How to care for your outdoor pond in Winter

Whether you have a productive pond with edible fish and edible plants or enjoy the beauty of an ornamental pond, winter is a great time for a little maintenance.

If you can brave the chilly water here are some tips and hints on what to do right now in preparation for spring.

Most of your marginal water plants, like papyrus, rushes, sedges and grasses will appreciate a little trim if they are looking straggly, along with the removal any dead leaves. We wouldn’t generally recommend a hard trim during winter as their growth will be slower and will take longer to bounce back, save the hard trimming and dividing until spring and summer. For edible plants treat your aquaponics beds like you would treat your land vegetable garden, by removing any spent plants and replanting in season vegetables.

If you have a biological filter, now is a great time to clean it out, as the load on the filter box over winter is quite low. Plant filters won’t require any special attention, other than the usual cutting back, if needed.

Winter is the best time to repot Hardy water lilies. The decision to repot a water lily should be based on its last season’s performance, if it was growing well with an abundance of healthy leaves and lots of flowers, then it may well be better left alone. If it was struggling with small leaves, little or no flowers, then repotting will be necessary. Don’t forget to fertilise, we recommend slow release water plant pellets, 2 or 3 per plant in early August will get them off to a great start.

Floating baskets are a great way to add new plant life into your pond and they will help to provide a little cover for your fish when you don’t have lily pads covering the surface. You can plant nearly any low growing marginal plant in a floating basket, you don’t need any soil or potting medium, although if the plants are quite small you may need a little gravel to help hold the plant in place until they mature. Floating baskets will forever hold the plant at the right water level, most low growing water plants really thrive in a floating basket as their root system is not restricted and this allows easy take up of nutrient from the water. If you are interested, there are plenty of edible water plants perfect for a floating basket, in particular water cress which thrives in the cooler weather.

This is the time of year when algae can be quite a problem, mainly because all your other water plants are not growing as vigorously and your fish are eating less algae. A couple of quick remedies, cut back on feeding the fish, pull the algae out by hand whenever you can and add enough Zeolite sand to cloud the water, do this every couple of days until the algae is under control.

If you are growing fish for food such as Trout, right now they are at the height of their growing season and will eat ravenously all day if you let them, all that food will ensure that Trout will grow from a 10cm fingerling to a plate size fish in just one winter. Silver Perch on the other hand will require two summers for full growth potential, Marron and Yabbies are another way to increase your food production and who doesn’t like these tasty crusteasuns. Definitely choose a quality feed for edible fish, ones that are designed to maximize the growth and the health of your fish, the best are made in Australia so seek them out. Ornamental fish require less food during the winter months, so reduce the feeding and let them graze on the algae.

Published in Garden Guru Magazine, Winter 2012