REDMOND - Changing winter weather can damage concrete garden art and birdbaths. Rapid changes in temperature and humidity cause the concrete to expand and contract. This can lead to cracking.
Here are a few tips to help protect your favorite garden art from damage this winter, from Amy Jo Waldo, OSU Extension horticulturist in Central Oregon. For birdbaths, turn the bowl upside-down on the pedestal to prevent water from collecting and freezing. Or purchase a birdbath heater from a local wild bird-feeding store and provide our feathered friends with water throughout the winter.
For fountains and other water features, if your fountain is easy to move, store it indoors for the winter. If it is too large or awkward and must remain outside, do not allow water to collect and freeze in the shell or bowl, or the fountain to sit in a pool of ice. The best way to prevent ice from collecting in water features is to invert and cover them. If the bowls are left exposed to icy conditions, they may shale and crack due to the force of water solidifying and expanding along the concrete surface.
If possible, remove the pump and statue part of your fountain and store indoors. Next, turn the bowl upside down on the pedestal. If you can't invert your fountain bowl, fill the bowl or shell with an absorbent material such as burlap bags or blankets. Then cover the entire fountain with heavy duty plastic and anchor it with twine. The burlap will absorb any condensation that may form throughout the winter. Styrofoam-core fountains should be protected in the same manner.
Some fountains are manufactured with materials that can handle the weather. These products use a concrete mix that contains fiber and other additives that enhance the elastic qualities of concrete. These fountains may be further reinforced with steel. Some surface shrinkage cracks are normal and will generally not harm your fountain. Most statues can remain outside during the winter, but you can extend the life of your statue by either storing it inside or covering it with plastic.
The same principles apply to concrete planters as noted for fountains. Make sure they are drained of water to prevent cracking or store inside.