Monday, July 23, 2012

Mysterious and Confusing Google

Good grief, Google just changed everything and my blog disappeared for a few days.  After much confusion and seemingly ridiculous 'help' offered by Google, I am back.  No thanks to Google.

Whew, I thought I had lost almost 800 posts.  Why do these people do this to an old lady?

Keep on slogging through this heat.  A couple of months and we should be out of it again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Questions: Overwintering Plants

I had talked with Jan when I first put in my small pond. By small, I mean SMALL. It is maybe 4 1/2 X 3 1/2 X 16" deep. I have a couple of comet goldfish in there and several water hyacinths and lettuce plants. I also have one I bought at Lowe's in a pot which sent up some very pretty leaves, and a lot of anacharis.

I live in Central NY and it is often VERY cold in I know I won't be able to keep the fish out there over the winter. I was thinking of putting them in the lake up the road when it starts getting cold.

What do you think of my plan for the fish, and what can you suggest for the plants? I have a lot invested in them and don't want to lose them if possible. The fish have grown since I bought them, and I don't think they could live in my fishbowl. (and I cant really invest in a tank anyway...I will be gone for 2 months in winter).

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Pondlady sez:

I would try putting the plants in damp sand in a garage. And the anacharis in water in the garage. You may lose them, no matter what you do, tho.
Take your fish to a local fish store. They will most likely trade them for new fish in the spring when you are ready. Do not release them into the wild as they can become a noxious nuisance.
Ya know, the fish store or a local aquatic store might do the same with your plants. Check and see. Can't hurt.

Find out answers to this and other questions at

Or buy my book, "A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining Your Pond" at

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to Build a Koi Pond.

Koi and goldfish? There's a difference? 

Koi? What are koi and why must I build a koi pond differently than any other pond? Can't I just put koi in my goldfish pond? One would think so, but one would be wrong. 

First of all, a koi is a carp, just like a goldfish, but it is from a different family. Goldfish are descendants of crucian carp and koi are from common carp. Koi usually have two whiskers like a catfish and goldfish don't, so they are easy to spot if someone wants to give you one. 

And there are other differences as well. Goldfish dart around more in the water and will eat your submerged vegetation as they fertilize it. Your pond will be a relatively maintenance free ecosystem with plants and goldfish. Koi, on the other hand, swim lazily around eating everything they can get their mouths around. They love your most expensive water lilies and will dispatch with them first. They work their way through every piece of vegetation you have in your pond and look for more before you even realize you must feed them. 

So a koi pond is a special outdoor aquarium made just for koi. Koi will pull plants down from outside the pond just for sport. They also have a awful habit of jumping out of the pond where you find them stiff and dry when you come home from work. The jumping out is often a sign of foul water. A goldfish pond is a water garden with goldfish swimming around behaving themselves. 

Before you even think of building any pond, think long and hard: Do you want a koi pond or do you want a water feature with plants and goldfish? For goldfish pond building see How to Build a Pond 

You have decided you want a koi pond because you want koi as pets.
  1. A koi pond must be deeper than a goldfish pond. Koi need more room to move around. They like to swim up and down as well as back and forth. They also grow and grow fast, so make your pond at least 3' deep, deeper if you can and as big as you can afford. Try to get your koi pond dug below the frost line or you will be trying to figure out how to over winter them in the house when it freezes outside.

  2. A koi pond should be built up above the ground. I like to do this with goldfish ponds as well to keep run off out and therefore avoid chemicals that may run into your pond. If you can get your koi pond edges up at least 6", you will be safer and possible keep your koi in the water instead of lying on the ground. I have known professional koi keepers who build their ponds at least 18" above ground, usually using concrete for the entire pond rather than a butyl rubber or EPDM liner.

  3. Koi ponds must have filtration. As much filtration as you can afford. Do you get the idea that koi keeping can be expensive? In the past koi keepers used swimming pool filters. Now bead filters are popular. If the bead filters are just too expensive, a quality biofilter will do. It should be big enough for your pond. Most biofilter manufacturers will help you pick out the one that will work best for your pond size.

  4. Using a UV light sterilizer, usually called a water clarifier is necessary for your koi pond. It will kill algae microorganisms and keep the water clear so you can see your fish.

  5. Koi are hungry fishies. You must feed them. You will find scores of koi foods available. I make no recommendations about which one to buy. I suggest finding a koi club in your area and see which ones their fish like and following their examples and suggestions. One thing I know koi love to do is play with a half of a red cabbage. Don't shred it. Let them play with it like a basketball.

  6. The water chemistry must be perfect. Any radical changes in pH, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia must be corrected immediately or your fish will get sick.
The biggest difference 

Don't forget one basic difference. When you build a koi pond, you are building a special house for your pets. When you build a goldfish pond, you are putting a water garden in your landscape. 

And you will name those koi, I know that. Because you named your children and your other pets. Koi can get sick and die of the strangest diseases before you are even aware they are sick. I suggest not naming them. 

You can read about koi ponds and more in my book, "A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining a Pond" available here.

Join us at to talk ponds with folks from all over the world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An Artist's Concrete Bench

We have a large membership at  And so many of them are talented  beyond belief.

Look at what one of the guys did and drool over it.

I would love to be that talented.  Maybe he makes house calls.

You won't find out how to do what he does in my book, but you will learn lots more about ponds that you need to know.

Join us at to see more work like this and let us see what you have done around your pond

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Driving home.

I drove home from Arkansas to Louisiana yesterday.  It was a long slog of a trip with an hour and a half traffic snarl as I got within 25 miles of home.  Already tired, hot, uncomfortable and almost home, the entire interstate 12 decided to come to a standstill. Why?  I have no idea.
A quick turnoff to take an alternate route seemed like a good idea to me. As well as hundreds of other motorists.
So the long slog got longer.

Both my veggie garden and flower garden have suffered greatly during the drought.  I have irrigation turned on, but a quick check last night showed much damage.  For some reason, nothing replaces rain.

My book remains in the number one spot on Amazon.  Yippee!!
Have a look. You just might need it.

And has a wonderful new post by a concrete artist.  Have a look at that as well.

More from near New Orleans as packing continues for the move at the end of the year.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Gunfight at the OK Corral

We lovers of the outdoors and the critters who inhabit it have a skewed idea of how things out there sort things out. We think of birds as gentle and peaceful creatures who live out their days in harmony within their environment. 

Au Contraire.  The little and beautiful birds do not share nicely, are territorial and threaten violence at every opportunity.  Witness the scene at the birdbath yesterday. 

It's my turn. You cannot take a bath now.

                                       Did you not hear me?

I said, "Move it."

I want my bath in peace, so get out NOW!

About time you left.  Listen next time and things will not go this far.

You can start your pond  this weekend, so prepare by buying my book , "A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond" and be ready to show it off by Sunday afternoon. Download it

And join us for pond talk all the time, including what to do for your fish when the heat strikes.

Find us at

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Guess Who Came to Dinner?

One of the scourges of pondkeepers is raccoons.  We have paved and poured concrete over their natural habitat, so they arrive in our yards, spot our ponds and eat what they can find. They start with plants and finish with fish for dessert.  And then they alert their friends and families.  And soon we have nightly unwanted visitors. 

Some folks trap and relocate them.  That rarely works. If they are dropped off far away, they are so disoriented they lose their way and die.  

Other folks trap them and call the SPCA only to learn that taxes no longer offer support to that service, so what they can do is severely curtailed and they no longer pick up raccoons.  I had one pond owner who bought a wonderful house backed up to a wooded area. I build a pond and landscaped the back yard.  The raccoons arrived.  He toughed it out for about 3 years before the raccoons won. He sold the house and moved.  

So, what do we do? I have found the best thing is to plant prickly plants around the pond. Hollies, asparagus fern, anything you would not want to tangle with because it hurts will generally repel the raccoons as well. It's not a perfect solution, by any means, but I have found no better one. If you know a better way to keep them at bay, let me know.

It's a little warm to dig a hole, but you can prepare by buying my book , "A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond" and be ready to start digging when the heat abates. Download it

And join us for pond talk all the time, including what to do for your fish when the heat strikes.

Find us at

Monday, July 02, 2012

Summertime Pond Care

Summertime pond care is important when summer arrives, We are already breaking heat records in New Orleans and it's not even officially summer yet. 90 degree temperatures and 110 heat indices are making everything miserable, including our gardens and our ponds. 

Summertime maintenance 

Keep fertilizing your water lilies. They are heavy feeders and will keep blooming until October when the days start to shorten or until the temperatures sink below 55 degrees F. 

If you have lotus, they want more fertilizer than water lilies. I feed them at least twice weekly, even every ten days with one aquatic plant tab per gallon of pot. You rarely have to fertilize other pond plants because fish waste takes care of that for you, but if you are not satisfied with the plants growth, stick an aquatic plant tab in those too. You may wish to stagger your feeding because aquatic plant tabs fertilize all the plants in the pond including the dreaded green algae that will grab nutrients before they can get to what you really want to feed. Bury the plant tabs in the pots and make sure they are covered with soil or sand. 

Floating plants 

I keep at least 70% of the top of the pond covered with floating plants like water hyacinths, water clover and water lilies especially in the summer to give the fish some shade and some places to hide from predators. Egrets, herons, raccoons, and even your own Labrador retriever are looking for extra food and your pond is a brand new all you can eat buffet that you laid out especially for them. I even suggest making a cave for your fish. You can buy them already made or make your own out of a couple of flower pots on their sides or a flat rock on top of a couple of block shaped ones. The fish don't care how fancy their new digs are, as long as they are safe. 

Remove debris 

Remove dead foliage as soon as you can. As water lilies grow, the outer ring of leaves starts to yellow and die. Cut those off as close to the pot as possible. A water lily bloom opens and closes for about three days, then dies. Remove it as close to the pond as possible. If other plant foliage yellows and dies, cut it off and remove it. If foliage is allowed to decompose in the pond, waste material builds up, removes available oxygen and can foul the pond and kill your fish. Removing dead plant material makes room for new growth and sure does make the your pond look nicer. It's about the same as tending the rest of your gardens. 

Those of you who feed your fish, do not feed them more than what they can eat in 5 minutes, and only 1 - 3 times daily. If the fish do not eat the food, it too, will decompose in your pond and foul water. Also remember that the more the fish eat, the more fish waste you will have to feed algae and make your pond turn green quickly. 

Keep your pump running 

Maximize your aeration. Warm water does not contain as much oxygen as cooler water, so your fish can struggle to breathe. And just when the warm water holds less oxygen, the fish need more. Add an airs tone or another pump to your pond. Be sure you keep your pump running 24 hours daily in the heat of summer. If your pond is shallow, less than 18" deep, more aeration is a must. If your pond is 3' deep or more, you are safer. The fish can go to the bottom where the water is cooler and more oxygen is in the water, but still keep those pumps running. 

What not to do: 

Clean your filter only occasionally, if it is a biofilter. If it is a mechanical filter, e.g., foam rubber that strains out suspended material, clean it often. Your biofilter grows a colony of bacteria that can eat the sludge and decomposed organic matter in your pond. Cleaning your biofilter destroys that bacteria colony forcing it to start growing all over again. If you do clean it, kick start it with one of the bacteria products on the market. I like Microbe-Lift PL. It not only kick starts your biofilter, regular use, following the directions on the bottle can keep the dreaded string algae or blanketweed at bay. 

Enjoy your pond 

Now that summer has arrived, it is time to relax next to your pond after work. Entertain your friends on weekends, show off your garden, your pond and your beautiful waterfall. Bring out your iced tea or glass of wine, sit and enjoy yourself. 

It's a little warm to dig a hole, but you can prepare by buying my book , "A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond" and be ready to start digging when the heat abates. Download it

And join us for pond talk all the time, including what to do for your fish when the heat strikes.

Find us at

Sunday, July 01, 2012

I asked for this

I should know better than to ask for something because I usually get it. Except, of course, winning the lottery or something like that.

The birdbath has attracted birds all right. Lots of them, from indigo bunting to scarlet tanagers to goldfinches. It looks like the flag from the Pride Parade out there sometimes and I love it.  I wondered if the four legged critter who hang out around here would find the bird bath. Silly me. Of course he did.

Aren't bunnies cute? This one finds the birdbath

And has a drink.

Finds my purslane and eats it.

Not satisfied with only the purslane, he heads for my irises.  
As of this morning all plant material is gone except for the stonecrop sedum.  Wascally wabbit.

Even though it's too hot for pond building, you can buy my book , "A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond" and be ready to start digging when the heat abates. Download it

And join us for pond talk all the time, including what to do for your fish when the heat strikes.

Find us at