require some amount of oxygenation throughout the winter. This is particularly true if you have fish. Though fish will slow their respiration during the winter, they still require some exchange of gasses. If oxygen levels aren’t kept regular, it can be very harmful to fish.
For this reason, it will be necessary to run a small air pump or a bubbler pump throughout the winter. The air pumps and bubblers help to regulate the oxygen levels in the pond. The continuous movement produced by the bubbler will prevent the water from freezing whereas an air pump provides oxygen but may not be powerful enough to keep a hole open in the ice. A hole in the ice allows for a small opening in the surface for a gas exchange, which will prevent fish from dying. If you have a waterfall feature, you might be able to achieve this same effect by leaving it running during the winter, but you’ll need to check regularly to make sure that no ice dams are building up. Ice dams and running waterfalls cause evaporation so you need to consider adding water in the winter months if you leave your running.
Another one of the better pond ideas for small yards is investing in a floating heater or deicer. This type of heater is thermostatically controlled and turns on and off depending on water temperature. This will prevent it from running all the time and driving up your electric bills. Keep in mind this unit does not heat the pond but allows an open hole in the ice for the harmful gasses to be released out of the pond.
Because winters in the Albany region can be quite harsh, you may want to consider removing your main pump and storing it for the winter so that it doesn’t freeze over. If you do this, you’ll want to clean it out thoroughly once you remove it, then store it in a bucket of water in a frost-free location.
Any filters in your skimmer whether it’s a filter mat or brushes will also need to be carefully cleaned and stored before the temperatures get too cold. Any filter mats or bio media in your waterfall area should be removed, cleaned and stored in a dry location. Beneficial bacteria colonies used as biological filters will generally die off naturally as the weather gets colder and will need to be re-established in the spring. Fall is a good time to rinse the biological filter pads and store for the winter.
Remember when considering pond ideas for small yards that it is possible to enjoy your pond year round. You just need to take the proper steps to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Even in the winter, snow and ice can make for a beautiful and peaceful pond environment.
Just like you take regular steps to winterize your car, you need to do the same for your pond, no matter how small it may be. A little extra time spent properly maintaining your backyard ecosystem can lead to years of enjoyment for the whole family. So don’t let pond maintenance scare you off. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize just how easy it is and what a difference it makes! And don’t forget, if you need any help, consulting the pond experts at Decker’s. We can help you get the most out of your pond!