What does my Fountain need for Winter?
Freezing weather is the single hardest natural element your fountain will encounter but proper winterization will ensure your fountain to last for many years to come. All fountain construction materials including iron, copper, pottery, concrete and fiberglass can be broken by freezing temperatures and should be properly winterized. If you have any questions about your winter maintenance please reach out to us. Take the following steps to ensure your fountain lasts for many years to come.
Five days before the first hard freeze (30F or below) pull all drainage stoppers
vacuum remaining water from any puddles or undrained tiers and pools
Remove major debris from the fountain and pump face
Cover fountain with a breathable fountain cover
If a tier cannot be covered ensure it is free to self-drain. Tennis balls, burlap, old bath towels, etc can be used to absorb the expansion of ice as water freezes in pools or tiers that cannot drain.
Never use antifreeze or salts in the water
Pondless and underground reservoirs don’t need to be drained even if the fountain is off. The above-ground portion should be emptied and covered
All fountains should be winterized because freezing water expands and can cause cracks. Your fountain should be winterized a minimum of 5 days before the first major freeze – in temperate zones this usually means an air temperature below 30°F for more than two hours. It can then be summerized once the threat of a major freeze has passed.
Remove all water from all parts of the fountain that may hold water.
A wet vacuum works well for this. If your fountain has drain plugs, remove them as this will allow the fountain to self-drain. Collect the drain plugs and place them in a plastic bag. Leave the bag in the fountain so you can find them next Spring. The pump can remain in the fountain, but it must not be allowed to over-winter in standing water.
This is a good time to clean your fountain: let the water drain, remove the leaves and any other debris. Never use harsh cleaners/chemicals or stiff brushes as they may harm the finish. While the fountain is still damp, use a soft bristle brush to remove algae and debris. Rinse with clean water and remove all standing water.
If your fountain has a copper fountain ring, disconnect and store it indoors.
Copper rings are highly sensitive to winter weather and the elements. The spray heads are very fragile. Always handle a copper fountain ring with care.
Finally, protect your investment with a fountain cover sized for your feature.
We carry a variety of cover sizes to match most fountains. Special considerations may be necessary for especially large water features. Fountains basins can often remain uncovered and the drain plug removed to allow water to escape. The vertical portion of these larger fountains must still be covered though the basin is left exposed. It is imperative the basin’s drain remain unobstructed from both sides to allow water to escape.
Center the cover on the fountain. Carefully tighten drawstring(s) or Velcro straps so that the cover opening is smaller than the bottom shell of the fountain. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN.
If the cover is substantially larger than the fountain it may be necessary to perform the following: after tightening the open side, grab the cover from the top and lift until the cover opening touches the bottom of the shell. While holding the cover above the fountain with one hand, grab the cover with your other hand just above the top piece of the fountain. At this point, you will tie off the cover with a piece of rope. Doing this will securely fit the cover to your fountain.
After your fountain is covered DO NOT allow water to re-enter the fountain, DO NOT allow water, snow or ice to collect on top of the cover. Through the winter check your fountain to make sure the cover is secure and water or ice has not collected on the cover. You want to keep your fountain and cover free of water, ice and condensation. Please note that neither Memphis Water Gardens nor any of our manufacturers are responsible for damage to our products due to freezing temperatures or seasonal weather conditions.
Frozen fountains are beautiful (thank you Elsa!) but they are dangerous. Unlike a pond or waterfall the best course is to drain and cover your fountain five days before sub-30 temperatures. We use a one-way breathable non-woven fabric fountain cover to shed water while allowing internal humidity to escape. Winterizing before freezing temperatures allows humidity to escape before the freeze. This helps to ensure the concrete’s internal integrity for many years to come. If your fountain freezes prior to winterization it is important to get the remaining water out - if possible. This could mean chipping or melting (carefully) a hole to allow access with a pump or wet vacuum. As the sun warms and melts the southern side of the frozen fountain be mindful it could leave the North side overloaded, resulting in a toppled fountain. Chip or melt ice to balance against the off-balanced, icey fountain. Once the ice has melted, empty and cover it with a proper fountain cover.
If you have more questions about winterizing your fountain, please contact Memphis Water Gardens.
Fountain Maintenance and Operation
Always operate your fountain with the pump fully submerged in water.
Do not let your pump run dry. Low water levels in your fountain may cause pump burnout. Check your fountain’s water level frequently. You may need to add water to your fountain every day or every week, depending on the fountain, to maintain levels. In order to make it easier to maintain water levels in your fountain, we offer auto refill kits for larger water features. Though not automated, a refill line fed by your irrigation system into the fountain can also help keep your feature full. It is important to note the end of the hose must be secured above water level to prevent siphoning. Memphis Water Gardens also offers a variety of mechanical and electrical options for preventing pump burnout including low-water shutoff pumps.
Keep your fountain clean.
Manually remove leaves and debris that may enter the fountain. To control the growth of algae DO NOT use a chlorine-based product as it can damage the finish, pump, and copper elements on your fountain. Instead we recommend using one of the fountain- and pet/child-safe algaecides we carry. You may prefer to use products that contain enzymes which naturally break down organic contaminants but know that natural enzymes while best suited for fish ponds are not a chemical and take longer to work in statuary fountains.
When air temperatures exceed 90° we recommend supplementing your liquid algaecide with a slow-release product such as Fountain Block or Pond Block. Follow all manufacturers’ recommended dosage and usage instructions.
Aquatic plants and fish are not recommended in your statuary fountain. Plant roots will clog the pump and most ornamental fountains are not deep enough to support fish.
Please contact us if you need product-specific assembly and maintenance information for your fountain.
Urn, Planter, & Bird Bath Maintenance
Urns and planters should not hold water.
Water should drain through the drain holes that are in all urns and planters. Keep the drain holes open. When water does not drain, it may drown and kill your plants and/or cause cracks in your planter.
To encourage proper drainage, we recommend the following. First, place your planter on pot feet or other spacer to allow free movement of air and water beneath the planter. Second, place a piece of weed barrier inside the planting cavity completely covering the bottom of the urn or planter. Third, place a layer of stone on top of the weed barrier; the size of the stone should be larger than the diameter of the drain hole, about 1/3 of the depth of the planting cavity of the urn or planter. Fourth, completely cover the stone layer with another piece of weed barrier. Next, fill the urn or planter with the potting soil of your choice to the desired height. Finally, plant your flowers.
Bird Bath Winter Maintenance
If a bird bath is left outdoors when the temperature drops below freezing, ice can form inside the birdbath, which may damage the finish and possibly crack the birdbath. To prevent ice damage, you should consider storing your birdbath indoors (garage or shed). If you leave your birdbath outdoors during winter weather, turn the top over so water will not collect in it. Do not allow the pedestal to sit in a pool of ice or freeze to the ground. We do not recommend the use of any type of heating or de-icing device for our bird baths.
DO NOT USE ANTI-FREEZE IN YOUR FOUNTAIN!
Anti-freeze can be lethal to animals and humans; its active ingredient, ethylene glycol, has a sugary sweet taste similar to soda or juice so it is VERY important that you do NOT use chemical de-icing products in your water feature…ever!