Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter Cover: Attempt number 2

I've decided to try a pond cover this year.  There are two reasons for this.  First, it is an attempt to make winter less stressful for my fishy friends.  Second, to keep all of the winter blown leaves, seeds, sticks etc and you never image you be a factor in the winter, until you get a pond.

My first attempt at a pond cover was a big Ole fail.  I criss crossed multiple 2x6 beams across the pond in sort of a spider web pattern and then caulked different sections of plastic to each area.  I can't remember why I didn't cover it with just a single giant sheet.  That might have held up a little longer but in the end would have failed for the same reason this did.  Water is really heavy.  Rain drops water on plastic, which stretches it forming deeper and heavier pools until the caulk gives and the cover fails.

Attempt number two was full of adventure.  I decided to make a sort of tunnel over the pond, out of bent PVC.  I didn't build it over the pond though.  I build it on the driveway.  Picture a sort of skeleton of PVC that is 26 feet long and 20 feet wide.  Now picture a lone person moving said structure down the driveway, through the yard, between trees that are 15 feet apart and over a fence.  It was, er interesting.  Almost as interesting as getting each side of it on opposite sides of the pond.  (Eventually completed by just dumping one end in the water and fishing it out.

Raising the structure was easy, as was getting the plastic over the top.  It looked most excellent until the first big windstorm (40mph gusts) when it tried to blow away.  I eventually made it heavier with an additional top of 6mm plastic and disassembled half of the circle garden blocks to weight it down.  It has held up to recent winds OK.  Snow will likely destroy it but at least it is buying me a bit of time.  The inside of the tunnels is like a rain forest.  Condensation coats the sides.  I moved my wheel planter in there and planted some beets and lettuce to see if I can get a winter harvest out of the project.  That's if winter ever gets here.  Today was 64 degrees.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Finished Pond Pictures

We got the last few boulders in two days ago and the plantings and fish are maturing nicely.  Here are some shots of the area at the peak of the heat wave.  Building this was so much work but not that it is done, work to maintain is nothing more than emptying the leaf bucket, topping off the water and once a week hosing down the skimmer pad.  The fish are tame, and come up to be fed.  Red Head Fred continues his trickery, now his head is mostly white with a few orange speckles.  The amount of enjoyment we are getting from the area is immense.  Even with the heat, we are hanging out here multiple times a day.  All an all, this project was well worth all the bandaids, and sweat and dollars.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Baby Koi Pictures!

The pond has it's first fish! Two of them came all the way from Japan. Meet Luna, who I think is an Ogon Butterfly Koi and Ginny who I think is a Gin Rin Kohaku Koi. Ginny has red lips and blue eyes and a whole lot of sparkle!  So far Ginny hides 99% of the time but Luna is brave and very easy to spot in the water.
 Also in the pond is Red Head Fred.  Fred has less of a pedigree than the girls but he is pretty cool looking all the same.  Unfortunately I have no picture of Fred.  I was so excited to get him in his new digs I forgot all about it!

Pond is coming along.  Hope to finish the veggie filter pond this week and then it is all landscaping!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Waterfall Progress

I spent 12 hours on Friday another 16 on Saturday and Sunday putting about 12 stones on the waterfall.  I'm excited though because I tried out out on Sunday and it works, with only a few tiny leaks!  So why does a short little waterfall take so long to build.  Ah, for many reasons you would never anticipate.

1.  Deluge of rain each day means work interruption, timing of silicone and foam and concrete to work with pending storms.
2.  Deluge of rain each day makes working with massive boulders on tiny wheels on slippery clay...challenging.
3.  Taffy and Daffy the duck visit twice a day.  I feel bad if I scare them so I work slower so as not to startle them.
4.  I spend a lot of time studying stuff.
5.  The rocks are too big.  It took me two hours to get this one off the driveway and into the vicinity of the waterfall.  Then another sweaty hour to get it in place.  The picture doesn't do a good job showing how heavy this is.  I cannot lift even one end of it solo.  Thus the 2x4 in the background.  I learned I can lift a whole lot of rock with a piece of strong wood! 
6.  Limited rock selection.   I only want to move each of these once, which means a lot of time plotting out how it will all fit together.  Since I only have two pallets, I have to plan a few moves ahead.  As we know, I am a bit slow in the whole planning arena.

The goal was to get water flowing down this, this weekend.  We have two new urgencies to inspire faster working.  A BBQ in early June and a new addition to the pond.  We have koi.  Our first of the favorite Harry Potter characters has been added to the water.  Red Head Fred got added to the pond about an hour before a massive thunderstorm.  He promptly disappeared for days.  Since he is a little guy (3") I was a bit worried he became a duck mcnugget but we spotted him on Saturday!  Since Red Head Fred ain't dead, I need to get this filter going!

So here is where I am not.  The area is a HUGE mess, the falls are still sort of sticking out in the middle of nowhere.  The final plan has plantings around them.  I already got a few things in, the amazing Stich in Time hosta has a place of honor at the front lower left.  A division of my Paul's Glory is at the top and a tassle fern is near the bottom with some scotch moss you can't see yet.  Once the rain slows down I will be out daily.  Must get pond done!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May Gardening Update

A full month gone.  Excuses are numerous but not particularly interesting so I'll skip them and get to the updates.
Let's see, in the past month the crazy unseasonably warm weather continued a bit longer, then transitioned to more typical cool temps of April.  Not much rain though.  This allowed me to continue the work here and there where the job/kids/home/other life allowed.

I got sod down over part of the trench, so one eyesore has been partially re-mediated and another created.  The pond area is looking industrial again as I work to build the waterfall and veggie filter.  This has been a very slow process.  The reason is that we have opted to do it ourselves and have also chosen stones too big to lift.  I spent a few hours one day checking out how to move large stones without machines, you know like the Egyptians did!  Why no machines?  They don't fit, unless we go with one of those HUGE cranes that could park on the street and those numbers start in the four digits.  Which means, plant rollers and jock husband biceps will be used.
We had 1.5 tons of weathered limestone delivered.  Last week and started the process of placing the stones.  It is very slow going.  Because the rocks are so heavy they are very difficult to place.  You can't wiggle them around or you'll tear the liner.  You also have to place them so that the water will eventually flow in the way you want.  Never having done this before, it is difficult to predict.  Then there is the setting them in concrete and all the joys associated with mess with all that!
The most difficult part though is getting the rocks to the place you need them without hurting ourselves.  The rollers are great but the ground is not level and rollers...roll.  I have a blue finger to prove it!  I hope to have this first fall flowing this weekend if the weather holds and work tries to stay reasonably sane.  I'm loving all the moss and lichen on this stone.  Hoping that it will not have that new and unnatural look when all is complete.

Garden work has been about more than the pond.  The tomatoes are big and I started putting the rest of them out this week.  I decided to put the wooliest blue tomato next to the knock out roses with a bit of chard to make this bed more edible.  I'm considered putting the peas in front.  The green might not be enough contrast, but that would be easier than attacking the GIANT patch of weeds that is part of the back bed.  I started cleaning that up last week.  Good gravy this has never been this bad before.  Pictures of my shame?  Sure thing.  This blog is about reality, lol. 
I think the crooked Teepee adds a nice touch!
Here are some weeds, plus a few other not particularly inspiring photos' that are shown so we can compare what they look like in a month!  ;)
Tomato(Matina), fennel, oregano and purple annual plus water globe that needs some bleach.

Tomatoes in container, cheap big peony, pricy pathetic peony and columbine

Lettuce planted late, volunteer fennel, onions and weeds

Monday, April 2, 2012

First Tomatoes-Out, New Self Watering Container and other new stuff

The first tomatoes have left the cold frame.  This would be a full 4-6 weeks ahead of when you are "supposed" to put them out, depending on who you ask.  Worse, I have not added any weather protection yet, unless you count putting them in front of the brick column.  Nights are running around 45-50.  They won't freeze.  This container holds Katja and Seattles Woolly Blue Mammoth (my least favorite of the three specimens I am growing) .  The first to go out in my yard are always the ones I am most OK with losing.  Though I won't lose them.  I might stunt them a little, but I watch the weather closely.  If it gets dicey, this container has wheels and can easily come in the garage.  I will be interesting to measure the growth of these that are out with those that are rapidly outgrowing their containers but still in the coldframe.
Also in the container is an extra cinnamon basil and a bit of flower.

Speaking of this container, I was excited to see it.  It is self watering, holds 1.5 CU FT of soil, comes with wheels and its own elastic mulch cover.  It was $26 at Home Depot.  A far better deal than the Earthtainers that are out there.  Usually I make my own self watering containers.  I can do it in a hour, for about $15.  They are not particularly lovely though.  I picked this one up for the areas that need something a bit better looking.

I also did a bit of nursery shopping this weekend.  The Growing Place has opened for the season.  Pickings are still a slim for annuals, but tons of shrubs and perennials are already in.  I went to scope out moss.  I want some for around the pond.  I was going to buy it online but was curious if I could find it locally.  TGP had it.  For $3.99 for tiny plants!  I bought two test plants, one irish moss and another lighter green moss to see how they do.  If they are fast, they will be the parents and I'll just split them up and make a ton of moss babies.  As usual a couple of other things found their way into the basket.  Some jelly bean like viola's that I might plant, or I might give in a easter present, some dwarf goatsbeard that I have always wanted but never had the constantly moisture it needed and a new hosta..midnight ride.  That one was totally a blind purchase but now that I have looked it up, I am pleased.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Learning Lotus and Lilies

I've been gardening for a long time.  Because of this is it really weird to be working with a group of plants that I feel absolutely clueless about.  I'm experiencing this now with the water plants for the pond.  A couple of weeks ago I ordered a few plants to try things out.  I ordered 1 hardy water lily , one tropical water lily (Director T. Moore shown above) and 1 lotus (Thousand petals).  They came the other day along with an additional tropical lily called "Imperial".

I immediately panicked when I opened the package.  Basically they were water lilies set in giant baggies with a tiny bit of moisture in there.  The directions said plant immediately.  Okee Dokee no problem, how do I plant them?  The site I bought them from (Texas Water Lilies) had some really great directions.  I didn't skim them either which is why I was able to quickly observe that the tropical lilies want pond temperatures of at least 65 and preferably 70 degrees.  On the day the lilies came, it was 37 degrees outside.  I checked the pond and it was 61 degrees.  Surprising.  I decided that the 61 degrees wasn't going to last too long with the air temps being down so I had to figure out another plan.  The internet saved me here in that I was told to stick them in a big pot inside.  So that is where the tropical ones are now.
I'm a little concerned about T. More.  One of the leaves turned black.  It seems to be very sensitive to touch, bruises easily.  The bloom opens every morning and closes each night but I don't think this plant is happy.  I hope the weather gives me a bunch of heat soon so I can get this outside.

I'm toying with what to do about the lotus on the left.  It is just coming out of dormancy.  I have no idea if the stems it is showing need to be in the water or are OK above it.  I'm thinking of putting this in the pond this weekend.  The thing that gives me pause with all of this is that these were not inexpensive plants.  If they croak I am out a decent amount of cash.  I probably should have started with something cheaper, but I wanted to go to most pretty right away.  :P

The hardy water lily is in the pond.  I was worried that adding a pot full of clay would make the water cloudy.  It didn't at all.  I'm glad to get these started.  Plants in the pond, eat the nutrients in the pond.  Keeping nutrient levels down is a great way to keep algae suppressed.  Between that and the UV I turned on this past weekend.  I am hoping to avoid green floaters completely.  Except for those I want of course.  Hang in there T. Moore!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rock On A Roll

I did a lot of research related to finishing my pond's edge.  There are many options, grass, time, small stone, a ring of boulders, poured edge, ring of flagstone etc etc.
My plan is still evolving in my head as I stare at this space a bit each day.  What I've know for sometime is that I do not want the common pearl necklace of flagstone around the edge (too formal).  I also wanted some flatter areas for easy access.  I also wanted low maintenance and didn't want to worry about thousands of tiny pebbles falling into the pond.  That is why I was so excited to find Rock on a Roll.   It is what it sounds like.  Rock.  On a roll.  It is completely flexible.  It shapes itself to conform to whatever it is laying over the top of.  It is water friendly, easy to work with and very realistically colored.

I am using it around the entire perimeter of my pond to cover and protect the liner.   It also does a fabulous job covering the wrinkles.  Wrinkles under rock on a roll just make the rock work look even more realistic.  Done right it ends up looking like a way more expensive poured shell.  Installation took a bit of time because I wanted a lip to the pond edge to help contain the mulch;/grass/moss that are coming.  I did this by gluing flexible plastic electrical gluing to the collar, then draping the liner over it, then the rock on a roll over that.  Landscaping fabric and mulch finished off the area in front of the seatwall.  All it needs now is some plants.  I started with a bit of phlox (I like its mossy look).  Added a bit of hardy lavender to the one end.  Coming soon are a few Canna, some wintergreen and a few other herbs to keep the edible theme going!  Yay Progress! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tomato Babies

Whoa, something major happened in the last few days.  It was either the watering with the pond water or the exposure to the rain storm.  Whatever it was, the tomato babies liked it a lot.  Growth has exploded for all but Hays.  They are now a month and a half old and are looking really good.

Today they are out of the cold frame and hanging in the foyer because we have a single day cold spell and the outlet normally used to operate their heater (light bulb) is  being used to operate the UV in the pond.  More on that tomorrow.

Despite the extended heat wave we had, I never got around to putting any of these guys out into their final locations, container or ground.  That's OK.  There isn't currently a rush.  Just so long as they are sized OK for their containers, they can sit tight for a week or so more.  Thought the potato leafs are starting to push it!