Archive for December, 2008

Winter: early, cold, and nationwide

December 26, 2008

Tomorrow will be the first warm day here in Ohio since October.  I get to write this post a second time because I somehow refreshed my page and erased thirty minutes worth of work.  I provided some winter and Christmas images, as it’s just too cold and snowy to  put up green images.

I will rewrite most of what I wanted to talk about today,  including how this winter and the current rocky econmic conditions will affect the home and garden industry as a whole, or at least my predictions for 2009. You may or may not care about this as it is not a common topic to discuss how enviromental and economic conditions affect plants.  However the economy will most certainly affect what you find IN garden centers each spring. 

 Last year I was asked how I thought the 2008 season would go as at the time we felt we were going into an economic downturn.

When you see economic reports in the news that the country is in a recession it is not necessarily true that everyone or every business is participating in a downturn. I am not forecasting that our sector of the water garden industry will suffer in 2009. In fact it is still quite possible the garden industry will do well in 2009. I see localized trouble for landscaping in some parts of the country but that is isolated. You can probably save on maintenance services should you be someone who hires someone to do your lawn or leaves. Take advantage of the situation. There will be more people willing to do yard work in 2009 due to both layoffs and a slightly tougher job market. A lawn business is something easy to start up that has immediate revenue and has a few costs or barriers to entry. Make sure who ever you hire is professional and that they know what they are doing. Most professional landscapers are still very bad water garden planners and installers. If I offended any landscapers feel free to e-mail me. Perhaps in the future I will put up a water gardening quiz. If your landscaper cannot answer the questions correctly than have them do everything but the water garden.

 I believe 2009 will be similar to the spring and summer of 2002 when fewer people spent money on trips or traveled.  Next year more people will stay at home and when this occurs they get creative. This is when we take time to redevelop our homes and yards. As we spend more time at home, we make our homes and gardens more inviting.  With winter having begun so early (November 1st here in Ohio), and now much of the south and west has had a few rounds of cold and snow and ice. By the time April gets here we will be tired of a cold brown landscape and we will be investing in our yards.

Blizzard conditions

Blizzard conditions

This does not mean we are all shelling out thousands of dollars but we will take out old overgrown shrubs we have been meaning to, dividing our hostas and replanting them. I think annuals will have huge growths in sales like petunias and inpatients (though there’s already bazillions of those). Our yards will be important. In the water garden industry I expect new water lily varieties to do well in sales like Leopardess (blue, mottles) water lily , Panama Pacific purple water lily, Miami Rose (reddish water lily), Pink Passion water Lily, and many more. Also new plants for sunny planters in most all of the country including papyrus which has been common in the southwest for some time and umbrella palms.

blizzard snow

blizzard snow

Last week we had ice storms in the north east, this week in Chicago and Indiana. Snow twice in two weeks in Seattle which is uncommon, and more uncommon they now refuse to salt the roads in the city (for a good laugh look up the news stories about police officers responding on foot in Seattle because the city refuses to salt the streets because the salt may go into Puget sound, a body of salt water?).  New Orleans and Beaumont TX had snow last week as did Las Vegas in the city. Florida has remained same so far but winter just arrived officially 5 days ago. Having lived here in Ohio for 8 or 9 years it wouldn’t surprise me if most of January and February are in the 50s but there is no sigh of that just yet. Tomorrow I will return to plants as I am anxious to begin discussing water lilies and what will be available this spring. We hope to be able to provide you with many new species and they are fantastic. I am having fun reading other blogs, mostly landscape like the whispering crane or searching the holiday making of people around the country.

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Water Hyacinths #1 Selling Pond Plant in America! (Eichhornia crassipes)

December 16, 2008

Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) are truely an amazing species. They are extremely easy to grow. I have talked to a few people who have managed to let these  plants not perform well or die, but it’s rare. They grow so well and so quickly that they cannot be shipped to 11 states.  You can still have these plants in many of these states,  just keep them in private waters. The trouble comes when plant loving people take the extras to waterways and release their excess into no native waterways. The good news,  in more than 90% of the united states gets a hard freeze each year, one hard freeze zaps these wonderful plants and they will no longer be a problem. This means they are annuals and must be replaced each year. Not a problem for most as they cost about $2-$3 and if you buy in quantity, can be as low as $1.50 each.

These plants are amazing filters of the water, in Europe in fact huge vats and greenhouses of Hyacinths are used as primary water treatment tanks. They grow and multiply so quickly and absorb almost all nutrients in the water.

Water Hyacinths Growing, To Flower let them grow in clucsters, fertilize with miracle grow, and they like sun and heat 85*+

Water Hyacinths Growing, To Flower let them grow in clucsters, fertilize with miracle grow, and they like sun and heat 85*+

 These plants like still water, they like to grow in clusters, do not break old foliage apart only new if you must. They enjoy sunshine but will do well in shade. Add them only after wether is warm, cold night will prohibit growth for up to 6 weeks and cause yellowing! They love nutrients, you can add a granular fertilizer like regular old miracle grow to a pond. Fish wont notice anything and plants will thrive. Add a few tablespoons per week anywhere in the pond, THERE IS “NOTHING” SPECIAL ABOUT POND PLANT FERTILIZER. (it will contain no iron but thats it, most fertilizers dont contain iron which is a cause of algae).

Below is how a water hyacinth looks normally upon arrive. If too tall it may lay on its side for a few days but all new growth will be upright.

Water Hyacinth at arrival when ordered or bought from store. Buy in quantity for quicker blooming.

Water Hyacinth at arrival when ordered or bought from store. Buy in quantity for quicker blooming.

KEEP AWAY FROM SPLASHING WATERFALLS AND FOUNTAINS! A wet plant is an unhappy plant, they need to exchange oxygen through the leaves and water inhibits this process.

Water Hyacinth Farm

Water Hyacinth Farm

 

This plant will prevent algae and keepwater crystal clear once 30-40% of the pond has coverage by plants (lilies, lettuce, or hyacinth).

The roots are a great place to hide from herons and raccoons. An all around wonderful plant.

Moneywort (Bacopa monnieri) New 2009

December 16, 2008

Though new for the company I work for, I have been familiar with moneywort for some time. It is easy to grow and can be planted as an oxygenator under the water or a flowering bog plant.  This plant can actually be grown as an herb apparently benefiting the brain. I am not growing it for that purpose so that’s as deep as I will go into that use. As a submerged pond plant it is very easy to grow and enjoys light.  This plant will probably rot and die in shady ponds.

Bacopa monnieri, white flowers surround the base of other bog plants at the surface like umbrella palms or thalia delbata

Bacopa monnieri, white flowers surround the base of other bog plants at the surface like umbrella palms or thalia delbata Moneywort submerged growing toward the surface.

It has small white flowers above the surface and grows nicely along the base of other bog plants covering containers! Neat trick.

Red Star Ludwigia (Ludwigia glandulosa) NEW 2009!

December 16, 2008

Of the four new submerged oxygenating pond plants ,we are introducing to the homeowners of water gardens in 2009, this I think will be my favorite. A fan of Ludwigia  glandulosa for years , this new market variety is bright red and grows from below the waters surface to above. The foliage is absolutely fantastic, a deep wine red in color brings something new and amazing to the surface of the pond.

Red Star Ludwigia near waters surface
Red Star Ludwigia near waters surface

ludwigia_red

 This plant enjoys sunlight so it may not be suitable for ponds in full shade. it also likes warm water, it can be overwintered indoors with mild temps and a source of sunlight. Growth is slower than other submerged plants. It can be planted as a bog plant as well.  Great hiding source for small fish and for all fish from predators.

NEW! Lemon Bacopa (Bacopa Caroliniana)

December 16, 2008

New for 2009, Lemon Bacopa, named for its lemon scent,  is a very interesting pond plant. This plant comes bunched like anacharis but grows up to the surface of the water and then slightly above. Not only that but once above the surface it begins to bloom with tiny 1/2 inch wondrous blue flowers. This plant can also be planted as a bog plant and will love the soil and bloom more often. A great oxygenator I hope we can keep this  in stock for 2009.

Lemon Bacopa, wonderful oxygenator that blooms once it gets to the waters surface.

Lemon Bacopa, wonderful oxygenator that blooms once it gets to the waters surface.

Provides great hiding spot for fish when predators come around.  Highly reccomended.  Native to zone 8-10.  Other than submerged, great ground cover that is easy to grow in a diverse range of locations including bogs, streams, waterfalls, pond edges and container gardens; foliage lemon-scented.

submerged in an aquarium, this is how each bunch will look at the bottom of the pond.

submerged in an aquarium, this is how each bunch will look at the bottom of the pond.

Seasonal Care:
Cut tips down to 3 in. and float in a cup of water in a warm, sunny location indoors

Vallisneria, Jungle Vallisneria (Vallisneria Americana).. not sea weed

December 16, 2008

This plant will remind you of sea weed.  It is a freshwater submerged pond plant. One of the few submerged oxygenating pond plants that does not come banded and bunched as each is an individual plant. It begins with a root and small bulb underneath the stem, the leaves grow tall toward the surface. You can still use lead weights on the vallisneria to anchor each plant. Fish like the plant to hide around and most of them will leave the plant alone. It may not be as easy for baby fish to hide in as hornwort or anacharis but its a great plant and looks great under the water. It will overwinter in the bottom of ponds.

Two vallisneria plants. About 12" tall can grow to 36"+ depending on depth.

Two vallisneria plants. About 12" tall can grow to 36"+ depending on depth.

I am writing about the underwater plants so that all the less exciting plants are out of the way for the spring and summer.  Next we will have some newer varieties of submerged plants to the water garden industry. Rotala, Bacopa Lemon, and Red Star Ludwigia.

Cabomba, perhaps my least favorite submerged pond plant!

December 16, 2008
Though when growing in aquariums some of the Cabomba species may be the prettiest and softest and most gentle plants they are also by far the worst to add to any water garden with fish.
cabomba caroliniana

cabomba caroliniana

Cabomba furcata and Cabomba caroliniana are the two most common types I have found sold in the water garden industry. The plant for all intents and  purposes belongs strickly  in the aquarium plant industry. Why? Well it is very soft and both the stems and the foliage break easily. I do not find that these plants overwinter at all or they never seem to be around in the spring. Normally harvested and bunched in Florida shipped once is OK, if we ship it to another supplier and then they ship it to you, the plants arrive unhealthy and falling apart. Anacharis and hornwort can be damaged slightly in shipping and come back in a matter of days with new growth. Cabomba simply disintegrates. On top of that problem, they are so soft they make excellent meals for fish. One final problem, sold as a bunched plant, the rubber bands often destroy the bottom stems and the plant then float about the pond.

cabomba furcata

cabomba furcata

If you ever grow baby fish inside, this is a wonderful plant to add to an aquarium to serve as hiding space and food for fish fry.

Please don’t break the ice!

December 16, 2008

That is, if your water garden contains fish.

Have you ever seen someone tap their finger on the  glass of an aquarium? The fish jump, the sound waves scare the crap out of them. This is not healthy for fish, for some reason making loud noises affects fish negatively, causing them to become susceptible to bacterial infections and viruses. Were am I going with this? It is winter and if you have fish in your pond you probably know that a frozen over pond or water garden often has fish-kill, (fish that die during the winter). Some people think they see the fish under the ice which don’t appear to be moving are actually dead, frozen in the pond.

goldfish chilling out under a thin layer of ice

goldfish chilling out under a thin layer of ice

Unlikely– unless the pond is frozen to the bottom which may happen in North Dakota, Montana, or Upper Minnesota. Here in Ohio we only get the ice 3-6″ deep on the coldest winters. Though your fish can die with a quarter inch of ice, but they will not die from the cold. They die from both the lack of oxygen as they use up available oxygen in the water and no new oxygen can penetrate the ice. If your pond freezes over in Alabama one night and thaws the next day, it’s nothing to worry about– the fish are probably never going to notice, if you live in zone 6 and lower (maybe even zone 7) you should have a thermostatically controlled deicer in the pond over the winter. If it’s 40 degrees outside the heater won’t kick on so your electric bill isn’t going up. If it goes below 32 the heater turns on and off as necessary.

These pond heaters or deicer really started from farmers trough deicers, in fact if you want a good deal, head down to TSC  tractor supply company and get one cheaper than in most garden centers. They are also less expensive on line at some stores ($38-48). Simply plug it in and keep a small amount of the pond unfrozen all winter.

Other alternatives? Keep a pump running that will provide a hole in the ice. Often a pump upwelling from the ledge will provide a strong current upwards. It will however cool the water to a much lower level at the bottom of the pond. Also make sure your leaves & debris are out of the pond before winter, you don’t want your pump getting clogged when its 10 degrees outside and you having to go unclog it. A bubbler or aerator that blows air under the water will keep a hole in the ice as the water is always moving where bubble are coming up. These are sometimes more expensive or need attached to an existing pump.

Deicer keeps a small hole in the ice letting fish breathe

Deicer keeps a small hole in the ice letting fish breathe

Finally, the best trick, if your deicer dies or it freezes over in a pond where you don’t expect it to simply boil a tea kettle, or any pot of water and one or two times per day pour it on the ice slowly creating a small hole. All the bad gases will escape and oxygen will get in. NEVER break the ice, your fish will get stressed and die quickly, every year I hear someone tell me I don’t use a deicer I grab my spud bar and break the ice. I have seen fish jump when an index finger hits the glass of an aquarium I can really imagine a spud bar. I have seen movies where they threw dynamite in the water and fish instantly surfaced dead as a doorknob. I imagine that’s probably close tho the same stress for fish as a spud bar or shovel.  

Last of all, I would like to disprove the myth of fish freezing in ice during the winter. Every year I hear this from people, “I can see them in the ice, they aren’t moving, they are frozen and come back to life when it thaws”. This is by no way true or scientists would be studying the first fish that did this. The truth is that as the water gets cold the fishes metabolism slows down to the point where the fish just basically sits in the pond with his gills moving. They are winter couch potatoes, go out every few days they will have changed position a bit and every thaw they will swim around a little.  The metabolism is so slow you cannot ever feed fish Nov-April. When I was young ,on the first nice day of  spring, I killed my favorite koi by feeding him.  I gave him a big old lunch of pellets and he gobbled them up as fast as possible, he was about 16″ long so he was a great size. His stomach hadn’t digested anything in 6 months, he ate a lot. It was quick, I had no idea what I had done. When he floated to the surface a few moments later he looked so stretched out It was easy to see what had happened. He basically burst from the inside. It was tragic. That’s a little about fish in cold water.

Hornwort, (Ceratophyllum demersum) a close second best oxygenator of the submerged pond plants and a little about fish breeding.

December 15, 2008
Friendly goldfish in a holding tank, photo op

Friendly goldfish in a holding tank, photo op

Hornwort is an excellent oxygenating plants and actually has a slight advantage on anacharis when it comes to fish. The hornwort foliage is like a very soft evergreen in the water. If you have trouble with the large koi (usually well over a foot long) eating anacharis or other plants than hornwort may be your best choice. It is also winter tolerant and comes bunched in about the same handfull quantity as the anacharis. The price in the past few years has increased somewhat but is normally ten to twenty five cents more expensive than anacharis.

Hornwort pictured with sinking weight

Hornwort pictured with sinking weight

The hornwort can be added to the pond with the same calculations as other water garden oxygentors like anacharis. 1 bunch per 10 gallons of water will keep your pond free and clear of algae in a  balanced eco system pond. I am going to begin talking about a neutral pond in more upcoming posts. By neutral pond I mean a water garden with proper feeding of fish. Excess fish food and waste will lead to water issues and costly upkeep and unnessesary maintenence. A neutral pond has a balance of fish and plants and is basically an enviroment that will keep itself fed and clean.

 

Hornwort is excellent for fish spawning. Goldfish and koi eggs are sticky and will instantly attach themselves to this plant (though this is true with anything in the pond). On sunny morning in spring, right at sunrise you can sometimes catch fish darting around the pond at incredible speeds, usually one followed by one or more. These are the boys chasing the girl. She will dart around plants or rocks very quickly they will follow her running into her bdomen (not painfully – just tapping) and she will begin releasing the unfertilized eggs. As they follow, the boys will fertilize them. Goldfish eggs are not likely to be noticeable, large koi eggs from adults over 18 inches may be slightly noticeable.   Goldfish will end up looking just like their parents, orange, orange and white, or red and white depending upon the parents. Same for shubunkins the calico colored goldfish. They will be born brown and not get their color until they are big enough to not be eaten, then you will see the change between 1/2 inch long and about 4 inches long. Koi on the otherhand will be born brown and then most likely not be very pretty. In order to get good looking koi parents at fish hatcheries should be exclusively picked. An all yellow koi has 2 yellow parents. If you have one yellow koi and a black and orange koi, the babies will mostly be fairly brown with a little yellow or little orange. Yellow is not a dominant color gene. Koi are culled many times after breeding. This is a sad practice of throwing out the mostly ugly fish and keeping the fewer pretty ones. That is why goldfish are cheap and koi are expensive. Lets say you get 20,000 goldfish per breed and 20,000 koi. They will sell all 20,000 goldfish but they will cull the koi and keep maybe only 10-500 to sell depending upon the grade of koi. More about that on another post I want to keep to the plants.

The hornwort can be planted in gravel baskets at any level of the pond but we suggest the submersible plant weights used like on the anacharis. I failed to mention in the post about anacharis that lead weight are cut to a certain size to hold down a plant. I remember many people that used to buy 100 submerged bunches and 50 weights to save money (like $4 difference). One weight will not hold down two plants. Just a note for all you ordering the extra 50 weights and paying $9 shipping.

Hornwort close up pictured in fish aquarium

Hornwort close up pictured in fish aquarium

One other thing I should mention in the Anacharis post, I may got back and add this detail. If you introduce your anacharis or other submerged plant on a sunny daythey can get sunburned quickly if you leave them out of the pond or let them float foronly a short time. If you cannot get them to the bottom of the pond in a short amount of time do not panic. Lay them on the surface of the pond and cover them with some damp flat newspaper or shade cloth (most people will just have the paper available.     

Remember these submered plants in proper number keep water free and clear of all algae both string and filement algae (causing green water). Do not over feed fish, 1-2 times per week if at all and walla you have clean water. Remember also a pump for areation creates more oxygen for the pond in an hour than

Anacharis (Egeria densa) Submerged Oxygenating Pond Plants

December 14, 2008

     The most popular and easiest growing under water or submerged oxygenating pond plant is anacharis (Egeria densa) though followed closely by a wonderful hornwort which shall be discussed soon.  More info below the big picture.

Anacharis picture taken indoors.

Anacharis picture taken indoors.

     Contrary to popular belief you probably do not need these plants in your water garden. A single pump of almost any size running even a spitter or tiny waterfall will add probably a million times more oxygen to the pond than the plants in an hour. HOWEVER there are numerous other benefits from this plant and I do suggest you having plenty of these plants at the bottom of your water garden. This plant is one of only about five that should be in your pond and not be planted in soil. A basket with pea gravel should be fine if you have no large koi  (14″+) that will shred them.

     Anacharis come in small bunches about 6-8 stems rubber banded together. Many on-line companies offer these with optional weights so they sink straight to the bottom and no planting or baskets are required. The weights are a malleable (bendable) heavy metal that you simply wrap around the area where the rubber band is already located at the bottom of the stems. These plants rob the water of excess nutrients rapidly and that is a great thing, they are a super filter and suck up fish waste like it was nothing. The second benefit, a superior hiding place for adult fish and baby fish fry. Baby fry grow up around anacharis and hornwort and stay hidden from larger fish that would eat them. The larger fish hide between anacharis clusters when Hawks, Raccoons, Possums, neighborhood kids with nets, or the big daddy pond nemesis the Heron come around. Having enough submerged grasses and also surface plants (water lettuce, water hyacinths, and water lilies) keep your pond from becoming the daily buffet. Anacharis should be added 1 bunch per 10 gallons of water in ponds under 5000 gallons, or 1 bunch per 20 gallons for ponds over 5000 gallons. Thats many bunches but this product is sold in quantity and is generally a one time investment. If you have enough surface plants in your pond and submerged plants you will never add a drop of chemicals to ward off algae saving you 1000’s of dollars over the years, 100’s per season so just do it right the first time.

     Anacharis is winter hardy, sometimes fish nibble on it late or early in the year making it look like theres less in the spring butit quickly rebounds in generally days once thespring water temps are in the 60s. Hornwort can be used as an alternative also winter hardy.

Picture of weights to sinch submerged plants, 4" long they bend easy

Picture of weights to sinch submerged plants, 4" long they bend easy

Though they soak up fish waste remember the #1 cause of algae is feeding your pond fish. One or two meals per week is plenty. Theydont even need us to feed them as they live off algae and any bugs or larve inthe water. When we substitute their diet we upsetthe balance and cause an excess of waste. Waste + Water + Sunlight =Algae. If you dont feed your fish and have the proper balance of fish, you dont get algae and have clean water. The one or two meals a week are enough totrick the fish into never knowing whenit is you will feed them and they will meet you at the surface everytime you walk by the pond.