How to unfreeze your garden
The weather forecasters say this winter won’t be half as harsh as the previous two have been. Phew. So far, the many feet of snow we "enjoyed" last year haven’t materialised and, while the windy weather hasn't been kind, things have been relatively benign. But still the mercury falls, which means frost and ice.
Have you been scraping frost off your car windscreen? Chipping icicles from the porch? Let me give you another job to do then. Nip into the garden and check the water in your pond, if you have one, and your bird bath. Lapping nicely at the margins, or frozen solid into a block of ice?
If your bird bath has frozen solid, that’s pretty easy to fix. Chip it out – it might even slip out in one piece if you’re lucky! – and refill with fresh water. Birds need a drink and a wash in winter as well as in warmer summer weather, and will be very grateful for your attention. The wildlife jury’s out on the benefits of feeding birds in winter, but if you do, put a mix of seeds and fat out at the same time as you refill the bath, and you may well enjoy a real flying spectacle!
If your pond is solid ice, that’s a little trickier to fix. You can crack the surface if the ice is thin and there are no fish in it. Otherwise you’ll need to go gently; pour hot water on the surface to melt holes in the ice. The best way – as with so much in life – is prevention, not cure. Find a small plastic ball that will float on the surface. This creates an area where air can enter and leave the water in the pond, keeping it oxygenated and ensuring life underwater continues. Plus, it makes sure the expanding ice doesn’t crack your concrete or plastic liner. When the ice freezes, remove the ball, let the air get to the pond, then put it back before the hole freezes over again.