Monday, October 5, 2009

Do I need a bio-filter system?

John from Lemoore California writes:

"Hi Gail,

You brought plants to me a little over a week ago, and I'd like to thank you. They look all look great. My mother said you told her about a plant that would do very well on the bottom of the pool, but she couldn't remember the name of it. Anyway, she said it would be about $300 to cover the bottom. I'm very interested. Also, I was wondering if you think I'd still need a bio-filter if I cover the bottom. If so, do you have any advice on how to build or buy a cheap one?

Thank you"

"Hi John!

Sounds great. If you have the right balance of plants, then you do not need a bio-filter. However, you might want to vacuum the pond if you intend to swim in it. My advice is to see how well you do with the plants first and see if they will filter well enough on their own. I have been ponding for over 10 years and have never had the need for any type of filtration system. The only time I have needed one was when I had a decorative fountain. Fountains get clogged easily and their motors burn out – even if they are propped up above the sediment.

The other idea I had for your pond was a floating island. You can purchase one commercially or you can make one like I did. The design I used was fashioned after the Aztec Chinampa (east to Google). It appears like a floating island, but is actually an island for crops that is built on poles or pylons.

The plant you are looking for is called "anacharis". It is important for algae control, oxygenation, and clarifying the water. I only have a small amount of anacharis in my nursery, but can order more from a friend. His plants are high quality and will take root quickly. If you have Paypal, that would be the easiest way for me to place the order for you..."



Friday, October 2, 2009

The Sandbox Pond Frame

It’s time for a Pond Makeover!

Rubbermaid Tub Ponds are small and fall apart… For years I have been coaching my pond friends that if you cannot afford a pond or pre-fab pond liner to use a Rubbermaid tub. Now it’s time to get past that. While they might be a novelty at first, cheap plastic containers do not have enough room for pond plants to spread out and grow. They get sun bleached; they become cracked and fall apart, and they just look bad.

The Kiddy Pool Pond Option... A step up from a Rubbermaid tub pond is a child’s wading pool or kiddy pool. This is a great project for kids. If you are handy with a shovel you can even dig a hole in your yard and use a kiddy pool as a pond liner. Kiddy pools have far more room for water lilies to spread out, but they are shallow and their round shape is not space efficient if it is used as a patio pond.

So what is the next affordable option?

The Sandbox Pond Frame
I am a freak and have been getting lots of free stuff from my new friends and neighbors that I have met online right here in my own community. Recently someone gave away a wood sandbox. It actually looks like a twin size bed frame or waterbed frame (4'x6' and 8" deep, 120 gallons). It was perfect! I am not handy with a shovel and most of my ponds are above ground on my patio. After calling Cecelia (a new Freecycle friend and neighbor) to help pick it up with her truck, I had a new instant pond! All it took was a roll of 4mil thick black plastic from Lowe’s and water. I call it my no-holes pond, because. This has inspired me to make more. I have a pile of wood planks (that I also picked up from and will build new box frames using my leftover black plastic and with “L” braces also from Lowe’s.

Screwing in the "L" Brace and my assistant...

Now I have plenty of room for my water lilies!

My assistant eating pie...

But it’s October! Why build now?
Why not??? In my area of the country, winter doesn’t really set in until February. No matter where you live, ponds can be enjoyed year-round. My next project will be to build a new greenhouse design and a homemade oil drum heater. See pics below.


Your garden friend and neighbor,

The Pond Plant Girl

Build a New Greenhouse

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Planting and Fertilizing Pond Plants

Luis from Florida says: “Any tips for planting these plants (wild rice, fairy lily, and water lily). I have a friend that told me wild rice needs to be in a shady spot in my pond or it will die. Is that true and if so how much shade? From your website I see that the Fairy lily likes full sun to partial shade. If you have any tips on the wild rice or the red attraction I would appreciate it. I am very new to gardening hopefully with a lot of hard work and nice sunny days I may be able to reach Novice status. Thank you for the other 2 lilies and good luck on having your own nursery.”

Hi Luis -

At this time of year I would place the wild rice in full sun. I have an area of my patio garden next to the driveway that can get up to 120 degrees in the summertime. In that case – then yes the plants would get overheated, suffer from sunburn, and die. Plants that grow in small containers can easily overheat the root system. If you place your plants in a pond with nice moving water, then you should do just fine. Wild Rice is a full sun plant… so I would say to place it in full sun and keep an eye on it. If it shows signs of stress then I would suggest moving it. The leaves will grow and die off as grass plants do. It can go dormant in winter and then come back again in the springtime. Plant the rice in a regular 1 gallon container with holes and use pond soil. Fertilize near the bottom of your container.

Pond Fertilizer: Pond specific fertilizer is best. You can buy it at any large hardware store. I purchased mine on eBay. Fertilizer should never touch the roots, but be about 3 inches or more below the root system.

Fairy Lily will go dormant in the wintertime too. Grow in a regular 1 gallon container with holes and use the pond soil. Fertilize near the bottom of your container.

The water lily grows best in a lily basket. I’m posting a new video show about how to make your own. It’s pretty easy… simply take a large butter tub and cut slots on the sides and bottom. See picture below. I could make it look better by painting it black, but not sure how the paint would do in the water. Anyway, with a fully stocked pond the container would not be visible. Plant in full sun with fertilizer near the bottom of the tub. If you fertilize once per month throughout the spring and summertime, you should have lots of flowers and big lilies too.