Saturday, September 22, 2012

Getting Winter Ready

   The Pond Plant Girl

Get Ready in September
Whether you have a land garden or a water garden, September is the time to start preparing any garden for the upcoming winter. In many regions, winter does not fully set in until January or February. In other regions winter sets in as early as late September or early October. Although it may be warm during the day, night time temperatures can be a killer for valuable plants.

Tropical Plants
The first plants to begin with are the tropical plants. A garden friend in Ohio prepares his tropical banana plants by burying LED Christmas tree lights and cropping the plants down for the season. Then, he mulches over the pile to protect the ground from freezing. Tropical pond plants must be grown in a warm greenhouse or allowed to go dormant and placed in a black plastic garbage bag a[p nd put in cool storage safe from frost and freeze.

Greenhouse Growing
Last year I tried growing plants in my greenhouse and all my plants died. The ones kept outside and were allowed to go dormant came back in the springtime. So, greenhouse growing is a new animal to me and I am still learning. Raw Manure Heating Some growers lay down raw cow manure. Then build a raised bed to grow their winter crops. The manure keeps the vegetable bed warm for most of the season.

Hoop House Growing
Most of my ponds and vegetable gardens will be covered with hoop houses this year.  It is simply PVC pipe bent over and covered with durable plastic.  I’ve learned over the years that 6 mil plastic is superior over 4 mil plastic because it keeps in more heat. However, 6 mil plastic is not transparent. This year, I plan to use thick visqueen plastic from an online supplier. It is thick clear plastic sheeting that is used for insulating windows. In hard cold winter areas, I would suggest using 2 layers of visqueen with 1 inch bubble wrap insulation in between the sheets.

Greenhouse and Hoop house Circulation
When it comes to any type of greenhouse, air circulation is very important. This can be accomplished with a simple tabletop fan. Without air circulation, mold and mildew will develop on the plants; which will destroy your stock.

Fertilizing Plants
Winter is a time when the pond fish slow down and go somewhat dormant. This also means there is little fish excrement for growing pond plants. If you are keeping your water hyacinth and water lettuce plants through the winter, remember they will also need aquatic plant fertilizer at least one to two times per month.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Keeping Water Lettuce and Water Hyacinth Green

    Water Hyacinth

Keeping water hyacinth and water lettuce healthy and green can be a challenge, especially when they are grown in a new pond. Water Hyacinth and Water Lettuce need warm weather and will not survive if exposed to frost and freezing temperatures.The plants are a natural way of oxygenating and clarifying pond water.  They also help balance the pond ecosystem and reduce the chance of algae by providing shade and water coverage.  The plants free float on the surface with their roots dangling down into the water below.  The roots also provide an excellent environment for spawning fish. 

Water Hyacinth grows best in full sun, but can grow in partial sun to full shade.  Hyacinth grown in partial shade produce less flowers than hyacinth grown in full sun, and hyacinth grown in full shade rarely blooms at all.  It can grow indoors if kept in an aquarium with a glass top to keep in the humidity. Grown in shade, the plant will produce long skinny bulbs.  Grown in full sun or partial sun, hyacinth will produce round full bulbs. 

Water Hyacinth grows best in shallow water ponds 10"-2' deep. Do not place in an area with a fountain or moving water, as the water movement will push the plants to the edge of the pool and also damage the roots.  Water Hyacinth is safe for all animals and is often fed to cattle in South America.  Pond life such as Koi and turtles will eat water hyacinth and destroy the plants.

     Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce comes in several different varieties: Rosette Water Lettuce (as pictured), Ruffled Water Lettuce, and Jurassic Water Lettuce.

Jurassic Water Lettuce is the hardiest water lettuce of the three.  It will grow well indoors and outdoors; in full sun or full shade.  If grown indoors, it should also be kept in an aquarium with a glass top to keep in the humidity.  Grows well in both deep and shallow ponds.

Ruffled Water Lettuce grows well in partial sun in hot climates and in full sun in cool climates.  Grows best in shallow ponds 10"-2' deep.

Rosette Water Lettuce must have full sun.  If grown in full shade, it will become flat and yellow (as pictured on left).  Grows best in shallow water ponds 10"-2' deep. 

All water lettuce must be grown in a still body of water.  Do not place in an area with a fountain or moving water, as the water movement will push the plants to the edge of the pool and damage the roots. Water Lettuce is also safe for all animals. Pond life such as Koi and turtles will eat water lettuce and destroy the plants.

 Fertilizing Water Hyacinth and Water Lettuce

Browning and yellowing leaves often occur when water hyacinth and water lettuce lack nutrients to stay healthy and green.  Although there may be fish in the water, the ecosystem may not be balanced to support floating plant life.  I use 10-26-10 Highland Rim Fertilizer in my ponds to keep water hyacinth and water lettuce green and healthy.  For a 10' square area, crumble up 2 fertilzier tabs and scatter under the water below the plant roots.  Highland Rim is safe for all plant and animal life.  It may create green water, but will not promote string algae.
  .. ...
Another option for healthy green water lettuce and water hyacinth is MiracleGro flower fertilizer. The directions call for 1 tablespoon per 1 gallon of water.  For water plants, use 1 tablespoon per 2 gallons of water instead.  DO NOT ADD MiracleGro to your pond.  Instead, mix a batch in a separate container and give the water lettuce and water hyacinth a soak for about 20 minutes.  Remove the plants from the soak and rinse off the roots.  Place back into the pond. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to Pot Water Lily Plants

The Pond Plant Girl Store

Water Lily Planting Instructions
Water Lily is easier to grow than most may think. An important rule to remember before planting any aquatic plants is that large fish (such as koi) and turtles will destroy your plants and eat them down to a nub. Therefore, water lily and other pond plants must be protected from destructive pond life. Water depth may be 18 inches to 5 feet deep. The prime depth for water lily is 2 feet deep. For best flowers, full sunshine is a must.

Natural Earthen Ponds: If planting in a natural earthen pond straight into the ground under the water, pot your lily in a biodegradable container, such as a cow pot. See . The water level should never go below 18” deep. So, if planting in a natural earthen pond, be certain to plant at a level where the water will still be deep in the summertime. Pot your lily and simply drop it into the water. Even if the water is 5 feet deep, the lily will continue to grow until it reaches the water surface.

Container Ponds and Water Gardens
Pot your water lily in a 1 or 2 gallon no-holes container. Place aquatic fertilizer at the bottom of the container and fill container with loam. The crown of the lily may be slightly exposed. Tropical Water Lily must be planted at the edge of the pot with the growing tip pointing toward the center of the pot. A slight 45° is recommended (slight angle) but is not an exact science. So, do not worry about exact measurements. Hardy lily may be planted at the center of the pot. If you are not sure if you have tropical or hardy, a good rule is to plant your lily tuber at the edge of the pot like a tropical water lily.

Over Wintering Tropical Water LilyIf you are in a cold region where your pond freezes solid, it is best to over winter your tropical water lily indoors. Here is a link from my water garden expert and friend that will help you succeed:

Potting LoamA perfect recipe for potting loam is 1 part decomposed granite (DG) and 1 part bagged steer manure. Keep in mind that water lily are big feeders. However, too much fertilizer or too much steer manure and the lily plant will expel the unneeded nutrients in the water; which may cause added algae growth. DG can be purchased at any sand and gravel yard. I do not recommend purchasing bagged aquatic plant medium. It is far too expensive and is also too light weight and will make a mess. If you do not have access to DG, I am happy to ship it to you at cost in a flat rate mailer.

Growing Large Lilies
To produce large lily plants and large flowers you must have a pond that is at least 3 feet deep. Use a dark colored 20 gallon Rubbermaid tub (such as black or dark blue). Place a generous amount of fertilizer at the bottom of the container. Fill with potting loam and carefully sink down inside the pond. The pot will be very heavy. So, you will need 2 or 3 people to help sink a large potted lily.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Grow Water Herbs

The Pond Plant

All the water herbs grow well in partial sun and prefers still shallow water (about 10"-12") over deep or moving water. In hot dessert-like growing zones (such as zone 9-10) it is important to hang a "woven" shade cloth over the pond during the hot summer months. I am located in zone 9 and use 40% shade material. This grade cannot be purchased at the local garden center, but is very affordable at

All herbs can be potted in either a 1 gallon black plastic container or a ceramic terra cotta container. The best planting medium is loam; which can be made with equal parts decomposed granite (DG) and bagged steer manure. If you do not have this available, then plain clean kitty litter (with no fillers or perfumes, not litter used for oil spills) will also work well. If you have access to heavy clay soil, this is also a good choice. I do not recommend purchasing potting loam from the garden center. It is far too light weight and messy too. To prevent the soil medium from spilling out the bottom of the pots, place news paper at the bottom of the pots. It will eventually decompose, but will stay intact long enough for the soil to swell.

Only use fertilizer that is manufactured for aquatic plants. I have some excellent fertilizer in my eBay store, including fertilizer stakes that is temperature activated and lasts for 1 full year. This is far better than using fertilizer pellets or tabs, which must be applied monthly.

Water Mint grows pretty purple puff flowers and comes back each year. Use for cooking or in tea. Eliminates the pungent pond smell from decaying leaves. Helps to keep away harmful pests such as snails and slugs.

Variegated Water Celery is very hardy and comes back each year. It is also eatable and can be part of your dinner salad. Its attractive pink and green leaves rise about 4-5 inches above the water. Comes back each year. Cold Weather Pond Plant - Zone 8 and up. Plant in 5"-12" of water or in-ground as border plant. May be potted or allowed to spread as low landscaping

Pennywort is known for its medicinal properties and helping with some types of arthritis pain. The young leaves are the best and taste good alone or in a salad. Comes back each year. Very easy to grow, it can free float or be potted in river sand. Will grow and cover your pond. Makes a natural spawning environment for fish. Zone 6 and up.

Water Cress is an edible, broad leaved pond plant. Grows by spreading its roots freely from runners. Small white flowers in spring. Prefers moving water and partial shade. Excellent for use in plant filters. Comes back each year. Cold Hardy Pond Plant. Grows 1' tall. Zone 4 and Up.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Aphid Pest Control

Q: I'm a little worried about my artichoke plants as they were attacked by aphids. Can you give me any suggestions for my artichokes so I don't have a bad harvest this year?

A: There are many causes for aphids; such as ant population and thick plant growth. Aphids cluster under the artichoke leaves starting at the tip and often burrow into the cracks of the artichoke stems.

Fertilizing and Weather
Over fertilization in slow growth months also attract aphids. Aphids are often worse in the cool months and less severe in the summer months. Ants protect aphids from their natural enemies. So if you have a large population of aphids there is most likely a nest of ants close by. Trim back leaves that are severely infected and discard into a sealed plastic bag. Although they can cause leaf cure, aphids rarely kill plants and can simply be washed off with water. However, from my experience – washed aphids simply jump right back on valued plants. When there is a large number of aphids, they can be eliminated with insecticide soap. There are affordable organic insecticides available at any hardware nursery garden center.

Treat with Lady Bugs
The aphids’ natural enemies are lacewings, soldier beetles, mini-wasps, and ladybugs. Ladybugs EAT and devour aphids and can be purchased online and at Osh Hardware Store. They are very effective. When you receive your lady bugs, place them in a cool dark place – such as the refrigerator. Scatter 1/3rd around your artichoke plant. Repeat for the following three nights.

UC IPM (2011). How to Manage Pests. Pests in Gardens and Landscapes. Aphids. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Retrieved January 22, 2012 from

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to Grow Patio Artichokes

Sweetheart Artichoke Co

Growing Artichokes in Small Spaces: This is an artichoke that I recently potted. By the end of the summer it should grow to about 4 feet tall. Artichoke plants can be grown in large containers on a patio or deck. In severe hot climates, a shade cloth with 30% or 40% shade may be necessary. In severe cold climates, the container can be placed in a shed for winter storeage.

The key to successful container growing is good drainage. This begins with a simple drainage rack below the container. I made mine with wood stakes. Bricks also work well.

The bigger the container the better. A large tree container or a 20 gallon Rubbermaid tub will also work.

To prevent the soil from coming out and bugs from creeping in, place a layer of weed block cloth at the bottom of the tub. This can be purchased at any nursery supply store or hardware garden nursery.

Plant your artichoke with a rich mix of potting soil, bagged (cured) steer manure, and decomposed granite (or river sand). It is best to use fresh soil every year to produce the best artichoke crop.

Remember that potted artichokes need full sun and light watering. However, potted artichokes need more water than ones potted in-ground because they dry out much faster. A weekly deep watering may be necessary in the summer months.

Artichokes are big feeders. Fertilize weekly with organic solutions during the growing season from spring until late summer. Rotate the types of fertilizer used, such as: diluted powdered milk, crushed egg shells, aquarium water, and cured steer manure.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grow Small Artichoke Varieties

Sweetheart Artichoke Co

Q: Do you sell artichoke plants that yield small globes?
I live in Napa, CA.

A: The artichokes I produce grow to about 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Globe size depends on sunshine and water. Too much water and little sunshine will produce smaller globes.

Store-Bought Artichokes
The artichokes found in the store are very large, because they are commercially grown with chemicals. Home grown organic artichokes will grow to about the size of a man’s fist. The Imperial Star is a smaller and narrower variety than the green globe. It is also known for being more hardy, producing the first year, and yielding a larger crop.

Artichoke Plants with Smaller Globes

Italian Purple Violetto: If allowed to grow large, the globes are not desirable for eating. Picked small this variety is very sweet. Narrow or oval variety. Grows dark purple the first year and then burgundy-green the following years.

Violet de Provence: Medium size with rich purple globes. This is a traditional Italian globe.

Violetta di Chioggia: An ancient Italian variety. Small purple globes. Often grown as a decorative plant and consumed for its leaves as medicinal tea.

Imperial Star: A hardy hybrid of the green globe. Produces more thorns on the leaves and less thorns on the globes. Smaller globe size than the traditional green globe. Known for yielding first year. Available now.

How to Grow Artichoke Plants

Enter "Artichokes" in the search bar at the top of this blog for more growing info.

BUY and Grow Artichoke Plants in All Climates
Sweetheart Artichoke Co is the site to see for buying artichokes and learning how to grow at home in any climate!

Find me on Facebook!