Raking leaves: done. The last fall mowing: completed. Vulnerable plants: covered. You probably congratulated yourself a few months ago when you figured you’d done everything in your power to secure your landscaping for the coming cold season. And then you remembered – maybe a week later, maybe not until the first significant snowfall – that you hadn’t touched your water features. Properly preparing water features for winter will save you money and time in the following spring. We’ll focus on your smaller water features for this post – because for your larger features, a simple DIY just won’t do the trick. (If you have some large water features, call the pros at Timberline, of course!) In this post, we’ll cover smaller, open ponds and pond-free features without fish – features that use less than 200 gallons of water.
Even if you didn’t get around to winterizing your ponds and water features at the beginning of this winter season, you can still prepare yourself to be smart about it next winter.
First things first: determine which of your water features is most likely to freeze over and cause your pump, lines, or even the feature itself to break. Water features such as bird baths, small ponds with shallow basins, and bubbling rocks are the most likely candidates for damage or destruction as a result of freezing.
How to Winterize Your Water Features
- Remove plants. You can remove plants from your water features as late as the first frost. Once the plants are out of the way, clean all plant debris from the pond’s bottom surface. If you are “pond free,” be sure to clean the bottom of the pump vault. When you’ve removed your plants, decide whether or not it’s worth saving them through the winter. If not, just trash them.
- Clear algae. If you find algae in your water feature, use a water-activated granular algaecide. Make sure that you carefully read and follow the directions. Sometimes, persistent algae staining means you’ll need to drain the pond or vault to scrub it completely clean. If you decide to do this, refill the feature before winter’s harsh weather arrives to avoid damaging your pond or pond-free feature.
- Drain everything. Whether you are winterizing a pond, a fountain or some other small water feature, make sure that you drain water from all lines of the features you are shutting down for the winter. This includes hard-to-reach recesses and small spaces. You’ll need to drain your features before the first frost so that any water left will evaporate from the lines.
- Take the pump out. When water pumps freeze, the ice exerts pressure on the pump’s outside casing. This pressure can cause cracks that allow water to penetrate the interior of the pump – where the working parts and electrical lines are. Needless to say, shortly after turning on a damaged pump, it will stop working and will need to be replaced. The smart solution: just remove the pump for the duration of the winter and save yourself a huge spring headache. If the pump is less than 16 inches deep, remove it and store it indoors so it does not freeze laying in the yard or in an unheated garage.
Smaller features fare winter better if they disassembled and stored indoors. This simple technique prevents them from becoming damaged or weathered-looking during harsh winter weather.
Winterize Water Features that Run Throughout the Winter
If your climate is warm enough, some water features are left running throughout the winter. Here at Timberline, we work with people who experience harsh winter seasons – but if your area is temperate enough to leave water features turned on, make sure you remove the filter liners so that they won’t clog up with ice if there is a freeze.
Water Features with Stonework
This important part of many water features is often overlooked when winterizing. The freezing and thawing cycle can crack rocks in waterfalls, streams with stones, and even some stone fountains. Stonework features may need to be turned off and winterized if the waterfalls do not have a pond or if bubbling rocks are in shallow depressions. Otherwise, your risk your stone work being damaged by winter freezes.
Fall preparation of your water features will save you time and money in the long-term – when you re-install them and are ready to use them in the warmer months.