Monday, July 31, 2006

The New Pond

Hi Pondlady

I am a new pond owner and it has been established for about a month , I have added a few fish at first they were very active now I feel they are lying on the bottom more and not swimming around as much. My pond has a little green on the bottom and sides but is basically clear. Am I jumping the gun or do you think I may have a problem with the fish? they are eating but not as much.I have several plants in the pond and seem to be doing o.k. my water lilly has finally formed a pad but it is small, how often should I fertilize it? I also have a pond smell it that normal?
Please help.

Pondlady answers:
Check my "ten laws" link under resources on my web site and make sure you have not broken any of those laws. Make sure you have 1/2 of the surface of the water covered with floating plants and have plenty of places for the fish to hide. Have at least 1 bunch of anacharis per square foot of surface area. Feed the water lily at least once monthly, but it would prefer to be fed twice monthly or even every 10 days in the growing season. Use Pondtabbs or other aquatic fertilizer. If you can’t find it, use Job’s Tree Spikes cut up in 4 pieces or Job’s Tomato Spikes. And as a last resort, just dig a hole in the dirt of the water lily, put a powdered fertilizer in there and cover it back up. And stop feeding those fish unless they are Koi. If so, you must feed them and have much filtration.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

11 months out: Dateline New Orleans

Yesterday was the 11 month anniversary of Katrina. The time has both crawled and flown. It is hard to believe that we evacuated, returned, found our house totally destroyed, fought with FEMA, fought with the insurance company, fought with tree removal people, septic tank people, the phone company, the internet provider, salvaged what we could from the old house, demolished the house, bought a new house, moved in, sold my business and retired. All in 11 months. Whew!! My pond is coming over here from the lot, rock by rock. We sold the lot and have only until the closing on August 11th to get the rest of the 3 tons. Pricy things, those rocks. I hope I don't have to leave too many behind. Do you believe that yesterday when we were there putting rocks in my van, we noticed anacharis galore and GOLDFISH in the pond. It has not been tended since the evacuation. Just shows you that goldfish are pretty hardy critters. We are enjoying the new house, I guess, but we both know it is simply a stopping point until we decide where our permanent retirement location will be. Our little bedroom suburb of New Orleans has grown by 60,000 people (was about 30,000 pre K) and is no longer a pleasant place to live. Jill, I know you never did like Slidell, but it beat living in crime filled NO. And if we had stayed, we would have been living about 4 blocks from the 17th Street canal levee, one of the levees that failed. So we would have lost our house either way.
So, my focus is now on this web site and online sales and information. I will continue to keep in touch.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Rich Sacher, my long time friend and owner of American Aquatic Gardens in New Orleans has a new book out. See it at the International Water Garden Association web site:

I also have a link to it at the right side of this blog.

Rich has been growing water lilies since he was a youngster.....and since we are the same age, that's a long time. He also built and has operated the premier pond store in New Orleans since 1989. When I started buiding ponds, i could not have made the business work without his referrals.

Have a look at the promo for the book. Buy will love it. And when you are in New Orleans, stop in at American Aquatic Gardens, 621 Elysian Fields, NOLA 70117. They are open 9a - 5p every day. Phone number 504-944-0410


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Nifty new thing

I have found what I think is just the neatest thing. Attach it to your hose and top off your pond without worrying about adding dechlorinator. Just think, if this attachment had been on your hose the last time you turned it on to top off the pond and then forgot the water was on, you would not have killed your fish and plants. See it under "accessories, neat stuff" in my shop.  This dechlorinator attaches to your hose bib and the hose attaches to the dechlorinator.  You can find it at most online pond sites.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How big should my pump be?

I often get asked how big a pump has to be. I generally use as big a pump as I can afford to get maximum sound from the waterfall without splashing water out. But all you need is a pump big enough to circulate the water once per hour. And just a reminder, water can fall 1/2 the distance of the width of the water it falls into. If the width is too small or the height of the waterfall is too high, the water will splash out and you pond will splash itself dry overnight.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My water lilies have stopped blooming and look funny

Lilies and other aquatic plants begin to go dormant about the first of September. If they stop blooming in the summer check fertilization schedules and amounts. If the leaves are getting smaller they are not getting enough fertilizer.

A tropical water lily bloom lasts about three days until a new one takes its place. Pinch off the old flower and discard it. Do not let it rot in the pond.

Your lily will be happiest if the top of the pot is at least 6" below the surface of the water....deeper if you can. I place them on the bottom of the pond (18").

Water lilies like to be fed every 10 - 14 days with Pondtabbs or other aquatic plant fertilizer. They also like to have the tops of their pots at least 6" below the surface of the water and are happier even deeper. And remember, the outer ring of leaves gets yellow and needs to be pinched off periodically so the new leaves can grow. Same with the flowers.

If water lily leaves begin to disappear, check your pond for visiting wildlife.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday, Monday

And the livin' is still hot hot hot. Not anything we are not used to like the rest of the country. How do you folks handle our weather, but without air conditioning? How hot is it? So hot that I didn't write anything here yesterday, so you can stop hitting your refresh button now. We have had oodles of rain in New Orleans. It is normal to have oodles of rain this time of year, but we have had so little since Katrina that we are not used to it. If you stand still very long, there's a good chance mildew will start creeping up your legs.

Oh, ponds, that's right. We talk about ponds here. The cursed blanket weed is rampant this year again because we did not have a freeze again last winter. That's two winters in a row with no freezes. So the filamentous algae flourishes. But under it, if you can get under it, the water is happy and so are the fish. It is the humans who are not happy. We have experimented with many things to control blanketweed. Some of us use a beer and it works! No one really knows why, but it does. One wonders how it got tried the first time. A mishap at a yard party perhaps? The only thing I know works is Microbe-Lift. Great product, great company. Use the Microbe-LIft PL. Not only does it keep the blanketweed at bay, it's good for the fish. Before Microbe-Lift, I had a problem pond (a client's) and was at my wit's end as to how to control the blanketweed. I tried covering the top of the pond with water hyacinths...nope. Finally in desperation, I dyed the water black. I was dreading how it might look, but found that the black water made a rather ugly concrete pond a dramatic reflecting pool. The water lilies shot their flowers up from the black water and elicited ooh's and aah's from everyone. A month later, I drained the pond and NO BLANKETWEED. That was years ago and only recently has that green spaghetti reappeared. I tried it in a liner pond with rocks. It looked awful, so bad, we drained it immediately and refilled it, blanketweed and all. Microbe-Lift was the answer for that pond.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Algae Blues

Algae can easily be controlled.

1. Balance your vegetation, marginals (with good root systems such as
Pickerel, Iris), oxygenators (parrots feather, anacharis) and surface
coverage (water lilies, parrot’s feather). Also be patient, nature tends to
correct itself. I've found that patience is much better than trying to
overcontrol pond chemistry.

2. When pH gets on the basic side algae flourishes. Vinegar is weak and it takes forever (days) to neutralize. But it takes an expert to use muriatic acid properly, so do not put concentrated muriatic acid in your pond to balance pH!

3. It is good to have algae slime on the sides of your pond... this is a
sign of a healthy pond and can generate up to 70% of the oxygen needed for
your pond.

4. If you feed your fish, use a biological filter. The nitrate load will always get high.

5. Fresh water mussels work great and multiply faster than goldfish. But
if you get hungry they are great over linguini.

6. Scotch Barley bales work, but the pond must be cleared of algae first and
it will take some time to initiate the decomposition process. Approximately
3 months in a zone 6 winter or 1 month during the summer, i.e. you will need
overlap when exchanging the bales.

7. Black dye is very effective and is asetheticaly pleasing to show off
water lilies, but again the pond must be cleared first of algae. The other
trick is having the right amount in the pond. Since I use a white sand/pea
gravel for my pot topping, I add dye until I do not see the stones. This is
tricky, because it can slow plant growth if put in too strong and if not put
in high enough concentration you will get algae formation. If you do go down
this road, then stay away from the blue or green dyes. Trust me you will not
like the result.

8. There are several products on the market that will wipe out algae
population without harming fish or desirable plants. The downside is they
wipe out all of the algae and you may end up with an anaerobic pond.

9. Displace 25% of your water with non-chlorinated water (well or rain) on a
weekly basis during > 80 F weather.

10. UV (ozone) will work and is good when you have a lot of fish. The down
side is the ozone is a great oxidant and will kill some of the beneficial
critters. UV lights will NOT work for blanketweek/filamentous algae.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

How much does it cost to run a submersible pump?

Electric costs are easy to compute. I am often asked how much it costs to run a submersible pump and if there is a difference between brands. I will use the example of a 100 watt light bulb and a utility cost of $0.08 per KWH. A KWH is a kilowatt-hour or, 1,000 watts used for 1 hour. A 100 watt light - .1 kilowatt or .1 KWH = less that 1 cent per hour.

• Find the actual wattage used by the motor. (If the actual amp draw is not available, estimate by using the full load amps plate.)

• Watts = volts x amps for single phase motors. The light bulb has an amp draw of 8.7 x 115 volts = 100 watts.

• Compute your cost per month by multiplying the KWH x 24 (hours used per day) x 30 (days used per month) x cost in KWH (to find the actual cost look at your last power bill and divide the total power charges byt KWH used).

A good general rule to use when buying a pump is the following: Usually the more expensive the pump is the less electricity it will use.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How Much Water do I Have?

I get asked one question more than any other. How much water do I have? And you need to know this, at least approximately, so you can add dechlorinator, calculate how many fish you can have or how much to medicate them.

This is the formula for calculating the number of gallons of water in your pond. Because most ponds are irregular, the capacity will be + or - based on various contours within a rectangle or square (in gallons)

Rectangle: Length x width x depth = cubic feet.
One cubic foot of water is 7.5 gallons.

Circle: radius squared x 3.14 x 7.5
One cubic foot of water is still 7.5 gallons. learned that in basic geometry

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


It has always seemed strange to me that we build beautiful wildlife resorts in our yards and then we want to restrict the population. Most of us don't like raccoons to visit and it's true they can be destructive to plants and can kill fish.
Because we are taking the raccoon's habitats away every time we build a new house or a parking lot or a shopping center, they are doing what they know to do and finding a place to live and eat where they used to live, but can't anymore. And their only natural predator is us. So here we are wanting a 'gated community' in our yards and we took away the raccoons community. Whatever are we to do? There are have-a-heart traps that might work, but then you have a raccoon in a trap and must call the SPCA to come get it or you must release it somewhere far away where the raccoon will most probably die.

The best thing I have found is to make the pond occupants less desirable to the marauding raccoon. Plant asparagus fern, dwarf holly or other prickly things aouund the pond where the raccoon interstate highway leads to your pond. That has worked for me and for my clients throughout the years.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I wonder why

From the time I decided to put a pond in my back yard, I have wondered what it is about water that makes us want ponds in our lives. Ponds can't really be just a plaything of the rich or something to impress the neighbors, but much of the time it is.....I learned that while running a pondbuilding business for 17 years. But that doesn't explain the regular folks, like us, who somehow, some way get ponds in our yards. We dig holes, we pile up pavers, we put out big pots; by hook, crook or sweat, we make ponds. We are mostly gardeners as well. We plant things. We plant things in our ponds, around our ponds, in pots, thrown in the water. We put fish in our ponds; we watch the fish, we feed them, we name them, we worry about them when marauding raccons or egrets pay the pond a visit. Why?
I believe that we all feel so disconnected from our earth that we try as hard as we can to recreate what is important to us as near to us as we can. And what better place than out the back or front door. At some point during our stressed out days, we can find peace next to our ponds. We can reconnect with our small piece of nature that reawakens the kid inside us that played in the water, in the mud. Our biggest care was getting home before the streetlights came on.

Jan, the pondlady

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Welcome to the pondlady's occasional musings, philosophies, pond tips, troubleshooting, maintenance and spotlighting of great new products.