If you live in the Albany, Saratoga, and Colonie, NY area then you know the winters can be pretty tough! The harsh winter months can wreak havoc on the hard work you put into your landscaping unless you prepare it properly. This is especially true for water features in winter, as they require a little extra attention to keep them in prime shape for the spring ahead.
Today, we’re answering the question, “do I need to do anything with water features in winter?” to show you water feature winter care tips whether you’re shutting down your fountain for season or leaving it running during the winter.
What to Do With Water Features in Winter
While you might’ve had fall cleanup services come out to take care of your front yard landscaping and spruce up the backyard makeover you did this past summer, have you thought about water features in winter? Part of how to maintain a water feature after installation is knowing how to prepare it for winter.
Taking care of water features in winter breaks down into two categories: shutting it down or winterizing it for operation. Your water feature design may allow for you to choose if you want to shut them down or not, while others (like garden ponds with fish) need advance planning if you’re operating them during the winter months.
Shutting Down Water Features in Winter
Most homeowners opt to shut down water features in winter. This is especially common for homes in areas with harsher winters like the Capital Region. Water feature winter protection can be done in just a few steps:
- Drain and clean your water feature
- Remove the pump and store it for winter
- Bring a smaller water feature indoors
- Get a water feature cover to protect the foundation
Draining and Cleaning Water Features in Winter
The first step in water feature winter care is draining and cleaning it. As part of your fall cleanup checklist you should’ve raked and removed any leaves that were in your fountain or pond. To prepare water features in winter, remove any last leaves or debris that may have fallen into your water feature installation after your big fall landscape cleanup. For larger garden water features like shallow ponds or pondless waterfalls that you’re draining, consider raking or vacuuming them out to prevent any sediment from solidifying over the winter.
Remove and Clean Water Feature Pump
Arguably the most important thing to do to take care of water features in winter when shutting them down is to remove and clean the water feature pump. Unless your water feature is specifically built with additional water storage for winter month operation in mind, the pump should likely be removed and the feature closed up for the season so it doesn’t freeze, crack, or otherwise become damaged.
Taking care of your water features in winter is also one of the best times to clean the pump thoroughly. This helps avoid algae, dirt, sediment, or other debris from sitting there all winter long, which could clog the pump and cause damage. To clean a water feature pump, you can soak it in a mixture of water and vinegar then pump clean water through until it runs clear.
Because water feature pumps are meant to operate in water, drying them out could run the risk of seals loosening or cracking. Instead, store your water feature pump submerged in clean water where it won’t freeze over. An easy way to do this is submerging it in a bucket of clean water and storing it in the garage or basement storage room until spring comes back around again.
Bringing Smaller Water Features Indoors for Winter
If you’ve got a smaller water feature that you’ve added to a patio installation or on a deck, you might be able to bring it indoors as part of your water feature winter care checklist. Storing water features indoors during the winter months is a sure way to prevent water from getting into it and avoid potential cracks or damage to the foundation.
Using Water Feature Winter Covers
Last up on our list of things to consider for taking care of water features in winter is using water feature winter covers for installations benign shut down but remaining outdoors. Many water feature constructions are too large to be stored indoors during the harsh winter months. Using a cover for water feature winter protection helps keep water and moisture out of your fountain and protects the foundation.
If you can’t find a specialized water feature winter cover or tarp that fits properly, you can also use blankets, towels, or other absorbent materials to keep water from getting into cracks or pipes and freezing.
Running Water Feature Winter Protection
If you choose to keep operating your water features in winter, it’s important that you take a few precautionary steps. To start, when you are using a landscape planner online to start the design of your water feature installation, be sure you’ve chosen a design that can handle winter operation. This typically means making sure it has additional water storage capability. If you’ve opted for a backyard garden pond with fish, be sure you’ve chosen fish that can withstand the winter months and that your pond is deep enough to protect them without freezing over.
Other factors to consider if you’re running water features in winter are:
- Checking ice dams to make sure they’re not blocking water flow
- Adding more water to adjust for usual water sources being unavailable
- Ensuring your pump size can withstand winter temps and circulate the water
- Making sure you have quality filters and pipes to withstand freezing and thawing
The majority of homeowners choose to close down their water features in winter. Water feature winter care requires consistent monitoring if you choose to keep it operating. While your pump may be able to withstand freezing temperatures a day here and a day there, constant days of sub-freezing temperatures may be too much for it. If you do opt to run your water features in winter, protecting the pump, foundation, and pipes is the most important thing to avoid major damage.
Hopefully this guide has given you good insight into water feature winter protection. Maintaining water features in winter differs on whether you’re shutting them down or leaving them operational. Over 70% of homeowners choose to close up their water feature installations during winter to protect them. If you’re not a huge fan of an empty pondless waterfall in your backyard landscaping, consider adding some seasonal winter greenery while winterizing outdoor water features to give it a festive look!
Water features winter protection can be done in a single weekend but if you’re worried about having it done properly or simply don’t have the time, we know landscape professionals who can take care of it for you.
For more fall and winter landscaping tips and suggestions for your home or business, check out these resources:
- Preparing Your Lawn For Winter
- 5 Home Safety Precautions in Winter
- Snow Removal & Safety Tips for Businesses
- Fall Cleanup Guide: Why Do It and What Happens If You Don’t