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


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)

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
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?


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


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:, 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.