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How to winterize a garden pond – instructions and tips for pond care during wintering.

When winter temperatures drop below freezing in your area, you should winterize your garden pond, as well as winterize fish and plants. This doesn’t have to be a tedious task, but it does require following a few important steps. It’s certainly not fun to say goodbye to your koi fish and water lilies for a few months. However, you should make sure that the wildlife and plant life in your pond are healthy and ready to welcome spring. Here’s some useful information and advice to help you get this important gardening job done.

Factors to consider before winterizing your garden pond

winterize a garden pond positioned next to a garden path and take care of pond plants

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, there are a few tasks you need to complete to prepare your pond for winterization. Since you most likely have koi or goldfish in your pond, it’s important to properly cover the surface of the water to ensure they can survive the long winter months and be ready for next spring. If you’ve recently installed a garden pond, you may be wondering what kind of maintenance you need to perform to winterize it. There are a few crucial steps you need to take to ensure that the plants in your pond make it through the winter safely, too.

client child plays with koi fish in a garden pond protected with a wooden screen

To take care of the wildlife in the pond, you will need to take additional steps to protect them as well. For example, frost may begin to form in the mornings as early as fall. Therefore, it is important to provide proper care to the as soon as possible in such harsh weather conditions. For this reason, it is good to learn how to winterize a garden pond, taking care of fish, plants and pumps. However, there is no reason to drain the water, and most likely, in such a case, the pond will fill with rain and snow in the winter anyway.

Storage of pumps

winterize a garden pond in the fall and remove dirt and rot with water

Cold winter weather can sometimes come on suddenly, so it’s important to winterize your pond early in case a sudden cold snap catches you by surprise. If it’s not properly enclosed, freezing winter temperatures can damage equipment. In most cases, it’s best to remove your pump from the pond. This will ensure that it is not damaged by freezing. Clean it thoroughly and store it in your garage or shed for the winter. If you have a direct drive pump, store it in a bucket of water and protect it from freezing. This will help keep the seals moist. If the pond pump has magnetic drive or asynchronous motor, it can be stored anywhere dry. Then when spring returns, your pump will be ready for installation.

Clean water from autumn leaves and dirt

clean fallen leaves in autumn and water lilies with proper pond care


The first task in the winter preparation of garden ponds is sanitation. This means you should remove any fallen leaves, twigs or other debris from the pond. This will prevent injury to fish, if you have any, and give you a head start on spring cleaning. Too many decaying leaves can lead to an altered pH and salty water. Most ponds don’t require a water change, but if your pond has 2.5 inches or more of silt, you should clean up the entire volume of water. Placing a net over your water feature before the leaves fall from the trees is the easiest way to contain and manage leaf fall. Once all the leaves have fallen, simply roll up the netting, discard the leaves and put the netting away until you next need it.

take a butterfly net and remove leaves from the water to winterize a garden pond

If your pond is fairly small, you can probably get away with using a butterfly net or even a kitchen strainer to get the debris out. Since cleaning this stuff is pretty tedious, consider buying a net for the fall. You can get some cherry tree netting, which is designed to keep birds off fruit trees, and spread it over the water before the leaves come off. Then use rocks from your pond or bricks in the garden to keep the net out of the water. This will make it easier to remove the leaves in the fall. A pond landing net with a long handle makes it easy to scoop debris from the bottom of the pond. If you leave the debris at the bottom of the pond, it will decompose over the winter and you will have a bigger mess in the spring.

Drain the pond when needed

clean a small pond in the backyard and clean the pond water from pollution


If you have a plastic liner, you should drain it before it freezes. In the event that the ice expands and contracts, it can cause significant damage to the material. The best way to keep it intact for the next year is to empty the pond. You can use a pump to do this. If you have a long enough hose, drain the water onto your garden beds. It will give them one last good bath before winter, and they will absorb the nutrients from bacteria or decay. After you drain the water, it’s a good idea to clean the soil of mud and rotting bacteria. Again, you can spread this around your garden or flower bed for soil enrichment.

Follow simple steps to winterize your garden pond

remove algae and rotten plants from water and take care of garden pond

  • Step 1: First, you should clean the pond as described above. The decomposition of organic material, such as leaves, releases toxic gases that can accumulate in the water and kill overwintering pond fish. Therefore, it is important to remove as much organic material as possible from your pond before winterizing it.
  • Step 2: Prune your pond plants first. Pull the plants out of the water and cut them back to remove all leaves down to the base of the plant.

use a pond net and remove fallen autumn leaves and dirt from the pond water

  • Step 3: Add bacteria suitable for cold water. This will help break down fish feces and debris to keep the pond water cleaner and clearer during the winter months. In addition, this will help reduce the likelihood of toxic gases accumulating in the water.
  • Step 4: First, remove the pump and clean the filter. This is an important step to take in order to winterize your garden pond. To do this, you should turn off the pump and clean the pond filter. Also, remove any parts that protrude above the water surface, including the waterfall hoses and possibly the attachments. This way, they won’t be damaged when the water freezes in the winter.
  • Step 5: Then put the plants and the pump back in place. After you have removed most of the debris from the pond and cleaned everything, place the plants and pump on the bottom in the deepest part of the pond.
  • Step 6: If you winter fish in your pond, it is very important to keep a hole in the ice open during the winter. If this is your first year having a pond, you might want to get a winterizing kit to make it even easier to care for.

Prepare water lilies in your pond for winter

winterize water lilies or water lilies in the pond and prepare for the cold season

Cut hardy waterlilies above the crown and move them to a deep part of the pond, preferably two 60 inches deep or more. You can also add tropical water lilies to your compost pile. However, you can also try overwintering them indoors with a grow light, but they may not survive.

Take care of pond fish during the winter.

winterize floating koi fish and winterize the garden pond before lowering the temperatures

A balanced diet makes for healthy, happy fish. So you should make sure your pond wildlife is in good health before they go into hibernation. When the water temperature drops, your fish’s metabolism and digestion slows down. In addition, there are specially formulated fish foods that will properly nourish pond fish when temperatures are quite low. Also, make sure you stop feeding your fish when the water temperature drops below 10°C.

beautiful garden design with cottage and winterize garden pond

Taking a little time and effort when winterizing your backyard pond will not only help your fish survive their hibernation, but will also make your spring maintenance much easier. Be sure to follow these guidelines so you can get the most enjoyment out of your pond when spring rolls around again.