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Article 36: Annual Pond Care - Seasonal Maintenance, by Jeff Richardson

Posted by Jeff Richardson on

Just like your home, throughout the year, different task must be accomplished as the seasons change.   The amount of work needed to be done will vary greatly on the climate zone and surroundings of your pond system.

Spring Startup:  Depending on the severity of you winter will determine the amount of work needed.  Assuming you live in locale that has cold winters (water reaches 35-45°F), when the threat of ice and snow has passed and the water reaches 50-55°F (temp the water over a period of days and if you have fish, watch for them coming to the surface), this begins the most extensive maintenance of the year.  If you live in a warm clime, begin in spring.  Test the water to get an idea on how unbalanced it has become over winter.  The first thing will be to do is remove all plants from the margins and off the bottom out of the pond to trim and fertilize them. This is also the time to denude, shake, trim, and remove as much of the surrounding vegetation as possible from in and around the entire pond perimeter, features, and vaults.  Inspect the perimeter to ensure no low spots exist.  Move debris away from the pond area.  Next, skim and rake the main pool to remove as much of the debris off the bottom and surface as possible. Depending on how dirty and mucked up the water is, consider a 25% to 33% water change (or even 50% if you have no fish).  Use your staff head gauge and begin draining.  Next, grab the pond vacuum and start cleaning waterways and the bottom (discharge this water elsewhere – not into pond).  This is also time to take apart your filter components and thoroughly cleaning them out removing sludge and debris.  Replace UV lamps.  If sludge has soiled the biological filters, lightly spray them out with clean water.  Empty sludge from catch basins or pits and ensure the waterways are free from accumulated dirt and debris.  If your pumps have primer pots, this would be the time to remove their baskets and ensure they are clean.  Likewise, clean the impeller intakes on submersible pumps per manufacturer instructions.  Clean the inside of vaults and housings as well. Afterwards, treat the water as it refills with stress coat and clarifier.  Replace the plants into their stands or shelves.  Wait a day then add bacteria to the water and filters.  After the water settles, test it again.  As water temps rise, test the water and balance as needed.

Summer: This is the time to enjoy your water feature.  While the water remains consistently at or over your feature’s optimum temp, only routine maintenance needs to be performed.  Most importantly, feed the fish daily.  Inspect the fish and plants during this time to ensure they are vibrant and healthy.  Look at the pond water too – it should be crystal clear.  If not, test the water and address as needed (clean filters, water change, etc.). Check the surface level; keep the pond topped off as most evaporation happens during these dry months.  Skim or rake debris occasionally as needed.  Summer is also the time of year to add new plants and fish if desired.  This is an opportune time for major work or new features; or they can be tackled in the spring.  Depending on your clime, water temps may rise up to 85°F with no ill effects.  However beyond that temp, actions will need to be performed to keep your water from getting any warmer.

Autumn: When the water falls to 50-45°F, reduce feeding the fish from daily to every 2-3 days, switch their food as well.  Fall is a terrible time for debris entering the pond such leaves; especially during blustery days which are common.  Run the skimmer as much as possible and empty the skimmer basket often.  As the water dips to 45°F, remove the plants from the plant stands to the bottom and stop feeding the fish altogether.  If you have sensitive plants or animals that will not endure winter outside, move them to tanks indoors. Open winter bypass valves for components such as waterfalls and streams.  If stagnant water in a housing might freeze, drain them.  Adjust the any remaining circulation pumps of the main pool for winter (no fish: 8hrs, goldfish: 12hrs., Koi: 16-24hrs. per day).  If you have mechanical water timers, submersible pumps, meters, auto-refill valve, fresh water lines, or anything that might freeze, remove them and empty any residual water.

Winter: While the water temperature remains at 35-45°F, the winter bypass valve for main pool pumps should remain open.  This keeps a warm layer of water at the bottom of the pond.  The return diffuser will also move the surface of the water preventing ice from covering the pond.  This will defuse some oxygen into the water for fish as well.  Depending on how many fish, you may want to consider a breather heated aerator.  Depending on the outside air temps, a standard aerator may make your water too cold over time.  If the bio-filters are large enough volume not to freeze, leave the water in them to keep residual bacteria alive.  Do not feed the fish at this time as this would be harmful.  They are in toper and live off their fat reserves.  Do not add water or top off the pond during this time of the year either.  The only task to perform is to ensure the pump continues to run, the pond does not ice over completely, the water temps do not drop to freezing, and you remove any fallen branches, leaves or large debris.  In extremely cold climes where surface ice freezes, consider a heater or pond ice preventer for you fish.

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