Prepare your waterfall, fish pool, and water pumps for winter
It's time to winterize your water garden, waterfalls, bird baths, and water pumps.
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Pumping through ice
However, there’s one pump I never remove. That one sits in the water feature for the birds. They depend on this water all winter. I know, because when the pump was out of order for two weeks, the bird populations at the feeders diminished remarkably.
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This bird waterer consists of a sunken 100-gallon galvanized farm trough. Water recirculates from a pump on the bottom through a tube hidden inside the upright concrete pipe. That pipe holds a flat-topped tufa round wheel. A cast-concrete ball rests in the center of the circle, and the water emerges at the top of the ball, creating shallow streams that attract birds of all kinds, before spilling over the wheel’s edge and back into the tank below.
Because this one runs all winter, I occasionally must deal with ice accumulation. There are heater coils that can be placed in bird feeders, but that wouldn’t solve the freezing problem in my situation.
Sometimes the winter is cold enough that the water dripping over the edges of the tufa wheel freezes all the way down to the surface of the farm tank. But the water’s still pumping. Now it slides along the outside of the foot-thick ice stalactites and spills away from the tank.
I, too, have hauled my share of five-gallon buckets, topping up the system to keep the pump in the bottom covered with water. There’s no fish in there. I crack the ice dams with a hammer. It’s satisfying to knock the icicles back into the trough so the pump can deliver water to the birds all winter long.
Mary-Kate Mackey, co-author of “Sunset’s Secret Gardens — 153 Design Tips from the Pros” and contributor to the “Sunset Western Garden Book,” writes a monthly column for the Hartley Greenhouse webpage and numerous articles for Fine Gardening, Sunset, and other magazines. She teaches at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism & Communication. She will be writing about water in the garden for Diggin’ It.
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