How to Maintain a Backyard Pond: A Helpful Guide

How do you maintain a backyard pond?

Taking care of a backyard pond is fairly easy. It mostly depends on maintaining add-ons like pumps and filters. It also includes keeping debris away from the overflow area and topping off the pond with water as needed. Sometimes, things become more tedious such as dealing with algae blooms.

Electrical pond pumps, filters, skimmers, and other add-ons

Electrical pond add-ons vary greatly so it’s not possible to tell you exactly how they are properly maintained throughout the year. Nevertheless, I have some solid advice for you. Be sure that whoever sells you the piece of equipment goes over how to keep it clean and properly maintained.

How to Maintain a Backyard Pond: A Helpful Guide

Your pond contractor may sell you many extra add-ons. Even for the ones you specifically requested, make sure he goes over any maintenance needed throughout the year. This lessons chances of something breaking down.

Take notes on a notepad if necessary and mark checkup dates on a calendar. Keep up with your electrical add-ons, it’s worth it because they’re very expensive. I know a nursery in town who let things go with their pond equipment and none of it works. It’s an overgrown eyesore. Still, I want to make a point in saying such maintenance mentioned above won’t be anything troublesome and it’ll get you out of the house for a while. That’s a good thing, and one of the main reasons for having a nice pond to enjoy. Nature is wonderful and beautiful, don’t miss out on it.

Inline water hose filters

These are great for removing chlorine and other harmful chemicals from city tap water. Depending on the model you buy depends on how often they need changing out. The last one I bought lasted eight months. For forty bucks, I find that very reasonable. Maybe you’re lucky enough to get your water from a spring or well. Remember, well water should periodically be tested, not just for the safety of your pond inhabitants, but also for you if you drink it!

Ponds and the changing seasons

The climate in which you live determines how seasons affect your pond. Obviously, a pond in New York experiences harsher winters than in Florida. The two most notable seasons are winter and spring. Maintenance includes winterizing your pond for the winter and starting it back up again in the spring. I’ve lived in Florida since 2002, there’s not a lot I have to do to winterize my ponds. I watch for hard freezes and wrap my plastic water pipe spigot on the hill with heavy blankets. That spigot is the water source for four of my six ponds. I don’t worry about the hoses because they’re buried, but if I lived in New York where the frost line penetrates more deeply, I imagine my hoses would need changing every year or two. That’s not an issue for me.

Also, I don’t have to worry about ice build-up in the hose splitter valves. I use both plastic and brass splitters. I would not use a plastic splitter in states that experience severe winters. They crack when the water freezes in them. I always try to drain my hoses after every use. I do this by shutting each valve splitter off from the ponds, working my way down from the top of the hill, down to the main water spigot. That’s definitely important if you live in a climate with long, hard freezes. When I was in New York, I lived in a manufactured home for six years. This is going back to the 1990s. My water heater was outside and the pipes were plastic. Every year they’d freeze up and every couple of years they’d burst. What a headache.

Pond maintenance in the spring

Unless you’re living in southern Florida which is a pure tropical zone, you’ll have to kickstart your pond in the spring. I live ninety minutes north of Tampa in a subtropical zone. Winters are sometimes cooler than those from the north imagine.

Basically, the most important thing is adding a high-quality beneficial bacteria product to your pond once your last frost passed through. I would avoid the stuff sold at home improvement centers and chain stores and go with something a bit more expensive that actually works. I find beneficial bacteria products sold at home improvement centers and department stores utterly useless. Follow the directions on the label carefully.

If you’re the type that only adds beneficial bacteria to your pond once a year, make sure it’s in the early spring. That’s when it needs it the most. Bacteria blooms in spring are not uncommon or anything to worry about. The more established the pond is, the less amount of time it’ll take for the water to clear up. It’ll ultimately return to crystal clear conditions. Beneficial bacteria are the most important of all pond supplements.

Algae prevention and control is the second most important supplement. Once again, the more established the pond is, the less likely you’ll have an algae problem. Submerged oxygenating plants start-up quickly once the water starts warming up.

Pond maintenance during the summer

There is some upkeep during the summer months but nothing major. I manually remove any duckweed that happens to show up. Do this on a daily basis until the problem is completely solved. It usually takes ten to fourteen days to kill it off completely. I keep an eye on algae blooms although nothing major usually happens. Depending on the size of your pond,  you may want to remove fallen leaves, twigs, branches, and other organic waste. Refer to these as excess “nutrients” and you’re talking pond lingo. I use a pool skimmer and plastic rakes. For my larger ponds, I let them go since they’re big enough to handle organic waste.

Pine needles and water acidity 

I try to remove as much pine needles as I can. Pine needles are acidic and raise the acidity level in your pond. Snails love to eat them. Pine needles are also high in vitamin C. While I don’t keep any of my ponds excessively acidic, my third largest one I call the lagoon sits directly under a pine tree. It’s hard to keep up with that one. Eventually, pine needles lose their color, become darker, and sink to the bottom of the pond. After that, they completely decay and dissolve after a few months.

Inline water filter

Pond maintenance during the autumn

For the northern states, autumn is a bittersweet time. I know, I used to live in New York. Begin winterizing your pond during fall. If you live in a state where your pond completely freezes over, get a deicer. Basically, this is a pump that keeps the pond water circulating in an area, not allowing it to freeze over. This also keeps oxygen levels up during the time the pond is frozen. Autumn is also a time to remove excess fallen leaves from your pond. Why put your natural ecosystem through the extra stress? A few leaves aren’t going to hurt anything but if you have a pond under a large maple tree, it’s best to remove as many leaves from the water’s surface as possible. The fresh, brisk autumn air is good for you. Wear extra clothing if it’s chilly.

Pond maintenance during the winter

Winter is a long period pond owners have to wait out. Especially if you live in the northern states. Living in Florida, I still get enjoyment out of my ponds during winter. The flowering water lilies die (but always come back in spring) and all submerged oxygenating plants go dormant. Even so, I still see fish and frogs swimming around, especially on mild days. Just this past Christmas Day, I saw several frogs in my pond off the patio. Some of them were smaller which I didn’t recognize. They’re new species from the tadpoles I added the previous spring.

Enjoy all the seasons of your pond

While those living in the deep south enjoy more quality time with their ponds, enjoy all the seasons of nature. For northerners, spring is always just around the corner from winter and then you’ll be enjoying your pond again. The spring peepers appear first, then the toads mate in the pond after a good rain. I used to love their sound when living in New York. The next thing you know, there are hundreds if not thousands of little black tadpoles swimming around your pond. Remember, tadpoles are good, they feed on algae and adult frogs and toads feed on all kinds of bugs we humans consider pests.

Best of luck to you and your pond ventures. Remember to keep beneficial bacteria up, especially when winter turns to spring.

Do you have valuable pond advice concerning the different seasons of the year? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below! 

How to Maintain a Backyard Pond: A Helpful Guide