Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Grow Artichokes in Las Vegas

...Sweetheart Artichoke Co. Store

Q: I'm in the process of replanting artichokes in my garden here in Las Vegas. I was under the impression that my plants would keep going strong year after year. Last summer they failed and your site explained why!

Is there one variety of plant that will do better for me here in the desert?

If I were to order three or four plants from you, what would you recommend?

A: Shade Cloth
I am glad that my website was helpful! I do sell a lot of artichoke varieties to Nevada. The key to growing any variety in Las Vegas is to have filtered sunshine. If your plants are in full sun, then you will need 30% nursery shade cloth. I purchase mine at
. They custom make all orders to your specifications and it is very affordable too. Make sure to order the shade cloth early enough in the season so you can receive it in a timely manner. You will need 30% woven shade cloth, hemmed, with grommets. It should last about 5 or more years. With a shade cloth overhead, then all varieties (except the Canada Star) will grow well in your climate.

Las Vegas is located in hardy growing zone 9 as well as where I am located in California, also zone 9. The only difference is that our nighttime summer temps cool down at night and we do not have as long as a summer as Las Vegas, Nevada. I grow all of my 1st season potted plants under a shade cloth at 40% shade. However, 40% is too tight of a weave for someone who wants to grow globes. The plants I have in-ground for personal use receive morning and early afternoon sun (no shade cloth), and then partial sun to full shade during hottest part of the day.

Italian Varieties
My personal artichokes are: Italian Romanesco, Italian Violetto, Green Globe, and Imperial Star. All would be just right for you too. (If they do not show available in my online store, email me and I will put together a custom order for you.) I do have garden friends in Arizona (also very hot there) who keep their artichoke plants in full sun and no shade cloth.

Soil and Mulch
Soil and mulch makes a huge difference when growing artichoke plants in hot climate zones. The best soil is a mix of 1 part Miracle Grow potting soil, 1 part decomposed granite, and 1 part bagged steer manure (cured, comes bagged at Lowe’s and Home Depot). The best mulch is either water hyacinth or water lettuce from a pond. The roots soak up the fish excrement and provide valuable nitrogen to the soil. It has the same properties as the dried fish emulsion sold at hydroponics stores. Dried leaves and grass clippings are also helpful, but never apply coffee grounds into a mulch pile.

Artichoke Growing Mistakes
1. The mistake many growers make is trimming off dead or wilted leaves when the artichoke plant is mature. It is vitally important to allow the bottom leaves to naturally lay down, because it shades the soil and protects the roots.

2. Too much water produces small globes and can actually drown the plant! Treat your artichoke like a tomato plant by stressing it just a little between watering. Water well once per week in the summer months and then light watering as needed.

3. Chemical fertilizers can burn and kill your young artichoke plant. Artichokes are big feeders, so use a different organic fertilizer each week; such as egg shells, fireplace ash (with no chemicals or plastics in the ash), cured steer manure, and diluted powdered milk.

4. Over crowding plants will also produce smaller globes. Healthy artichoke plants need five feet of space between plants to grow nice and big.

With all this in mind, you should be very successful growing an artichoke garden!

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Monday, December 26, 2011

How to Grow Mare's Tail

...The Pond Plant Girl's Home Page
Q: Hi! I am in South Florida, zone 9/10. Our pond levels increase and decrease with the rainy season. Would this plant be attached in soil or does it float? Would it live through a 2' pond level increase? And is this an ok time to start them here?

A: Mare's Tail can float, but similar to parrot feather it is not defined as a floating plant. It grows best potted, but will survive if it is submerged as you described. If allowed to float, Mare's Tail will lay flat floating on top of the water surface and then the tip will eventually rise up out of the water about 3". This is how I grew several plants last summer.

Although Mare's Tail is cold hardy zone 7 it will also grow in hotter zones, such as 9 and 10. In hot climate zones, it is good to start this plant in late fall and in the wintertime. Also, keep in mind that caterpillars love to munch on its leaves, so you will need to watch out for that!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

How to Make Artichoke Leaf Tea

Sweetheart Artichoke Home Page

Artichoke Leaf Tea is easy to prepare when the leaves are freshly cut. Place fresh leaves in boiling water for 5-15 minutes. Let it cool down and drink the water. The taste is very bitter, but can be sweetened with honey. Some of my garden friends use artichoke leaf tea to help with urination, kidney, and liver health. However, it is best to consult a physician before starting medicinal herbal treatment.

According to, the benefits of drinking artichoke tea are:

Lowering Cholesterol
Relief of Digestive Discomfort
Lowering Blood Sugar

If you are interested in purchasing artichoke leaves for tea, please contact me at

Garden Blessings! GAiL

How to Grow Artichokes in Hot Climates

Sweetheart Artichoke Co

In hot climates zone 9 and up and the summer heat rises to 115-120 degrees, it is good to plant where the artichokes receive morning sun in the summertime. If you do not have an area such as this, then hanging a shade cloth over your artichokes is a wise choice when the weather is hot. I am located in California zone 9 with summmer heat reaching 105-110 degrees. Artichokes grow well here in full sun. However, it is best to plant in the fall or in the early spring so the plants become well established before the summer heat sets in.

Shade Cloth

I suggest a shade cloth with 30% shade and recommend The Shade Cloth Store. This is where I purchase my shade cloth. This type is not available at hardware stores or garden centers. I personally use 40% shade for my young potted plants, but 30% is better for actually growing in-ground and producing the globes. This company will custom make your shade cloth, and it is very affordable. Be sure to ask for a shade cloth that is hemmed with grommets. Also, be sure to mulch under your artichoke plants so that the ground retains its moisture. As your plants grow larger, do not remove any leaves that lay down on the ground. This is the plant’s way of self-mulching.

Frost Protection
In the wintertime, it is important to protect your artichokes from frost and freeze. If you are in hot climate zone 9 and up, you may keep your established artichoke in-ground with little or no protection. More winter care can be found at:

My Artichoke Blog

Sweetheart Artichoke Care

You may also search my blog for more info by entering the word "artichoke" in the search bar.

If you have any questions, please email me at

Garden Blessings! GAiL

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Grow Water Lettuce in Winter

The Pond Plant Girl Home Page

Water lettuce requires plenty of sunshine...
But in the wintertime, water lettuce has special needs. I presently keep my water lettuce and my water hyacinth in shallow plastic containers inside a greenhouse protected from frost and freeze.

Growing Water Lettuce Indoors
In cold winter conditions water lettuce can be wintered over indoors in a sunny window. However, it needs warmth and humidity. This can be accomplished with a Water Garden Light Box
; such as the one pictured here. This light box was simply made with an aquarium located in a sunny window covered with clear plastic wrap (to keep in the humidity) and with mirrors inserted inside the aquarium to reflect the light. (The mirrors were scrap mirrors I obtained for free from a glass and mirror company.) The mirrors were inserted on the bottom and on the left and right sides of the fish tank. I tried growing water lettuce the following year without mirrors, and the plants did not survive.

Florescent Lighting
A florescent light must be placed on top of the aquarium to create heat and humidity. A grow light can be used to replace the florescent bulb and can be purchased online or at any hydroponics store. .

Growing Water Lettuce Outdoors
In the wintertime, if water lettuce is grown outdoors in a pond, it needs to be protected from freezing temperatures and covered with plastic or a Hoop House. However, it will also need a fan to circulate the air to prevent mold and mildew.

Here are some helpful links about growing water lettuce:
How to Grow Water Lettuce

Build a Water Garden Light Box

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Stake Up and Care for New Artichoke Plants

Sweetheart Artichoke Co.

Artichoke Plants in Shock

When you first receive your artichoke plants in the mail, they will be in shock. The same is true for plants that are separated from a mother plant. The leaves may respond by wilting for 7 to 10 days.

Whether you plant in-ground or in a pot, your artichoke plant will probably need to be staked up for about 1 week.

Binding Your Artichoke Plant
Binding or Staking up your artichoke will take the stress off of the plant while it recovers from being shipped, and it is easy to do. Insert a thin stick into the ground next to your plant. Then, gently wrap wide material around the stalks and leaves.

Binding Materials
1. I find that a plastic grocery bag works well. Make sure the binding is not too tight so the leaves can breath. 2. Another method is using old pantyhose. The material allows air to flow through and also attracts ions that help the plant grow.

Good Potting Soil
My artichokes are love this mix.

1/3 part Miracle Grow Potting Soil
1/3 part Decomposed Granite
1/3 part Bagged Steer Manure Blend

Where to purchase the mix: The decomposed granite (or DG) and top soil can be purchased at a sand and gravel yard. Most locations will deliver right to your home or business. Miracle Grow and steer manure blend can be purchased at any garden center such as Lowe's or Home Depot. This blend will retain moisture better than just plain potting soil and your artichokes will love you for it too!

Watering Your Artichoke Plant
In cool weather, water once daily while your plant is getting established. In hot weather, water 2 times per day. However, artichoke plants needs good drainage. Too much water or standing water will actually drown your artichoke plant and cause root rot. The amount of water depends on the weather. If it is not raining, then apply about 1 inch of surface water. This amounts to about to about 4 cups to 1 quart of water.

What to Do When All the Leaves Die?
There are times when artichokes will temporarily go dormant after shipping. This is what they do for survival. It is shocking at first, but do not fear! As long as the artichoke roots do not rot, your plant will live. Trim back all the drooping leaves as in the picture. This plant actually grew much larger than it was before and was sold to a garden friend... which is thriving today.

Where to Find More Information
Search for more artichoke growing information on my blog or go to my website for Artichoke Care. If you have any questions or comments please post them here or email me at


Thursday, November 24, 2011

How to Winter Over Pond Plants

The Pond Plant Girl

When fall and winter rolls around, then it is time to start caring for the pond plants and their winter sleep.

In mild climates such as zone 8 and up, little care is needed for plants such as grasses, reeds, rush, and hardy water lily.

In warm zones 9 and up, no care is needed for water lily, tropical or hardy. The plants that need specific attention for most regions are floating pond plants: such as water hyacinth, water lettuce, and frogbit. Many water gardeners choose to buy these plants each year instead of wintering over, but wintering over can be easily accomplished with little effort by protecting plants from mildew, frost, and freeze, or by using a
Garden Light Box

In zones 8 and below, a
Garden Light Box is an easy way to winter over floating plants indoors. All you need is a fish aquarium, mirrors (that can be purchase cheap at a glass store) and a sunny window. The key to the plants surviving is keeping the humidity up with a plastic wrap cover, warmth, and sunshine reflected with the mirrors. It also looks really cool!

A Greenhouse is a Wise Investment
This year, I invested in a small walk-in green house with plastic windows for my tropical and floating plants. (See pic above.) It will be heated with simple seedling heat mats. However, greenhouses in sub-zero climates need thick double pane glass and possibly a kerosene heater. I recommend purchasing your greenhouse from either
Harbor Freight Tools (where I purchased mine) or Menard's Hardware. Also check out geenhouse designs at

Email your questions to: and I will be happy to help you with your ponding needs!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Artichoke Planting Information

....Sweetheart Artichoke Co

Q: I ordered 6" plants. When I go to plant my artichokes in the ground, how large of a hole should I make? Also, when you say "sunny location", would all day sun [like 12 hrs full sun, no shade] be ok in zone 9b FL? Or should I put them somewhere with a little bit more protection? Thank you for you time! Fawn

A: Hi Fawn – Good question. I think I actually sent 10” plants because everything grew so fast over the last month. The plants I sent are Imperial Star; which adapt well to both hot and cold climates. Here are a few thoughts for you…

Fall Planting
Planting in the fall time is perfect, because the young plants really do not need any shelter from the sun. We have a local farmer by me (zone 9 as well) who keeps his green globe artichoke field in full sun all day long. In my personal garden, my artichokes have about 8 hours sun in the summertime. So to answer your question, 8-12 hours of sun of full sun is perfect.

Young 1st Season Plants
Because the plants are young I would cover them with a plastic tarp or a sheet during the night when there is a threat of frost. More important than sun, is mulching. When artichokes grow large (4-6 feet tall) their lower leaves naturally lay down. This is the plant’s way of protecting the roots below from the heat of the summer sun.

Hole Size
Digging a hole about 12” deep is just fine. Remember to fill it in with some good potting soil or to follow my soil recipe. If the ground is hard or clay base, then you will need to till the soil about 2 feet deep to promote healthy root growth.

Simple mulching is important in the summer for hot climates, because it keeps the ground hydrated. It is important for cold to protect the ground from freezing in the wintertime. Simple mulching can be done by piling up grass clippings and leaves at the base of the artichoke plants. The best mulching plants are water hyacinth and water lettuce. These are pond plants that absorb fish nutrients from the water and add nitrogen to the soil.

When Artichoke Plants Die Back
It is normal for artichokes plants to die back in the wintertime. I have one garden friend who actually mows his plants down when the growing season is over. Then his plants come back up again in the springtime bigger and fatter. This year, my 3rd season plants (both potted and planted in-ground) died back mid season and then came back up again. This is normal. The plants in the farmer’s field also died back mid season. They grew back and are now about 3 feet tall in mid November.

Garden Blessings, GAiL

Note: More artichoke growing tips can be found by entering artichoke in the search bar in the upper right hand corner of my blog. Thanks for looking!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Winterize Your Artichoke Plants

Sweetheart Artichokes

Growing Zones 9 and Up
In hot or warm climates zone 9 and up, no winter care is needed for artichoke plants. Young 1st season plants can be kept year-round by placing a clear plastic tarp over at night to protect at night. The plant may go dormant, but will come up again bigger and fuller when the weather warms each spring.

Winter Care Zones 8 and Below
Artichokes go dormant in all growing zones during the winter and then come up again in the springtime. In growing zones 8 and cooler where there is snow fall and hard freeze, there are 2 recommended ways to plant and care for artichokes:

How the Italians Do It
In Italy, artichoke gardeners pull up their roots each year and bag them for winter storeage until there is no longer a threat of frost and freeze. By planting your artichoke in a garden box full of light and fluffy potting soil, it will make it easier to bag your artichoke plant after it has gone dormant for the season.

Straw and Poo
Before the heavy frost and after your artichoke goes dormant for the season…

........Lay a heavy layer of straw or mulch over the plant; about 12”, the thicker the better
........Cover the straw with a black tarp or black trash bags
........Add another layer of straw (about 12”)
........And then add a layer of raw steer or chicken manure
........Cover with a black plastic tarp and secure down to prevent it from blowing away.
........You will end up with a pile about 2 feet thick that will keep your artichoke warm throughout a cold winter season.

This is how my garden friends in Denver, Colorado winter-over their artichoke plants and they come back each year. The raw manure generates active bacteria that prevents the ground from freezing, and the thick layers keep the steamy pile from burning the artichoke plant below.

Garden Blessings! GAiL

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is it too late for artichoke globes?

....Sweetheart Artichoke Co

Q:.. Hi Gail - I was wondering if the plants I got in June will produce this year? I need to figure out where to put additional plants once I see how big the green globes I have will get. Thanks.... Mary

A:.. Hi Mary – They probably will not produce, because the days are shorter and colder now, but when the plants are mature they will grow to about 5’ tall and 5’ wide. If you DO NOT over-water, then you should receive nice size globes – about softball size.

Artichokes are big feeders.
In the spring, remember to fertilize once per week, but alternate between methods.

Week 1: Water in a cup or two of bagged steer manure.

Week 2: Water with diluted powdered milk.

Week 3: Sprinkle fireplace ash and water in (wood ash only).

Week 4: Add a mild 13-13-13 fertilizer (for mature plants only). Some people are picky about adding chemical fertilizers and want to grow all organic. If that is the case then… Week 4: Add fish water from an aquarium.

You can also find me at:
The Pond Plant Girl

And on
Facebook too!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Make a Greenhouse Over a Water Troth

Q: Hello Mrs. Gail, I came across your DIY greenhouse for $25 online. I figured I'd ask your advice since you seem pretty crafty in the gardening arena. I have a an 8' x 3' water trough. As my research on this goes, I have not seen any greenhouse water troughs. I've seen plenty of trough planters. Is it practical to even convert a trough into a greenhouse?

Thank You for Your Time, Jason

A: Hi Jason – You can convert your troth into a greenhouse area. If you are growing soil based plants (such as vegetables and flowers) you must have good drainage. If the troth is for a pond, then you must have a pond liner. Pond plants and soil plants can grow in a porcelain troth, but cannot grow in a metal troth because metal is toxic to plants. A greenhouse is easy to make over the troth. I would simply pound in some stakes or rebar into the ground. Bend PVC pipe over the troth and slide the ends over the stakes. Then use Visqueen plastic to cover. It can be attached by punching small holes in the plastic and using zip ties to attach the plastic to the PVC. Visqueen is better than thick plastic drop cloth because it sturdier and is clear. It is fairly affordable and can be found at If you are in an area that receives snow, then reinforcement will be needed; such as chicken wire over the PVC and under the plastic. Hanging large C7 or C9 Christmas tree lights also helps to keep it warm inside your little greenhouse. Remember that all greenhouses need some sort of air circulation, such as a fan. Because, when the air is stagnant the plants will suffer from mildew and die.



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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Signs of Our Times

I wrote this song and video and thought you would enjoy it. I was overwhelmed with the thousands upon thousands of people and their amazing creativity. Thank you to all of my wonderful garden friends. I welcome your comments. Keep on being you! GAiL

Please share with a friend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to Grow Water Lettuce

The Pond Plant Girl

Growing Water Lettuce
There are 2 types of water lettuce, Ruffled and Jurassic (also called the Amazon and the African). The Jurassic grow very large (as in the picture) and the ruffled is a smaller water lettuce with ruffled edges.

Water Depth and Quality: Water lettuce grows best in shallow non-moving water that is 1-2 feet deep. Although they are a free floating pond plant, they grow nice and large when their roots can reach down to the soil below and feed on the nutrients in the soil. The water pH should be 6 or 7.

Plant Maintenance: Caring for water lettuce in the warm spring through fall seasons is fairly easy. Cut back any decaying leaves. If you end up with a bounty of water lettuce, DO NOT toss it in a public waterway. There is a HUGE fine for plants dumped into public lakes, rivers, creeks, and streams. Water lettuce is a natural mulch. Instead, simply toss the extra plants in either a mulch pile or pile up under fruit trees. Your plants will LOVE you for it because the water lettuce contains fish emulsion that was absorbed while in the pond.

Hot and Cold Seasons

Summer Sun:
Water lettuce normally thrives in any climate during the summertime. However, in very hot and desert climates the intense heat of the sun can fry the plants. I am located in zone 9 where it gets up to 115 degrees. The water lettuce that grew the best were the ones that received morning to noon sun.

Wintry Conditions: Frost is a killer. When water lettuce freezes it does not recover. When there is a threat of frost or freeze, water lettuce should be covered or brought indoors. However, remember that they do need sunshine during the day.

Water Lettuce Enemies

Mildew: It is wise to cover your pond to protect the water and plants from freezing. However, covering your pond will also promote mold and mildew growth on your water lettuce plants. This is also a killer and your water lettuce will simply rot away. If you plan to winter over your water lettuce. An indoor water garden lightbox is a good choice, or install a fan to circulate the air and keep the mildew away.

Aphids: It is also wise to "water" your pond plants each day, even though they grow in water. Bugs such as aphids will attach to your plants. By watering down your water garden each day, this will wash the bugs away and give the fish a little treat too.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Artichokes You Can Grow

Sweetheart Artichokes - Buy Live Artichoke Plants

Artichoke plants can be grown in nearly any climate. They are not just for coastal locations. In cold snowy climates, it just takes a little planning ahead of time.

Artichoke Myth 1: It is a myth that artichokes only grow globes during the second season. Planted early and given good care, artichoke plants will produce the very first season! You will receive about 6-10 artichokes the first year, but the most tasty and tender artichokes grow after the second season.

Artichoke Myth 2: It is a myth that artichokes can only grow in coastal locations. They can be grown anywhere! In Italy, the roots are dug up each year and then planted again in the spring.

Artichoke Myth 3: There is only one type of artichoke plant. NOT TRUE! There are many types of artichoke plants just like there are many varieties of apples and oranges.

Cold Climates: Artichokes can even be grown in Denver, Colorado! I have a friend who lays down a heavy layer of mulch about 2 feet deep after the plant goes dormant. Cover with black plastic and secure down for the long cold days. Adding raw manure on top will create active bacteria that will help keep the ground nice and snug, and warm.

Mild Climates: In mild climates, little care is needed in summer and winter.

Hot Climates: In hot and dry climates, a shade cloth may be needed over the plants to protect them from the scorching sun. I am in zone 9; which can reach 120 degrees in the sun during the summer, and my mature 2nd season artichokes do not need shade.

Red Romanesco: Grows red globes the first year and then reddish green globes the following years. Large round globes with a mild flavor that are not bitter like the common green globe. This one is actually my favorite.

Purple Violetto: Purple narrow globes the first year and then green/purple globes the following years. This is a sweeter globe with a sugary kick.

Green Globe: This is the common green globe found in the store. Nice round globes that produces well after the 2nd season.

Imperial Star: The Imperial Star is known as being cold and hot climate hardy. It is also known for producing 1st season and for being a big producers. The plant is very thorny, but the globes have less thorns. Medium size globes that are narrow shaped instead of round.

Mother Globe: This is a variety from my personal garden. (I believe it is a romanesco.) The mother plant is VERY hardy and a great producer. I am now growing babies for my garden friends. These should also be ready in November 2011.

Emerald Globe: This is a variety of the green globe and is very similar.

Canada Star: Similar to the violetto and is grown in Canada. Also known as the Violet Star. Difficult to grow in hot climates.

Learn more about growing artichoke plants! And buy mature 1st and 2nd season artichoke plants.

How to Naturally Control Pond Algae

You Can Control Pond Algae The Pond Plant Girl

Q: We have a ¼ acre pond (approx 5-6 ft deep in the center). After the heavy rains we had about a month ago, our pond filled up to the top, but we had complete coverage of green algae on the surface. 2 weeks ago we burned a bunch of tree limbs right on the edge of the pond bank and the rains from last weekend flowed through those ashes into the pond. We didn’t see any algae after that… does the ash have an effect on the algae or will it just return? How much should we add? Will it harm catfish or other fish? I want to get rid of the algae, but would prefer to do it naturally, safely and inexpensively as we want to restock the pond with fish. Can you provide tips, thoughts and ideas for us?

Wood Ash: Wood ash is heavy in potassium, and normally increases algae growth, however nitrogen and phosphorus are usually more limiting factors for algae growth. A couple of ways that potassium could control algae growth are: 1) An overdose of potassium could temporarily poison the algae, although in the long run it would should make the problem worse; 2) Potassium is used by some aquatic plants to promote growth. The idea is for the other plants to out-compete algae. If there are other aquatic plants in the pond, particularly submerged plants, this might explain the algae control.

Fertilizers: If fertilizer get’s into the pond from rain runoff or if there are heavily fertilized plants in the pond, this can also increase algae growth. Water draining into the pond from a nutrient source (such as a cow pasture, fertilized crops, or lawn) can also be the cause.

Algae Season: Fall and Winter is the time of year when algae growth declines due to cooler temperature and daylight.

Pond Sediment: Large amounts of accumulated organic sediment on the pond bottom can promote algae growth.

Location: It is difficult to know what is primarily responsible for algae growth in large ponds. Different parts of the country have different algae issues. Examining the water source for the pond is a good start. In parts of Iowa and Kansas, well water often contains so many nutrients that it will kill fish unless treated. Heavy levels of metals in the water will also kill plants.

There are several natural (ecologically friendly) means of controlling algae, but they are not cost-free, and this is especially true for larger ponds:

Using a plant bog filter is best, but this requires a bog area about 10% the size of the pond with the appropriate plants and gravel, and recirculating water from the main pond through the plant filter at least twice daily for large ponds (more often for smaller ponds).

Planting water lilies in the pond, with a 50 to 70 percent surface coverage, will help shade the pond. This lowers the water temperature as well as blocking some light, and helps control algae. It will not be complete control, and is best used in combination with one of the other methods, but it will help a lot, and help the other methods be even more successful. They would want to pick out large growing cultivars that still bloom well (the blooms are just for pleasure, not algae control).

Adding submerged aquatic plants, such as anacharis or hornwort, will help outcompete the algae for light and nutrients. However, anacharis and hornwort will take over a pond and can become a menace. Dwarf Sagittaria is another good choice. It will grow like a short grass on the bottom of the pond, rooting into the soil or gravel, and will not get very tall. It will absorb nutrients and will compete with the algae. Unless a lot are purchased, it will be several years before they will have a significant effect in a pond that size. I recommend planting them at least a few months before koi are introduced. Koi will dig them all up and eat them if they are not well established. If established, they will still be a part of the koi’s diet (which is very nutritious for the koi), but the plants should grow faster than they are consumed.

Many people have had good results with a bacterial product such as Ecological Labs P/L. It comes in a gallon quantity and needs to be put in weekly until the algae is under control; then monthly for maintenance.

Barley straw has been used effectively, although the degree of control is probably less than using MicrobeLift P/L.

Using a color dye is very effective. Color dyes are plant based and safe for animals and people. The colors used are blue or black. Many people prefer blue, because it is the color they think of around water (tropical beaches, swimming pools, etc), but black is actually a much more natural color for freshwater ponds. Black blocks light more, and does not break down as fast. Mud bottom ponds absorb the dyes faster than liner bottom ponds, but in a deeper pond, dyes will last long enough to make a difference. Large ponds need dye on a monthly basis. The black color probably won’t be noticeable unless you are swimming in it. Fish will still be visible when they come up to the surface (it would take a lot of black dye to make fish invisible at the surface). If you have waterlilies, an advantage of the black dye is that it creates a highly reflective water surface, which is great for viewing or photographing water lilies. (Denver Botanic Gardens and Longwood Gardens, among other botanic gardens, use black dyes in their ponds). We sell the blue or black dye as a liquid in various sizes, although only the gallon would be cost-effective. We are also going to be importing the black dye from China as a powder, which is by far the most cost-effective way to use it in a large pond. We use the black powder in our own production ponds for algae control, as well as control of submerged aquatic weeds.

While it is not quite as eco-friendly as the other methods mentioned, using copper for algae control is fairly nontoxic except for invertebrates and amphibians. While simple copper is more toxic and goes out of solution quickly, chelated copper releases slowly, and much less of it is used, making it the best copper treatment (especially for trout, which are more copper sensitive than most fish). We sell a double chelated copper (F-30 algae Control, by Diversified Waterscapes), which is better than single chelated copper, because double chelated works well in both low and high pH water conditions.

There are also several granular peroxide-based treatments, which I consider to be natural in how they approach algae control. We carry ones by BioSafe, Ecological Labs, and Winston. While there are large sizes of these used for large ponds, I do not consider them to be as cost effective as other methods for large ponds, and they are a short term solution, as the nutrients from the dead algae stay in the pond and will probably eventually be used to grow a new “crop” of algae.

Reference: Oregon Aquatics

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How to Winter Over Tropical Water Lily

Where do I begin?
For several years, I avoided growing water lily, because I was afraid of winter care, potting, and dividing. But the past couple years I took the dive and found that it was not as intimidating as I first thought. Hardy water lilies need little winter care and are a good lily to grow and learn about lily growing. Tropicals need a little more attention, but they are well worth it! All lilies go dormant in wintertime, but first you must have the right size lily pot. Below are different methods that work out well...

Getting Started

Pot Size:
To maximize size and bloom, tropical water lilies should be planted into large pots at least 12” in diameter or larger.

Do not fertilize!
Water lilies should not be fertilized at the end of the growing season. August 1st for cold regions and September 1st for mild to warm regions is a good target date to end fertilizing. This will promote dormancy and form a hard over-wintering tuber. A good rule of thumb is to restrict fertilizing two months before frosts begin. This will allow the lily to use up available fertilizer and prepare for dormancy. After the plant has died back and gone dormant, it will produce a smaller, hard tuber (or rhizome) different and separate from its normal root structure. This tuber is hard and dense enough that it is not easily crushed between thumb and forefinger, almost like a nut.

Note: Begin heavy fertilizing again after warm weather arrives and the plant is growing vigorously. Keep in mind that tropical water lilies need 2 to 4 times more fertilizer than hardy lilies.

Method 1

Store after first 2 frosts:
It is good for the lilies to go through 1 or 2 frosts. The cool weather helps force dormancy. After the first or second frost remove the plants from the pond. Put the pots in a cool but protected place such as the garage and let the pots dry out somewhat until the soil is barely moist. Wrap each pot in a garbage bag and close the top of the bag so that they will not dry out much more. Do not close the top tightly; this way the plant will be able to breathe just a little. Sealing up the bag tight will also promote mold and mildew which will damage or even kill your lily plant.

Room Temperature:
Place the lilies in the house, garage, or basement with a consistent cool temperature of 55-60 degrees. For vivacious tropical water lilies that produce new plants from their leaves (such as Charles Thomas), the room temperature should be 60-65 degrees. When spring comes, take the plants out of storage. Place them back in the pond when water temperatures reach 65 degrees or more. They may also be forced in heated water in direct sunlight or with plant lights; low wattage submersible aquarium heaters work great for this in an aquarium or whiskey barrel size liner keep the heater off the plastic!).

Method 2

After first 2 frosts:
Take each tuber out of the pot and gently clean it off (spraying off with normal water pressure, but do not scrub). Trim off mature roots and leaves. Tiny budding leaves can remain if present. Place each tuber in a sealed sandwich bag or glass jar (with or without a little fungicide) and cover it with water.

Room Temperature:
Place in the house, garage or basement with a consistent cool temperature of 55-60 degrees for regular tropical lilies and 60-65 degrees for vivacious tropical lilies. Tubers may also be placed in a glass jar without a lid and placed on a cool (but not cold) windowsill. In the spring, place each tuber into a 3"-4” starter pot with soil and ½ -1 tab of fertilizer; use 65+ degree water in direct sunlight or with plant lights. After the water lily fills out the starter pot, plant in a 1 gallon lily pot.

Method 3

After first 2 frosts:
Take each tuber out of the pot and gently clean it off (spraying off with normal water pressure, but do not scrub). Trim off any roots and leaves. Gently towel dry and pack each tuber in damp, almost dry sand (with or without a fungicide powder). The sand should be dried out to the moisture level of pipe tobacco. Store in a sandwich bag or glass jar.

Room Temperature:
Place in the house, garage or basement with a consistent cool temperature of 55-60 degrees for regular tropical lilies and 60-65 degrees for vivacious tropical lilies. Plants should be left in darkness for a few months to keep them dormant. In the spring, follow the above directions.

Reference: Oregon Aquatics

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Build a Winter / Summer Grow Table

Building a Winter / Summer grow table is easy. It can be covered with thick plastic sheeting in the winter and shade cloth during the summer months.

...... .... All you need is...
.... ......1. Plastic Shelving
........ ..2. 1/2" PVC Pipe
........ ..3. A cutter for the PVC Pipe
....... ...4. Zip Ties
....... ...5. Shade Cloth or Thick 4 or 6 mil Plastic Sheeting

The plastic shelves can be purchased at most hardware stores or even at Wal-Mart. They cost on average $14 depending on size.

Instead of stacking the unit as shown, the shelves can easily be used as tables. You will need solid surface to grow your plants. The purpose is to keep out air circulation that will dry out your potted plants. If your shelves have a mesh or grid surface, cover the table top with a black plastic trash bag.

If you are using more than one table, you will need to zip tie the table legs together before setting up with the PVC pipe. When the legs are not tied together, the PVC pipe will push the tables apart.

Insert the PVC pipe into the leg hole on the table and bend over to the other side. Insert into the other leg hole.

Cover with Nursery Shade Cloth that provides 30%-40% shade. This cannot be purchased at the hardware store. Shade cloth that is available at the hardware store is only 75% shade, which is too dark for growing plants. I purchase my shade cloth online at: They have very good prices and will build your shade cloth exactly to your specifications. I always purchase mine knitted, hemmed, and with grommets. The hem helps the shade cloth keep longer and the grommets make it easy to tie down the material.

Here is how my seedlings look inside the grow table in the heat of summer. Without this filtered light, my seedlings would fry! I also installed a mister that hangs from the PVC pipe above.

In the wintertime, lay down a plant heating mat and hang C-7 or C-9 Christmas tree lights for warmth. Cover the PVC and tables with 4 mil - 6 mil thick plastic sheeting. However, when the plastic is thicker, it allows in less light. Notice how you cannot see through this plastic. Plastic sheeting can be purchased a most hardware stores.

For cold climates, use 2 layers of clear plastic visqueen. This can be purchased online at Large bubble wrap is also recommended for greenhouse insulation. This is a picture of my friend, Brian, in Tahoe. His greenhouse is transparent and is made with visqueen. He also used LED Christmas tree lights instead of the large variety.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pond Potting Soil Loam and Containers

What do I use to plant
pond plants?
It's a toss up between using baskets or no-holes containers. Baskets are great, because they allow the water and fish nutrients to flow through and reach the roots. However, it can work so well that the roots will grow straight through the the basket mesh. I choose to plant with no holes containers, because it offers more control.

The best pond plant soil mix is not found in stores.

Mix together:
1 part Decomposed Granite
1 part Steer Manure Blend

Where to purchase the mix...

Decomposed Granite (or DG) can be purchased at a sand and gravel yard. Most locations will deliver right to your home or business. Heavy soil is necessary for root structure, growth, and for a clean pond. Light and fluffy potting soil will not work, because particles will float to the water surface.

If you do not have deomposed granite available, a good substitute is a heavy rocky soil... such as top soil mixed with small pea gravel or aquarium gravel. Heavy clay soil mixed with small gravel will also work. Plain clean kitty litter (not the type intended for oil spils and with no purfumes or fillers) mixes well with the soil and is a good substitute for pea gravel. The ingredients can be purchased at any large hardware garden nursery center.

Steer Manure Blend can be purchased at any garden center such as Lowe's or Home Depot. You can purchase prepackaged pond plant soil, but it is light weight and is the consistency of kitty litter. Light weight soil also spills easily and will not hold down plants such as water lily.

Which fertilizer is best?

Buy cheap pond plant fertilizer and you will achieve cheap results. I use a commercial grade 13-13-13. For the home I recommend Highland Rim or Laguna pond plant fertilizer. Fertilizer can be tricky. Too little and the plants will not bloom as much as desired. Too much and the plants will expel what they do not use into the water. The result will be algae that spreads across the pond within one week. However, there are algaecides that are safe for fish and plants and will counteract this problem. Water hyacinth will also help (but not cure) a severe algae attack.

How to add fertilizer:

1. Apply fertilizer apply at the bottom of the container
2. Add soil
3. Add the pond plant
4. Then and then the remaining soil

Fertilizer helpful tips: The best time to fertilize is in early spring; such as March or April. If you are using a container with holes, line the bottom of the container with newspaper to prevent soil and fertilizer from spilling out. By the time the paper decomposes, the fertilizer and soil will swell and remain in the container. Be sure the tender roots do not touch the fertilizer. Never add fertilizer straight in the water. This is a recipe for disaster and will create a huge green sludgy bog. Also, only use fertilizer designed for pond plants. Other fertilizers will not be as effective and are prone to harm both fish and plants.

Find out more about pond plants and where to buy big and healthy plants at

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How to Control Pond Algae

Q: Any hints on how to control algae in concrete pond? Shortly after I filled the pond, the algae started growing. I added plants and goldfish and my pump and filter are doing their job. Will the algae die down in the cool of winter? We don't get much of a freeze here in Smith River, other than a few nights in the middle of winter. I'm new to water gardening and could use some advice.

Smith River, CA

A: Algae is actually a sign of an overly healthy pond. It is common in 1st and 2nd season ponds. For a balanced pond, you will need both plants and fish. The summer heat will promote algae growth. When the weather cools, the algae will also cool down. Floating plants such as water hyacinth, water lettuce, and anacharis will help to control the algae. If you have a fountain or water fall, a barley bail will clear it right up. I use "Algae Destroyer" from the hardware store. It is a liquid that is safe for fish and plants and is very effective.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Artichoke Plants Coming Back to Life!

Oftentimes the Violetto will die back mid season and then produce new growth. I had a large Emerald and a large Violetto die back this year. It was due to transplanting shock. Notice the tiny artichoke globe and new sage leaf growing on the Violetto stump? Also see the new growth emerging from the Emerald. This is actually a sign of a healthy artichoke plant. Thick sage colored leaves are produced from mature second season plants and are stronger than first season plants that have green wide thin leaves.

See more about how to grow an artichoke plant at:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Water Hyacinth Varieties

Rosette Water Hyacinth is genus Eichhornia Crassipes (below left) and is permitted in more areas over the common Eichhornia Azurea (below right), anchored water hyacinth. Rosette water hyacinth is smaller and grows round bulbs instead of long and tall skinny bulbs as the common water hyacinth. It also lays lower to the water surface. However, the rosette produces the same lovely purple flowers as the common water hyacinth. Rosette water hyacinth is more widely accepted because it is not as hardy as its cousin, and therefore less of a threat to wildlife habitat areas. The nice thing about the rosette hyacinth that it does not topple over when large and mature like the common water hyacinth does. Below is a picture comparing a large mature crassipes (rosette) with the common large and mature azurea (anchored). Notice also the difference in root mass. .

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Growing Star Grass

Q: I have been dabbling with a small pond for awhile but definitely not too knowledgeable on plants. What kind of pot do I use to plant this in for the pond? Diana

. A: Star grass is a full sun, zone 7 pond plant and grows well in shallow water and out side the pond too. Any kind of pot will work well. I like to use ceramic or Terra Cotta pots in the pond, because it allows water to seep through the walls... but it all depends on what kind of look you are going for. If you want to keep it contained without the roots growing through the bottom, then a no-holes pot it needed. You can also plug the holes of a regular black nursery pot with a plastic bag at the bottom, then fill with sand, gravel, or loam etc.

Thanks! This was good food for thought. GAiL

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Grow Artichoke Plants Anywhere!

Q: I live in Savannah, GA and want to plant some globe artichokes but I don’t know much about them and can’t seem to find any clear info. I am very interested in buying your plant (it looks amazing!!!) BUT I have a couple of questions. Will they grow here? (I’ve read mixed reviews) If so, is now the time for me to plant? We are clear of frost and the temps are 60-70s. You’ve got great seller feedback so I’m hoping you can share some information with me and steer me in the right direction. Thanks!!!!!

A: The most hardy artichoke is the Imperial Star. I’ve got tons of information about growing on my website at: Information Includes growing instructions and pest control.

Artichokes are wonderful to grow for their fruit and for their flowers too. People are amazed that I can grow them in my town, because our summers can be very hot and humid… up to 120 degrees.

Shade Young Artichoke Plants: Young artichoke plants need to be shaded with a nursery shade cloth, but mature artichokes can be out in full sun.

Prep for Winter in the Spring and Summer: If you have hard cold winters it is probably best to winter over indoors. This can be accomplished by planting your artichoke plant in a garden box with light and fluffy potting soil… this makes it easier to pull up the artichoke roots after the plant goes dormant. Then you can keep it potted in the garage until the warm season returns.

- - - For more information about artichoke plants, contact Gail at

Friday, March 25, 2011

More About Water Hyacinth Care

Q: I'm new to water gardening and I need to know if the old growth dying off around the outer edge of the water hyacinth is normal? The new growth is coming in in the center. Also my little boy pulled the roots off of one. Will it grow new roots? Thanks for your time, Tom

A: Hey Tom - Any growth is good growth. Oftentimes water hyacinth will produce new plants and then eventually the old plant will die off. Also, if the hyacinth is too cold or does not receive enough sunshine, then the edges will turn yellow and brown. I had hyacinth that my dog munched on and ripped out the roots, and it did come back.

You can give the hyacinth a boost with a diluted Miracle Grow fertilizer bath for 30 minutes. But, you will need to wash off the plants afterward so you will not get excess fertilizer in the pond… which will promote algae. My best hyacinth grows in very shallow water and absorbs the nutrients from the pond soil and fertilizer tabs that I push into the soil. I believe this is the best way to promote growth.

If you end up with too many plants, place the extra plants in the mulch pile and under trees and bushes. Because it absorbs rich fish emulsion, nitrates, and minerals, your garden will thrive better than any fertilizer you can buy.


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