Tips for a Beautiful Pond

pond.jpgHaving a pond can introduce a sense of tranquility within your yard. The soft sound of the water and the beauty that a pond can provide can encourage a stress free environment. But what do you need to do to beautify your pond in order to reap the benefits that it can provide? Here are a few tips to help you to create a beautiful pond and keep it that way:

Fish
The size and depth of your pond will be a determining factor if you can safely add fish to it or not. You will need to ensure that your pond will be able to accommodate them. If you plan to add fish to your pond, you will need to determine if the depth of your pond will allow for it. It is recommended that the minimum depth of your pond for fish be at least 18”. However, 2 ½ feet is considered to be ideal. Remember that your fish will need cool water in the summer and will need to live under any ice in the winter. If your climate is extremely hot or cold, then you will need to ensure that there are a few extra inches added to the depth of your pond. This will have a considerable impact on the health of your fish.

It is usually a good idea to start small and add a few fish at a time. This will allow you to test the water in your pond and the surrounding habitat before you spend a lot of money. When adding goldfish and comets, a good rule of thumb is to add 1 inch of fish per every three gallons of water. For Koi, it is recommended to have five gallons of water for every inch of fish. As your fish grow, you may need to remove some of them to maintain an environment in your pond that is considered to be ideal.

You will need to treat the pond water with a conditioner before you add any fish. This is because tap water can contain chlorine, chloramines and other elements which are harmful and toxic to fish.

Plants
There are four major types of plants that are considered ideal for a garden pond. These plants are:

Oxygenating-These plants provide the vital oxygen that is needed by your fish and any other pond inhabitants.

Floating-The addition of floating plants will help to reduce the development of algae in your pond. A mature pond should have surface coverage of 60 to 70% by floating plants.

Water Lilies-These plants provide fish with needed shade and protection from predators.

Marginal Plants-These are found all along the outer edge of the pond. These plants blend in with the surrounding landscape and make the pond more attractive.

Maintenance
When you first install your pond, the water may appear to be cloudy until things have a chance to settle. There are also many factors which will encourage the growth of algae. These include strong sunlight, water that is warm and overstocking and overfeeding your pond fish. Using a skimmer will discourage the formation of algae in your pond. You can also add a UV sterilizer which will kill the algae and any other harmful bacteria. This will result in a clearer and cleaner pond. Using safe chemicals in combination with aquatic plants will also improve the quality of your water.

You will need to check the strainer cage of your pump periodically in order to remove any debris and keep it running at a peak performance. You should also clean the filters regularly so they can continue to operate at peak performance. This should usually be done once every two to three weeks for best results.

When choosing items for your pond, you should visit the aquatic section of your local garden center for help and advice. How are you planning to beautify the pond in your yard?

Photo courtesy of FreeFoto

Gardening 101: Container Gardening

container-garden.jpgIn case you haven’t read this post by Debra Roby at blogher, I thought that I would share a little of it just to give you a taste of a great blog post on Container Gardening. This post is very thorough and you will learn a lot of great information that you really need to know when considering gardening in containers.

Here is what Debra had to say:

This weekend I planted a very special part of my garden: the pots of succulents that grace my front steps and the kitchen pot garden that I keep on my back deck. Why?

Container gardening gives you options that you might not otherwise have in gardening:

  • Plants that can be moved with the sun
  • Plants where you want them, whether there is dirt or not
  • Plants to experiment with
  • Plants even when you have very little space.
  • Plants replaceable for seasonal color.

From Gardening 101: Container Gardening

Debra has some really great ideas on how to make container gardening work for you. She tells you how to choose a pot and how to prepare the pot for the plants you choose to place within them.

One of her best tips is to pour WARM water into the soil mix to prepare it for planting. This enables the peat moss in the mix to absorb more water and not repel it. This will help the plants to get the water that they need. She also tells you how to prepare the bottom of the pots so that your containers will drain properly. This is imperative to the health of the plants as too much water can cause root rot.

Debra finishes her post with techniques to help you to get the watering down pat. Watering plants in containers is different and she gives us lots of suggestions on how to best accomplish the task. She lays out the information in an informative yet laid-back manner.

It is a very enjoyable read and I highly encourage you to visit her post on container gardening. When you do, come back here and tell me what you thought. What did you learn from her post and what do you still want to know?

Photo provided by FreeFoto

How to Start Gardening

imaginamorguefilecom.JPGNow that the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the leaves are growing back on the trees, we all know that spring is here! One of the many pleasures of spring is that we can enjoy our garden. Here are some tips that anyone can use for their garden this spring.

Starting the Garden
The first step in starting your garden is to plan it. Many people sketch a layout and plan their gardens on paper before doing anything else, so that they can get a grasp of what they need to purchase, what they need to do, and how the garden will look when finished. There are plenty of resources for this online, to help you out. When planning your garden, be sure you factor in the environmental conditions surrounding your area, to help you choose the right plants. Once you have planned the look of your garden, you can move on with preparing for planting.

Preparing for Planting
Here is where things start to get interesting. You will need to take your Spring Gardening plan with you when you shop for soils, plant bulbs, seeds, and other gardening equipment. This will help you make sure you have everything you need in one trip, and that you have all the tools for growing a healthy garden. After you have everything you need, it is time to prepare the land for the plants. Clear out any dead foliage. Improve your soil with fertilizers and compost heaps, and make sure the ground is ready for planting. When you are sure that you are ready to begin planting the garden, then you can move on the next step.

Planting the Garden
Here comes the fun part. Following the plan that you drew up earlier, and the instructions that came with the bulbs and seeds you purchased, plant your garden accordingly. Be prepared to spend a hefty amount of time on this step, as this should be done with the utmost care. When you have finished planting all your bulbs and seeds, water the garden if necessary, and wait for the blooms to start appearing.

Caring for the Garden
To help keep the weeds out of the garden, and the water in it, you should cover your seedlings with a few inches of mulch. This will ensure that the garden stays healthy when you cannot tend to it, and help you along. The most important thing about caring for a garden is to make sure you keep up with it. Water the plants whenever necessary, pull the weeds before they get so big they try to take over, and always remember to stop and smell the flowers!

Nothing says you have to have a green thumb to be successful when it comes to spring gardening. All it takes is a little planning, tender love, and care, and you will soon be able to bask in the beautiful glory of your own garden. Following these steps will make you a gardening pro in no time!

Submitted by: Cindy Watrous

Photo Provided by Imagina

Cats and Houseplants

I came home a little while ago and found part of my creeping ficus lying on the floor. I immediately knew what happened and went to confront the furry culprit-my cat. For reasons unknown, some cats look at houseplants as a free kitty salad bar. Some vets speculate that the plant material helps with digestion. Others think cats simply love a little green on their menu! While I make sure that any plants within the cat’s reach are non-toxic, I still don’t appreciate having them chewed up by him!

Take this cat for instance:

Here are some things to try if you have a plant loving kitty:

–Obviously, simply moving the plant out of the cat’s reach is the best, but if it’s not possible, try putting aluminum foil or contact paper (sticky side up) around your plants. Cats hate the feel of both on their paws and will stay away.

–You can also try spraying your plants with one of the sprays (such as Bitter Apple) made to keep pets from chewing on cords. You can make your own by blending up citrus fruits or hot peppers in a blender and then mixing the puree with water. Keep in a well-labeled spray bottle. The drawback to this is that it can make the leaves of your plants sticky and that will attract dust.

–If your problem is your cat using your plants as a bathroom, try covering the surface of the soil with aluminum foil or sticky tape. Using polished river stones, which can be found in most garden centers and craft stores, is a more decorative alternative.

–Another easy remedy to keep your cat away from your plant is to buy him his own plant! Most pet stores sell pots of cat grass, or you can easily grow your own from seed, which can be found at most garden centers. You can also buy pots of catnip but don’t expect it to last long! Chances are if you give your cat his own plant, he won’t nibble on yours.

Ironically, the cat species as a whole are carnivores and can’t survive on a vegetarian diet, even if they wanted to!

What are some of the things you have tried to get your cat to stay away from your plants?

Submitted by: Sue Walsh

Preparing Your Yard For Spring

graceymorguefilecom.jpg The sun is shining and the birds are beginning to sing their sweet songs. The flowers are pushing their heads up through the fresh soil announcing the arrival of spring. So what can you do to prepare your yard for spring? There are several things that you can do to ensure that your yard receives the proper start to a fantastic year.

Flower Beds

* Rake-Clean up the leftover debris from last year. This will include items such as leaves, twigs and any garbage that has blown in during the winter.

* Uncover any plants such as roses you have protected during the winter.

* Maintenance pruning-clean up any winter damage.

* Amend the soil-add compost to create a rich soil for this year’s plants.

* Fertilize-choose a slow release fertilizer and add it to all of your flower beds, roses and perennials for a healthy start.

* Add pre-emergent weed preventers-this ensures weed-free gardens throughout the summer.

Lawns

* Apply a humic acid based fertilizer such as Natural Guard Soil Activator. This can be found at your local garden center. Applying this at the beginning of the season aids in nutrient enhancement without stimulating premature growth.

* Mow-if you allowed your grass to grow long during the fall, an early maintenance cutting is recommended.

* Apply a pre-emergent crabgrass and weed preventer. This will cut down on or reduce the amount of weeds that will develop in your lawn throughout the season.

Trees

* If you have ornamental trees, then pruning is recommended in the spring.

* Prune-do any necessary repair pruning that might have come from winter damage. This is also a great time to thin out any excess growth in your trees.

* Apply a dormant spray-this will depend on which type of tree you have. But a dormant spray will help to control any overwintering insect eggs and funguses.

* Fertilize with a tree and shrub specific fertilizer. This will give your trees a great and healthy start for the year as they wake up from their winter slumber.

Taking these general steps in the spring will help you to have a yard you can be proud of during the summer months. Where do you begin when you are preparing your yard for spring?

Photo provided by Gracey

Confessions of a Former Plant Killer

xandertmorguefilecom.jpg I have a confession to make: I kill plants. Or at least I used to. If there was a plant around with any life in it, I could kill it without even trying. I have been known to kill everything from your average, everyday houseplant to an air fern. Since an air fern only requires air to grow, this was a special talent that was manifest when I killed it. I have even been known to kill the occasional silk plant. What?! A silk plant, you ask? Well, it is amazing how they melt when you knock them into a fireplace.

As the years progressed, I became quite skillful in my never-ending manifestations of my talent. This was very disconcerting to my parents as I grew up in a family that gardened. In fact, it was so bad that during a period of time when my grandmother was in the hospital, she actually asked me to not touch any of her plants as she wanted them to still be there when she arrived back home.

So how did I turn this around? Well, some would say that I married well. I was fortunate enough to marry a man who was pursuing a degree in horticulture. I was lucky in that he loved me enough to marry me despite my professed talent for killing plants. During the early years of our marriage, I learned a few things and when he graduated with his degree, I graduated from plant killer to mere maimer.

As time progressed, he managed to teach me even more about plants and gardening. To the amazement of my family, I was even able to one day secure a job in a local garden center. I had finally gone from being a plant killer to having the ability to grow a healthy plant.

Now, while everyone isn’t as fortunate as I was to marry a plant doctor, there are still things that you can do to turn your brown thumb into a green one. Hey, if a self-professed former plant killer can do it, then anyone can!
Here is a list of things you can do to experience success in the garden:

Educate Yourself
One of the most important things that you can do is to learn all you can. This can be done in a variety of ways and methods. You may want to check with your local department of Continuing Education for community classes. Many successful gardeners participate in the Master Gardener Program, which is usually facilitated through their local county extension office. Your local garden center may offer how-to classes and this is a great place to get information.

Ask, Then Listen
Another great way to learn about gardening is to ask people who are experienced in gardening for advice. Then be sure to listen to what they will tell you. You are sure to find friends and neighbors who are successful in gardening and will be willing to offer you great advice.

Read, Read, Read
There is a vast array of knowledge to be found in printed matter. You should be able to find plenty of books, magazines and online articles to answer any question you could possibly think to ask.

Don’t Get Discouraged
Sometimes, no matter what you do, a plant will die. Some plants will just die no matter who is growing them. Don’t let this discourage you from your quest of growing healthy plants in your home and in your yard or garden.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Remember that practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the better your garden will grow.

With a concerted effort, you too can go from plant killer to plant professor. What are some of your past failures and successes in the garden?

Photo by: Dawn M. Turner