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Florida Weave Trellis

After a last season’s mishap with my tomato cages, I decided to try a new technique for staking my tomatoes in my raised bed garden.  While on vacation last year, a wind storm blew over the cages, along with the tomato plants.  This, in turn, knocked over the netting structure that was used to keep the bunnies out of my garden.  Let’s just say that the bunnies had a good feast while I was on vacation!

Florida Weave Trellising

Fast forward to this year:  Florida Weave Trellising.  Simply put, you sandwich or weave a good comparable-strength twine or jute rope around your plants and also around your stakes. This technique supports the plants on both sides, uses items that you most likely already have around the house and at the end of the season, you simply cut the jute and remove the plants.   Sounds like a win-win to me. 

I will note that I have read several articles that this trellising method is more suited for determinate tomatoes and I do believe that all of my tomatoes are indeterminates but being that I’m in planting zone 5b and have a shorter growing season, the plants shouldn’t grow so tall as to “outgrow” my Florida Weave Trellis.  I’m up for an experiment to see how well this method works for me.

For my 4’ x 8’ raised bed, I drove a 5-foot-tall steel fence post into the soil on each end of each row (3 plants per row).  I drove the post into the soil about 1-1/2’ deep, until it was good and solid.  You can also put a post between each plant if you feel that is needed (say, you live in a windy area) because as the plants grow, they will rely more and more on those posts.  If you don’t have a steel fence post, wooden posts or other stakes should work. 

Begin by wrapping your jute or twine around one of your fence posts at approximately 8 inches from the ground and tie off to the post.  I used 3-ply jute twine because it is durable and will have very little stretch.  You don’t want stretch; you want a firm hold on those plants.  From there, weave around each plant in a figure 8 pattern, pulling snug to keep plants secure but not too tight to harm the plants.  Once you reach the next post, wrap around the fence post and continue on to the next plant in the same pattern.  Once at the end of the row, continue back to the beginning post weaving in the opposite direction in that figure 8 pattern so now the plants are sandwiched in and secure.   

Florida Weave Trellis

As your plants grow, you incrementally weave another figure 8 pattern 6 or so inches up from the last weave to maintain the composure of the plants.  Continue this pattern as your plants grow. 

Colocasia Varieties

Understanding Pond and Landscape Lighting Components

Alpine Fogger FG203 LR in Action

Alpine Fogger FG203LR Detailed Information

What Kind of Bird Food Should You Use?

What Bird Food Should You Use?

Looking to attract a particular bird?  A great article from National Audubon Society pretty much covers it!

Black-oil Sunflower Seed:  This will attract the widest variety of species, including: Chickadees, titmice, cardinals, and nuthatches.

White Millet: Ground-feeding species, such as juncos and sparrows favor this food.
To Order: Cole’s MI10 White Millet Bird Seed, 10-Pound

Red Milo:  Western Species, like jays, enjoy red milo.

Cracked Corn: Scattering cracked corn over the ground will invite doves to the area.  To Order: Wagner’s 18541 Cracked Corn, 4-Pound Bag

Mixed Seed: Sprinkling mix seed on the ground or onto platform feeds is the best option.  Mixed seed usually contains high quantities of millet, preferred by ground-feeding birds.  Many feeder birds will not take miller.  Likewise, ground-feeding birds that favor millet will not have access to it if it’s in a feeder.

Nyjer Seed (Thistle): Attracts chickadees and finches, including goldfinches, siskins, and redpolls.  There are feeders specifically designed for thistle seed.  To Order: Wagner’s 62053 Nyjer Seed Bird Food, 20-Pound Bag

Safflower:  Usually a more expensive seed than sunflower, it is not proven to be more preferred.  Some reports do claim that squirrels dislike it.  To Order: Wagner’s 57075 Safflower Seed, 5-Pound Bag

High-energy suet cake: Attracts nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, and titmice.  You can hand this in a mesh bag, but it won’t be as protected from raccoons that might help themselves.  You may want to purchase a sturdy suet feeder.  To Order Suet Cakes: Heath Outdoor Products DD12 Birdie’s Blend Suet Cake, Case of 12

Fruits:  Fruits, such as raisins, bananas, currants and sliced apples may attract mockingbirds, robins, bluebirds, and waxwings.  Oranges are a favorite of orioles.

Bird Food Preference Table

Understanding Plumbing Fittings

 

Whether you’re replacing a pump or adding additional plumbing, understanding plumbing fittings can be very confusing to most people.  The single biggest reason for confusion is probably due to its sizing.  PVC pipe is size and named based on its inside diameter (ID) of the pipe.  And this ID is nominal, meaning “in name only”.  You will find that the nominal size is an average and will not be exact.  For instance, if you were to measure a 1″ pipe, you might find that the ID may vary anywhere from .95″ to 1.05 or more.  Smaller nominal sized pipes are further away from their actual size even yet.  If you already have a pipe, just read the printing on it.  This is a sure bet on the correct size.

Another area for confusion is some of the plumbing terminology.

Spigot=Street=Male  and  Slip=Socket=Female

For example, the adapter shown below on the left depicts a spigot x slip.  It may be called out by some of the other terms shown in bold above, but they mean the same thing.  It’s all in relation to male/female, just like life!  So, the spigot x slip works like this:  The spigot end will get glued into the pipe.  For the other end, the pipe will get glued into the slip end.

MPT=NMPT=Male Threads and FPT=NFPT=Female Threads

Here’s another area for confusion. To learn more about how to measure your threads, read this article here.  The adapter shown below on the right depicts spigot x FPT.  Again, the interchangeable terms may be used but it goes back to the male/female relationship.  So, the spigot x FPT works like this:  The spigot end will get glued into the pipe. On the other end, a comparable-sized male fitting will screw into the FPT, using Teflon tape.  The Teflon tape will be wrapped around the male fitting.  Make sure when adding the Teflon tape that you add the tape in the opposite direction of the threading so it will screw in properly.

Spigot_slipand-female_jpg

Male and Female Adapters

If you want to connect a pipe to male threads, you will need a female adapter.  The female adapter will have internal threads on one end and a slip or socket, as it may be called, on the other end.  You will Teflon tape your existing male threads and thread into the female end.  You will then glue the pipe into the slip or socket side of the female adapter.

Along the same lines: If you want to connect a pipe to female threads, you need a male adapter.  The male adapter will have external threads on one end and a slip socket on the other end.  You will Teflon tape your external threads and thread it into the female threads.  You will then glue the pipe into the slip or socket end of the adapter.

Male_Female-adapter_jpg

Reducer Bushing

If you want to connect to pipes or other fittings that have different nominal sizes, a reducer bushing can do the job.   The reducer bushing shown below depicts a spigot x FPT.  The spigot end will get glued into the pipe or adapter.  The threaded male pipe (or in this example, a nipple) will screw into the FPT, again using Teflon tape.

Reducer_nipple_jpg

While there are many more adapters and fittings, these are some of the common fittings used.  We have a complete selection of fittings.

Helping Frogs Survive the Winter

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In the winter, frogs might seek refuge in your pond.  Being ectothermic or cold-blooded, frogs regulate their body temperature by exchanging heat with their surroundings.  These surroundings can be mud in a deep plant pocket or a potted plant located in a deep area of the pond, preferably below the frost line.   The soil in the pocket or pot provides the needed warmth to assure a warm overwintering for your amphibious friends.

As with fish, it is equally important to keep an opening in the ice for frogs.  This allows for the release of harmful gases and the replenishment of fresh oxygen.

There are several options to accomplish the opening in the ice:

  • One popular option is a floating pond de-icer.  De-icers are designed to maintain a small hole in the pond ice.  Most are thermostatically controlled to insure a worry-free solution for your pond fish.
  • Another option is to move your existing pond pump close to the water surface to create water movement.  There are pumps that are marketed towards this versatile option.   Aquascape markets their AquaForce® for this very solution.  Depending on the extremity of the weather, this option might be successful.
  • Another option is pond aeration.  You may already have aeration located at the bottom of your pond.  However, winter applications for pond aerators are not recommended to be placed on the bottom of the pond as this can disrupt the natural thermocline of the deeper portions of the pond.  Most successful winter applications involve placing the aeration discs 1 to 1-1/2 feet below the water level.   Always consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation of winter applications.

Fall and Winter Pond Care

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Pond water quality is usually at its best in the fall because of fewer water battles with algae.  Fall is also the one time of year where your pond may need daily maintenance.

Falling Leaves

Prepare the pond for the autumnal leaf fall by purchasing a fine-meshed pond net.  Remove leaves before they have a chance to break down and pollute the water. If large quantities are left in your pond, they will decompose and rob your pond of oxygen.  Don’t sweat if a few leaves get left behind in the pond.  They can help provide overwintering places for frogs and insects.   If you have a skimmer, you may need to empty the debris net daily.  If you don’t have time for daily skimmer maintenance, consider purchasing a pond net to cover your pond entirely.

Plant Care

Plants will start to shed leaves quite dramatically as the temperature drops.  Be attentive about removing any decaying leaf matter before it becomes detached and sinks to the pond bottom.  Stop fertilizing your plants as well.  Their nutritional requirements will be less as cooler weather begins.  Hardy bog and marginal plants should be cut within 2 inches of the base of the water level.  Water lilies should be trimmed back within 2-3 inches of the base of the plant.  Tropical plants should be removed and brought indoors to over-winter, otherwise, they can be treated as annuals and replaced next year.

Fish Care

As the weather gets cooler, you will notice your fish spending more time at the bottom of the pond.  Because pond fish are cold-blooded, their metabolism and appetite are dependent on the pond’s temperature.

As the water temperature drops to 65°F, start offering a lower-protein food.  Marketed as cold water fish food or spring and autumn food, they offer low-protein and high wheat germ combinations.  Wheat germ is a highly digestible protein.  Higher-protein food should not be offered this time of year as they can only digest a limited amount of protein.  The remaining protein is excreted as toxic ammonia, leading to water quality problems.

Stop feeding your fish when the temperature has reached 50°F.  If you don’t have a pond thermometer, it’s a wise investment.

Winter Fish Care

In northern climates with extreme cold conditions, your pond can freeze over so it is important to maintain an opening in the pond so that fresh air and gas exchanges can occur.  Decomposing organic matter can be exchanged with fresh oxygen.   There are several ways that you can eliminate pond freeze-over.

A popular option is a floating pond de-icer.  De-icers are designed to maintain a small hole in the pond ice.  Most are thermostatically controlled to insure a worry-free solution for your pond fish.

Another option is to move your existing pond pump close to the water surface to create water movement.  There are pumps that are marketed towards this very option.  Aquascape markets their AquaForce® for this solution.  Depending on the extremity of the weather, this option might be successful.

An overstocked pond can benefit from pond aeration.  You may already have one located at the bottom of your pond.  However, winter applications for pond aerators are not recommended to be placed on the bottom of the pond as this can disrupt the natural thermocline of the deeper portions of the pond.  Most successful winter applications involve placing the aeration discs 1 to 1-1/2 feet below the water level.  Always consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation of winter applications.

You can also choose to run your pump throughout the winter.  If you do choose this option, proper care should be taken to monitor your pond during the winter months to monitor water levels.  Drops in water level could be due to evaporation or ice build-up.  Ice build-up over the waterfall can lead to water being diverted out of the pond, leading to significant water loss.  If this happens, consider removing the pump and follow manufacturer’s procedures on over-wintering the pump.

Winter Filter Media

If you choose not to run your pump, consider removing your filter media and, if possible, keep it moist or wet over the winter to retain the essential beneficial bacteria for next year.

Aquascape’s Patio Basin