Question: I have so many leaves in my pond. Can I leave them in my pond until spring? How do I get my pond ready for the winter?
Answer: After enjoying the beauty of the changing color of the leaves they now become more of a chore, especially if you have a pond. It is important to clean up the accumulation of leaves to prevent problems in the winter and next spring. In just a few hours you can complete what needs to be done to put your pond to bed for the winter.
All equipment should be removed, thoroughly cleaned and stored in a basement or garage to prevent freezing and cracking. Next, any debris on the bottom of the pond from decaying plants or fallen leaves needs to be removed. Spend some time picking up and raking leaves around the pond to prevent them from blowing into the pond. Cleaning out as much of the leaves that have fallen into the pond as possible will cut down on the amount of muck that develops from decomposing leaves. Decaying plant matter will reduce the amount of oxygen, which can kill the fish and lead to excessive plant growth in the spring. A skimmer or netting stretched across the pond will help catch any further falling leaves.
Some plants will be able to remain in the pond while others must be taken indoors or thrown away. Water hyacinth and water lettuce are difficult to over-winter and their minimal cost justifies throwing them away. Some water lilies are hardy and can remain in the deepest parts of the pond. Any tropical plants should be brought indoors, with the goal to keep them alive, but not vigorously growing.
The fish must have a pond surface area that is ice-free so those oxygen-depleting gases from the decaying wastes can escape. Floating a Styrofoam log and moving it around occasionally will help break up the ice. If, by chance, you forget and the pond freezes over, do not try to break up the ice with a hammer, as fish are very sensitive to vibrations. Instead pour boiling water over the thinnest part of the ice.
Along with winterizing your pond, it is also a good idea to give your garden equipment some preventative maintenance.
All caked on soil and debris should be scraped off with a wire brush. Next, lubricate all joints and springs. Lastly, spray all metal parts with a penetrating oil to prevent rust and wipe wooden handles with linseed oil to prevent cracking.
Mona Bawgus is a certified master gardener and consumer horticulturist with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Atlantic County. Write to her c/o Rutgers Cooperative Extension, 6260 Old Harding Highway, Mays Landing, NJ 08330. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org