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