As with any outdoor water source, a water garden collects organic
matter that needs to be cleaned out. The best time to do this is
when the water temperature is cooler, such as in the fall. This
helps minimize any stress to fish that may live in your water
garden. A few basic steps to cleaning out your pond include:
Get a holding container for the plants or fish, being sure it
is large enough to hold the amount of water needed to sustain the
plants and fish for several hours while you are emptying and
cleaning the water garden. It is best to keep the holding
container in the shade during this time, also.
Fill the holding container with water from the water garden,
then empty the remainder of the water out of the garden using a
pump if necessary. Use this water to irrigate other garden plants
since it is rich in nutrients from the organic matter.
As the water is being emptied out of the garden, use a stiff,
nylon-bristled brush to scrub down the sides of the pond so any
debris collects in the bottom of the pond.
Use the nylon brush and a dustpan to collect up the debris and
any remaining water in the bottom of the pond, placing it in a
large bucket to be hauled to other garden areas and used as a
soil amendment. Do not be too thorough in cleaning out your water
garden -- there are normal bacteria levels that need to be
maintained in a water garden.
Refill the water garden with half of the water from the holding
container, then fill it the rest of the way with tap water,
putting in the appropriate amount of dechlorinator if you have
fish. Next, fill the holding container with tap water also as
this will help the fish become adjusted to the new water
After a half hour or so, replace the plants and fish into the
clean water garden.
Normally, you should need to clean out a water garden only once a
year. Also, it should not be necessary to add fresh water unless
you have a problem with your fish. Adding fresh water will not
help control algae, and it may destroy the bacterial balance in
your water garden.
According to Keith at Springdale Water Gardens, when getting your
water garden ready for winter, there are really only a few
adjustments you need to make:
Be sure leaves are kept out as they fall to keep the debris
from accumulating on the bottom of the pond.
Set shallow plants down deep, if at all possible. It is best to
leave any water lilies at the bottom all the time.
When the weather becomes very cold, such as in late November,
stop feeding the plants and fish and make no bacterial
When the pond is frozen, keep all leaves and other debris off
You can leave your recycling pump running all winter to keep
the water moving in the pond. Just be sure water does not splash
out and freeze, causing more water to be diverted from flowing
back into the pond. If you want to stop a waterfall type of
display, disconnect the pipes and drain them, but let the pump
tube bubble toward the top of the pond to keep water moving. This
sometimes prevents the pond from freezing. If you decide to cut
off the pump, drain it and take it inside for the winter.
Adapted from "Cleaning Your Water Garden,"
a release by Springdale Water Gardens, Greenville, VA 24440, by Kate Dobbs,
Research Associate, Consumer Horticulture,Virginia Tech.