Thursday, March 20, 2008

A New Pond

Question:
I am a new pond owner and it has been established for about a month, I have added a few fish. At first they were very active now I feel they are lying on the bottom more and not swimming around as much. My pond has a little green on the bottom and sides but is basically clear. Am I jumping the gun or do you think I may have a problem with the fish? They are eating but not as much. I have several plants in the pond and seem to be doing o.k. my water lily has finally formed a pad but it is small, how often should I fertilize it? I also have a pond smell it that normal?


Pondlady sez;:
You are feeding your fish. Unless they are koi, do not feed them. Make sure you have 1/2 of the surface of the water covered with floating plants and have plenty of places for the fish to hide.

Put at least one bunch of submerged vegetation in your pond for every square foot of pond surface. Feed the water lily at least once monthly, but they would prefer to be fed twice or even every 10 days in the growing season. Use Pondtabbs or other aquatic fertilizer. If you can't find it, use Job's Tree Spikes cut up in 4 pieces or Job's Tomato Spikes. And as a last resort, just dig a hole in the soil of the water lily, put a powdered fertilizer in there and cover it back up. 
You probably have too many fish as well. Here's the rule: 1 linear foot of fish per 25 square feet of water surface.

Spring is coming fast. Check your filters. If they have been out of the pond all winter, put them back in the water and use some Microbe Lift Gel to give the pond biosystem a jump start for spring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Egrets and Raccoons



From a new pond owner:

I have just gotten my brand new pond and already egrets and raccoons are eating my fish and plants. Help, what can I do?


Pondlady sez:

 We build beautiful backyard resorts for critters like fish and raccoons and then we don't want them as guests. We want our ponds to be gated communities.



I don't know of any way to keep the fish eating critters away from the pond. 
I advocate never feeding the fish at all and giving them a balanced ecosystem 
in which to live. That way when predators arrive, the fish know that they are
 predators so, they hide in the natural plants and rocks that are in the pond and 
they don't get eaten. Or at least the smart ones don't get eaten. The smart ones have smart babies, the dumb ones get eaten.

For a raccoon deterrent, try planting prickly stuff around your pond. Asparagus fern is good or a holly of some kind. Remember, that prickly stuff can bite you as well as the raccoons.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More pond questions

I live in Orlando, florida and have recently installed a pond on my patio. It is a 25 gal. above the ground barrel pond with 3 anacharis and 2 hardy water lilies. I have a fountain and a filter as I have a few fish in the pond. I also have a snail and a 
plecostamus for cleaning. the filter is rated for 50 gal. My question is how can I stop the goldfish (4 of them) from eating the water lilies? At one time I had 14 lily pads and now I am down to just 8. the lilies are still putting out new growth but they seem to only last about 1-2 weeks before they turn black and die. The snail and pleco take care of the remains. I feed the goldfish about 2 times a day as they are constantly at the water surface. Is there something I can do? Or am I just missing something? The patio is screened in so there is no chance of 
outside invasion.

Pondlady sez:

 I think I am hearing two problems here.
1) Your fish are eating your water lilies
2) Your lilies are turning black and dying.
3) a combination of the two

You have too many fish in that tiny pond. It possibly could support two goldfish. As far as your water lily pads, they only live a couple of weeks and then die off because new pads are coming. You also have one more lily than the pond can support. Give a lily to a friend and keep the one you like best. Feed your lily at least once monthly after May. Oh, and you are feeding your fish too much. They are at the top because they are begging just like your dog does under the dining room table. They are not hungry.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tadpoles and fish

Tracy wrote: 

Are tadpoles good for my pond? My fish died with a white film over their
 eyes I was told it was because of the tadpoles.



Pondlady sez:

 I suppose it is possible, but I find it a bit doubtful. Tadpoles (the toad kind) have toxins on their skins so fish won't eat them, and they don't. I suspect you will find your fish died of something else, like foul water, over feeding or some chemicals getting in the water. If they were new fish, it's possible they were sick when you bought them. 
Change out 25% of the water. Don't forget the dechlor. Be sure you buy fish from a reputable fish store and not a big box retailer.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring is coming!

It's almost 80º here in New Orleans today. We have pond plants sticking their green noses up in the air. The Louisiana iris are getting bigger and bigger. The canna is at least a foot high.
It's time to get the pond up and running again. Get out your pumps and filters, hook them up and put them in your pond. If the pond stinks, you may have decomposing organic material on the bottom. Before it fouls your pond, try to vacuum it out.

If you did not clean your pond last fall, it's time to do it now. Take everything out, put the fish in some pond water, pump out the water into the veggie garden, wet vac the bottom and put everything back in. Don't forget the dechlor

While you are at it start your algae control with barley

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cost of pump operation

When selecting pond equipment, you should seriously consider the cost of operation.
Each amp can cost $103 per year based on a dime per kilowatt hour.

What does your local utility charge per KwH? You can look on your bill and find out. Most of your cost comes from running your pump, so be sure to choose the right one.

Other costs can be from lighting and bubblers. If you choose the right equipment you can keep your electricity costs down. Consider solar power for free pump operation.

In general, the more expensive the pump is initially, the less it will cost to run. Also take the length of warranty into consideration when buying any pond equipment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ten Essential Pond Tips

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


2. 50 - 60% of the surface of the water must be shaded with floating plants. Water lilies are great, as are water hyacinths, water lettuce or water poppies. Just be sure to compost them as they multiply and not allow them loose in a natural waterway.


3. You must have fish to complete the balanced ecosystem. I recommend common goldfish. Do not put Koi in your pond unless you have built a koi pond. They will eat all of your plants.


4. Do not feed your fish. They will become too big for the pond and upset the ecosystem. You will have an overpopulation problem and all of your fish will die.


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


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


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


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


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


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

For detailed pond information, see my articles at Backyard Ponds with the Pondlady

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Building above grade

If you do nothing else while building your pond, build it above grade. You can use my method or just pile up the soil you removed from the hole around the edges, but if you don't build it up, run off from your yard can kill your pond.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Choosing a pump

When choosing the best pump for your pond calculate your head loss. Head loss is the vertical distance the pump has to push the water plus the friction caused by the water flowing through the pipes and fittings. If the flow rate is too high for the pipe's diameter, you create more pressure.

  Head losses also happen when filters clog with debris and create back pressure; this can be eased by keeping your filter clean. Too many elbows can add to back pressure. Pumping vertically, whether it is to a waterfall or a filter, will also increase head pressure. Running costs increase with head loss, so it is important to keep head loss to a minimum.

To read all my pond articles, go to Backyard Ponds with the Pondlady

Friday, February 29, 2008

Digging the hole

When you are digging your hole, dig straight down. If you dig a bowl shape you will slide down into the water every time you try to get in your pond to do maintenance. You also have more surface exposed to sunlight and that causes algae growth.

For pond information get my articles at Backyard Ponds with the Pondlady

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My pond has air under it

When the water table rises and pond liners are floating up to the top of the pond, pushing the water out, you think that is air under your liner. Nope, it's water. 
If your pond was built 3" or 4" above grade, the weight of the water in the pond would keep the liner from bubbling up.

Nothing whatsover will keep that liner in place, so don't try putting rocks in the pond. It won't work. 
Here's what to do: Try to raise the edges. Build a levee around the pond and hope that you left enough liner to cover it. You can use most anything to build that levee.

I always use rocks on top of the edge of the liner, curl the liner up and over that course of rocks and then cover the whole sandwich with another course of rocks. You can see the 'how to' with photos at
How to build a pond

For all pond articles catalogued, see Backyard Ponds with the Pondlady

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pond hardware

So often when we are buying hardware for pond fittings, we buy the first ones we see or the cheapest.

When you are buying hose clamps, don't buy the cheap ones...they rust and fall apart. Buy the more expensive steel ones. They will last forever. Same with plastic hose fittings. Buy brass hose fittings. You will never need another one.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Liner damage

Always cover your liner with rocks or water. Liner exposed to the sun can incur damage quickly. Rubber or EPDM liner lasts much longer. Exposed plastic liner, either flexible or a preformed shell will crack in a short time and it cannot be repaired.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Making the pond bigger

I want a bigger pond. Can I just glue a new liner to my old one?


Pondlady sez:
You will have disastrous results if you try to make a pond bigger by seaming liners.
You simply cannot seam liner in the field.
 Try building a second pond right next to the first with a soil wall in between. Use that space for a walkway or a waterfall, maybe two. You will need a second pump, of course. But the two ponds will look like one. This is a much cheaper and easier way to get a bigger pond.

Here's one that I did.





Saturday, February 16, 2008

preformed v. liner ponds

I live in Memphis, TN. I am considering putting a
pond in my back yard---possibly this weekend if I get real energetic! 
My question is this, my neighbors across the street purchased a preformed
pond, another friend of mine has a liner type---do you know if one is better
 than the other?

Pondlady sez:

 Use a flexible liner. Never use a preformed pond unless you have no choice. It is a major hassle and will never look right because you cannot get it level. If you do use a preformed pond, only dig it in to the shelves and either put soil to the top or pile rocks to the top. Cantilever rocks over the top so you hide any trace of the plastic. Plant around it to soften the hardness of all those rocks.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More letters

Mark from Florida writes:
I saw something on T.V. the other day and I thought you might know where I can buy it. The best way to describe it is it looks like a big (about 18 inches wide) harmonica. A single hose connection goes in the back and water comes out multiple holes in the front. Appreciate any help - thanks.

Pondlady sez:
I have never heard of it, let alone seen it. It sounds like a simple manifold and would be easy to build yourself. I have had some experience with 'prefab' waterfalls and pipes or fountain heads with holes in them and very often the holes will clog up. Pretty soon, only one hole is left unclogged and is shooting water out of your pond. It can drain your pond and drive you crazy trying to keep the holes clear.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Letters, we get letters

Dear Pondlady,
I want to use heavy duty visqueen for my pond. It's cheap and I don't see why it wouldn't work.
I also need to know how many gallons I have so I know what pump to buy.

Pondlady sez: 

Use 45 mil butyl rubber liner. It is fish friendly and will last longer than 6
mil plastic. The visqueen will tear while you are putting the pond together. The rubber liner comes with a 10 year guarantee at the very least, usually 20.
Gallons of water are figured like this: length x width x depth x 7.5 gallons per
 cubic foot. The proper pump moves half the water every hour, so knowing how many gallons you have leads you to the right pump. Larger pumps than necessary are great because they push more water over the waterfall.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Spring questions

I get questions via email constantly. I like to feature the most common ones so all can see.

Here's one I get often:

Hi Jan,

I love your site and hope to ask a question specific to our pond. Can we avoid changing out all the pond water in the spring, as is recommended for most ponds in the spring? We live in Westminster, Maryland and have a 3' x7' x10' pond with liner to 2' depth, then stacked landscaping stones to surface and above to the bank. It is an awful lot of water to exchange for spring maintenance (more than 1200 gal) and the habitat is very healthy - 15 koi/goldfish and aquatic plants. We use an ultraviolet clarifier with regular filter ( no biofilter) and a separate pump for the waterfall. In December we removed them down for winter.

Could we simply start up the pumps, filter and uv system in the spring to get things rolling instead of exchanging all that water? I know we'd have to clean our filter almost daily for a period, but don't mind. I'm afraid to shock a healthy ecosystem, but not sure how to proceed.

It's our first spring with the pond and I don't want to mess things up!

Thanks so very much!

I think you can get away without a full water exchange. Use an enzyme like Microbe Lift PL
to get things started when the temps hit 55ºs day and night. First pump out about 25% of the water, put the Microbe-Lift in. Start up your pump/UV/filter. Repeat the following week. If you do this 4 times, you should be fine. If you see lots of gunk at the bottom, you have to get it out of there before it starts to release ammonia as the weather gets even warmer. You may need a pond vac
to get it out of there. I like it as well as any of the vacs even tho it is not perfect.

Pump that water into a veggie or flower bed because it is great fertilizer. Don't forget dechlor every time you exchange water.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras was yesterday in New Orleans. It was early this year and this gardener, for one is glad it's over. We saw 80º weather yesterday and probably 60's today. It is time to think spring for pondkeepers in the South.
Before your pond water starts getting cloudy and threatens to get green, use barley straw either in liquid form, bales or pellets

Either of these products will keep your pond clear through spring and summer.

Southerners: Something to start thinking about: If your pond has debris on the bottom and your pond plants are brown rotting before spring growth, it's time to clean your pond. The fish are still dormant as are the plants, and the weather has not yet reached the 90's of the summer.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Birds need a bath


Here in New Orleans, we are in the midst of Mardi Gras partying that all stops at midnight tomorrow, Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent.

This time of year, our temperatures begin to warm and birds begin their migrations north. This swamp bird has all the water he needs in which to bathe and they do like their daily baths. If you are not near water, try to provide water for your birds to drink and bathe in.






If you are like me, daily changing of bird bath water is something that sometimes does not get done. A solar powered birdbath keeps water constantly flowing in the basin and through a hidden reservoir, so birds can enjoy their daily bath.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Water Gardens International




Water Gardens International

This is a great online organization. I have found wonderful articles in here about water gardening around the world, informative articles about water lilies and such. Good place to cruise around on these cold winter days.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Northern Ponds

I was going to talk about airstones for you folks in the North. You had a bit of January thaw, so an airstone could have been a good idea to introduce some O2 into your water. When the next thaw hits, think about throwing an airstone in the water. Now you are back in the midst of cold and wind advisories, so be glad your fish know how to take care of themselves and you do the same.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Southern Ponds

Days are starting to get longer. In the South, ponds are beginning to know spring is coming. If your water is getting cloudy from sitting in the cold weather for so long, it's a good idea to give it a good start for spring and avoid an algae bloom if the weather unexpected warms up. Try Microbe-Lift Nite for use in colder water to give your pond advance protection against unexpected nitrification.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Feeding your fish


Here in the South, although we are having some cold weather right now, we often have 70º+ days. When this happens, you will probably go outside and check your pond.
Your well trained fish will see you and come to the top of the pond. When you see them, you think they are hungry. Please do not feed them. Their metabolisms are still slowed down almost to the point of dormancy and they cannot digest food. If you feed them, they could die trying to eat. Even if they don't eat, the food will fall to the bottom of your pond, rot and create big problems for you and your fish when the weather does warm.

Don't feed your fish until temps are consistently above 60 degrees outside. Day and night.

For pond supplies, check out The Pondlady's Shop

And to read my pond articles go to Pondlady's articles

Spring is right around the corner. Make sure you have the supplies and equipment you need to start another year of enjoying your pond.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ice on the pond

In some parts of the country, ponds are frozen over. If yours is, you must open a hole so gasses can be exchanged. Do NOT hit the ice with a hammer. You can kill your fish if you do. Run water over the ice or put a pot of boiling water on top to open a hole. You can also buy a de-icer if you like at The Pondlady's shop


Don't forget to drop in and say "hi" at Gardeners Gumbo
We have a great time talking about gardens, garden crafts, junk, totems, or most anything.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What happens when it rains?

I was often asked if a pond would overflow if it rained. I suppose so, but the water would only go into the surrounding landscape. I ran into many ponds with an overflow pipe built into them. These were concrete ponds and to me, that was just an extra expense and unnecessary. If the pond is going to overflow, let it. Now a flood can be a different story. If your pond floods like ours did in New Orleans after Katrina, you fish will probably swim away and you may lose your plants. But your pond will be OK.
If your pond is build at grade, you could have problems because all those chemicals and fertilizers and run off will end up in your pond when the rain stops. If your pond is built the way I recommend, about 4" above grade, then you will be fine.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Large pond pumps

When a pump moves over 3000 gph, it is a large pump for waterfalls where you want lots and lots of drama. I love large pumps and used them for almost every pond I built. My customers loved huge waterfalls like this one.




A large Oase submersible pump can move 3000 gph and would be great for a huge waterfall. It has great warranty and costs very little to operate.


This Little Giant pump is an in-line or external pump. It moves even more water, takes less maintenance - you don't have to get in the pond to clean it, costs even less to run because it does not have all that pond sludge clogging up the impeller.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Medium sized pumps

Medium sized pumps are normally used for spitters or fountains

The head will usually be from 300 gph to 660 gph, with the larger one used to get the water higher or stronger. Be careful with spitters and fountains because if the water shoots too far in the air, it can splash out of the pond and soon you have pumped your pond dry.

For medium sized pumps, I like the Little Giant 350 gph

Just be sure to keep the impeller clean on smaller pumps for longer life. They usually need to be cleaned once a month if you feed your fish.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Let's talk Pumps

As we struggle through winter toward spring, I thought we could take this down time to talk about pond pumps, what kinds are available and what kind we need.
There are submersible pumps, the kind that most of us use and certainly the most common.
There are inline pumps. Those are the kind that sit outside the pond.
There are pumps that plug into our house electricity and pumps that run on solar power.
There are the tiniest pumps that we use in the house on table top or wall fountains and huge pumps that we use outside for giant waterfalls. In the next weeks, I want to talk about all the pumps, what brands are my favorites and how to figure out what kind of pump you need.

Let's start with tiny pumps.

Pondmaster mini

Specs for the Pondmaster mini:
80 GPH maximum flow with a 36"" shut-off
Built-in adjustable flow control
6' grounded power cord.
1 year warranty"

This pump is great for indoors, for your wall or tabletop fountain. Pondmaster makes a good pump with a good warranty for a small pump. If you are looking for a pump for your ready made or the indoor pond you made, you can't go wrong with this one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Winter Prep

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


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

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Overwintering your pond

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

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

Your pond must be deeper than your freeze line.

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

Monday, September 24, 2007

Preparing for Winter

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

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

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

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

Preparing your pond for winter

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fall really is coming, sometime



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

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

Monday, September 03, 2007

Snakes in the pond

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

Remember, there is no such thing as one snake.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fall is coming

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

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pond Spitters

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Algae

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Our heat emergency

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

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Treating for Aphid Infestation




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


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

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Enormous Pond




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

Monday, July 23, 2007

Troubleshooting your pond

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

Troubleshooting your pond

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Collecting wild plants

Finding plants

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

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

Friday, July 20, 2007

Patching a pond liner

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

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stumps and ponds

The trials of a pond installer:

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sterile fish?

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

Pondlady sez:

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

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

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gophers and pond liners

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

Pondlady sez:

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

Monday, June 25, 2007

Plants for your rain garden

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

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

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

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Flowers from the garden

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

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



My caladium is flowering already


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


I found some Amazon dianthus. Huge and gorgeous.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pond on the cheap

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

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Leeches

Pond questions - leeches

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Speaking of koi

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Letters, we get letters

Question about koi pond construction:

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

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

Pondlady sez:

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

Answer to pondlady's question:

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

Pondlady sez:

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pond questions

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

Thanks.

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

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

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

Monday, June 04, 2007

Spring garden

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

The Red Garden


The new garden room


My jumbled mess of a flower garden


Celebrity tomatoes


Stargazer lilies

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Questions over the years

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

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

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

Check these things as well:

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

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

I would change the water before restocking your pond.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You need submerged vegetation

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

Monday, May 28, 2007

More than ponds

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

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My garden

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


An iris opens



The flower garden in the morning



The Asian lily opens


The yellow canna before she turns into the garden trollop



Lots of colors together make a great show

Monday, May 21, 2007

pH, important or not

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 19, 2007

comments on comments

Question:

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

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

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I get Questions

Questions I get:

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

Pondlady sez:

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My goldfish turned brown, help!

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

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pond Plants, Cyperus




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

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

Monday, May 14, 2007

Do I need a pump?

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

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

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pictures from my garden

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


The buddleia is bustin' out all over


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


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



Day lilies, all over, all colors. Beautiful



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

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Using houseplants in the pond





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

Friday, May 11, 2007

Questions over the years

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

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

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

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

Jan has no answer.

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

Jan has no answer.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Balancing the Pond

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My Plants/Fish are Dying, help

Check the following possibilities:

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

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

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

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

Has the local government done any spraying nearby lately?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 07, 2007

Above Ground Ponds




Questions I have received:

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



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

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

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I built a pond, now what?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 04, 2007

My Pond Has Turned to Green Pea Soup

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Spring is leaving

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

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

Monday, April 30, 2007

My goldfish are brown!

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

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

Friday, April 27, 2007

Help, my pond is leaking



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

Now on to the leaking pond:

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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Garden Design

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pond Disasters

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

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How to build a waterfall



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

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

Friday, April 20, 2007

We have a guest blogger today

DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS by Carolyn Weise

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Plants/Fish are Dying, help



My Stella D'oro dayllily yesterday

For pond problems, check the following possibilities:

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

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

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

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

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

Has the local government done any spraying nearby lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 16, 2007

Keeping anacharis alive



Louisiana Iris black gamecock bud

Now on to anacharis problems:


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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I built a pond, now what?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mosquito fish

Remember awhile ago we talked about mosquito fish


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

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

Hi Jan,

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

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

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

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

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

I enjoyed reading your article.

Best regards,

Colin D. Calway.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bog garden, continued

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



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



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


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

Monday, April 09, 2007

My Bog Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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





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

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My pond looks like pea soup

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 06, 2007

Making the pond appear bigger



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

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Let's Talk Design




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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Start a Pond Society


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

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

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

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

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