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Updated: 11.29.23

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How to get a koi pond ready for winter

Enjoy it while it lasts!

Can you believe we only have a few weeks of summer remaining? You could throw in the towel, or you could squeeze the last remaining drops of summertime before it’s gone!

Here are Falling Water Gardens, we’re a fan of the latter – and we have some ways to make the most of the remaining sunshine while preparing for cooler temperatures. We can help decorate the garden for these last few weeks of great weather, and help you get your pond ready for winter.

Read our Nursery News below!

How to get your koi pond ready for winter

We have our annual end-of-season sale coming, with special discounts nursery wide! Unlike some of our events over the summer, this special is good the entire month of September.

All plants are buy three, get one free – both aquatic and terrestrial plants. This is a great time to stock up on perennials and invest in some bulbs and plants that will flower in the early spring! We also have our fish on sale – buy three get one free, on fish over $100.

Lastly, even though the cooler weather is coming, we still have a great collection of plants to add some late-season color to your garden. Check out our plant feature below, or come visit us!

We will also be adjusting our hours later this month. Falling Water Gardens will be closed Sept. 19-21 and will return to our Fall hours on Sept. 22: open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Tuesday-Thursday.

Pond ready for winter

How to get your pond ready for Winter

As the water temperature dips below 60 degrees, we want to switch back to a cool-season/wheat germ food (we sell this at the nursery). Continue feeding fish until the water temperature hits 50-55 degrees (typically mid-October).

As the water temperature cools, fish cannot digest their food as efficiently. High protein Summer food can actually rot in their gut and cause abscesses. As the water temperature drops below 60 degrees you should switch to a cool-season or Spring/Fall food that has more wheat germ which is easier for your fish to digest. When the temperature drops below 50 you should stop feeding your fish entirely until Spring.

Your Fall maintenance To-Do list includes the following:

  • Protect your fish health by changing to cool-season food.
  • Cut back aquatic plants, clip and trim dead plant material, remove annuals like hyacinth and lettuce, prepare plants for winter.
  • Check the pump and clean the volute
  • Check the skimmer frequently during fall leaf drop and winter winds.
  • Clean the biological filter, drain and store for winter
  • Turn off the UV Sterilizer and (when practical) drain and store.
  • Skim the pond and remove as much dead organic plant material as possible.
  • Lift the pump to winter height (When practical)
  • Net the pond to collect falling leaves. (When practical)
  • NOTE: Every pond or water feature is unique, you may not have all of the items listed.

Plant material

Plants start to die back when the water temperature drops. Cut back plant material that is decomposing and dropping to the bottom of the pond. Dispose of annual plants before they can sink to the bottom. Don’t cut back anything that is evergreen.

Pumps

Pond ready for winterTwo common problems which shorten the life of your pump and void your warranty.

First, weak connections on cords. Never pull your pump up using the cord. Stretching the cord can weaken connections within the pump or cause a leak in the seal around the cord. Either problem will cause the pump to start shorting out your GFI and you’ll need a new pump. Pump manufacturers exclude cord problems from their warranty, so never let anyone pull your pump by the cord!

Second, Gunk Clogging the Inlets. Look in the back of the skimmer box where the pump is and make sure no pine needs or other gunk has gotten back there. Those of you who do not have a skimmer must be even more diligent in checking your pump. Failure to keep the pump inlets clear voids your warranty and shortens the life of your pump, so make it a habit to check the inlets periodically, especially in the fall when the wind starts to knock all the needles out of your Douglas fir.

Skimmer

Pond ready for winter

Once the leaves have all fallen you can clean it less often through the winter. However, as we head in to fall and the leaves and needles start to fall it is important to clean your skimmer more frequently. Remember that you must periodically pull the filter matting out of your skimmer and hose it off very well to clear the needles out of it.

 

UV Sterilizer

Pond ready for winterWe suggest that you turn your UV sterilizer off by unplugging it around October 15th. This is because the water temperature approaches 40 degrees, algae growth becomes less prevalent. If you turn it on in April and turn it off in October, you can use the UV bulbs for two full seasons and replace the bulbs every third year. Keep in mind that if you don’t turn off the UV by unplugging it, then you would want to replace your UV bulbs every season.

If you keep your pump running all winter then you don’t usually have to drain your UV. If you plan on turning the pump off during the winter, then the UV sterilizer valve should be closed and the UV drained to protect it from freezing.

Falling Water Designs suggests that you run your pump all year long because moving water almost never freezes and your pond will be healthier if you keep the pump running.

Biological Filter

Pond ready for winterClients who have a biological filter (which is not the up-flow filter that many have at the top of their waterfall), can clean and drain it for the winter. Once the water temperature drops to 40°F, the beneficial bacteria in the filter mostly die and stop working. Cleaning and draining the biological filter will prolong the life of the filter media. Watch our How-To video here.

Finally, if this all seems like too much work, Falling Water Designs offers Fall Maintenance Visits. Fill out this contact form to schedule your Fall Maintenance Visit.

Light up the night!

As the days start to get shorter, we find customers are spending more time around their ponds and gardens after sunset. Especially for beautiful koi ponds, we offer various ways to enjoy them in the evening hours with pond lighting!

Lighting works for large and small water features. At a new customer’s home in Lynnwood, Falling Water Designs installed a three-column faux basalt bubbling water feature at the entrance to their home. This is a low-maintenance setup without the challenge of supporting solid-rock columns, and it’s a very popular small water feature.

Falling Water Designs revamped an older feature for a customer in Everett, a goldfish pond that had fallen into disrepair and sat empty for a number of years. We turned it into a beautiful collection of ceramic pots overflowing into a very shallow pool of water.

Similar to the first design, this is a low-maintenance water feature with great water sound but without a big hole in the ground!

Falling Water Designs always includes lighting for water features and gardens as an option.  Most customers have us install lighting, whether during the initial install process or postponed for budget to be added later.  Why wouldn’t you want us to light up your investment? 

Kikokuryu

The Kikokuryu is a metallic black & white Doitsu (scaleless or partially scaled) koi fish. Kikokuryu can be black & white, blue & white, or silver & white. Any blue on this fish is not permanent. The fish changes quite frequently. Changes may be caused by environmental changes such as water temperature, lighting, water chemistry, etc.

Kikoruyu has good sheen throughout it’s body. The whiter the white on the head, the better quality the Kikoruyu is.

We have a wide selection of koi and goldfish in our fish house here at Falling Water Gardens, but we do keep a smaller collection through the winter months. We’ll have our larger fish on sale in September – buy three, get one free!

See our Fall Prep section for tips on how to care for your koi as the seasons change.

 

Black-Eyed Susan

Come see these beauties in full bloom here at the nursery! The Black-Eyed Susans are impossible to miss right at the front entrance.

Easily grown in dry to medium, organically rich to average, well-drained soils in full sun. Best bloom occurs in full sun, although plants will tolerate some light shade. Plants prefer consistent moisture throughout the growing season, with some tolerance for drought once established. Good air circulation is appreciated. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage additional bloom. Plants slowly spread in the garden by rhizomes.

Albescens Bulrush

Guaranteed green all winter long! As an aquatic grass, Albescens will be just fine with the wet weather on the way, regardless of if it’s planted in a pond or to edge your garden.

This plant forms clumps of tall extremely upright needle-like leaves with green and white vertical stripes – an elegant and airy accent for the edge of the pond. Moist soil or water up to 3″ deep.

Society Garlic

Variegated Society Garlic is a terrific perennial plant with narrow, up to 12 inch (30 cm) long leaves. The leaves arise from a rhizome that creeps underground to form clumps up to 24 inches (60 cm) wide. The leaves and flower stems have a garlic odor when crushed. The leaves can be used in salads and in cooking. It is an easy plant to grow whether in the landscape or in containers. They are hardy in USDA zones 7-10.

Forever Purple

This is a good one to keep some color in the garden as the seasons turn!

‘Forever Purple’ is a knockout with ultra-purple glossy leaves with fluted edges and great vigor. Very short spikes of purple-pink flowers in summer and four seasons of purple.

Plant Database

Did you see something you’re interested in on a recent visit and can’t remember the instructions to care for your new plant? Check out our plant database, and ever-growing index of the plants we sell here at the nursery. You can get tips on the amount of sun, watering needs, placement in the garden and even other plants that may pair well with what you have!

If you’re ever here on site and are curious about something you see, scan the QR code on the sign to access the database entry on the plant in question.

A big congratulations to our couples that got married here at Falling Water Gardens this season! We’re always thrilled that lovers choose to say ‘I do’ on the grounds here, and we’re looking forward to yet another wedding season next spring and summer.

Our tents will come down in the coming weeks, but there’s still time to see this incredible venue before we winterize the gardens. The formal garden remains in bloom well into September as we’ve designed it to be constantly in flower from May until the weather turns in the fall. Check out our Instagram for a look at some of our most-recent weddings!

We give tours all year long, as the venue remains open to the public in the off-season. Contact us for details, or to schedule a walkthrough!

We also have our annual open house coming in May – stay tuned for details, and mark Mother’s Day weekend!