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Protecting Ponds and Water Features from Freezing Weather

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 11 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
Ponds Pond Water Features Fountains Fish

Ponds and fountains can be attractive and relaxing elements of your garden design, but the long winter months can present problems for water feature owners. A little time spent preparing for bad weather will keep your garden safe and ready to enjoy when spring arrives.

Keep Safe from Frost

Winter frosts can cause even large garden ponds to freeze over, removing the oxygen supply for plants and fish. Even if your pond doesn’t contain living stock, pre-formed or concrete pond bases can crack as ice expands, causing expensive and often irreparable damage.

If you don’t keep fish in your pond, consider removing electric pumps for the winter to prevent frost damage. This is a good opportunity to clean pumps and service them to make sure they're in good working order.

Tennis Ball Tip

To prevent ponds from freezing during mild frosts, place an old tennis ball in the water as the temperature drops. The movement of the ball will slow the formation of ice on the surface. If the pond does freeze over, removal of the tennis ball creates an instant oxygen hole for fish and plants.

For small ponds or water features a cover can be an easy way to stop ice forming in cold weather. Layers of bubble wrap or polystyrene make inexpensive and effective insulators. Never forget how dangerous water can be – even when frozen. If children have access to water features keep them safe by making sure covers are suitably secure, and never let them play near water unsupervised. However thick ice may seem on the surface of a pond or lake, don’t be tempted to walk or skate on it.

Never try to break up an icy pond by smashing the ice. The resulting shockwaves may kill the fish and the vibrations can damage the pond liner, causing leaks. If you need to melt the ice on a pond, boil a kettle and place it on the frozen surface, allowing the ice to melt slowly.

Water Features with Flowing Water

Fountains and other water features with moving water also need care. Even fast flowing water can freeze overnight and the expanding water may burst pipes. Prior to a frost or cold snap, drain the water completely from the fountain and isolate any electrical supply. An application of a spray-on penetrating oil or general lubricant will protect against corrosion over the winter months.

Consider removing pumps completely and storing them inside. Leave the fountain empty of water until you’re sure the winter frosts have finished. When you put them back into operation make sure you clean the oil off so that the water is safe from contamination.

Water Damage to Other Garden Features

Even garden features that don't appear to use water may need protection from frost. Unseen, water penetrates the surface of the stone work and can freeze in cold weather, causing slivers of stone to break away as the water expands. Wrapping vulnerable pots in bubble wrap or fleece will prevent this damage and protect the roots of less hardy plants.

A simple waterproof bin liner tied round statues prevents water damage to stone work which cannot be easily brought inside for the winter. Smaller objects such as garden gnomes should be stored in a shed or garage to avoid cracks forming.

A Stitch in Time

Protecting your ponds and fountains only takes a few minutes. With a little planning and care, your water features can be an enjoyable part of your garden for many years.

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After a bout of very cold weather I came into the garden and realised the pond had frozen and the water coming out of my filter and down my waterfall had frozen solid,it had managed to freeze the water that much it emptied the pond leaving around 8 inches of water in the bottom of the pond as I had the pump lifted up of the bottom the problem is the pump stopped and now won’t come on. Will it have cut out or is it knackered because it ran dry and froze. I’m going to check the fuse in the plug tomorrow but don’t hold out much hope unless someone knows any thing else I could do. Thanks
Oakesy - 11-Mar-18 @ 6:29 PM
I have a lovely slate water feature with nice plants around the base and although I drain out the water and pump in the winter and also insulate the pump I do not want to cover the complete area as it will kill the plants. Do I need to cover the feature from low temperature and potential cracking, if so with what material. Kind Regards Johnboy
Johnboy - 22-Jun-16 @ 9:15 PM
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