Archive for the ‘Winterizing the Pond’ Category

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.

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.