Running the pond all winter

Biofalls still running

Even when the temperatures stay below freezing for a week and we get over half a foot of snow, the pond doesn’t ice over immediately.  The wild irises (lower right) had some small sprouts poking out before the snowfall, but I think they’re reconsidering about now.

A lot of people turn off their pond in winter. Maybe they redirect the pump out the skimmer, or turn the pump off and rely on air stones to keep some oxygen in the water. We don’t – we let it run all winter long. Part of this (or maybe most) is nothing but laziness – I don’t even want to contemplate blowing all the water out of the pipe running underground from the skimmer pump to the top of the biofalls. Another part is that the pond looks really pretty in the winter, whether the falls are open or iced over.

If you’re contemplating joining in the all-year pond club, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • You probably want to live in a place that doesn’t get much colder than Chicago does if you have a small shallow pond. We had a couple of weeks of Minnesota-level temperatures (below 0 F every night and not getting much above 10 F during the day) in February, and the pond started running low and having ice dams. (That nice little stream seen above froze all the way through!) If your typical winter highs are in the 20s, though, the ice won’t get all that thick and will start melting on sunny late-winter days.
  • You still need a low-voltage ring de-icer so nitrogen can escape from the pond. You might only use it for a couple of days here and there, but it’s necessary during times when the entire pond freezes over.
  • Check on the pond level even during the winter. Dry air means lots of evaporation, and you do need to keep an eye out for ice dams that divert water out of the pond.

Your reward? Hordes of animal visitors to your pond, and a lot less work in the fall.

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