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We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants?

Q: We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants?

Barb – Sterling, CO

A: Brrr! It’s certainly getting cold outside! Your aquatic plants are feeling the chill too, so now is a perfect time to clean them up and put them in a warmer place for winter. So bundle up, pull on your hip waders and Aqua Gloves to keep dry and warm, dig out your easy-to-use Pond Scissors and Pliers—and let’s get busy!

Hardy Water Lilies

Hardy water lilies can tolerate cooler temperatures than your tropical varieties, but they need to be kept in a place that won’t freeze, like the deepest areas of your pond. Now that you’ve had your first frost, trim the lilies’ foliage back to just above the root ball and submerge the plants as low as they’ll go for the winter. Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plants’ crowns.

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical water lilies prefer warm temperatures all year-long, so these plants will need to be completely removed from your pond and relocated to a protected indoor space for the winter, like an aquarium or large bucket inside your heated garage or workshop. Check out this article for a step-by-step guide to overwintering tropical plants.

Marginals and Bog Plants

As with hardy water lilies, your marginals’ and bog plants’ foliage will need to trimmed back to just above the soil with pond scissors. Then sink them lower into the deepest parts of your pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime.

Floating Plants

Unless you live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, floating plants like hyacinth and water lettuce won’t survive the winter. Plan to remove them from your pond and toss them in your compost pile. If you leave them in the pond, the dead plants will decompose and cause water quality issues through the wintertime.

Pond Talk: If your aquatic plants are planted in the soil rather than a movable basket or pot, do you do anything special to them to prepare them for winter?

Trim & Remove Plants with Ease - Pond Pliers & Scissors

My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout?

Q: My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout?

Melanie – Ludlow, MA

A: Relax! Unless your pond really (and we mean really) needs it, we don’t recommend doing a total fall cleanout. Doing so would stress your fish out and compromise their health. Any amount of cleanliness you’ll achieve is just not worth the risk.

Instead, here’s a four-step to-do list to prepare your pond for fall:

  1. Get Your Plants in Shape: After the first frost, remove dead foliage from you aquatic plants, trim them back and sink them in the bottom of your pond to protect them from the cold temperatures. If you have tropical water lilies or other temperature-sensitive varieties, make room for them inside your garage or another place that will not freeze.
  2. Remove Algae: If you have a stream or waterfall in your pond, remove any algae or debris with CrystalClear® Algae-Off®, which vaporizes string algae, and Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®, which foams up and lifts debris from surfaces. These oxygen-based products are safe for use around plants and fish.
  3. Clean Up Debris: Using a brush and net, like those included with The Pond Guy® 3-in-1 Pond Tool, scrub down your rocks and liner and net out as much decaying debris as possible. Then use a vacuum, like The Pond Guy® ClearVac™, to suck up whatever’s left. This will minimize the amount of algae-feeding muck decomposing in the pond throughout the winter.
  4. Treat with Beneficial Bacteria: Finally, continue to treat your water garden with muck-munching beneficial bacteria until water temperatures dip to 50° Fahrenheit. Once the water is below 50°F, switch to Seasonal Defense® to continue breaking down any remaining debris. It’s formulated for use during the cooler months.

With these chores completed, your pond will be in good shape going into winter. Until then, relax and enjoy the fall colors and changing season!

Pond Talk: What do you do to prepare your pond for winter?

Make Fall Maintenance Quick and Easy - The Pond Guy(r) ClearVac(tm) Pond Vacuum

Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now?

Q: Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now?

Karen – McHenry, IL

A: Though we all wish summer could linger on forever, the reality of fall—and its associated pond chores—is nearly upon us. Cooler temperatures, shorter days and those brightly colored (and falling) leaves means you need to take a break from summer fun and get to work.

Here’s a quick rundown of the prep work you should be doing now:

Add Bacteria

When temps start to fall (particularly below 50°F), it’s time to add some cool-water beneficial bacteria to your pond, like the tiny muck-eaters in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®. They go to work decomposing leaves, scum and sediment that will inevitably build up over the fall and winter, which will result in better water quality for your finned friends.

Clean Up Your Plants

Cut back and remove any dead plant vegetation that’s inside and around your water garden. Use a handy long-reach tool, like the Pond Scissors and Pliers, to cut back water lilies and clear away dead marginals. As the temperatures cool even more, you’ll need to remove floating plants like hyacinth and water lettuce, sink your hardy water lilies and marginals into the deeper areas of your pond to protect them from freezing, and make plans to overwinter your tropical lilies inside.

Cover Up

Blowing leaves and other debris will drop into your pond during the fall, and if you don’t get them out, they’ll decompose over the winter and create a mucky mess in the spring. Plan to put a net over the pond, like the Pond Logic® PondShelter™ Net Kit, to keep them out, and use a skimmer net to remove any stragglers.

Have Supplies Ready

While you’re thinking about fall, now is a great time to stock up on winter water garden supplies. Purchase a six-month supply of Seasonal Defense®. Buy some Spring & Fall Fish Food, which will help your fish transition from their regular diet to one that’s easier to digest in cooler temperatures. Make sure you have an aerator or deicer ready to keep a hole in the ice. Preparing ahead of time will prevent any last-minute scrambling.

Regular Maintenance

Finally, continue to perform regular maintenance chores, like keeping your filter clean and operating well, doing periodic water changes, and feeding and checking on your fish. Summer is nearly over, but don’t neglect your pond-keeping routine!

Pond Talk: What other fall chores do you do in and around your water garden?

Keep Leaves & Predators Out - Pond Logic(r) PondShelter(tm) Cover Net

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months?

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months? Josh – Speed, KS

With winter on the way, you are probably starting to wonder how to go about protecting your plants through the colder months. Just as each plant is unique in looks and application, different types of plants require different means of protection to survive winter. You will want to properly identify which types of plants are present in your pond and proceed accordingly. If you are willing to go the extra mile and care for your plants indoors you will be able to enjoy them all season long and dodge the expense of re-buying plants to garnish your pond next Spring.

Plants are typically categorized by hardiness which gauges their survivability in specific temperature ranges. Some plants, like Bog Bean are rated from zones 3 to 10 which means they can withstand very cold temperatures but can also thrive in warm weather. Tropical plants like the Antares Lily are hardy only in zones 10 and 11. For help, see our Plant Hardiness Zone Map which breaks down temperature lows in each zone. With this being said you will now understand that some plants may need to be stored earlier and longer than others and may require a little more attention depending on their warmth and light requirements and if you maintaining the entire plant or only storing tubers.

Hardy Lilies and Lotus can be trimmed back to about an inch` away from the top of the planter as they brown. To over winter these plants you simply sink the baskets to a depth in your pond that will not freeze solid, normally at least 12” in water depth. As the temperatures warm back up you can move the basket closer to the surface and let nature take its course. If your lilies aren’t potted, they are more than likely planted into lily pockets that are already 12-18” in depth and simply trimming them back will suffice. Any tropical plant, however, will have to come inside for the winter. These plants can be maintained if placed in a warm and sunny area or under a full spectrum light and the root of the plant is kept submerged.

Submerged Plants that are hardy in colder climates can just be sunk to deeper regions of your pond that will not freeze solid in the winter. If they require warmer temperatures you can bring them in and store them in an aquarium with full spectrum lighting.

Floating Plants like Water Hyacinths and Water Lettuce are sensitive to colder weather and are a little more difficult to over winter. If you choose to bring them in for the winter, they require a warm sunny location or under full spectrum lighting. You will also want to add some liquid fertilizer like Microbe-Lift Bloom & Grow to keep them healthy.

POND TALK: Tell us how you over winter your aquatic plants.

Easily maintain your plants!

How Do I Winterize My Aquatic Plants? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of Water Lily.

Q: I am working to shut down my water garden for Winter, but I’m unsure of what to do with the aquatic plants? Do I pull them out? If I leave them will they come back next year? – Bill of Wisconsin

Aquatic Plant Maintenance: Every type of aquatic plant needs to be taken care of in a different way. The biggest factor to remember is to make sure that the roots of the aquatic plants do not come into contact with the ice. Anything “hardy” will usually come back each year as long as the roots do not come in contact with ice. Anything “tropic” or “non-hardy” will parish during the Winter times. The following are the steps to take for each type of aquatic plant.

Hardy Water Lilies, Marginals & Submerged Aquatic Plants: Simply trim to around 3 inches above the root system. Water lilies & submerged aquatic plants should already be planted 18″ to 24″ deep making it very unlikely for them to be frozen.

Tropical & Floating Aquatic Plants: Any tropical water lilies, tropical lotsus, or tropical marginals should be treated as annuals. They will not survive the harsh Winter conditions. If you would like to try and keep them, you can place them in pots and bring them indoors, but this can be difficult to keep them alive. As for floating aquatic plants such as: Water hyacinth, lettuce, etc., treat these as annuals as well. Most floating plants are realtively inexpensive to replace each year.

Hardy Lotuses: Trim back the foliage after it has died and turned brown. If leaves are cut while still green, the plant is susceptible to diseases entering through the hollow stems. If stem must be cut while still green, make sure to trim above the waterline, so water does not enter the stem and essentially drown the plant. In colder climates, lotus tubers must not be allowed to freeze in the winter, and containers should be moved to a cool but frost-free area, such as the bottom of a pond that is deep enough to keep the tubers from freezing.

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