Should I overwinter pond barley straw?

Overwinter pond barley straw below the ice.

Another question I get a lot during the winter months is this: If I leave my barley straw in my pond over the winter, will it still be good in the spring?

Yes! The bacterial cultures that make Barley straw effective will again become active as soon as the water warms up to above 40 or 50 degrees. Like all other processes in the pond, biological activity that occurs with barley straw slows down in the winter and regains efficiency with the coming of spring.

However, there’s a catch. With the increase in temperature, sometimes algae can grow faster than Barley Straw is able to keep up with. So although it may seem like your over-wintered straw is losing its functionality, it is really just being overwhelmed by a temporary algal growth. But this is not entirely a bad thing. Many fish and other aquatic creatures rely upon this initial flush of vegetation as their first post-hibernation food source, like a spring tonic. Unfortunately, as the season progresses, they will abandon this source in favor of better, more nutritious food. Finally, once water temperatures regularly exceed 50 degrees, bacterial growth will begin to take over and the algae will once again remain in submission.