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Double Pond and Waterfall

A Pretty Pond With a Bridge

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Brand new pond, waterfall, bridge, slab stone patio and steps

A gentle forest stream

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Hurth Waterscapes Spring Pond Clean Out

Fall Breezes

The fall of the year is a time of great change for all who inhabit the Northern climates.  Some years it comes on slow and smooth with plenty of warning and other years it drops on us like a rock and we’re stuck wondering what happened to the warm summer days that seem so recent.  Northerners know that fall is here when the leaves begin to change colors and loosen their hold on the tree branches to come floating softly down to earth, predecessors to the snowflakes which are surely on their way.  We start to notice the migratory birds growing restless and starting their long journeys south where the lakes and ponds remain open and the berries soft and warm.  Some of us try to ignore the clues as if by ignoring them we can delay the inevitable.  Others welcome and look for the clues with spirited anticipation as visions of skiing and snowmen dance through their heads.  Whichever indicative clues you notice, there is always that one unmistakable day when there is no longer any doubt that fall is indeed upon us.  The day when we can no longer ignore its presence and we know that we had better start preparing ourselves for the long cold winter ahead.

For those of us that are fortunate enough to have a water garden in our yard to brighten our days and enliven our yards during the heat of summer, fall is an often more somber time that signals the end of the warm days and nights pond side and the beginning of the cold enduring winter with frozen ice and thick snow.  Fall is the time of year when we put our water gardens to sleep for the winter and say goodbye to our fish until spring.  As the heat of the summer begins to wane and the cool fall breezes blow in, the plants in our yards, including the pond plants begin to slow their growth and prepare themselves for the big freeze.  Often times in fall there will be more algae in our ponds due to the slowing growth of the other pond plants.  That algae just seems to be a little more resilient than many of the other plants in our pond.  Water gardeners know that our fishy friends really start to slow down at this time of the year.  As the water cools, so do their bodies.  Movements of all kinds slow and wane, including the movement of their digestive system.  This is why we must never feed our fish when water temperatures are below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Feeding at this time of the year can leave them with undigested, rotting food in their bellies for the long winter, which can lead to ghastly results.

Fall can creep in slowly or it can swoop in suddenly.  Either way, as the summer fades and fall rolls in, our job as water gardeners is to keep our pond clean and healthy.  We should remove any dead or dying plant material before it settles to the bottom of the pond, our fish will live the entire winter at the bottom and decaying organic matter will deplete their oxygen levels.  Our pond intake will often times collect many leaves in the fall of the year, so it is important to keep this area clean to allow for the proper water circulation and aeration.  We may need to manually remove some debris and leaves that get trapped in the water lilies, marginal plants or between the rocks.  Many water gardeners, whose pond is in a heavily wooded area, stretch netting across their pond during times of heavy leaf drop.  If you are one who nets their pond, please be sure to blow or rake the leaves off of the net from time to time to keep them from forcing the net down into the water with their weight.

Before the deep freeze sets in, we need to decide how we would like to care for our pond over the winter.  If we have fish in our pond, at the very least we will need to keep a hole in the ice to allow for oxygen transfer.  We could keep the pond running all winter long, but this may prove to be a more burdensome venture than most of us would knowingly sign up for.  If our pond is left running and the cold winter winds blow cold enough, we may get ice dams forming in our stream which, in turn, may force the water out of our pond, starving our pump of its water source.  Once the pump is starved of water, it will begin to freeze up.  At this juncture we must choose to either succumb to the forces of nature, allowing the pump to be destroyed, or to brave the ice water’s chilling grip and attempt to save the ever precious waterfall pump.  Most of us, when faced with this scenario as a possibility, will choose to remove the waterfall pump when the weather isn’t quite so conducive to frostbite.  To keep the necessary oxygen exchange hole open in the ice for the winter health of our fish, we have several viable options; a small solids handling pump bubbling at the water’s surface like a rolling boil, a bottom aerator which pumps air to the bottom of the pond, or a heater of some sort.  If we chose the pump or aerator we must make sure that the pump or aerator is not placed in the deepest part of the pond.  This is where our fish will want to spend their slow cold days of winter, and they would prefer to have a nice calm quiet spot to weather out the storm.  Many people choose to install a small heater, but we have found these to be somewhat less reliable than the other options.  When we remove our waterfall pumps from the pond, whether in the dead of winter or the chills of fall, we should be sure to store them in a warm place in a bucket of water so that they don’t freeze and the seals don’t dry out.  How disheartening it would be to install your pump come springtime with great anticipation of the waterfall to be, only to find out that your pump is in a non-functioning state.  Once our pumps are safely tucked away and our oxygen exchange hole is being kept open, we are free to live life as we please, knowing that our fish are cozy and content at pond’s bottom and that our little piece of paradise will be vibrant, healthy and full of life next spring when the ice finally succumbs to the gentle warming of spring and we can once again live as nobility in our throne of distinction pond side.

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