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Tuesday - November 09, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Water Gardens
Title: Winter tank pond care in Austin Texas
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

Suggestions for winterizing a water garden in Austin Texas. Water contained in a 60 gallon aluminum horse tank. Garden contains papyrus, horsetail and water lily. There are no fish in the pond and no pump. I have used mosquito dunks to control mosquitos and a ball with hay in it to control algae. Can these plants stay in water through winter? What other care does the water garden need in winter?

ANSWER:

Your pond should be happy just how it is all winter long.  Tank ponds are pretty self sufficient ecosystems. Here are some tips for winter pond and plant care.

The lilies will most likely lose their leaves as they are deciduous. But some times here in Texas they don't always die back. If they do, don't worry they will be back in the spring. If the horsetail is Equisetum hyemale (Canuela) then it should stick around as it is evergreen. No need to do anything to it over the winter. It is a nice stalk for the birds and other wildlife to grab onto for a winter drink. The Papyrus is not native to North America, it is native to northern Africa. Its foliage will turn brown but not die back in the winter and looks best if you cut it to to ground. If you don't mind the look of the stalks then you might leave them. For, again, the birds are looking for limbs to hold onto when they are visiting your pond. Papyrus is very aggressive in ponds, you might find that you need to thin that out a bit in the coming spring.

Leaves tend to make a mess in a pond in the fall. You can periodically skim falling leaves out as they fall or leave them and in the spring plan to get your hands wet and scoop them out. A tank pond with living plants keeps remarkably clean on its own but if too many decomposed leaves get in there it will alter the PH and you might have briny water.

About the only thing your pond will need is topping off the water every now and then, just as you would any other time of year.  Large ponds like yours are much appreciated by wildlife and having easy access to clean water all winter long is a welcome sight for many of our winter migratory birds. Keep your eye out for them, you may see more birds at your pond in winter than you do in summer.

Something else you might want to consider is to actually add a few local mosquito minnows called Gambusia. You shouldn't have too many mosquitos in the winter, if any at all but if you don't want to come out in the cold to restock your dunks, Gambusia do the trick. They require no food or care at all. They are only 1 inch long and eat bug larva and plant matter. They are nice to have in helping to keep your pond clean. They multiply easily, so all you would need are a few to get started. If you are interested in trying the mosquito minnows be very conscientious in making sure that you are using our native Gambusia affinis. Non-native fish in our waterways are a national problem. Using fresh water fish as pest control is a fun and easy solution if you are careful in choosing the correct species.

 

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