Garden expert advises on winter water features

Hartley Greenhouse columnist Mary-Kate Mackey has given readers of the Christian Science Monitor some winter gardening food for thought.

The author, who teaches at the University of Oregons School of Journalism & Communication, explained that many horticulture enthusiasts struggle to maintain their water features over cold winters.

She said that ice can build up and cause problems – especially if there are fish in the pond.

Those who keep fish should never break ice with a hammer or other blunt object as the concussion can kill them, Ms Mackey advised.

Instead, a pan of hot water should be placed on the surface until it slowly melts through.

Ice can cause pumps to break, so it may be useful to simply store them in an above-freezing garage or greenhouse to protect them during frosty winters.

Ms Mackey explained that the only pump she leaves running is the one for her bird feeder, which requires maintenance, but is essential for helping the wildlife in her garden.

Meanwhile, garden and greenhouse enthusiasts may want to tune in to Sesame Street this week, where first lady Michelle Obama will give gardening tips as part of a special 40th anniversary episode.