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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