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

Calcium Montmorillonite Clay

Calcium Montmorillonite Clay

Calcium Montmorillonite Clay

What is Calcium Montmorillonite Clay or Calcium Bentonite Clay?

Calcium Montmorillonite Clay or Calcium Bentonite Clay is rich in minerals and trace elements (contains over 60 trace minerals) that are needed to help the overall vitality of our fish.  It is believed by many to be the secret to the healthy, vibrant-colored koi found in Japan.  The Japanese are said to replenish their mud ponds in the spring before filling with Koi.  You can simulate this same activity by gradually adding this clay to your pond on a regular basis all year round.  If your local water supply is treated to remove a lot of these minerals and trace elements that our fish thrive on, it can be especially beneficial to add this clay.

“Montmorillonite” is a term used to describe a wide family of clays which are mined all over the world, and is a component of volcanic ash weathering.  Most people use clay to improve water clarity, but the main reason to apply clay to your pond is for its unseen actions during ion exchange.   The added clay is in an alkaline state retaining its electrically active, negatively charged ion.  Once introduced to the pond, the toxins, bacteria and pathogens in the water, which carry a positive electrically charged ion, bind to the negatively charged ions in the clay.  These particles are held in a suspended state inside the clay particle until it is filtered out of your pond.  This ion exchange aides in toxin removal, while replenishing minerals and trace elements.  Some of the trace elements include:  calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and iron.

Suggestions on Usage

There are several ways to introduce clay into your pond besides just the regular maintenance dosage available with your product.  Additionally, you can roll your fish food in the clay.  After the clay is absorbed into the food, you can feed your fish a more nutritionally complete version of fish food.  Once ingested by the fish, the clay binds to the toxins while passing through the digestion system.   It’s also stated to strengthen the immune system, enhance the production of enzymes and detoxify the body in general.

When re-potting your plants in the spring, add a few tablespoons of clay to the potting soil along with fertilizer tabs.  Many have noticed beautiful results.

There is even plenty of information available on the benefits for humans and animals.

Are All Calcium Montmorillonite/Bentonite Clays Equal?

There are a variety of grades available.  Some contain more silica, while some have more impurities than others.  The best way to determine the suitability for your pond is to do a simple test.  One test is to simply mix it up.  If it clumps up, it is an inferior grade.  Another quick test is to mix some in a glass of water.  After a few minutes, you should not notice a lot of particles floating on the surface of the glass.  The more floating particles you notice, the more impurities that are present.

Patio Pond Review

My Patio Pond at the end of the season

Don’t have an in-ground pond or simply want an accent to your patio?  You might consider an Aquascape Patio Pond.  With 2 shapes and several colors and sizes available, you are sure to find one to fit your needs.

In the spring of 2012, Aquascape unveiled several fountains to accessorize the Patio Pond.  That was what ultimately sold me on purchasing one of these units.  The picture above is my Patio Pond at the end of this season.  Although it is not clearly evident in the above picture, I purchased the Adjustable Pouring Bamboo Fountain. You might be able to see it peaking through from the back side of the unit.  My aquatic plants loved this environment, can you tell?  I also had a few surprise visitors to my Patio Pond.  I purchased my aquatic plants from a local nursery, where they were taken directly from their main pond.  It wasn’t long after that I noticed several small fish swimming around.  Clearly my plants had eggs attached to them upon my receiving them.  What an added bonus!

Round Patio Pond

3 sizes available:  24”, 32” and 40”.  Be aware that the 40” does require freight shipping, which escalates the cost quite a bit.

3 colors available: Green Slate, Desert Granite and European Terra Cotta

Square Patio Pond

The same 3 sizes are available as they were with the round:  24”, 32” and 40”.  The 40” freight shipping rule applies here as well.  This escalates the cost quite a bit.

Only 1 color available:  Gray Slate

Advantages

  • Recently redesigned to incorporate a cut-out to hide the power cord
  • In 2012, they introduced fountain accessories
  • Stylish colors

Disadvantages

  • The small magnetic drive pumps and tubing that accompany the fountains clog easily and need cleaning periodically.  You will notice little to no flow in your fountain without this cleaning, which is too often in my opinion.   The best way I found to clean the tubing was the “Jet” setting on my hose nozzle and force water into the tubing.
  • Freight shipping on the 40” size is quite a deterrent.  That is why I chose the 32” instead.

Overall

Overall, I am very pleased with my Patio Pond.  I actually move the unit into my garage to overwinter the fish and plants.