Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Winter Prep

It's getting to be that time of year already. Time to get your pond prepped for winter. Be sure to remove all the debris on the bottom before cold weather sets in. The debris can contribute to toxicity in the winter, especially if the pond freezes over. If you can't remove the debris with a net, there are some nifty vacuums out there. With water conservation being an important issue in the world today, I am beginning to suggest vacuuming rather than total cleaning.


So while you are prepping your garden beds, don't forget your pond.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Overwintering your pond

I am often asked whether plants and fish can live in the pond throughout the winter.
The biggest influence on overwintering the pond is your freeze line and the depth of your pond.

Your county extension agent will know your freeze line. If you don't use your county extension office for information office for info, start doing so. They are a valuable resource.

Your pond must be deeper than your freeze line.

I do not know your freeze line, I live in New Orleans where we don't have a freeze line.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Preparing for Winter

Fall is upon us. And we have to do some winter prep with our ponds. When the temps drop below 55 degrees F, it's time to move water lilles from the pond.

If you have a greenhouse, move your waterlily inside. Put it in a tub or small pond. Don't disturb the roots, Let the plant keep growing until it becomes dormant and leave it in the greenhouse until new leaves come up again the spring.

Once the plant is no longer dormant, you can divide and repot in fresh soil for the growing season.

If the temperatures dip below 55 in your greenhouse, this method wil not work.

Preparing your pond for winter

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fall really is coming, sometime



I know we have had insufferably hot weather for seemingly months on end now. Some of us have had no rain, others have had more than they ever wanted to see.

But fall is really coming. And in the fall we have to start buttoning up our ponds for winter. i will be spotlighting necessary actions to get through chilly weather and into icy weather.
Now that the days are shortening, you are noticing your water lilies are not blooming as much and the new leaves are getting smaller. They are going into dormancy. If your weather is dropping below 60 degrees at night, stop fertilizing your lilies and let them continue into dormancy. Stimulating new growth this time of year can leave your lilies open for damage from an early freeze.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Snakes in the pond

I get many letters asking how to catch and kill a snake in the pond. We build these backyard resorts for wildlife and then want to make a gated community out of that resort. Snakes are much more afraid of you than you are of them. There are only a few poisonous snakes and even those are afraid of you. If you must rid your pond of snakes, you can probably catch them in a net and relocate it in nearby water.
Remember snakes eat toads, frogs, rats, mice, bugs and all matter of nasty vermin. Be glad to have snakes in your pond.

Remember, there is no such thing as one snake.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fall is coming

I know it's almost September, but you have time to cut back and repot your pond plants before cold weather sets in. They are such fast growers, they can develop a strong root system in plenty of time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pond Spitters

Isn't spitter an awful name for a statue that has water pumped through it? Frankly, I am not a spitter fan, although there are some fine pieces of statuary out there that I do love.
One thing spitters do in our time of water crises is cut down on evaporation and therefore use less water. The folks who are supposed to know such things say that in 6 more years, we will not have enough potable water to sustain our evergrowing population, so we must change our habits.
One of the ways to conserve water is to build a rain garden.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Algae

Green water is often a problem in full sun and well fertilized plants. Do not use chemicals to control the algae--it will kill your lilies. Instead, encourage a healthy growth of submerged plants like anacharis one bunch per square foot of surface area, which will help starve out the algae. Some floating hyacinths or water lettuce will also help, but watch they do not get out of control.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Our heat emergency

During our August heat, when our temperatures are reaching 100 degrees F and over, serious oxygen depletion takes place in the pond. Do not turn off your pump. Let it run 24 hours a day. Consider adding supplementary oxygen. Add an extra pump or bubbler.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Treating for Aphid Infestation




I have been getting many calls and emails about treating for aphids on water lilies, so this bears repeating:


The following technique can be used to treat water lilies for aphid infestation without harm to your fish. Aphids and many other garden pests can be easily controlled with an inexpensive, homemade insecticide--according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This recipe was developed after entomologists at the Agriculture Research Center in Phoenix, Arizona, discovered that a spray of soybean oil protected cotton from aphids and whiteflies. Home gardeners should mix one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent with one cup of cooking oil. When pests strike, mix one to two and one half teaspoons of the detergent oil mix with one cup of water. The detergent causes the oil to emulsify in the water. It can be sprayed on the water lilies every ten days. Besides aphids, the mixture works against whiteflies and spider mites. It has been successfully tested on eggplants, carrots, lettuce, celery, watermelon, peppers and cucumbers. It tends to burn the leaves of squash, cauliflower and red cabbage.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Enormous Pond




Large ponds are so much easier to manage than smaller ones. The water does not get too hot and bake the fish or plants in the summer. The large pond can correct our mistakes easily and right its ecobalance quickly. Rarely are there huge differences in pH from one day to the next. If you have the space, build a large pond. It will make pond maintenance so much easier.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Troubleshooting your pond

I have a new pond troubleshooting article out. Check it out and always remember to look for the easy problems first

Troubleshooting your pond

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Collecting wild plants

Finding plants

If you collect plants from local swamps or trade them with friends, buy from an unfamiliar plant store, please quarantine those plants for a few weeks. Put them in a washtub or kiddie pool with a bit of chlorox in the water.

Parasites, lice, fish eggs, caterpillars and so many other critters can be carried in on those plants and play havoc with your goldfish, your beloved koi and all your aquatic plants.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Patching a pond liner

A strong wind toppled your crane statue into the pond and his beak penetrated your rubber liner. Now what?

Empty the pond to below the hole. Clean the area around the penetration even if you have to scrub it (NO SOAP), rinse it and either wait until it is dry or use a hair dryer. Make sure you are plugged into a GFI outlet for safety's sake. When the area is clean and dry, you can use a tire patch to patch the hole. After all, the rubber liner is made by Firestone out of the same material inner tubes are made of. You can also buy patches or rolls of patching tape that makes it even easier.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stumps and ponds

The trials of a pond installer:

I will never forget starting an excavation for a pond when I found right in the middle of where the pond was to go, a brand new, just cut, not ground stump. I queried the homeowner who professed complete innocence of how a 24" stump could have gotten dead center in her yard.

I ask all clients ahead of time if I might find any obstacles, like old roots, electrical wires, sprinkler systems, water or gas pipes. She emphatically told me, "No."

So here's this stump and I have to do something. She was grinning, thinking I would have to remove her stump free (I stuck to my estimates.) and she had gotten over. Nope. I dug around the stump, put the liner over it. When the pond was finished the stump hump was dead center. I put a couple of rocks on top and called it an island. I dared her not to like it. She didn't dare not. I got my check and she got a large island. It looked pretty good, but usually when I wanted islands, I put them on top of the liner, not underneath.

Difficult clients are lying in wait out there and all service folks run into them.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sterile fish?

Question:
Here in California, where the weather is nice all year round. I've been growing Koi for 7 years now, although my fish are healthy and large, I still have not had a spawning. I have heard that my supplier may sell sterile Koi. Has anyone else ever heard of such practice?

Pondlady sez:

I have never heard of sterilizing a fish, but it could be in response to the ever growing ban on keeping koi. When I first heard about it, I couldn't quite believe it, but then we got a news clipping of a fine levied on koi keepers. Evidently the fear is that the koi will get loose and crowd out native species. I'm not sure how little bitty fish would be sterilized, but there could be a way.

Another possibility is that your fish are indeed spawning, but momma and daddy are eating their young.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gophers and pond liners

Question:
We have gophers!!! They have eaten through my liner. What can I do to stop them?

Pondlady sez:

Put lots of chicken wire down first, and then the roofing felt before you put the new liner in. This works for rats. It should work for gophers.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Plants for your rain garden

And if you don't have a rain garden built yet, here are some plants for wet areas in your garden:

Arrowwood viburnum shrubs
Swamp milkweed, which is a good butterfly plant
Elephant ear plants--this is a tropical plant and is the only one that will not survive in lower zones.
Wild bergamot
Marsh marigolds.
Here in Louisiana our swamps are full of marsh marigolds. I think they are a cousin of hibiscus or mallow because flowers look the same. Louisianians call them marshmallows. Doncha love it?

I have my rain garden planted and it is filling in slowly. Be sure, when you remove the sod, you remove it all. I didn't do a great job, so spent several hours on my hands and knees, sinking into some pretty stinky water getting the rest of the grass out.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Flowers from the garden

With the New Orleans heat upon us, the summer flowers are beginning to put on a show.

Cuphea Torpedo. I think the common name is bat faced heather. Fierce looking isn't he?



My caladium is flowering already


I wanted a grey plant and chose a wonderful aromatic curry plant.


I found some Amazon dianthus. Huge and gorgeous.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pond on the cheap

You can't skimp on a liner or a pump, but you can build your pond without rocks. Use landscape timbers. Build them up like Lincoln Logs in any shape you wish. You have to use about 16 penny nails, so be prepared to whack at them with at least a heavy roofing hammer. When you have it as high as you wish, line the inside with roofing felt and drop the liner in. Fill up the pond and then use a 1 x 4 to finish the top. If you wish, you can have a waterfall in a corner, but a bubbler in the middle is just as nice.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Leeches

Pond questions - leeches

I'm planning to do a bit of pond cleaning one of these days. I'm not looking forward to it though due to me finding a large number of leaches below one of several rocks in my pond. They're quite small, about 1 cm in length, probably because there isn't much in the pond to suck blood out of. I've got about 20 goldfish in the pond and I've never seen one of them with a leach attached to it.

Is it normal to have leaches in ponds?
Where did they come from?
Is it safe to get in the water without getting some horrible disease from them?
Will the leaches latch onto the goldfish, or will my fish eat the
leeches? (probably both)

Answer:
Leeches or blood worms are harmless and quite normal in ponds, although we don't like them. They can help your pond by eating some of the organic matter trapped in your filter. They will be eaten readily by the fish and are carried in, as eggs, in bird poop. Birds are the carrier host. The type primarily found in our ponds are not the swimming type, so the fish are safe for the most part and they will usually be found in filter matting where the fish can't get them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Speaking of koi

Koi ponders have learned the hard way that their fish tear up every plant they try to grow in the pond with them. The plant debris clogs up filters and pumps, and even skimmers. It makes a big mess. Koi owners have realized that they had to make a choice between the two and apparently decided on the fish. Most of the koi owners I know have two ponds, one for fish and one for the plants they started with. Koi aren't prima donnas, they are terribly destructive. If they weren't beautiful, and filled with personality, we wouldn't even bother with them at all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Letters, we get letters

Question about koi pond construction:

I have had several propositions so far this year for a pond. I know where I want it, just not entirely sure how to build it. I want it 5' below ground and 2' above ground, with a viewing window facing the house. I want it right behind my swimming pool so I can almost literally swim with my fishes.

The offers were from two builders in particular, one wants to do gunnite and the other will use EPDM, both will do it over reinforced concrete block. One wants to build a filter shed in the corner of the yard, and the other wants to put a filter "room" below ground next to the house. It is for koi so it will have to have a bottom drain, or two, and the biggest filtration I can afford. I also will, being in Florida which is aka predator heaven, screen it in with my lanai and use the same patio paver blocks around the pond area to match the rest of the
deck area. What do you think? Have I lost my marbles?

Pondlady sez:

I think your plans are over the top!
Oh, one thing. Often swimming pool builders have pond
specialists.
We both know all the problems with concrete, especially in FL
where you are pretty close to sea level. Might want to find out your elevation before doing gunnite.
The filter room below ground can make it difficult to access
when things need servicing.

Answer to pondlady's question:

One gave me a wonderful price for Diamond Brite. What do you know about using this in a pond? I have the same thing in my pool, which is just a finish as far as I know, over concrete construction.
I am above sea level here and the ground is graded so that my property is about 4-5' above the roads and fields around the area. They have to do that because of the septic leachfields I think. Anyway, I am building it 2' above ground to be on the safe side. I have also spoken to the other guy, a pond builder who is expert with koi ponds, to do the installation of the filtration equipment. So these two guys will work together on it to assure me of the best my money can buy.

Pondlady sez:

I don't know Diamond Brite, but think it is just a brand name for a finish, just as you mentioned.
Your pond sounds as if it will be divine. Please send pictures during and after construction.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pond questions

I have a pond about 3' wide and about 2 1/2' deep- all fish have died in last 2 months- noticed whitish discoloring on the skin developed then they died. Had about 12 or 14. Would a light in pond help?

Thanks.

Pondlady sez:
A light won't do anything for keeping the fish alive. The whitish discoloration may be parasite infestation if it was noticeable before they died. Otherwise, it may have nothing at all to do with the deaths.

My guess is that there was not enough oxygen in the water to
support that many fish. In fact, I doubt there was enough water unless the fish were very small. If you didn't have filtration, that would be another problem. The light will do nothing at all that I know of.

If you put too many fish in your pond, inevitably, you will have a fish kill. It WILL happen.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Spring garden

My garden this spring is like all gardens in the deep south - beautiful. In New Orleans, all we have to do is throw seeds on the ground and jump back.

The Red Garden


The new garden room


My jumbled mess of a flower garden


Celebrity tomatoes


Stargazer lilies

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Questions over the years

Dear pondlady, my fish all died overnight. What should I do?

Pondlady sez: You could try CPR. I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist. First, remove the dead fish and bury them in the vegetable garden, then check your water.

Did you add water yesterday and forget dechlor? That is the most common reason for a total fish kill.

Check these things as well:

Is there run off from a roof or a road or a patio getting into your pond?

If there were children around the past few days, did they throw stuff like an entire can of fish food in the pond?

I would change the water before restocking your pond.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You need submerged vegetation

If you don't have anacharis, cabomba, or one of the submerged plants that gives off oxygen you cannot have a balanced ecosystem. Most of the letters I get ask why fish die, why water turns green, what makes the pond turn into a cesspool. The best answer I have is that there is no submerged vegetation. The fish eat it, fish waste feeds it. It serves as the very lifeblood of the pond.

Monday, May 28, 2007

More than ponds

I use rocks for lots more than ponds. I always use the same kind of rocks, called Arkansas Moss Rock. It's a fieldstone and can be gotten in flat fairly good sized pieces. It's hard to build a waterfall with little rocks. Since we do not grow rocks in Louisiana, we must buy them by the pound. They run about 35 cents a pound and when you need tons, you are talking big bucks.

Often after the pond is in, I will put in a path using more flat rocks. Occasionally building a terrace by placing them piled up against a raised bed to anchor the bed will be an effective accent in an otherwise flat landscape.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My garden

My garden has been gorgeous lately, so I thought I would share some pictures today.


An iris opens



The flower garden in the morning



The Asian lily opens


The yellow canna before she turns into the garden trollop



Lots of colors together make a great show

Monday, May 21, 2007

pH, important or not

Generally pH is not something we have to worry about in our ponds. Our New Orleans water pH is so high...about 9....and I never worry about it. Sometimes in a new unsealed concrete pond, lime can leach out and pH skyrockets to unsafe levels. There are commercial products you can use to bring it down. Usually they are called pH decreaser or pH down.

BTW, pH is a measure of how acid or alkaline our water is. A high reading or number means alkaline, a low one means acid. About 7 is ideal.

I have never found a pond with a too low pH reading, but baking soda would probably fix that.

When I find a pH level that's too high, I usually use vinegar to lower it. That can make the neighbors think that you are either dying Easter Eggs or making a giant Caesar salad in the back yard, but it will do the trick. Some folks use muriatic acid, but I am too chicken for that.

But usually if you have the proper amount of submerged
vegetation and floating vegetation, the pH will straighten itself out.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

comments on comments

Question:

just started up a 100 gallon pond and all but 4 fish died so we drained it and started again , now its doing better but in the last few days its getting darker in color, i know we need some alge but how much is too much? we have 4 koi and i apple snail and a few - 18 small very small gold fish one lillie pad plant and one cleaner fish cant think of its really name , anything you can do to help us , its not easy being green!!!

Pondlady sez:
You have waaaaayyy too many fish. You can't have koi in such a small pond. A koi pond must be at least 3' deep with massive filtration. You can have 3 or 4 goldfish in a 100 gallon pond.
You also need at least 10 bunches of anacharis and 1/2 of the top of the water surface covered with floating plants.
Check my web site: www.pondlady.com, click on resource center for lots more info.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I get Questions

Questions I get:

What is horticultural sand?? Sand box sand? Vermiculite?

Pondlady sez:

Horticultural sand is just sand that has been rinsed and is very clean. You
get it at the nursery or garden center. It's a bit pricey for sand, but is
not highly alkaline, and is better and easier in the long run. Save it year
to year, rinsing it before each use.

It is great to pot plants in because it contains no organic matter to discolor your pond water. It's also great for overwintering plants.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My goldfish turned brown, help!

Most goldfish are born black/brownish. That 's because their mommas will eat them if they can find them, so being in camouflage is a survival tool. Most of the fry turn orange/yellow, but some stay black/brown. When you see tanks and tanks of gold goldfish in the store you are seeing them with the dark ones culled out.

After your fish spawn for a few years, you may find that the surviving babies, now grown up, are black/brownish, so,you may want to start over again. But, if you have named your babies and have become best buddies, and want to stay in contact, give them to a friend or relative.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pond Plants, Cyperus




The umbrella palm or cyperus accents the beauty of other aquatics. Stems rise two to four feet high to display ribbon like masses of four to eight inch long leaves. In the summer not particularly appealing and very small green flowers appear. Soon the blooms turn caramel, contrasting nicely with the umbrella-shaped foliage. A Madagascar native, the Umbrella Palm likes marshy ground or shallow water and full sun. It also does well indoors planted in moist soil.

Cyperus is probably one of the hardiest pond plants. Be careful planting it in soil. I have seen it break up foundations of houses because of it's umm, very strong growth habit.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Do I need a pump?

Many people believe a pump will keep the water crystal clear. A pump will help keep the water clear, but that's all. A pump moves water and provides oxygen for the fish if you feed them and the pond is overpopulated. If you have a natural ecosystem there will be no overpopulation and therefore you will not need any pump if you don't wish to have one. A pump will also ensure that you will never breed mosquitoes. I generally suggest that folks have pumps for that very reason. And now that we have reliable solar pumps, lack of electricity is no longer an excuse. Most folks like them because we all like the sound of moving water and waterfalls.

If you have a waterfall, use a pump that moves each hour at least as many gallons as your pond holds. I use a 4300 gph pump, tee the output into two hoses and have great results. Generally, we leave pumps on 24 hours daily, but no pump has to be turned on all the time unless you feed your fish or have koi. You can set your pump on a timer and have it run only when you are outside to enjoy it. With electricity costs rising these days, a timer, available at most big box home improvement stores, might be just the thing to keep those costs down.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pictures from my garden

There simply is not enough time in the spring in New Orleans to take enough photos. Everything is either in full bloom or budded up with promise. Here's a few things from my yard in the past few days.


The buddleia is bustin' out all over


The canna is her usual overblown, garish, tart of a plant


The Swiss chard is beyond eating, but looks so pretty, I leave it there.



Day lilies, all over, all colors. Beautiful



Petunias are almost finished and will soon be melted by heat, but until then we love them.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Using houseplants in the pond





This pond is totally enclosed in a courtyard, creating a microclimate warm enough to use houseplants that like wet feet.
You can use spaths or pothos, in or out of the water. I have even potted up color and put them on a stack of concrete blocks (painted black) or upside down flower pots, so their feet were not in the water, but the pot was just barely on top of the water.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Questions over the years

After 18 years in this business, there are questions that stand out. Remember when a teacher told you there is no such thing as a dumb question. That teacher was wrong wrong wrong.

Here's two questions I have gotten, and not just once either, but several times.

The only answer is a silent look and a quick change of subject. And sometimes a biting of the tongue to stave off gales of laughter.

Customer: " Jan, my pump is running slower and slower. I have several houseguests and wonder if it is because they flush the toilets more?"

Jan has no answer.

Customer: "Jan, my water level is dropping about an inch a day. I think I know why tho. My dog drinks out of the pond. Could that be it?

Jan has no answer.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Balancing the Pond

I get questions about this constantly, so thought it would be a good time to repeat the laws of pondkeeping. Follow these tips and you will have few, if any, pond problems:


First of all, you need to realize that a pond is a living breathing organism that needs little maintenance if it is started properly. If you obey the following 10 laws, your pond will be happy and healthy and in turn, make you the same.


1. You must have one bunch of anacharis (underwater grass) per square foot of water surface area. This serves as a natural filter and as food for the fish. It grows faster than the fish can eat it.

2. 50 - 60% of the surface of the water must be shaded with floating plants. Water lilies are great, as are water hyacinths, water lettuce or water poppies.

3. You must have fish to complete the balanced ecosystem. I recommend common goldfish. Do not put Japanese Koi in your pond. They will eat all of your plants...and they will do it quickly. If you have a koi pond, you have an outdoor aquarium and must treat it as such.

4. Do not feed your goldfish. EVER!! They will become too big for the pond and upset the ecosystem. You will have an overpopulation problem and eventually all of your fish will die. You may break this law, but if you do, you must have filtration in place.

5. Put in one linear foot of fish for each 25 square foot of pond surface area. If you have 100 square feet of pond, you may have 4 foot long fish, 8 six inch fish or 16 three inch fish and so on.

6. Do not allow turtles, crawfish, alligators, ducks, geese, dogs, raccoons or possums to swim in your pond.

7. Do not use chemicals!!! EVER! Add a dechlorinator when you first fill the pond and then when you add more than 10% water afterwards.

8. Do not worry about pH. It will take care of itself.

9. Remove any dead or decaying vegetation regularly so that ammonia does not build up and foul your pond.

10. Relax. Your pond will generally take care of itself. I recommend benevolent neglect as the best approach to pondkeeping.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My Plants/Fish are Dying, help

Check the following possibilities:

Are grass clippings or other debris getting into the pond and decaying?

If you allow any organic material to decay in your pond, the ecosystem is thrown out of balance and fish and plants die. Remove dead or dying water lily pads and flowers. Remove any other dead or dying plants. Of course, remove dead fish immediately. Your pond could easily be crystal clear and the ecosystem could be out of balance. Be aware and check your pond at least once weekly. I also advise changing at least 10% of the water weekly.

Have you or your neighbors sprayed fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides?

With termite problem in New Orleans, most people have a pest control service to kill termites and other bug critters. Although post Katrina, the termites have evacuated, we expect them to return forthwith and spraying will begin anew.
Many folks hire horticultural companies who specialize in spraying the garden for every kind of bug, destructive or beneficial. Not only does this practice kill all the good bugs, it keeps butterflies and hummingbirds from visiting, it also can easily kill your pond.

Has the local government done any spraying nearby lately?

This is a problem here in New Orleans because we have mosquitoes and therefore we have a mosquito control program. They send trucks out to destroy mosquitoes. They swear they will not harm plants or fish, but I am suspect of any chemicals.

Is someone painting or scraping a house or car in the area?

Paint from the house, especially lead paint, can get in your pond and kill everything.


Has cleaning been done on surrounding driveways, decks or walkways and run off into the pond?

I include this only because I was at my wit's end several years ago trying to figure out why I could not keep a client's pond healthy. After months of investigation, I finally asked a housekeeper if she was cleaning the surrounding patio. She said, "Of course, I scrub it and hose it down every day." OK, there was my answer. She stopped and the pond was healthy again.

Did someone feed the fish too much or the wrong thing?

Feeding goldfish is probably the biggest problem pond people have. All of you want to feed those poor fish. Those poor fish need to eat what is good for them; submerged vegetation, algae and mosquito larvae. Please make them work for their room and board. Koi must be fed and live in a pond with filtration.

Did you use a new concrete block to prop a water plant up? Use bricks or aged concrete blocks?

Lime can leach out of the concrete and quickly throw the pH into the stratosphere.

If any of these events have occurred, change the water immediately. Don't forget the dechlor.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Above Ground Ponds




Questions I have received:

I have a backyard that is concreted over entirely. But I would like to build an above ground pond with a waterfall, but unfortunately, I have no idea how to do this. Mainly, I'm having some problems trying to figure out the plumbing and where filters and pumps should go. Do
you have any plans for above ground ponds that I could use for educational purposes? If not, do you have any advice that you could give a newcomer to pond building?



Pondlady sez: I have built many ponds above ground and have had no problems at all. The picture above is build in a large patio surrounded by condos. I used cinder blocks for the sides. Or you can build a box out of landscape timbers or 2 x 12's and then line that. Top it off with a 1 x 4 and put a waterfall in the corner. If you must have a filter, use a submersible one.

Layer rocks up the sides of the cinder blocks or put plants in containers to hide the cinderblocks.
I prefer the rocks layered to hide the cinderblocks because it gives pockets where you can tuck in plants. Those plants must have water daily, so the maintenance needs are more, but the results are worth it.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I built a pond, now what?

First of all, you need to realize that a pond is a living breathing organism that needs little maintenance if it is started properly. If you obey the following 10 laws, your pond will be happy and healthy and in turn, make you the same.


1. You must have one bunch of anacharis (underwater grass) per square foot of water surface area. This serves as a natural filter and as food for the fish. It grows faster than the fish can eat it.

2. 50 - 60% of the surface of the water must be shaded with floating plants. Water lilies are great, as are water hyacinths, water lettuce or water poppies.

3. You must have fish to complete the balanced ecosystem. I recommend common goldfish. Do not put Japanese Koi in your pond. They will eat all of your plants...and they will do it quickly. If you have a koi pond, you have an outdoor aquarium and must treat it as such.

4. Do not feed your goldfish. EVER!! They will become too big for the pond and upset the ecosystem. You will have an overpopulation problem and eventually all of your fish will die. You may break this law, but if you do, you must have filtration in place.

5. Put in one linear foot of fish for each 25 square foot of pond surface area. If you have 100 square feet of pond, you may have 4 foot long fish, 8 six inch fish or 16 three inch fish and so on.

6. Do not allow turtles, crawfish, alligators, ducks, geese, dogs, raccoons or possums to swim in your pond.

7. Do not use chemicals!!! EVER! Add a dechlorinator when you first fill the pond and then when you add more than 10% water afterwards.

8. Do not worry about pH. It will take care of itself.

9. Remove any dead or decaying vegetation regularly so that ammonia does not build up and foul your pond.

10. Relax. Your pond will generally take care of itself. I recommend benevolent neglect as the best approach to pondkeeping.

Friday, May 04, 2007

My Pond Has Turned to Green Pea Soup

Questions for the pondlady:
I followed all the rules, did everything you said to do, Jan, but my pond is completely green. I couldn't buy all the submerged vegetation at once, so am buying it a little every week. Oh, and my grandkids feed the fish, but only when they come over.

PL answers: Add more underwater vegetation. Without enough the pond will turn green. The fish love to eat it and, the fish will eat it faster than it grows if you don't have enough. Without extra filtration, you must have 1 bunch of submerged vegetation per square foot of surface. If not, the fish will eat it all and you will be buying it every week forever. And it's a very expensive fish food.

And how often do your grandchildren come over?? And are they feeding those fish Poptarts? If those grandkids must feed the fish, chop up some cooked carrots, or green beans. And then feed them less than a teaspoon. This assumes the feeders visit only once weekly, not daily.

Excess fertilizer will turn the pond green. Stagger your fertilization schedule if necessary. Change 25% of your water weekly until pond clears.(Don't forget the dechlor.) Changing the water is important for the pond. And the veggie beds love it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Spring is leaving

Spring just got to New Orleans and it's leaving already. My garden that was at its peak a few days ago now looks as if goats ate it. I have snaps to pull and compost, petunias that are melting in the heat. My bog garden is growing nicely; it loves the heat. Pictures as soon as some of those baby plants can be seen a bit better. We are so far down on rain this year, that I have to water my bog garden. Something is dreadfully wrong with that picture.

Ponds are turning green all over the South. String algae or blanketweed are taking over ponds that are just now waking up. I have found that having enough anacharis and about half the pond covered will take care of regular green water. String algae or blanketweed need more help. I use Microbe-lift PL and it works just fine. First you must get as much of the stringy stuff out and then use the Microbe-Lift PL according to the directions on the bottle. Using a toilet brush really works well to get existing string algae out of your pond.

Monday, April 30, 2007

My goldfish are brown!

Most goldfish are born black/brownish. That 's because their mommas will eat them if they can find them, so being in camouflage is a survival tool. Most of the fry turn orange/yellow, but some stay black/brown. When you see tanks and tanks of gold goldfish in the store you are seeing them with the dark ones culled out.

After your fish spawn for a few years, you may find that the surviving babies, now grown up, are black/brownish, so,you may want to start over again. But, if you have named your babies and have become best buddies, and want to stay in contact, give them to a friend or relative.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Help, my pond is leaking



I had to share my flower garden as of 10 minutes ago. The New Orleans spring garden makes it allmost worth it to live here.

Now on to the leaking pond:

Chances are, if your water level is dropping fast, you do not have a hole in your liner, so relax. Now that you are relaxed, here's how to find that leak. Turn your pump off. Fill your pond up. Tomorrow morning have a look at it. If the water level is where you left it, the water is falling off your waterfall and ending up on the ground, not in your pond. Your rocks have settled or some critter has knocked them around. Turn the pump on again and you will find that leak right away. Put the waterfall rocks right and your leaking problems are over. Now wasn't that easy? And you saved the cost of a trouble call to a professional.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Garden Design

William H. Frederick, a garden designer, states in a recent Horticulture magazine, "The greatest way to destroy a good garden is to come home with a plant in hand and have no idea where to put it." He once kept a plant in a greenhouse for 15 years because he couldn't figure out where it would fit in.

So what does that make the rest of us? We buy plants that strike our fancy and, if need be, change the design of the garden to accomodate it. And would we have it differently? I do hope not. If we didn't experiment, how would we learn that Artemesia makes a great hedge, that pentas looks great most everywhere, that vegetables and herbs can indeed be used in the landscape. So can 'found objects', 'garden junk', old farm implements and I used old windows once that I made look like a folding screen. That they were falling apart only added to their charm.

Experiment, people. If we don't do that we will be doomed to staying in the same rut whether it be gardening or life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pond Disasters

Most pond disasters are caused by the pond owner. They are due to a lack of pond education or just plain stupidity. I had clients who did not know how to reset a GFI, clients that did not listen to me and used every chemical they could find to get clear water and in doing so, killed every plant and fish in the pond.
But most of all, I had clients who did not keep an extra bottle of dechlorinator in the house for those times when they started to top off the pond and left the water running.

One of my long term clients, a well known politician here in New Orleans, turned his water on and then left town for the weekend. Flooded his yard and flooded the entire street corner. When the water was threatening the neighbors front doors, somebody called me, suspecting the pond had somehow fallen apart. I drove over and turned off the water. And charged him a whopping service call just because he deserved it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How to build a waterfall



No, not this one, a waterfall for your pond.

When building a waterfall, stacking the rocks with spaces between them makes the falls louder. There is a echo effect. If it's done properly, waterfall noise can wake up the neighbors. Just be careful that the water coming over the falls ends up in the pond, not on the ground or you could pump your pond dry in a few hours. Most of the dangerous drops in water level are caused by waterfalls where rocks have been placed improperly or have shifted.

Friday, April 20, 2007

We have a guest blogger today

DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS by Carolyn Weise

This is the “all pond owners are not created equal” or, rather, “not the same” article, which proves that there is no one-way to install or maintain a pond. All norms are but suggestions from those who found it works for them. So, what about the pond owner in Michigan reading about the pond in Florida? Does the same hold true for both ponds? I have found that in the vast differences from one county, let alone state or country, to the next it is nearly impossible to have one rule apply to all.

I’ve learned in coastal and low-lying areas there is a water table that won’t allow a seven-foot depth to a koi pond. With a water table the water is constantly filling beneath the liner, creating leakage around bottom drain seams and stressing the liner. You need something called a French Drain to remove water as it rises. Or, simply, don’t dig so deeply to hit the water table. The problem is that we usually find out where the water is by digging into it. Does that mean it is always wet under there? No, it may be only during certain times of year, such as spring rains. And maybe this hole was dug in the natural water drainage area without knowing, and five or ten feet to the left would be drier. Well, the people with water beneath their property, and ponds, will need to adapt to suit their living environment. In the same way it is easier to plant trees and shrubs that are clay loving in clay ground rather than try amending the soil to accommodate loam-loving plants. It can be heartbreaking to expend all that energy planning and planting just to see the plants die by the following year, or simply fail to thrive.

Generally, koi pond hobbyists believe in bottom drains and at least 4’ depth to a pond. They accept a vortex filtration system and bubble bead filter as the basic requirements. They add Ultraviolet sterilizers. This works great in New York and New Jersey. It doesn’t necessarily work in Atlanta, GA where the ground is rock-hard and pond owners need a jackhammer to excavate. It doesn’t work at all in Louisiana where they can’t dig a pond deeper than 2-3ft. but need to use Ozonators and other means to clarify their pond water due to unrelenting sun and heat.

Well, here’s where I come in. I am moving to Florida, from New York, and will need to build a new pond. I guess I will consider it culture shock to have a pond 3-4’ deep and 2’ above ground in order for my fish to have range of motion and vertical exercise and a chain-link-fence-type cover to protect from predators. I have been quite sheltered in the hobby for a very long time. I never considered using concrete as a liner before. I wonder why Floridians don’t use 45mil EPDM, or do they? (I mean, I don’t expect to harbor alligators and things that would hurt a liner, after all. Would you want an alligator for a pet… to keep with your koi??)

I checked out the land options and realize I may need to redirect the Fire Ants and misplaced sprinkler heads and check the local ordinances before I bring my fish down to the land of sun and flowers. What becomes very obvious is that I know absolutely nothing about building koi ponds in Florida. (And I want to keep the swimming pool for myself.) So, when in Rome… I need a koi club… badly!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Plants/Fish are Dying, help



My Stella D'oro dayllily yesterday

For pond problems, check the following possibilities:

Are grass clippings or other debris getting into the pond and decaying?

If you allow any organic material to decay in your pond, the ecosystem is thrown out of balance and fish and plants die. Remove dead or dying water lily pads and flowers. Remove any other dead or dying plants. Of course, remove dead fish immediately. Your pond could easily be crystal clear and the ecosystem could be out of balance. Be aware and check your pond at least once weekly. I also advise changing at least 10% of the water weekly.

Have you or your neighbors sprayed fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides?

With termite problem in New Orleans, most people have a pest control service to kill termites and other bug critters. Although post Katrina, the termites have evacuated, we expect them to return forthwith and spraying will begin anew.

Many folks hire horticultural companies who specialize in spraying the garden for every kind of bug, destructive or beneficial. Not only does this practice kill all the good bugs, it keeps butterflies and hummingbirds from visiting, it also can easily kill your pond.

Has the local government done any spraying nearby lately?

This is a problem here in New Orleans because we have mosquitoes and therefore we have a mosquito control program. They send trucks out to destroy mosquitoes. They swear they will not harm plants or fish, but I am suspect of any chemicals.

Is someone painting or scraping a house or car in the area?

Paint from the house, especially lead paint, can get in your pond and kill everything.

Has cleaning been done on surrounding driveways, decks or walkways and run off into the pond?

I include this only because I was at my wit's end several years ago trying to figure out why I could not keep a client's pond healthy. After months of investigation, I finally asked a housekeeper if she was cleaning the surrounding patio. She said, "Of course, I scrub it and hose it down every day." OK, there was my answer. She stopped and the pond was healthy again.

Did someone feed the fish too much or the wrong thing?

Feeding goldfish is probably the biggest problem pond people have. All of you want to feed those poor fish. Those poor fish need to eat what is good for them; submerged vegetation, algae and mosquito larvae. Please make them work for their room and board. Koi must be fed and live in a pond with filtration.

Did you use a new concrete block to prop a water plant up? Use bricks or aged concrete blocks?

Lime can leach out of the concrete and quickly throw the pH into the stratosphere.

If any of these events have occurred, change the water immediately. Don't forget the dechlor.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Keeping anacharis alive



Louisiana Iris black gamecock bud

Now on to anacharis problems:


If you have a concrete pond that has not been properly sealed or is new, lime will leach out of the concrete. Empty the pond, scrub it with vinegar or a mild solution of muriatic acid (one part acid to 4 parts water). Refill, test the pH. (It should be around 7.0). Let the water sit for a day or two and test again. If the pH remains about 7.0, you may replace your anacharis.(Don't forget the dechlor.)

Anacharis likes to be in the shade. If it is in full sun, it may turn yellow and die. Shade the pond with floating plants and emergents. Use water hyacinths if they are legal in your state. They are legal to own, but illegal to sell in Louisiana. They were imported in 1884 to help keep the bayous clean. They do that indeed, but they now completely cover the bayous and are considered a noxious weed. So if you do use them in a tropical or subtropical climate, please throw them in a compost heap when they multiply, not in any other body of water. You can also use water lilies or any other floater that can provide shade for your pond. Some people build an arbor to keep the pond in shade for part of the day.

Make sure you have one bunch of anacharis per square foot of surface area of water. If you have less, the fish may be eating it faster than it grows. This is most important. I know anacharis is expensive, but if you buy it a little at a time, it will cost much more because you will have to keep replacing it.

Anacharis acts as a filter, catching and holding suspended material in the pond. With anacharis your pond will stay balanced and crystal clear with no other filtration as long as you don't feed your fish.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I built a pond, now what?

First of all, you need to realize that a pond is a living breathing organism that needs little maintenance if it is started properly. If you obey the following 10 laws, your pond will be happy and healthy and in turn, make you the same.


1. You must have one bunch of anacharis (underwater grass) per square foot of water surface area. This serves as a natural filter and as food for the fish. It grows faster than the fish can eat it.

2. 50 - 60% of the surface of the water must be shaded with floating plants. Water lilies are great, as are water hyacinths, water lettuce or water poppies.

3. You must have fish to complete the balanced ecosystem. I recommend common goldfish. Do not put Japanese Koi in your pond. They will eat all of your plants...and they will do it quickly. If you have a koi pond, you have an outdoor aquarium and must treat it as such.

4. Do not feed your goldfish. EVER!! They will become too big for the pond and upset the ecosystem. You will have an overpopulation problem and eventually all of your fish will die. You may break this law, but if you do, you must have filtration in place.

5. Put in one linear foot of fish for each 25 square foot of pond surface area. If you have 100 square feet of pond, you may have 4 foot long fish, 8 six inch fish or 16 three inch fish and so on.

6. Do not allow turtles, crawfish, alligators, ducks, geese, dogs, raccoons or possums to swim in your pond.

7. Do not use chemicals!!! EVER! Add a dechlorinator when you first fill the pond and then when you add more than 10% water afterwards.

8. Do not worry about pH. It will take care of itself.

9. Remove any dead or decaying vegetation regularly so that ammonia does not build up and foul your pond.

10. Relax. Your pond will generally take care of itself. I recommend benevolent neglect as the best approach to pondkeeping.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mosquito fish

Remember awhile ago we talked about mosquito fish


I got this letter from a fish farm owner who adds to my education and, I hope, yours about these critters.

On Apr 10, 2007, at 6:54 AM, Colin D Calway wrote:

Hi Jan,

I was reading your comments about mosquito fish, (Gambusia).

I raise millions of these fish for mosquito control at my fish farm in Florida. Also we raise Koi carp, tropical fish and all sorts of aquatic and bog plants.

When in ponds with other fish they present little or no problem. Like a lot of fish they are territorial, when in small areas like fish tanks they will defend their territory by ganging up on other species of fish.

Bottom line is they are a native fish which have been around for a long time. I hear comments like they eat fish eggs, frog eggs and tadpoles. This is true but tell me one fish that does not do the same and most of them have a lot larger mouths.

The biggest enemy we have at the farm are the walking catfish. These fish are decimating many of our smaller tropical fish.

I enjoyed reading your article.

Best regards,

Colin D. Calway.

Happy Trails Aquatics. A natural and biological way to control mosquitoes. Visit us on line.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bog garden, continued

Because it rained from dawn to dark yesterday, you can see the reason I need a bog garden. Those black piles of soil are where crawfish pushed their way up so they would not drown under all the rain that fell and stayed right where it fell in my front yard. All that rain delayed progress on the garden for a full day.



All day did not go to waste. Luckily the garage is big, so the walkway sections got built and put into place. Now we can walk to the mailbox at the street without hip boots.



And here is half the bog today. You can see how fast bog or swamp plants grow in Louisiana. After you plant them, you must jump back or they will hit you in the face on their way up.
They are happy plants in all that water.


The bog progress will continue with updates as the bog continues to crowd out the crawfish chimneys.

Monday, April 09, 2007

My Bog Garden

I just planted a bog garden in my front yard. Seems strange, you say, to put bog garden in a front yard. Well, I guess it is. But you don't have my front yard.

My new front yard is so low and the water table is so high that crawfish chimneys dot the grass. Most plants cannot grow unless I put raised berms in and the plants in the berms. That means I have to water the plants daily and that certainly doesn't help the high water table situation at all.

After Katrina took our last house where the water table was much lower, we jumped on this house that did not flood. After Katrina, there was no rain in Southeast Louisiana for more than 6 months, so who knew that crawfish laid a claim on my front yard. When the rains got back to normal, my yard was a minefield. I could have caught the mud bugs and eaten them if I were not a vegan.

After trying to figure out what to do with the yard and after writing several articles about bog gardens, I decided to work with what I had rather than against it. I have no idea why there was some sort of disconnect in my brain that allowed me to write numerous bog and rain garden articles, but not consider one for my yard. I shall call it post Katrina PTSD.

So, all these months after Katrina, living in a new house where I could not walk to the mailbox without getting wet to my ankles, I decided to put in a bog garden.

It began with removing grass and moving it to where the septic tank installer had left a 10 foot wide strip of sandy clay where nothing grows in hopes of it grabbing on and maybe growing. One can hope.

That left two large areas of mud or mud holes as my mother would call them.






I had already ordered cannas, cattails, papyrus, cyperus, sedge, rushes, marsh marigolds, dozens of irises and cardinalis for my bog. I was thrilled when they arrived.

I order plants bare root from a grower, so they are tiny when they arrive. But you can see the plants in the mud if you look hard.

I decided I needed to mulch them up so we would not have our own mosquito breeding factory.
Ran out of mulch before I was done, so you are seeing bogs in progress.





I have the rest of the mulch which will be applied tomorrow. I have the wood for the walkway to install between the front porch and the mailbox, so we will not have to drive around the boggy yard just to retrieve mail.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My pond looks like pea soup

Questions for the pondlady: I followed all the rules, did everything you said to do, Jan, but my pond is completely green. I couldn't buy all the submerged vegetation at once, so am buying it a little every week. Oh, and my grandkids feed the fish, but only when they come over.

PL answers: Add more underwater vegetation. Without enough the pond will turn green. The fish love to eat it and, the fish will eat it faster than it grows if you don't have enough. Without extra filtration, you must have 1 bunch of submerged vegetation per square foot of surface. If not, the fish will eat it all and you will be buying it every week forever. And it's a very expensive fish food.

And how often do your grandchildren come over?? And are they feeding those fish Poptarts? If those grandkids must feed the fish, chop up some cooked carrots, or green beans. And then feed them less than a teaspoon. This assumes the feeders visit only once weekly, not daily.

Excess fertilizer will turn the pond green. Stagger your fertilization schedule if necessary. Change 25% of your water weekly until pond clears. (Don't forget the dechlor.) Changing the water is important for the pond. And the veggie beds love it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Making the pond appear bigger



If for some reason you cannot make your pond as large as you would like, there are design tricks you can use to fool the eye into seeing water where there is none. Try a dry stream bed or dry lake using rocks. Occasionally I have placed round river rocks carefully in a pattern and epoxied them in. I then spray them with a clear lacquer occasionally to keep them looking wet. In the picture, the client wanted a moving water look to go with her more natural looking pond and landscape. You can use whatever you wish. Design is not some secret science that only pros use. It is what looks good to you. Have fun with it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Let's Talk Design




Design, whether it is a garden or cathedral, a living room or your wardrobe is all the same. It is simply putting things where you think they look best. Anyone can do it. See how the rock wall in the picture forms a sort of wiggly, lazy line that ties two parts of the garden together with the pond in the middle. The rocks made the garden a whole unit rather than just a pond sticking in up in the middle of the yard.

Most everyone is afraid of the word design. They think it is some magic talent that only some people have. Nope, everyone can learn design. If you can put clothes on that look nice on you, you can design anything. Some people go to school to learn it, others, like me, just have to realize that it isn't anything special and go for it. Obviously, I love garden design. I also love interior design, not that you could really tell by the inside of the house. Garden design lets you work with incredibly beautiful materials, outside with the only challenges being size, weather, and light conditions.

I think all of design is about light and how it strikes what is in the garden. It hits broadleaf plants and creates a shadow below. It strikes strap leaf plants and creates geometric patterns with the plant itself and creates shadows that make the small color plants pop in the sun.

Countless books have been written about garden design. There are schools devoted to it. But all you really need to know is 'tall stuff in the back and green side up'.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Start a Pond Society


We pond builders love visitors to our gardens and ponds and hope that our visitors will enjoy our ponds as much as we do. We want them to question us about the plants, the fish, the waterfall. We want them to ask, "How did you DO that?" We are rightfully proud of our ponds and we want to show them off.

Have you thought about organizing a pond society in your area? You could get together and swap ideas and plants. And get to meet other great folks. Have monthly or bi-monthly meetings at each others' houses, so you can show off your garden.

When I was still in business, I sponsored a yearly pond tour. Pond owners would open their back yards to the public and hundreds of people would get to admire ponds. Admission fees went to charity and it was a great advertising tool for me.

I also sponsored, "Build a Pond Day." Once a year, my staff would build a pond at a nursing home or other care facility, a school or a public garden. Again, all admission fees went to charity and I got great publicity. Attendees would see how easily and quickly a pond could be built - we were usually done by about 1:00pm. And if the watchers wanted to help, they were encouraged to do so.

All of these activities are great ways to educate the public about ponds and pondkeeping. People love to look at other people's back yards and you want to show yours off. It's a win win situation and much fun for everyone.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tiny pond



I call this the tiniest pond I have ever done. It is simply a casserole dish balanced ecologically so the water will not be stagnant.

Now I can hear all of you saying, "What about mosquitoes? What about West Nile Virus?"

We use mosquito fish to keep those biters gone.




The fish have a large appetite, and one female can devour several hundred mosquito larvae per day. They reproduce rapidly and are unlike other fish, they bear live young. Each female can produce three to four broods in her lifetime, and each brood can vary from 40 to 100 fry.

Birth usually occurs during the warm spring and summer months. When the young are born, they are active and immediately swim for the nearest cover. Though they are only about 3/8-inch long, they will soon feed.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Well, not quite.

Mosquito fish have negative ecological impacts anywhere they are introduced. They compete with native species of minnow for available forage or harass those competitors until they die. They have been especially devastating in the American Southwest interacting with a wide range of threatened or endangered fish species.

Many states are using the fish for mosquito control. As always, I wonder if the cure will be worse than the disease.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pond Conversation Overheard

Pre Katrina, my office overlooked our front yard where the pond was. One unusual New Orleans day when we could have our windows open, I overheard the following conversation:

Man and woman, probably husband and wife, looking at the pond and waterfall:

He: "I wonder how 'he' did that. Where is all that water coming from?"

She: "Silly, the water is coming from the garden hose. Anyone can see that. What I wonder is where is it going? I'd hate to pay their water bill."

And these people reproduce.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wild Plants



Spring is arriving quickly in all parts of the country and we want our ponds to look great. So we are starting to replace plants that didn't make it over the winter.
Some of who live near bayous or swamps are tempted to gather some from local waters, bring them home and pot them up.
If you gather plants from the wild, you will bring in parasites and diseases. If you must harvest from the roadsides and swamps, first of all, be careful. Critter live in those plants. Sometimes those critters don't like humans invading their territory, so if you must wade in the swamps, wear sturdy boots and gloves. Many of those critters like to bite, scratch, sting or otherwise make us not want to bother them ever again.

Second, check local laws, it may be illegal to take home wild plants where you live. Or it may be illegal to own the plants altogether because of their invasiveness.

Third, put your plants in a washtub or bucket of water with a cup of so of clorox in it. Leave them there for a week to ten days. Some people say that the plants should be in quarantine for up to a year. That will kill any parasites or other bugs that may have found their way home with you.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

One way to overwinter a pond

Dear Jan,

I have successfully overwintered a "temporary" pond in an 18" deep, 8 foot diameter plastic kiddy pool (plants, fish and all) in a minus 40 (oops that's celsius, not sure in farenheit?) winter. (Because we were moving and I had to dismantle my larger pool before winter). I did this by dropping a stock tank heater (with a metal guard to ensure that the plastic edges didn't melt) into the pond. It keeps the water just above freezing and keeps a hole in the ice, even in the coldest weather. I didn't keep track of what it did to my electric bill because I knew I needed it, so the pond wouldn't freeze solid. Then I built a raised pool (it was three feet deep but most of it was above ground except for the deepest parts in the centre) and I continued to use the stock tank heater with a lot of success. Everything survived through the winter. I purchased the heater at the local farm supply store.

The only problem with this idea might be the cost of running the heaters, but it certainly is something to consider for next winter.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pond Filtration?


If you have Koi or if you feed your goldfish, you MUST have filtration of some sort. There are many filters on the market from a plain sponge type to biofilters with UV lights. I have used them all and find that the very best is a biofilter installed outside the pond with a UV light installed in conjunction with it. (A UV light is not effective with blanketweed or String Algae.) So if you are going to feed those fish or have Koi, think about using this filter. The downside of these bead filters is the cost. They can run to $4000.00 with the flick of a fish's tail. There are cheaper ones that work just as well, but it's more work to keep them clean and running properly.

If you wish to build your own filter, it is quite simple using a container of some sort and filling it with some sort of filtration medium like lava rocks, sand, gravel, etc. I use the coarser material at the top of the filter (where the water goes in) and the finer material at the bottom. Much of the time lava rock or bioballs are sufficient.

You must get the water into the top of the filter- pretty easy if the fliter is in the water and suck it out of the bottom with the pond pump. This can be accomplished with a simple tap that attaches to the intake of the pump. You can also just put the pump in the bottom of the container, and put the lava rocks or whatever filter media you use in a mesh bag and not have to worry about a tap of any kind. Your cost just went down to the cost of the media plus the cost of the mesh bag. Just be sure to protect your pump intake so lava rocks do not get into your impeller.

If you do not feed your fish, you need no filtration at all. BUT you must provide natural filtration. The best way I have found is to use anacharis as a submerged plant. The anacharis grows faster than the fish can eat it, so the pond becomes a natural ecosystem. And you must keep about 50-60% of the top of the pond covered with shade. You can do this with floating plants like hyacinths, water clover, water poppy, parrots feather or water lilies. If your pond is in the shade already, you do not need so many floating plants.

Many chemicals are sold that promise a clear pond if you add the chemicals. Some of the time they work. For the most part they do not. They kill algae. The dead algae sinks to the bottom and leave no available carbon dioxide for the other plants. They die and so do the fish because there is no oxygen for them to breathe. If you do not use chemicals, this problem can be avoided before it starts.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fish question

I get emails with questions. I try to answer the best I can. This is an example:

Question:

My next door neighbor had a mosquito killing mister sort of system installed that sprays ULD HydroPy-300 two times in the am and two in the pm.

Within days our gold fish began dying. Our water tested great for fish conditions. I couldn't find anyone local to test the water for pesticides. There is approx. 80ft w/some trees between their system and our fish pond. I did take note that we lost more fish after a couple of particular windy days.

Do you think their system is what is killing our fish? The company that installed the system said there is no way their system had anything to do with the fish dying. However, the neighbor agreed to cut off the system for a few days and the fish stopped dying.

Answer:
I would bet the ranch that the mister killed your fish.
I don't know the pesticide they used in the mister. Do you have a local cooperative extension or local agricultural college in driving distance? Is there a private lab
in town? Anytime there is spraying done, the pond needs to be covered. This can happen when gardeners use pesticide sprays, when grass cutters are there. Even when you or a neighbor is sanding a house prepping it for a new paint job, do at least a 50% water change just for safety's sake.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Shade Pond



Ponds in the shade are prettier than in full sun, I think. There are some aquatic plants that won't do well, of course, just like any garden. Water lilies need at least 5 hours of sun daily, so most likely they will live, but not bloom in the shade pond. Good aquatics for the shade pond are Taro, acorus, umbrella grass, egyptian papyrus and calla lilies. In fact, Callas will not grow in the sun, so the shade pond can have 'the perfect flower for every occasion.' Surrounding the pond can be broadleaf plants that will not tolerate sun, like philodrendon selloum, although I do not recommend it because of it's ability to send out a root into the water and then take off and come up through your kitchen floor.
You can have ferns and other plants that make the pond a woodland masterpiece.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Plants and Fish


IF YOU HAVE KOI, DISREGARD THIS POST! Koi eat plants, all plants, all the time. You can screen off your koi or your plants, but if you allow the koi access to the plants, you will have larger koi and fewer plants.

For a garden pond to be successful, it must contain both plants and fish. Not only is this an optimum esthetic condition; but a balanced biotope with interactions between plants and fish will ensure proper water conditions, reduce insects, especially mosquitos, since the fish consume their larva, and plants will greatly reduce the development of algae.

Plants and fish benefit each other in two ways. First, fish and plants contribute to the successful functioning of the nitrogen cycle. As the waste products excreted by fish are released into the water, they are converted to ammonia and then to nitrites and nitrates by nitrifying bacteria. Nitrates are a food or fertilizer for plants and algae. As they are absorbed, plants and algae become a valuable food resource for fish, thus completing the nitrogen cycle.

This ongoing biological cycle ensures healthy pond life. It is important to realize that if plants are not thriving, algae will take over and the water will become murky.

A second important way fish and plants complement one other is through the process of photosynthesis. Fish require oxygen for their existence and they release carbon dioxide. Plants in turn require carbon dioxide for their successful existence and emit oxygen. During sunlight, plants will consume the carbon dioxide released by fish and in turn emit oxygen required by fish.

A constantly functioning nitrogen cycle and photosynthesis are the key components to a successful and beautiful garden pond. The most beautiful type of pond plants are lilies. Water lettuce and water hyacinths are also excellent additions to the pond and submerged plants such as Hornwort, Vallisneria, Sagitarria, Cabomba and Anacharis are also excellent. The ideal pond fish are common or hardy goldfish.



Monday, March 19, 2007

Pond Depth


Dear Pond Lady,
We live in Pennsylvania and it does get pretty cold here in the winter. We are planning to build our first lily pond this summer, and haven't a clue. The info we've gotten from you, so far is the best of any we've seen.

Pondlady sez:
In the South, we recommend that the pond be 18” deep. This depth is ideal for plants and fish. In the north, the pond must be deeper because your weather is colder and the pond can freeze solid. Your pond's deepest point should be below the frost line. That the depth where the ground freezes solid in the winter, and therefore, so does your pond.
I always recommend that you get in touch with your local extension service, university, or aquaculture organization to find out the optimum depth in your area.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Potting up Plants


Pot up all the plants in heavy topsoil...no potting soil or anything with
vermiculite or perlite in it. That stuff will float all over the water and is almost impossible to net out. Then cover the top with sand or pebbles, so the soil won't float out. Most aquatic plants want to have about 1" of water over the tops of the pots.


When you pot up a water lily, put the water lily corm in the pot so the top of the corm sticks a bit out of the sand or other medium. Start feeding the lilly when the leaves reach the top of the water. The water lily wants to be at least 6-12" below the surface of the water.



Saturday, March 17, 2007

My pond looks like pea soup


An algae bloom is normal when the pond is brand new. If you are patient and the pond is properly balanced, you may not have one, but don't be dismayed if you do. If it lasts more than a week and you absolutely MUST be rid of it because your mother in law is coming to visit tomorrow, there is an emergency procedure you can do right this minute and your pond will be clear by tomorrow. This is not a permanent fixture in your pond, nor is it the universal panacea for algae, but it will get that pond clear so you can show off your brand new handiwork to your visitors.

Do not use any of the algaecides that are available commercially. Most of them severely decrease the oxygen level in the pond and that will kill the fish. Remember that anything that will kill algae will kill other plants. Fish will tolerate green water--they will not tolerate toxic (albeit clear) water. If you have consistently green water use more submerged vegetation (Anacharis) and make sure at least 50% of the water surface is covered with floating vegetation to provide shade. This floating vegetation can be water lilies, water hyacinths, water poppies, etc. And stop feeding those goldfish.

If you must get rid of your green water fast use a temporary mechanical filter. I use a large black pot that a plant has come in--10" or bigger I also put a few more holes in it than just the one on the bottom. Be sure the holes are on the bottom of the pot or whatever container you use. I put 2 inches of foam rubber in the bottom of the pot and suspend it over the surface of the water. I usually use a lawn chair or upturned 5 gallon bucket. Next I run the hose from the pump over the top of the pot so the water runs through the foam rubber. I hold it down with a brick. This makeshift filter looks awful and must be cleaned every 2 hours or so, but it will clear up your pond in a day or two for the cost of the foam rubber. You can tell when the foam rubber has to be taken out and cleaned because the water will start running over the top of the pot. The finer the foam, the more often you must clean it, but the faster your pond will get clear. You must keep an eye on this jerry-rigged set up and continue to clean the foam rubber or your pond will not clear up.

Friday, March 16, 2007

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 your pond will splash itself dry overnight.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Don't buy a cheap pump

If you are putting goldfish or koi in your pond, you will need a pump. Going to the nearest big box store for a pump will get you a cheap one, for now. Over the year, if it lasts that long, it will cost you more in electricity than the pump cost you. As a general rule, the cheaper the pump, the more expensive it is to run.
I have found after almost 20 years of buying pumps that it pays to buy from a recognized pond supply store and buy a recognized brand name. Quality pays and it will pay you in the long run to get a good pump. I have stocked the brand names that I have used and depend on. The last thing I wanted was a customer calling me to say his pump had failed and his fish were dead. So I soon learned what brands I could count on and which ones I could not.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Pond Pumps


There are hundreds of pond pumps to choose from. Which one to buy? Inline? (What does that mean?). An inline pump is placed out of the water, a submersible one goes in the water. You just learned something.

When I started building ponds you went to the plumbing supply store and bought a sump pump, swimming pool blue in color, threw it on the bottom of the pond with some hose attached to it, ran it over your waterfall and that was it. Suddenly the pond craze caught on, rather like the hundred monkeys phenomenon and companies started making pumps. So now we can have mag drive pumps, pumps with oil, pumps without oil, solar pumps (my personal favorite.), pumps with filters, without filters, and everything in between.

Pump rule number one: Your pump must turn over your water every two hours. That keeps sufficient oxygen in the water for your fish. If you are using filtration, it also pushes or pulls all the water through the filter every two hours and keeps your pond cleaner.

Pump rule number two: Don't buy a pump that is too small or one that is too big. A pump that is too large will suck your fish in, send them through the impeller and over the waterfall as gefilte fish. Not what you want.