Thursday, August 29, 2013

Water Garden Hints

I waited a long time to get a pond in the backyard. Finally in 2005 I helped my husband install a 250-gallon preformed pond. Almost immediately we thought it should have been bigger. So keep that in mind if or when you install a pond. We struggled the first year with algae. After some research we found that small ponds like ours tend to have that problem. So after trying several unsuccessful ideas including barley straw, aquatic plants and coloring the water using a dye made for treating pond water. We finally invested in a UV Filter. Most of the time the UV filter handles the algae problem, but on occasion after a heavy rain I will use a safe for plant and fish algae relief you can find a your local hardware or home improvement stores.

This year though I’ve had problems getting my water lilies to grow. I finally realized the problem was they were not getting enough light. I’m not sure how I will solve that problem but have all winter to figure it out. With fewer plants I worried about the fish eating birds spotting my 7 goldfish and did my best to provide some cover around the edges of the pond with other plants and in the center of the pond by replaced some of the PVC pipes back into the pond. (I had removed them when a Snowy Egret ate our last fish.) So far the fish have survived the summer with no going missing.

With the rainy summer I found I had to clean the ponds filter a lot more often than previous summers. Run off from the yard found its way into the pond. I thought it would be nice to have an extra filter & pump unit that I could exchange with the dirty one. So my husband surprised me with a new set-up so I can do just that. Now I can clean the dirty filter inside in the utility sink or outside in a shady, cooler spot.

Here are some tips for algae control. It may take several of these or all to control algae in a small pond:
1. Plan the location of your pond to take advantage of shady areas in your yard. Be careful not to locate your pond under a tree, however, as trees can drop leaves and sap that can play havoc with your pond water.
2. Construct or retrofit your pond so that water from your yard cannot flow into it.
3. Install a fine bubble aerator. The main cause of algae bloom is the lack of water movement. Placed at the deepest section of the pond and aerate the pond 24/7, you create a natural water movement in the pond,
4. Use water plants to help keep sunlight off of the water surface. Pickerelweed, Water Lilies, and Lotus are all good choices.
5. Include submersible plants such as Elodea that uses the nutrients that algae need to grow.
6. Introduce aquatic pond snails to your pond. Pond snails dine on the algae in your pond.
7. Add tadpoles to your pond. Tadpoles not only eat algae but also eat mosquito and other insect larvae.
8. Feed your fish only as much food as can be eaten within about five minutes. Food not eaten will decay and contribute to algae growth.
9. Clean the filters in your filtration system regularly. Clogged filters can dill beneficial bacteria and allow algae to flourish.
10. Use an ultraviolet light sterilizer. These sterilizers break down the cell walls of the algae, killing it.
11. Clean the surface of your pond with a skimmer or algae net.
12. Vacuum the algae from the pond with a pond vacuum.
13. Place barley straw in a location that provides a good flow of water and sunlight. The barley straw will decompose adding hydrogen peroxide to the water, killing the algae.
14. Color the water using a dye made specifically for treating pond water. The dye will color the water making it dark and harder for sunlight to penetrate to the depths of your pond.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What can you accomplish is just an hour, an afternoon, or a day?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have an unlimited amount of time to work on your garden’s to-do list! But between our careers, family, household chores, volunteer activities this is nearly impossible to do and often our wish list is often left unfinished. But if we admit it even the busiest gardener can spare a day, an afternoon or even an hours now and then. And believe it or not you can achieve quite a bit with some simple projects and they won’t ruin your budget, either.

If you have an hour try these ideas:
• Add flair to your chairs with a simple coat of paint. Pick some lively colors and they don’t have to match. For a little more pop add some bright pillows to your chairs. Buy them now while they are reduced in price or if you have more time make them from scrapes left over from other projects.

• Make a reading nook. Look for a quiet, tucked away place in the backyard. Add a comfy chair in a shady spot. Use a canopy or umbrella is you don’t have a shade tree. Arrange an assortment of fragrant and or colorful flowers in containers and place them nearby.

• Brighten your nightlife outdoors in the evening with some glow-in-the dark acrylic paint. Paint a few containers or stones to brighten your yard in an unexpected way. I have the paint but haven’t been able to use them yet.
• Fill in bare spots. Look for an empty spot along your fence or a blank wall and hang up some outdoor art. Use a planter or pot to fill in bare spots in the garden.

If you have an afternoon:
• End a boring floor by painting a concrete deck or patio. If you artistic try painting a rug on the deck or patio. Or just buy and install a weatherproof rug to add some comfort to your outdoor space.

• Install solar lights, they are simple to use and can add a lot of appeal to the nighttime garden. Adding white flowers nearby will make your garden glow in the moonlight.
• Mosaics in a minute. Repurpose old bowling balls into garden art by gluing on tiles, flat-backed marbles, coins or mirrors; let it dry and add grout. Or paint on a design. Spruce up plain stepping stones by adding mortar and positioning mosaics on top.

• Start Composting, it only takes a few supplies and an afternoon to build your own compost bin. Simple plans are easy to find on the internet.

If you have a full day:
• Mulch and edge beds. This really makes your beds look polished. If you don’t already have a barrier or it needs upgrading you can do it fairly easily with bricks, rocks or pavers for a finished look that also makes mulching easier!
• Make a rain barrel. You can buy one but if you want to save a little money make and decorate one yourself. If the blue barrel look isn’t for you, you can paint it or make one from a whiskey barrel or garbage can. All can be transformed into attractive rain barrels.

• Add wow to your windows with window boxes. They instantly add charm and value to your home. Make them with leftover lumber, and then add your own personal touches and no-fuss flowers. Succulents might be good for you in case you forget to water!

• Raise your vegetable garden with simple raised beds. With just a few pieces of lumber, soil and compost will set you up for growing your favorite veggies.

See if you can find time to try a one or two of these ideas in your garden this summer.