Take action on pond maintenance this fall

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By Susan Brown, County Extension

Water gardens are becoming a popular addition to any landscape. They require maintenance throughout the year. Preparation for the winter months is especially important for the survival of aquatic plants and the wildlife in and around the pond. Debris such as leaves and dying plants must be removed, especially if there are fish in the pond.
Fall is the time to take action. Prepare the pond for the winter months by managing plants, cleaning the pond and monitoring water conditions. Doing your pond fall care is not likely high on your list of things to do but the benefits of performing a few simple chores on your pond are big.
Many plants begin to go dormant as the weather becomes cooler in the fall. Stop fertilizing pond plants at this time to stop top growth and encourage root development.
Remove all foliage that is yellow, brown or decaying to keep it from falling into the pond. Decide which plants can be overwintered in the pond, which ones must be removed from the pond to survive through the winter, and which ones should be discarded and purchased new the following spring. Never discard water garden plants by putting them in lakes, ponds, ditches, streams or other natural waterways.
Ponds need a balanced ecosystem to be successful. First, take the water pH and temperature in the pond. Next, any plants and wildlife should be removed, if possible, and placed in holding tanks to avoid harming them. Then, drain the pond, clean and inspect lining and such for any damage. Damaged areas must be repaired before fresh water is added.
To avoid plant or animal shock and possible death, make sure the pH and temperature of the replacement water is similar to what it was in the pond prior to cleaning. When replacing the pond water with chlorinated water or water from a new source, add a water treatment compound with a dechlorinator according to the label directions. Place plants in deeper locations of the pond for winter and engage the pump system to circulate the water.
The last step is to slowly re-introduce fish. This process is best handled within the timeframe of a day. Once this process is complete, take steps to prevent debris from entering the pond. Installing leaf netting over the pond will help make it easier to maintain.
Reduce your fish-feeding regimen. As your water drops below 65 degrees, the metabolism of your fish slows down. Start feeding your fish just a couple of times a week. A fish food that is specially formulated for the fall (wheat-based) is used at this time of year. Stop feeding your fish completely when water temperatures fall below 55 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer for your pond, get one.
Maintenance is typically the deciding factor in whether or not a pond owner keeps their pump running or not. The primary maintenance responsibility at this time is to make sure there is enough water for the pumps to operate properly.