Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Koi: Did you know?

Fancy, different colored carp are called "nishikigoi," which literally means "brocaded carp" in Japanese.

Koi is short for nishikigoi. The story is that the word "koi' was first used by Confucius in 500 B.C. King Shoko, from Ro, gave Confucius a koi as a gift when Confucius' first son was born because carp were considered a symbol of strength.

This seems as good a story as any other.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Building a waterfall

Building a Waterfall

Building a waterfall is either simple or difficult depending on the point of view of the builder. We want them to look natural, like they just started happening in the rocks of our gardens, never mind that we had to buy the rocks because we live where no rock has ever been found like New Orleans where I live.

The easiest way to have a waterfall is to use a weir. A weir is a box that collect water that the pump has pumped into it. One side of the box is lower than the rest and has a lip on it so water will go over it.
These can be effective when building a waterfall. Simply elevate them above your pond, usually positioning them level on the dirt you have dug out to make your pond, put tubing from your pump in the weir.When the weir fills up, a sheet of water will fall over the weir and into your pond. You can hide the weir with rocks so no one can see the plastic box. Also, if you have a biofilter, you can put it in the weir. As an aside, if you do have a biofilter and use lava rocks in it, put them in several mesh bags, not just one. It takes several strong men to lift just one bag out, so use at least three. I usually float some hyacinths or other floating plants in the weir to further camouflage the plastic box.

Another, and my favorite way, is to start with a semi level surface, slightly raised in the back, starting at the same level as your pond. From there build the waterfall using the same kind of rocks you used in your pond construction. Start with large, flat and thin rocks. You can’t build a waterfall with round rocks or little ones either. After you put the first large rock down, run a hose over it to make sure the water flows into the pond. If it does not, shim up the back of the rock. If you don’t start on a slight angle, water will fall off the back and drain your pond dry in a few hours. Next, stack two or three thick and chunky rocks on each end of the bottom rock. Those rocks can be as much as 5 or 6” thick. Make sure they are flat on two sides because you are going to build the rest of your waterfall on top of them. If you have two large flat rocks on the ground level, you need more chunky rocks to rest the second level on.

Next place the second level of flat, thin and large rocks on the chunks. Again run water over to make sure the flow is going in the pond and not over the edge. Continue making levels until you like your waterfall or run out of rocks. Make your waterfall as wide as you wish, remembering that you may need more than one pump.

I have found that the easiest way for me to build the falls is for me to be in the water and have a couple of strong helpers placing rocks for me.

The back of the falls is equally important. Shimming must be done to keep the angle toward the pond and proper placement of rocks is most important to ensure stability of the falls.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Repairing a preformed pond

Usually when a preformed pond springs a leak, it is where the pond has ledges. We tend to step on the ledge when we get in the pond and because we have not seated it properly in the ground (almost an impossibility), it cracks. Now what?
I know of no way to patch a preformed hard plastic pond. I have heard of folks using Bondo, but have not seen it first hand. Because they are impossible to patch and crack so readily, I recommend against using them. If you wish to use a preformed pond, go to a feed store and buy a horse feeding trough. Rubbermaid makes them, they have a flat bottom, no ledges, are virtually indestructible and are much much cheaper than the preformed pond you find at the big box store.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Concrete ponds

I get calls from folks with pond problems. Here's one I got recently. A woman has a concrete pond with a huge crack in it. She hired a local pond professional to repair it and he guaranteed the repair. Neither she nor I know what he did, but he did not fix it. He has been back to try again a few times, but has failed each time. He now wants more money to continue to try. I told her that in my years of experience, you never, ever guarantee the repair of concrete. Most of the time concrete cannot be repaired. Just look at our expressways to see how brittle concrete is.

Our ground is always moving, water comes up and recedes, concrete freezes and thaws. Sadly it is not plastic, it is pretty solid and eventually cracks. The ONLY way I know to repair a crack in a concrete pond and this is definitely not guaranteed is to scrape out the crack, get it clean and dry and then use Plumbers' Epoxy and mash it in the crack. Make absolutely sure you are wearing rubber gloves while using Plumbers' Epoxy or you will be wearing the epoxy for weeks.
Remember this is not guaranteed, but it's the best I know.
And if somebody guarantees a concrete repair, do not believe them. They have not had enough pond experience.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pond vacuum cleaners

I get letters about pond vacs. There are some that work great, but they are not cheap, nor are they perfect. Most of the letters I receive are asking about a cheap pond vac.

There are vacuum cleaners sold at swimming pool places. They look like large swimming pool blue dinner plates with a large hole in the center and attach to a garden hose. The force from the water going through the garden hose pushes the debris into a net that you have attached to the top of the 'dinner plate'. They will rarely do any good because they are best at removing leaves, etc., not clumped up dead algae. I have tried replacing the commercial net that you get when you by one of these, with an old panty hose leg and it works better, but still not great.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ponds in a Warm Winter

We had a cold snap a week or so ago and the entire upper half of the US was hammered with snow, ice, high winds and just horrible weather. Here in New Orleans, we had temperatures in the 20's and that is really unusual.
Up north, ponds froze over, fish were at the bottom of the pond in torpor and we all thought winter was here. Wrong. It is now back to the 50's up north, ponds are no longer frozen and fish are swimming around happily.

The big question is "Do we feed our fish?"

I think not. The temps will drop again soon. It is dicey to feed fish when the temps are below 55 degrees anyway. Their digestive systems slow down and they may well have some problems with food. Any left over food will just stay in the water and decompose, thereby fouling the water.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Plant parasites

Pond plants can be infected with so many parasites. And the best way to find them is to get fish or plants from the wild. If you have the courage to walk into the swamps for plants (and I would not), then please take precautions with your plant treasures when you get home. Roots of wild plants can house parasites, fish eggs, snails, crawfish that will create havoc in your pond. If one plant has spider mites of caterpillars, your entire plant collection can become infected.
If you must collect from the wild, quarantine your collected plants for at least a month before introducing them to your pond. I often put a tablespoon of chlorox in the water just to make sure the bad critters are killed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter pond days

When the temps are below freezing, or at least were last night, no one is out relaxing and enjoying their pond.
Check your water lily corms that you put in wet sand and then in plastic bags and stored in the garage. If they are mushy, throw them in the compost heap. If they are still firm, all is OK. You will pot them up in the spring. Until then, you can enjoy a picture of them.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

If your pond freezes

You woke up this morning and your pond was iced over. You forgot to throw a semi filled water jug in the pond last night and now you have no hole in the ice through which gases can be exchanged. Do not hit the ice with a hammer. The shock can kill your fish. Get a pot of warm water and set it on the ice. That will thaw the ice. Now go find that jug, put a couple of cups of water in it and put it in your pond, so you can pull it out tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In the 20s this morning

Good grief, it's cold for Southern Louisiana. My zinnias bit the dust, my mums are brown. The Louisiana Iris loves this weather and sticks up like the flag it is called in other parts of the world. My cassia is droopy but that's weight, not cold. The snaps, pansies and petunias are happy in their beds covered with a blanket of mulch so just their heads stick out. The pond looks lifeless with no water moving. The fish are at the bottom, not moving at all; it looks like they are barely breathing. But when the water warms they will wake up and be fine.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Here we go again

It's not even 40 degrees outside. And there's a wind, so it feel even colder. The pond is doing fine all by itself. I have removed the pump and tubing. Nothing will cause tubing to crack faster than sun and cold and we have both. One spring task I hate is having to replace cracked and leaking plastic tubing that usually can't be found until the water has been pumped out of the pond. The pump is cleaned and sitting in water in the garage. If a pump is stored dry, the seals are likely to dry out, crack and the pump will never work again. If you are at the beginning of winter, its time to tend to your pump and tubing. If you live in the American Midwest, let the tubing crack and stay inside until it warms up. It is too awful out there to worry about a few bucks worth of plastic tubes.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

It's cold this morning

Ponds are not frozen here, but at 40 degrees outside this morning, I have no desire to be outside tending to one. So today will be pictures of summers gone by.

Sunset in Florida

Sunset at Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winter plants

Now that winter is here, you can liven up your pond with artificial plants until your real ones return in the spring.