Saturday, March 03, 2007

Plants, but not for the pond

We drove to Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge in LaCombe, Louisiana to see if spring was really here. It is! The camellias, magnolia soulangiana and azaleas are splashing the grounds with color. Of course, I took pictures.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Pond Plants, Cannas

Ah, the magnificent canna, often called canna lily, is not a true lily at all, but a relative of gingers, bananas and heliconias. They have huge broad leaves that can be green or variegated with red, yellow or orange. The flowers are equally gaudy, bright yellow, red, orange and I love them all in the pond.

They need at least 6 hours of sun daily and more than anything else, love to have their feet wet. Contain them in a pot in the pond. Keep the top of the pond about an inch below the water and do nothing else.

I usually cut them back hard when they get ratty looking. I also remove all the overgrowth where the plant leaps from its pot. You may put them in the ground, but you had better like them, because you will have them forever.

They do get a leaf roller, but seem to avoid it more when they are in the water. Use them with abandon: They will reward you with huge splashes of color, either foliage or blooms.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bog plants - the rushes

There are more rushes than other emergent pond plants. We have such a grand variety, we can choose most any texture, shape, color and size we want. I love the horsetail rush, also known as the scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale) for you purists. It is the oldest plant that survives today that is found in fossil form exactly as it is found today.

It grew near my house when I was growing up in Michigan. We used to take it apart and use it as a pea shooter. It grows down here in New Orleans in the water or out. The stalks are smaller than they were when I was a youngster or maybe I am bigger.

One caution about horsetail: Be sure you keep it in the water. If you plant it in the ground, your garden will soon be covered in it. It will pop up everywhere, dozens of feet away from where you put it initially.

The corkscrew rush is another favorite of mine. Its curly stalks add a whimsical mood to the pond. You just never know where the stalks are going to turn next.

Use either or both of these rushes in your pond. As always put the top of the pot about an inch below the water. These plants will never disappoint.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Pond Plants, Taro

Taros are another emergent plant to use in your pond. Their broad leaves add a shape that contrasts well with the rushes and strap leaf irises. You can find taro in green, black and variegated. It will emerge from the water about 2' and, as all of the marginal plants, likes to have the top of its pot about an inch under the water.

Taro will grow well in the shade, one of few pond plants that will. It is also tropical, so sorry, you folks up north, you can have it only in the summer unless you wish to take it inside for the winter.

Taro is grown for its foliage rather than any flower.

Oh, if you let taro loose in the garden, you will be chasing it around trying to remove it for years. Keep it contained in the pot and in the pond. If it overgrows the pond, cut off the excess and give it to friend or compost it. Do not let it get into a public waterway.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pond Plants, Papyrus

I love both of these bog plants. Both are placed in the pond with the tops of their pots about a inch under the water and they grow profusely. Like the Umbrella Palm or Cyperus, if the top of a stalk falls in the water, a new plant will grow. It is almost as if the roots of these plants are on the top.
The Dwarf Papyrus is easier to handle than the giant and grows to about 2' tall. The Giant Papyrus gets to be close to 6' tall here in the South and can fall over if not planted in a wide pot. Here's what I do to keep them from falling over. Put the potted up plant into a much wider pot and then fill the wider pot up with gravel or sand. The downside to this is that the plant now needs four strong men to move it. I use the Giant Papyrus anyway because it is lovely waving in any breeze and adds such a strong architectural statement to the water garden.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pond Plants, Umbrella plants

Umbrella plants, sometimes called umbrella palms or cyperus grow as full sized plants up to 6' tall or as dwarfs about 10 inches tall.

The full sized umbrellas are invasive and will grow anywhere, in the water or out. In the south, I have seen them planted too close to a house and they have cracked the foundation, so be careful where you put them. That said, the plant is a great aquatic plant. It is immune to every disease I know of and if kept contained looks wonderful waving in the breeze. When a stalk gets old and turns brown, just whack it off at the bottom. If it grows out of its pot, just cut off the overgrowth and start a new pot. I usually cut the plant way back to about an inch tall in the fall, so new growth can come up in the spring. One wonderful thing about this plant: If the top umbrella part of the stalk falls in the water, a new plant will grow from that.

The dwarf umbrellas do not perform well for me in the water. I usually plant them in the ground and use as a ground cover. The plant spreads nicely and must be kept under control. But, I have not seen it disrupt foundations of houses.

I used the full sized umbrella in almost every pond I built because I knew that no matter how the owner might abuse it, it would just keep on growing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Louisiana Iris

After we have put one bunch of oxygenating plants in the pond and covered at least 50% of the pond surface with floating plants, we can start putting in plants that stick up out of the water. One of my favorites is the state wildflower of Louisiana, the Louisiana Iris.

Originally, this iris was a deep purple and the bayous of Louisiana are still covered in purple in the early spring. After decades of hybridizing, the flower can be found in nurseries in every shade from almost black to red to white.

Not only can the Louisiana iris be planted in the pond, but it can thrive anywhere where it can keep its feet wet. I often put them in the pond and then continued them out of the pond to create a swath of irises blooming in the spring. When the iris is not in bloom the strap leaf adds a wonderful shape and texture in the landscape.

When you plant this iris in the pond, use a sandy soil and cover it with rocks or small stones, so the fish can't dig it out. Put the top of the pot about an inch below the water.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Floating Plants

When we are balancing the pond ecologically, we know we must include oxygenating plants, submerged grasses like anacharis, hornwort or cabomba.

As oxygenating plants are the workhorse of the balanced pond, floating plants are certainly the next most important. Oxygenating plants usually don't want to be in full sun, so the floating plants provide shade and the submerged plants can flourish. They also provide cool spots when the sun is beating down on the water and hiding places for fish when predators like local birds come looking for dinner. Some of the floating plants are mosaic, pictured above, parrots's feather, which can climb up and out of the pond, over the rocks. Water hyacinths, another floating plant can be noxious weeds and illegal in your state, so always check with your local extension service before introducing them into your pond. Water poppy and water clover are two other floaters that spread quickly, but are easily controlled and add another dimension to your waterscape.

With the addition of floating plants that cover at least one half of the pond surface, you have balanced your pond and lessened the maintenance immeasurably. And less maintenance makes us all happy.

As with all plants, floating plants will not survive with koi in the pond.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Spring really is coming

We are soldiering through February, here in New Orleans with rain and upstate NY with a dozen feet of snow. But spring is coming.

I am going to start selling live plants on my web site at in March, so I want to spend some time talking about different kinds of plants and why we either need or love them.

The work horse of ponds is the underwater or submerged plant. You cannot have an ecologically balanced pond without submerged vegetation.

Many kinds can be used, (anacharis, cabomba, hornwort and more), but the most popular and efficient is anacharis, pictured above. The underwater plant feeds your fish, but it grows faster than they can eat it. The underwater plant give off oxygen that the fish breathe. And the fish waste feeds the plant. There are even a couple more advantages of submerged vegetation: It filters the water and keeps it crystal clear and because it floats around your fish can hide under it and avoid predators.

One caveat about anacharis and many other types of submerged grasses: They can be invasive and therefore considered noxious weeds in some states. Be sure to check with your local extension service before purchasing any, not just from me, but anywhere. Do not introduce anything to your pond that could escape into native waters, spread wildly and harm the ecobalance of the body of water.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Good grief, for the last two days we have had weather in the 70's. For three days before that we had hard freezes. What's a pond to do. Luckily for all of us, ponds are living organisms and survive most anything, even human intervention. Fish are swimming again and out of torpor. So do we feed them? No. Not until spring. When temperatures are consistently over 55 degrees, you may feed your fish.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Pond cleaning questions

Question from a pond keeper:

I have had my pond for three years now. the bottom is covered with small rocks about 3 inches deep for natural bacteria surface. The water has been crystal clear for the last 2 years. Its 6 ft x 12 ft, 3 ft deep. I use a skimmer and biofalls system, with a 4000 gal/hr pump for 1000 gal water. I hear you say to clean out the entire pond every year. Others say to let it ride.

Some of my plants have even escaped the plastic pots and have rooted into the rock bottom. I change the water regularly. Is there any harm in letting it go without eliminating the bacteria colonies that have built up in the bottom? I'm thinking .... if its clear, and not broken, don't fix it? What do you all think?

Pond Expert Carolyn Weise answers:

You have more than a substrate of rocks down there by now. You have a layer of silt that is building up into a living layer of soil, which is anaerobic. If you decided to empty the pond and muck it out, you would know in an instant how awful it was. With ponds, it really isn't out of sight out of mind. What you do not see can really be a problem waiting to happen.

Reply to Carolyn's answer:

What sort of problems could this cause? in the summertime, I have to change my filter daily, the koi waste plugs it quickly. and when I rinse it out, if I let that water sit for a day or two, it does smell like sewerage. (but all my plants and vegetables love it, makes them grow good), really the only thing i check for regularly is the ph levels. If the fish do not eat when I throw in food, I know somethings up. or after a long rain, that always brings it down. I just add baking soda and its back up. What else should I be looking for?

Carolyn replies:

You just mentioned a few very important ones. The idea that the fish would not eat is a very serious one and should be prevented at all cost. It is significant of poor water quality. Remember, all water toxicity is not visible by the naked eye and pH is not the only parameter that affects your fish health. The pond is a big part of your biological filtration. If not kept clean, the water suffers greatly, ergo, do the fish.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Winter in New Orleans

New Orleans is having its typical month of simply awful weather. It's raining almost daily. The temperatures are not cold, in the 40's and 50's, but it is gray and drizzly all the time. The Carnival parades are starting and it's difficult to mount a parade in the rain and cold. Mardi Gras, the culmination of the Carnival season is February 20th, so in less than 3 weeks the madness will be over for another year.
And what about our ponds. Most Carnival participants don't give two hoots about their ponds during the season. Frankly, in this weather, all I want to do is look outside from a heated house.
We can, though, make sure we are ready for spring because it really is just around the corner. Make sure your garden tools are sharp, well oiled and ready to go. Check your pond supplies. Do you have left over chemicals or fertilizer from last fall. Chances are they have lost their punch, so pitch them. Check your fish net. Is it holding together or will you lose the first fish you try to catch this spring? What about your pump? Is it clean and ready to go back into the pond? Here where we rarely freeze, we leave our pumps in the pond, but where the weather stays below freezing, you have removed your pump and stored it in water in the garage, right? Check all your hoses and tubing; make sure it has not cracked and is still supple and ready to go. Check your hose clamps. They fail just when you have used the last one you have on hand, so put hose clamps on your hardware store list.
Get ready. Spring really is coming. Look for azaleas soon!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Thinking about spring

I know, I know, it's January and it's cold out there. But the seed catalogs are arriving and all of you under a snow blanket are reading them, marking your favorites and maybe even starting some seeds in your houses. We long for spring and think that winter is the longest season of the year.

Now is the time to start thinking about what spring pond tasks await us. If we cleaned the pond last fall after the leaves fell, we are probably in good shape for warm weather's arrival. If not, we have that nasty task to look forward to.

Now is also a great time plan what more we wish to do with our ponds. Do we want to add to our plant, add to our out of pond landscaping or maybe make more or bigger ponds? Now is the time for planning, thinking, dreaming.

If you have questions about what you want or what you need, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Letters, we get letters

I am in need of a new pond heater for the pond in my newly-acquired home. Are the 100w de-icers efficient enough to keep the fish alive over a New England winter? I have both a 1250w and a 100w jobbie. I'd obviously like to use the one with a lower wattage (and buy myself a second one to save the pennies)... but am I fooling myself? Are they just a piece of junk? Hope you can give me some insight.


Pondlady sez:

Thanks for writing.

I wish I could give you a definitive answer. I live in New Orleans and we don't exactly get frozen ponds. If your pond is below the frost line, you should be OK. Give the smaller one a try. If a hole in the ice stays open, you are fine. If not, try the bigger one. All it needs to do is keep a hole open.

If your pond has frozen solid in the past, then you must think about bringing your fish in for the winter because nothing will work to keep the water thawed unless you think about a swimming pool heater.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Rain and more rain

It has just now stopped raining in New Orleans and we are one soggy city. My shoes get sucked off if I walk through the front yard to the mailbox.

The entire city is hyped about the Saints football team and no one is all that interested in the health of their ponds. Good thing ponds can tend to themselves for ages with no human interference. In fact, they often do better if we just leave them alone. i suspect that will be the case here if the football team wins tomorrow. And then comes Mardi Gras on February 20th. New Orleans is a constant party from now until Ash Wednesday.

Of course, only half of the population has returned to the city 17 months after Katrina and it may stay that way. But ponds either in someone's yard or abandoned are doing well. After my house was destroyed, it was a year before I could move my pond to my new house. There were about 8" of water in the pond, lots of anacharis and several goldfish. This, with no power and no attention for a year. Ponds are indeed wonderful.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pondless waterfalls

I have had questions lately about pondless watefalls. They are not all that different from regular ponds. First you dig a hole and line it. Put rocks around it. Then you build a waterfall. Fill the pond with water. Put a pump in a cylinder made just for pondless waterfalls. If you looked in my shop at my website, you will notice I do not sell them. There's a good reason for that and here it is:

You have dug the hole, built the waterfall, put the pump in the aforementioned cylinder, put the cylinder with pump in the water. Now you FILL UP THE POND WITH ROCKS. Some of you have already seen ahead far enough to see the problems coming. The water gets dirty. Grass clippings, leaves, dust, dirt from the air, doggy and kiddy toys all find their way into the water and eventually the pump needs to be cleaned. And where is it? Under all those ROCKS!! Hmmmmmm.

Monday, January 15, 2007

De-icing the pond

Here's some ways to keep a hole in the pond ice. Gases need to be exchanged so fish can survive.

On to the de-icing ideas:

Carolyn hooks up a hose to an inside tap and runs water over the ice. She has a dechlorinating device hooked to the hose.

Craig floats a flat black painted can wrapped in styrofoam to keep it from sinking. The black paint absorbs warmth and keeps a hole open in the ice.

I have used a milk jug with a rope tied to it and with a couple of cup of water in it so it stays in the water.

Or you can buy a de-icer that keeps a hole open.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Watch out for acid rain

Often we have protracted periods of no rain here in Louisiana and then day after day of heavy rains. During the rainless times, we usually have to add water because of evaporation, so that means we have to watch chlorine levels in the pond.

Then one day our hard rains will start. The pond fills and overflows. The overflowing is OK, but the rain is cleaning filthy air, air filled with the pollutants we put in it from our exhaust pipes, airplanes, chimneys and factories. All of that chemical waste is washed from the air onto our soil and into our ponds.

After the first rainfall following a dry time, watch your pond carefully. If your fish come to the top trying to breathe or your plants begin to yellow, change at least half your water. Don't forget to put dechlor in the new water.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Letters, we get letters


I am 78 and am constructing my first water element. It is about finished. My problem is I am not quite sure how to handle the return water at the top of my 60 foot effort. It curves down hill and consists of two small ponds about 8 feet across and 8” deep and a 5000 gal pond that is 45 “ deep. I have installed a Savino CS 16000 skimmer that will hold an Easy Pro TH 750 5900 GPH connected to 60 feet of 2” PVC that will circulate at about 50 GPM. I have two small waterfalls coming out of the two small ponds and I do not want a large waterfall at the top of the element. I thought sinking a 50 gallon plastic drum and letting it flow into the top channel. Any ideas??


pondlady sez:

You are using one pump for two waterfalls and also to get the water to the top channel? I will assume that is the case. If so, you may have some problems getting water that high with your pump. If you are already successful doing that, you could easily use a 50 gallon drum. You could also buy a spillway that already had a low spot for water to flow out. They are relatively cheap, but they do not have a real long shelf life. They are plastic and vulnerable to the sun.

I am also assuming your channel is lined with something, rubber liner or concrete. I am hoping for liner. Be careful that the water at the top channel drains onto the liner and not under or to the side of it.

One of the problems with 8" deep water that I have often run into is that a stick or leaves can fall into it and soon a few more and soon after, you have an unplanned dam and water flowing out the sides pumping the pond dry in the process.

Congratulations on doing your first water feature at 78. I was a child of 48 when I started my pond building business many years ago.



Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Time to start thinking

Happy New Year to everyone.

But now that the year end festivities are over and carnival is 7 weeks away here in NO, we can start giving a thought to what we are going to do with our gardens this spring. Some of us have recovered from Katrina destruction and are beginning to think of other things besides where the drywall people are. The PTSD is lifting, so we are beginning to believe we will live through this, or at least hope we will.
So what are we hoping for in the garden? Are we going to add a water garden after thinking about it for a year or so, or are we going to define an area in which to put one? That's a good start. So what are you thinking about? How about an indoor pond to make the den more relaxing? Or what about a pondless waterfall outdoors? What are your plans?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Koi: Did you know?

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

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

This seems as good a story as any other.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Building a waterfall

Building a Waterfall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Repairing a preformed pond

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

Friday, December 15, 2006

Concrete ponds

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

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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pond vacuum cleaners

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

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ponds in a Warm Winter

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

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2006

Plant parasites

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

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter pond days

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

If your pond freezes

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In the 20s this morning

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

Monday, December 04, 2006

Here we go again

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

Saturday, December 02, 2006

It's cold this morning

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

Sunset in Florida

Sunset at Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winter plants

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Decorating the pond for the holidays

Have a great holiday, no matter which one you celebrate.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We are still in the 70's here in New Orleans, so we still have water lilies blooming. I stopped feeding a month ago. I hear from the weather forecasters that our summer is coming to an end at the end of the week. Ah well, it has been a month when no heat, nor air conditioning had to be turned on.

Monday, November 27, 2006

just pictures

Water lilies from a pond I built several years ago.

Victoria water lilies at Oxford University in England.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

water lily pics

I thought I would brighten your weekend with water lily pictures I have taken throughout the summer:

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pond Letters

I have a plan for 2 ponds connected by a waterfall on the side of a steep
north facing slope. I have 2 different pond builders bidding on the job,
one uses strictly concrete and one a liner Aquascape system. While clearing
the site of grasses this weekend I noticed a gopher housing project going on
very close to pond site. Should I not even consider using a liner? Will
the rocks that completely cover the liner and weight of the water be enough?
Or could we line it with carpet or wire? I am learning a lot but didn't see
much about the darn rodents!


When I built our pond (3 yrs. ago-3,000 gal.) I put lots of chicken wire down
first, and then old carpet before I put the heavy duty liner inside. I
haven't had any problems with gophers or leaks :)

We have no gophers (that I know of) here in New Orleans, but the chicken
wire sounds good. Just a note of caution, though. The Aquascapes system does
not build the pond above grade and the rocks are a PITA when pond cleaning
time comes every year. Unless you are under a tree, you do not need a
skimmer and most probably don't need a biofilter either. Don't let them sell
you (for a great deal of $$) things you don't need. Concrete is most always
a bad idea because it isn't elastic, won't move with the ever moving ground
and will crack at some time, always sooner rather than later.

Gopher removal:

Unless you intend to tame the gophers, (burrowing North American RODENT according to definition in the dictionary) I think you should first check with Wildlife Commission to see if (1) you have rights to move them to a more suited environment, (2) if they are prone to mark their territory and return, (3) have the Animal Resque League (police) trap & move them to a m
Jore fitting area.

As far as construction of your pond, CONCRETE DOESN'T HOLD WATER! So, if this guy/gal doesn't tell you it will be painted with Elastomeric to wet seal, then two coats of Ramuc (black/blue/white) to fish proof..........RUN!

AquaScape Design doesn't work in Mississippi (differing opinion from manufacturers & some designers not in my area) without the addition of special blends of bacteria (8 or more strains targetting string algae). I also prefer UV lights (some like the natural approach/not me/too busy to mess with) to keep water crystal clear & as healthy as it can be. Add Magnitizer (RED one) to target string algae, with right formula of fish & plants. Also, N E V E R plant your vegetation in a rock bottom pond!!!

Weight of water and stones will not hold down liner if trouble comes.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

roofing material as pond liner

I had an inquiry about using roofing material as a pond liner. I looked it up online and found the following from a manufacturer of roofing material. I guess we can't get a better answer than this:

There is a difference in Pond Liner EPDM and roof grade EPDM.

Most roof grade EPDM is chemically compounded to be specifically used in roofing installations. Part of the mixing and compounding process usually includes the use of additives such as anti bacterial and anti fungicide agents that will prevent mold, mildew, fungus and other such growths from happening on a roof top. These are additives that the pondkeeper would prefer NOT to have in their pond liner, particularly in order to maintain the health and proper balance of the pond life.

EPDM Pond liners are proven fish friendly, and is a membrane which has no anti bacterial or anti fungicide additives used in the manufacturing process. In addition EPDM Pond Liners are practically talc FREE. Thus providing an enhanced performance of the sheet as a 100% secure and healthy habitat for all of your pond life.

If you are a roofing contractor and use roofing EPDM, then buy Roof Grade EPDM with all of the additives. If you need Pond Liner EPDM and would like to maintain a healthy pond environment, then buy an EPDM Pond Liner!

Remember, American Wholesale Supply Company (AWSC) wants your business and we will show you the best products, services and pricing on the net!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cheap pumps

Lots of us want to buy cheap pumps from a big box store. While they usually perform as expected, they don't perform as long as more expensive ones. Worse than that, they cost much more per month to operate. The more expensive the pump, normally, the cheaper the operating costs.

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2006

Liner questions

Question: Can I use a cheaper liner than EPDM?

Pondlady sez:

The biggest enemy for any liner is the sun. I have never found a liner that does not crack and break after a season or two except EPDM. Replacing a liner is harder than building the pond the first time.
I have seen ponds done with kiddie pools and yes, they work just fine untl they crack. The preformed ponds that you can buy at big box stores crack just as fast. If you must use a preformed pond, buy a horse drinking trough. Usually they are made by Rubbermaid and last forever. I had one buried in the ground when Katrina hit, left it there for a year. When I retrieved it, it was fine. I now have in my new front yard.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pond without rocks?

You can build a pond outdoors using no rocks at all. Use landscape timbers and stack them 18" high in any shape from a square to a rectangle to any other geometric shape. Use 16 penny nails to nail the timbers together. Line the inside with roofing felt as a cushion for you liner. Drop your 45 mil liner in, fill the pond with water. The liner is now sticking over the edge a few inches. Use a 1 x 4 to finish the top. You can use a 1 x 6 if you want to use it for a shelf for plants or rocks. If you want a waterfall, put one in one of the corners or build one in the middle. Looks great and is much cheaper than using rocks.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Make a tabletop pond

Building a tabletop fountain or pond is easy. First find a pretty pot. I usually use a ceramic one. Make sure it has no holes in the bottom. The easiest way to get a bubbling noise is to put a tiny pump in the bottom, fill the pot with round pebbles and turn on the pump.

If you wish to be a bit more elaborate, you can omit the rocks, put a couple of indoor plants like spaths or pothos in there, find some pretty larger flat rocks to cover the tops of the pots in the water, and then put a pump in. Make it as elaborate or simple as you wish. Plants around the pot make a beautiful backdrop for your indoor pond. If you wish to put a goldfish in it, be sure to include aquarium filtration and feed your fish, but sparingly. You will need to exchange the water occasionally so don't make it so large that you cannot easily manage to carry it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Perennial of the year

Nepeta or catmint was just named perennial of the year. It's a member of the mint family and grows everywhere. There are lavender blue ones that are a great substitute for lavender plants that hate our summer heat and bad drainage. It has great grey green foliage and sprawls. Because of that sprawling habit, it's a great plant for next to the pond. It will drape over and look great.
It will also attract every cat within 10 miles. Use at your own risk.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Formal ponds

This is a huge formal pond in a courtyard of Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans. I did not build it but took care of it for years. One of the particular problems with this pond was the lime leaching out of the concrete. It was improperly sealed and the pot at the top had so much lime in it, there were calcium deposits on it that had to be removed yearly. It looked like it had the chicken pox. Since the pond was always planted and in use for ceremonies, I could not have it emptied and sealed although that would have been the best way to deal with the problems. I hauled a gallon of vinegar with me and poured it in the water weekly. That kept the plants alive and looking great. Of course the courtyard always smelled like a Caesar Salad.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

planting the rest of the garden

After you have built your pond, you usually want to tie the rest of your garden into your new room. You can use the same rocks that you used in the pond to make paths to other rooms, or out the gate. Soon your entire garden is a park.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pond water layers in winter

In the cold of winter, you will notice your fish stay near the bottom of the pond. Why? Because the water is warmer and denser there. As temperatures fall, the water forms layers of water with the warmest layer at the bottom. With each temperature drop, a new colder layer is formed, but the bottom layer stays warmest.
The layering of the water helps the fish stay healthy, helps them absorb oxygen.
All of this assumes your pond is built below your frost line: That's the depth your soil or water freezes solid.

So do not keep your pumps running during the winter. It can kill your fish.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

bamboo and bananas

Down here in the subtropics of New Orleans, we love to plant banana trees and we love to plant bamboo. There are red dwarf bananas, medium sized bananas and the huge ones that produce fruits you can pick and eat. Each and every one of them is invasive and you will soon have banana trees sprouting all over your yard and your neighbor's. If you plant bananas close enough to your pond, they will sprout up through your liner. I have seen them come up through 45 mil EPDM liner, so beware of bananas.

Bamboo comes in hundreds of different kinds and is beautiful. We love bamboo as much as we love banana trees. There are clumping and non clumping kinds of bamboo. Each is invasive. The difference is that the non clumping kinds will take a little longer to send a shoot up through your liner. And bamboo is much harder to get out of your yard, neighbors yard and for that matter, your neighborhood, than bananas. Bamboo is persistent and must be watched daily for new shoots and that's hard to do when the only way you can see a new shoot is when it has popped its little head through your brand new liner. The way to contain bamboo is to surround the plant with metal that is three feet deep and completely surrounds the root system. That's a mighty deep hole to dig.

So CAUTION! Do not plant either of these plants near your pond or you might be patching your liner.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Sacred Pond

This is the largest pond I ever built. It is on the grounds of American Aquatic Gardens in New Orleans and is now called "The Sacred Pond." It has changed over the 15 years it has been there. The planting is huge now and has changed the look of the watefall. The pond and most of the plants survived Katrina.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Baby Goldfish in Winter

Generally speaking, baby fish will survive a winter in the pond if they are an 1 1/2 inches long or longer. Most of the time they are still blackish, grayish, brown, so you can't find them if you are trying to catch them to bring inside. Next spring they will be orange and you will think they magically appeared during the winter.
Just make sure there is a hole in the ice so toxic gases can escape and oxygen can get in.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Building a rain garden

What on earth is a rain garden? It's a garden supported completely by rain. It can be nothing more than a garden of native plants in a shallow low spot in your garden, or it can be huge terraced areas in cities to catch and retain storm water rather than sending it straight down a storm drain to pollute our drinking water even more.
Use rain water to top off your pond after filtering it through gardens in the yard.

Oh, and a rain garden makes a great addition to the beauty of your garden.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Birds need a drink

Turtles sunning themselves in the Big Branch Wildlife Reserve in Lacombe, Louisiana.

Another great way to give birds a drink in the winter is to pound a nail in the bottom of a bucket or pail. Put a small rope or short piece of cotton in the hole to act as a wick. Fill the bucket up with water and hang it over a tree branch. You might want to hang the bucket up first before you fill it with water. Fill the bucket daily.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ponds, birds, butterflies

As soon as water is in your pond, you will start noticing birds, butterflies and dragonflies arriving to check out the new resort in the neighborhood. Dragonflies are usually first and will be buzzing your head as you build the waterfall. When you begin planting in and around your pond, the butterflies arrive. Give birds a special place to have a bath and a drink. Make one end of the pond very shallow, about 3 to 5" deep and turn it into a bog garden. You can put rocks there for bird perching and maybe some smaller pebbles for tiny bird feet to stand on while bathing or drinking. If you put plants in the pebbles, your bird resort and pond garden will also act as a filter for your pond. The birds will flock (pardon the pun) to your yard. If you put feed out in the winter, you will make your feathered guests even happier. Make sure the bog area does not freeze. You can do this by using a de-icer.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

swamp photos

The Buckeye butterflies were playing on the wild ageratum in the Big Branch Wildlife Preserve over the weekend.

A monarch attracted to the wild ageratum

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More pond questions

Is it ok to leave the water fall on during the winter MOS.? My husband thinks that if it freezes, the rocks around the fall will break, I'm pretty sure that we left on last winter and it did ok.

Pond lady sez:
It can be dangerous in many ways to leave the waterfall running. The pump churns up warm water from the bottom and the fish are hibernating there. That can kill your fish.

If you have any ice/freezing, you can greatly shorten the life of your pump.

Reply from yesterday's questioner re water level dropping:

Found the leak. It's behind the water fall, can't get to it. Know we'll have to wait until the Spring, I'll just keep adding water to it.
Thank You

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pond Questions


Got a question, my skimmer box keeps emptying out by itself. Is it supposed to do that?, I have noticed that lately. It never did that before, until after I cleaned the pond back in June.
Thank you.

Pondlady sez:

First of all, turn off the pump, fill up the pond and let it sit for a day. If the water stays at the same level, you have water escaping somewhere.

Turn the pump back on. Check to see if there is a tiny dripping off the waterfall. You are losing water somewhere and that's the most likely place.

Maybe your pond has settled and the water is going over the side? This does happen over the years.

Or you could have a small liner leak....very rare, but possible.

To find out what is happening, either remove the pump from the skimmer box and put it in the pond. Run it without water going through the skimmer. If it works without losing water that way, you probably have a leak in the seal where your skimmer is attached to your liner. That happens often.

If you don't want to remove the pump from the skimmer, use another pump in the pond. Turn the one in the skimmer off and run the other one. If you don't lose water, you know the problem is with the skimmer.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Using Pots in the Garden

You can use most any container for plants in the garden. For me the key is using different heights of plants or pots. The great thing about pots is that they can be moved until you are pleased with the effect. It's just like moving furniture.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Overwintering Tropical Water lilies

To those of us who live in the Southern part of the US, winter rarely arrives and overwintering water lilies is far from our thoughts this early in the year. Even when we do think of it our choices are two: Hope that we do not have a hard freeze and most of the time we don't, or even if we do, chances are it will not last long enough that the tropical water lilies will be lost. And even if they are, chances are a neighbor's won't be, so we can get a start. I know, I know, we are lucky, BUT you are not having to wonder how you will make it through one more day of the intense heat that August heaps on us, while knowing that September is just another name for August and October is more of the same.

So to you who have to concern yourselves with freezing weather, here are some tips for overwintering those expensive tropical lilies.

First of all stop feeding them about 6 weeks before the first frost. You have already stopped, right? Even here in New Orleans, I recommend ceasing feeding in October so the lilies will be dormant for the colder months. If we continue to feed them, chances are we will lose them even in a mild freeze because the tender new growth will be damaged.

One way to overwinter lilies is to drop the pot to the deepest part of the pond, remove the leaves and just forget them until spring. In the spring, remove them from the pond. If the corms are mushy throw them away. There should be many corms in the pot, so you will not lose your lily. Just pot up non mushy corms. Pot them up, put them back in the water and start feeding when the leaves reach the top of the water.

This method works about half of the time.

As the days shorten and the weather cools, the leaves will become smaller and smaller, turn yellow and die. When the leaves are gone or almost gone, remove it from the pond. Take it out of its pot and rinse off the soil. There will be tubers all through the soil, among and beneath the roots. They will be about the size of walnuts, hard and dark brown. If they are mushy discard them. Cut or break them apart...usually you can do this with your fingers, and put them in a warm place to dry. Let the dry for a few days.

Then get some play sand or builder's sand, dampen it and fill a resealable plastic bag with sand about halfway. Put the corm in and fill the bag the rest of the way. One corm per bag, please. If you label the bags, you will remember what they are. Seal them and store in a cool, dark place where the temperatures are between 50 and 55 degrees. When spring arrives, pot them up and feed when the leaves reach the top of the water.

This method will work about half the time.

The surest way to overwinter water liles is to buy hardy varieties. Their flowers do not shoot above the water like the tropicals and the colors will not be quite as dramatic, but they will overwinter anywhere.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Planting in SW Florida

A guest writer today, Michael Spencer ASLA, MSA Design, Inc

Regarding plant material that works in SW Florida, there are several good sources of information. Don't ever buy materials from Home Depot/ Lowes unless you know the material; while I frequently buy new plants there, I am careful about the natural ranges. These stores buy in bulk for the Southern part of the state, and material that works in Orlando [Azaleas, for example] will not work in Naples.

The best thing by far is to develop a relationship with a knowledgeable local person. This can be a neighbor or even a sales person at Lowe's, if you find the right one.

There are also books at Barnes and Noble that can help. Look for books by Pamela Crawford, Robert Haehle, or Gil Nelson.

There is also daves
for some advice, but again screen the advice.

By far the most important thing is to understand your soil conditions and amend as needed. Really. Don't waste money on plants until you have tested the soil; this is free at the Extension offices in Collier, Lee, and every other county in the country. We have an alkaline soil, mostly, that is very low in organic matter. You should amend the soil to 18" deep in the areas around the pond where you want rich plantings. Don't skimp on this. Period.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that if it is native it just works. This is not true, especially in the kinds of visual gardens that we want around our homes and around our pools.

DO prepare a plan. You need this before you buy your materials. When you do your planting plan, you do NOT need to know the plants you want to use [yet]. You draw your plant and you indicate where you need bed lines, where you want a small plant with blue flowers, where you want a big juicy tropical plant, etc; in short, a conceptual plan helps you frame the design. Then you can look for specific materials that match your concepts. Perhaps you want to use Philodendron, or Alpinia, as your tropical accent, for example. Once you start naming plants, the choices for adjacent plants can be made in terms of size or color or textural contrast. It starts to fit together like a glove. After you know your materials you can shop for the best prices.

Do not think about planting without irrigation in southwest Florida. And do not think that an irrigation system is necessarily 'anti-xeric'; it is assuredly not. A properly design irrigation system will give you a rich garden with the minimum amount of water usage.

Be aware of micro-climates and sun patterns. Our sun here is brutal beyond belief so be sure you understand it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Newstead Abbey pond

The gardens at Newstead Abbey in England, where Byron wrote are some 400 years old and incredibly beautiful even in October when this picture was taken. The ponds and streams were incorporated into the garden seamlessly. In America, we only began taking our ponds seriously within the past 25 years. I think that the idea of ponds for decoration started in China about 700 AD when emperors began keeping goldfish as pets. Now we can all have as many goldfish as we wish, royal or not. And if we continue to garden, ours will become 400 years of beauty as well.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Decorating the pond

Have you ever thought about decorating your pond for the holidays. You can put a cinder block that you have spray painted black in the water and put a scarecrow or a witch or a pumpkin on it. You could change the decorations for each upcoming holiday. Use rope lights in the plantings around your pond.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pond spitters

The spitter in the pond is a great way to get water sound with a small pump, thus saving electricity costs. The small pump used to power the spitter uses much less than the larger waterfall pump. The downside is that a wind can blow the water out of the pond and your pump can be dry in a couple of hours. If there is a strong wind blowing, just unplug your pump.

Monday, October 23, 2006

To build a waterfall

Yesterday I spoke of building two separate ponds rather than try to build a multi-level pond. This picture is an example of a multi-level pond, not separate ponds. I had a hill to build on, which is uncommon in South Louisiana, so I could easily make different waterfall levels. But I did find with these falls, about 10' tall altogether, that to make a dramatic sound, I had to use a separate pump in each level pumping water up to the next level and back down in the same never ending circle we are used to.
By the way, I had to stand on one group of rock to build the higher one. You know I had to have confidence in my building abilities.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Two level pond

We had a small space to work in, very small. In order to add interest to our small space, we built a two level pond. But look closely. It is not two levels, it is two separate ponds, each with its own pump and tiny waterfall. Two level ponds are difficult to build as each pond must hold water at exactly the same level. When you lower one spot, even a little, you may be able to see liner. If the two level pond is not done exactly right, the bottom can pump the top dry, water will spill over the bottom and you can have a real mess on your hands. If you are inexperienced in pond building, do two separate ponds and no one will ever know.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pond in a Sugar Kettle

Here in Louisiana we grow sugar cane. In long ago days, the sugar was extracted by hand and the resulting liquid was put into kettles, sometimes as large as 8 feet across. Horses or people then walked round and round the kettle pulling or pulling a large mixer to turn the sugar into syrup. Since this method is no longer used, we have many huge cast iron kettles around. Some people have turned them into ponds. Gotta be one of the great recycling ideas. It is so popular that you can now buy fiberglass 'sugar kettles' and have a pond that you can move and care for easily.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pond letters

Dear Jan,

I just started digging out a spot for my water garden.
I got it about a foot deep before it started to rain.
It has since filled with rain water, about 10 in deep.
it's been almost two days and it still has 4 in of water in it. I was planning on using an epdm liner, Do i need to put a drainage system under my pond, so the rain water doesn't lift it out of the ground?

ps can goldfish live in a mud hole?

Pondlady sez:
Goldfish can probably live in most any water. I know that there were goldfish in my abandoned pond post Katrina that lived there for over a year with hardly any water in the pond, no pump, but much anacharis. But I would not recommend keeping goldfish in a mudhole or in an abandoned pond.

It sounds like you are near sea level, so I would not put a drain in because ground water will come up through the drain.
Be sure to make your pond at least 4" above grade so the ground water will be pushed down and stay where it belongs.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Please, please keep a bottle of dechlor on hand. If you never need it, that's wonderful, but here's why you need it. You turn the water on to top off your pond. It's going to take a bit of time, so you decide to fold the laundry while you are waiting. The phone rings. You chat with your friend for a few minutes. Then you remember you have to get some bill payments in the mail, so you hop in the car to drop them off at the post office. While you are out, you decide to pick up a few things at the grocery store and pick up the dry cleaning. In the cleaners, you talk with the clerk about the weather for a few minutes, get back in your car and see you need gas, so you stop to fill up the tank. You get home and for the life of you, you can't figure out why the driveway is flooded.
Suddenly it dawns on you. You rush to turn off the water and see your fish lying at the bottom of the pond not moving. If you have dechlor in the house, you can probably save those fish.
Whew, aren't you glad you have some?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Pond Pump Killers

The pond pump uses an impeller, a small reverse propeller, to take in water. If a pump burns out, most of the time, it is the impeller that gets clogged, makes the pump work too hard and burns it up. Most pumps have a safety mechanism built into them that shuts the pump off when it gets too hot and lets it run again when it cools off. So if you notice your pump working intemittently, know you have a problem. UNPLUG the pump and check your impeller immediately. It is usually on the bottom behind a screen that you can easily detach. Chances are you will find gunk in there. It may be too late to save the pump, but it is worth a try. Wash the pump with a strong hose stream from the outgo end. That will help get the junk loose. If you can't get to the impeller with your hand, use a screwdriver to start it moving again, much like you use a broom handle in your garbage disposal.

To keep junk out of the impeller, protect it with a pump prefilter and clean it often.
Most pumps come with a prefilter, often a small cylinder filled with foam rubber that screws on the impeller end of the pump, other times, the pump will arrive already in a box of foam rubber. Pondmaster pumps, a favorite of mine, arrive complete with a black box and layers of prefilter material.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pond pumps

We rarely consider utility pumps as pond hobbyists, but I think it is useful to know they exist and wen to use them. When I was actually doing field work, I used to clean 200+ ponds yearly. To get this done quickly and efficiently, I used a bright blue, squatty Little Giant pump

These pumps have a cast iron housing and will suck up solids up to 2" in diameter and at 4000 or so gph, they can empty a pond in short order. You must be careful or they will suck in fish. I would never use them as a regular pond pump because they use much electricity, but for pond cleanouts. Nothing can beat them. They are tough, and reliable but really heavy.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Around the pond

My pond is built, now what? Until we landscape around the pond we have nothing but a rock pile. I try to use soft plants, plants that mound up and trail over, often into the water.

There certainly are no set-in-stone rules about what to plant around the pond. For low maintenance and to keep the raccoons out, use asparagus fern. For a tropical feel, use Russellia, variegated ginger, giant bird of paradise. For an Asian feel, use juniper prostrata and an ornamental grass like purple fountain grass. If you are in the shade use ferns. If you love the ferny look but are in sun, use dill, yarrow, and other herbs. Ornamental potato vine works well in sun or shade, so does bleeding heart vine. Let it trail over the waterfall.

Cannas can work in the water and out for a great broadleaf look. Louisiana Iris can also work in and out for a strap leaf addition.

The picture above shows how many plants work around the pond. This was my pond in New Orleans after a very long time of no maintenance. Somewhere back in there, a water flows.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Above ground ponds

I built this pond at the end of a driveway in front of the back porch. I talked for a long time to convince the client not to build a pond on the driveway, but could not talk her out of it. So on the driveway, it went. I used cinder blocks for a strong wall, dropped the roofing felt in it and then the liner. After filling it with water, I started covering up the cinder blocks with Arkansas Moss Rock. For what it is, it turned out OK. I put lots of soil in between the rocks, so I could tuck plants in there.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

It's getting cold!

Even down here in New Orleans, it's getting chilly. Mornings are down in the 50's and afternoons are reaching the 80's. I know that sounds warm to you Northerners, but we know that winter is coming, or for some of you, it's here. Time to stop feeding your fish or maybe you already have.
Some of you take your goldfish and koi inside for the winter. If you do, make sure you have adequate filtration and aeration in your inside tank. And just as important make sure it is large enough for all those fish. Don't forget that the fish, because they are most likely in a smaller amount of water, need to have the filter cleaned more often than when they were outside I doubt you have a tank the size of your outside pond in your house, so be sure to keep that filter clean. And never, never turn the pump off. Fish are oxygen breathers just like we are, so make sure they have enough to breathe. If you see fish gasping for air at the top of your inside tank, they are not getting proper aeration. If your power goes out, you must make sure the fish tank water is moved sufficiently to keep oxygen dissolved in it. Just think, if your house heating system goes out because of loss of power, you can keep warm squeezing the turkey baster in the water until the power returns.

Friday, October 13, 2006

More about pumps

There are so many kinds of pumps for the pond: Electric motor driven, magnetic drives, solar driven. There are submersible pumps; we use them most often, but sometimes the same pump can use used out of the water. It's called an in-line pump.

They all do the same thing. An impeller (sort of a propeller in reverse) sucks water in one end and blow it out the other. We use them to power our waterfalls, make our spitters or fountains work or just aerate the pond. In terms of expense, motor driven is most expensive, usually costing about a buck a day to run 24 hours, mag drive a bit less and solar, of course, costs nothing. The solar technology is just now coming into its own, so those pumps would be my choice. Oase is making a line of solar pumps that has a 2 year warranty, a year more than most pumps

I will try one next time I need a pump.

Remember, you can always click the title of the blog post to get to my web site.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How much does it cost to run a pump?

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

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

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

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

Generally mag drive pumps

are cheaper to run and of course, solar pumps

cost nothing at all.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pond electricity

If you have a



in and around your pond, you must connect your cords into a GFI outlet. Some folks call it a GFCI. It is a Ground Fault Interrupter and has the capacity to cut off power instantly if it gets wet. If you are in the water or holding the cord when water comes in contact with electricity, you will realize the GFI was the best thing you had installed. Most construction codes call for them, but oftimes outside outlets do not have them. And in older homes, you won't find them either. If the GFI happens to get wet accidently, you must push the red button on the outlet to reset it. Have your electrician install them whenever water is near. You won't regret it. Water and electricity don't mix. Ever!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cooling down

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For the past three days, I have awakened to cooler weather. Don't tell me fall has finally arrived in New Orleans. Now we are forced to do the fall pond tasks we have been putting off. Clean that pump filter; it needs it. Cut back those plants before the water is so cold you can't stand to put your hands in it. Use a net to get the debris out of the bottom. Leaves are turning color now and will fall into the pond in a few days. Put netting or some other cover over the pond to catch them. It's easier than getting them out of the water later.

Here are some great tools to help you get those jobs done


Monday, October 09, 2006

A quick fish note

Fish can get sunburned. Don't let that happen by providing shade for them to hide under. It also is cooler in the summer and gives the fish a place to hide when predators arrive.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fall color

Here in the South, if we are lucky enough to survive the summers, we can have color in our gardens and around our ponds throughout the fall and winter. I like to use snapdragons and petunias. Pansies are great as well for reliable and exciting color throughout the winter. Don't forget, pansies love blood meal. Put about a teaspoonful in each hole before you put the plant in. If we want to take a chance on no freezes during the winter, and that's a fairly safe bet in these days of global warming, we can take a chance on pentas, impatiens and begonias.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Overwintering Pond Plants

Here in South Louisiana we don't have to do much to our aquatic plants in the winter. When they start looking ratty, I cut them back to just above the water line. If you live where it freezes, do the same thing. They will return in the spring, happy and healthy. Water lilies are different, of course. If you live up north and have hardy lilies, remove the leaves and make sure the lily does not freeze solid. I would do that by dropping the lily to the very bottom of the pod. It will come back in May or June.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Finding pond leaks

Sometimes liners do get punctured. Raccoons can leave holes behind after their nocturnal dinners out. Sometimes statues fall in the pond and can puncture the liner. Around here Katrina shoved trees through liners, but they were easy to find. Other times, it's just a good old fashioned mystery.

A friend told me that he finds leaks in swimming pools by slowly pouring in fine sand and watching where it goes.
I would definitely try that if you have decided that you have no waterfall leaks, no tubes or connections are leaking, or your skimmer, if you have one, is not leaking at the liner penetration. It is indeed a great idea if you live where you are not below sea level. Pouring food coloring or a bit of milk in will do the same thing.

Here in New Orleans, we are below sea level, so we rarely lose water from a liner leak. If we have a liner puncture, we have to find where the ground water is seeping in, not where pond water is seeping out! Here's how I do it. I empty the pond. Totally. I have been known to take a hair dryer so I could dry the liner completely. Now look around. If there is water coming in, you have found your leak. If you stilll cannot find it, put the garden hose under the liner and turn the water on. Watch until you see water coming up through the liner. Aha, there's the leak.

Leaks are easily patched with a sticky tape that is much like the stuff you use to patch a tire. You can usually find it in big box stores.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

All ponds settle

Probably the biggest problem I ran into while building ponds was water leakage. What pond builders, whether professional or do it yourselfers, fail to realize is that ALL ponds settle. How much depends on where in the world you live. Here in New Orleans I have seen ponds settle as much as 15" over several years because we live in a swamp. When you are building your pond, elevate the sides as much as possible so the inevitable settling does not cause major problems any time soon.
One of the earliest problems with pond settling is water leaking off the back or sides of the waterfall. If your water level drops quickly and for no known reason, turn off your waterfall and fill up your pond. If the water level has not dropped the next morning, you know water is leaking from your waterfall. Usually it is a simple matter to find the miscreant rock and straighten it out. Even if you do have to call someone to move rocks around, you have saved yourself some money by troubleshooting the first part of the problem.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pond color in the fall and winter

Sunset in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

I am starting to plan my fall garden, while most of you are weeding and mulching, getting ready for a long winter. We rarely have freezes here in New Orleans, so we don't have to plan for that. We just put different plants in the ground.
For you lucky southerners, here's how to put color in your pond in the winter when the water lilies are dormant. Put a painted cinder block in your pond. (I use one painted black so it doesn't show.) Put together a color pot of pansies and snaps or petunias and snaps and put it on top of the cinder block so the bottom of the pot is not or is just a half inch or so in the water. The cinder block should be level with the top of the water or just barely under it. You can leave the pot in the pond or you can change it out to suit you. I put in chrysanthamums now and poinsettias for December. I will do 3 - 5 color pots to make the pond really pop.

Just because the season is drab does not mean the pond has to be.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Fall Pond

Sunset in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

The pond in autumn is such a beautiful part of the garden. It shows us, even if we live in the South that the seasons are changing, the plants are reacting to longer nights and shorter days. The new water lily leaves are getting smaller and smaller and there are fewer of them. The fish spend more time at the bottom of the pond just floating there getting ready for winter and their long sleep. Everything tells us that the garden wants rest now and aside from cleaning out pond debris, our maintenance is nearly non-existent.

If your pond is under a tree and leaves are falling, you must remove them before winter sets in completely. They will decompose; the toxins will build up under the ice and kill the fish. Some people put a net over the pond to keep the leaves out. Do not throw visqueen over it because that shuts off oxygen to the fish.