Caladiums

 

Since I do generally try to follow the rule of thumb of planting my annuals around Mother’s Day weekend to avoid the chance of frost (give or take a week), I decided to do some shopping.  The above picture is the one of the beautiful plants I brought home, a Caladium.  If you’ve ever grown caladiums, you probably appreciate these easy-to-grow beauties as much as I do.  I always love using them as a focal point in my pots on the front porch and anywhere else that a good splash of color is needed.

If you’re thinking about buying and growing caladiums, you are in luck.  They are widely available in plant or bulb form.  They are also easy to grow and you’ll be able to enjoy them all season long.  Here’s a few more statistics about these beauties:

Growing

For outdoor planting, plant when night temperatures are above 65° F.  Bulbs should be planted 2 inches deep and roughly 6-8 inches apart in well drained soil.  They prefer partial sun and partial shade.  Keep in mind that many species will grow in full sun but will require more water. 

For indoor planting, place bulbs 2 inches below the soil surface.  Water sparingly until the first leaves appear. 

Storing

Store your bulbs at the end of the season by digging them up after the first cool spell.  Allow them to cure 7 to 10 days before storing in a well ventilated area-like old pantyhose.  Keep them above 65° F until next season.

Happy Planting Everyone!

Planning for a Successful Pond

Are you considering the addition of a pond at your home?  The key to a successful and healthy pond involves thorough planning.  Take the time to read many articles and talk pond owners to get a better understanding of all that is involved.

Use this article to become acclimated with some of the basic information pertaining to planning your own pond.  It can be an extremely rewarding hobby. 

What Type of Pond Do You Want

More specifically, what type of aquatic life do you plan to have inhabiting your pond?  This is a crucial first step in the planning process because the requirements are vastly different for a koi pond versus a goldfish pond versus a simple water garden.  For example, a healthy koi pond requires a larger, deeper pond with preferably a bottom drain for better filtration as opposed to a goldfish pond.   

Design on the Size and Shape of your pond

Creativity is all yours when it comes to the shape of your pond.  Keep in mind that it is important to have good water flow throughout the pond.  So avoiding square corners that will trap dirt and create stagnant, non-moving areas would be ideal.  For example, keeping a waterfall on the opposite side of the pond across from the skimmer box would provide good water flow.

If you are considering a koi pond, most koi enthusiasts recommend a minimum size of 1000 gallons and at least 3 feet deep, and a depth of up to 6 feet is even more desired.  This depth is important to help keep koi safe from their natural predators, raccoons and heron.  It also helps to adjust for temperature fluctuations in colder winter climates.

Consider the incorporation of ledges or shelves in your pond to place plants, by digging a shelf around the inside perimeter of the pond. 

Determine the Location

There are several important factors that you should consider to help determine your pond location. 

Safety- Water is a natural attraction for children; therefore, it’s extremely important to reduce the chance of unsupervised children gaining access to the pond.  One simple solution is to build it inside a fenced area.

Sunlight Requirements- Certain water plants, such as water lilies, require at least 4-6 hours of sunlight daily.  Most koi enthusiasts won’t put water plants in the pond because koi do typically eat the plants.  But keep in mind that water lilies are an excellent way to shade your pond and add some definite beauty.  This shading also helps to control algae, as well as, control the water temperature.  Your pond should not be placed under a tree where leaves and debris can be allowed to drop into the pond.  As leaves decompose, they produce toxins that are toxic for your fish.  A good sun-shade balance should be maintained. 

Buried Utilities- Always call all utility companies before digging to assure no buried cable lines, gas and phone lines, etc. will interfere with your future pond site.

Electrical Requirements- A healthy pond will need an electrical source close to run, at minimum, a pump which will circulate the water through filtering devices. 

Elevation of the Land- The pond surface level should always be higher than the surrounding area to avoid water runoff into the pond.   Runoff from fertilized yards, farm fields and rooftops shouldn’t be allowed to flow into the pond.  Building a lip around the perimeter of the pond will deter this water runoff.    

Determine the pond equipment needed

Pump:  The pump is a vital part of any pond.  It is responsible for circulating water throughout the pond and the filters.  While doing this, it also provides critically-needed oxygen to the fish in the pond.  Some ponds have more than one pump, one for each filtering method. 

Filters:  There are two types of filtration, biological and mechanical.  They both filter the water in 2 completely separate ways.

Biological Filter- This filtration method uses beneficial bacteria to detoxify the organic waste present in your pond.  The filter medium in the “bio” filter provides surface areas for these beneficial bacteria to grow.  The detoxification process occurs as the water is filtered past the filter medium.  Commercial bio filter units are available, while others make their own using filter medium such as lava rocks.  There is much debate on using lava rock for this purpose though.  So, always make an informed decision based off of a well researched plan that fits your needs.

Mechanical Filter- This filtration method physically traps dirt and debris as the water passes through the filter.  The filter medium is usually in the form of net, foam, mesh, brushes or even a screen-like material.

Skimmers- Skimmers do just that, they skim floating dirt and debris off the water surface.   Skimmers are becoming deemed more as a necessity than in previous times.  These skimmers also offer a hiding place for your pumps, as they are designed to incorporate the pumps in the base of them.

Ultra-violet Clarifier- UV lighting, commonly used in koi ponds, is used to aid in algae control.  The microscopic algae-mixed water passing through ultra-violet light will die.  These lights will only kill existing algae cells, not prevent new from forming.  So if conditions are right for algae to produce, it will.  Understanding how to maintain an algae free pond will help to assure that the UV clarifier works at its best.  While there are skeptics that say this type of lighting shouldn’t be necessary, you will have to make that decision based off of your own research and needs. 

Pond Liner- One common way of retaining water in your pond is to use a pond liner made of a material known as EPDM.  Liners will be measured based on their thickness, common thicknesses of either a 45 or 60 mil are desired for this application.  While some pond owners choose a more permanent bottom on their pond made of concrete, the average pond owner will have great success with an EPDM liner. 

Draw an Illustration

Take the time to draw out and illustration, showing all electrical needs, dimensions, surrounding buildings, etc.  Get an idea if it is truly going to work. 

Lastly

Still overwhelmed? Consider hiring a professional to design the pond only.  Take this design and build it yourself, if you feel qualified.  Some professionals will also charge a nominal fee to oversee your project at different steps in the build as you need them.  This can save you a great deal of money, yet give you a well designed pond. 

While this article just skims the surface on the proper planning of building a successful pond, it should give you a better understanding of the proper planning needed.  As I stated earlier, it is a very rewarding hobby!

My Hostas and Slugs

My hostas are up and looking beautiful so far.  I only say “so far” because last year I had what appeared to be a slug infestation.  The first and only visible sign I noticed were holes in the leaves of my prized possessions.  I never saw any actual slugs but that is largely in part because these creatures are active at night and retreat during the day in mulch and on the underside of boards and rocks. 

I want to keep the upper hand on these pests so after some thorough research, I’ve identified some ways to combat the slugs:

Diatomaceous Earth

 This product is widely available in your local home improvement stores.  This all natural mineral is made from tiny fossilized water plants, called diatoms.  To slugs, it is lethal because it contains microscopic razor sharp edges that cut through their protective layering, which in turn dries them up and kills them.  It should be noted that it isn’t harmful to our beneficial earthworms. 

Eggshells

Crushed eggshells will mimic the results of the Diatomaceous Earth in that the sharp edges of the eggs will tear the slug’s protective layering, resulting in their death.

Stale Beer

Slugs are said to be attracted to the stale ale and will drown in it.  Pour some beer into a pie pan or other small container and place next to the slug location.  I hate to waste a beer, but….

Copper Barriers

The metal ions in copper are said to give slugs an electrical shock.  There are mixed opinions on the effectiveness of this treatment.  Take a strip of copper and place in the soil around the perimeter of your plant, making sure none of the plant leaves are touching the ground.  Otherwise, the slug still has access to this plant. 

Citrus Rinds

Slugs are attracted to citrus rinds.  Place halved orange or grapefruit rinds near the vulnerable plants.  You must be sure to check the rinds daily and dispose of the slugs in your own manner.

Preventative Ways to Control Slugs

  • Keep your garden beds free of leaves, weeds, boards and other objects that make a safe haven for them.
  • Keep your lawn edges trimmed.  Slugs will seek refuge in places such as this.
  • Keep bushes and shrubs trimmed, not allowing them to touch the ground.

Lastly

I’m assuming since I had a slug problem last year that I will be blessed with their presence again this year.  So at my first signs of infestation, I will crack open a beer!  Good luck to all of you and Cheers!

Building a Raised Garden Bed

       

Are you considering building your own raised garden bed?  Consider some of the advantages to raised bed gardening:           

  • No soil compaction due to the fact that walking between the aisles is eliminated, as done in a traditional garden.  Consequently, the overall plant’s root health and water drainage and oxygen flow will increase.  This can result in larger, healthier plants.
  • The reduction of back strain.
  • It is said to extend the growing season because your soil will warm up sooner.
  • More plants can be grown in a smaller area because there won’t be a need for a walk path between the plants. 
  • Controlled soil quality
  • Better weed control

 Consider some of the disadvantages to raised bed gardening:           

  • Time and cost to make your own
  • You will need access to proper tools to build
  • Watering needs will likely increase   

 Some important ideas to keep in mind:           

  • You should make the bed only as wide as you can comfortably reach to the center.  A good width is between 3-5 feet.   
  • Your depth will also depend on the plants you decide to harvest.  Deep-rooted plants, such as carrots and radishes, will need a minimum of 8 inches.  While other plants, such as tomatoes and squash, have been grown in 6 inches of soil.  Obviously, the deeper your roots are allowed to grow will result in a healthier crop.

Select your location

Your sun requirements will depend on the plants you choose, but most garden vegetables require an average of 8 hours of sunlight.  Also make sure you are close to a water source.  Being on level, well-drained ground is important as well.           

If building multiple raised beds, be sure to leave at least 3 feet between the beds to allow for mowing and walking.            

Select your material

There are many different materials that can be used to build a raised garden bed.  This will depend on your specific desires and materials you might have on hand.  You should research several plans and see which fits your needs best.  Here are a few materials that work well:     

  • Concrete blocks, stones or patio edgers- This can become a more permanent garden fixture by applying mortar between the stones of your choice.  Build them up to the desired height. 
  • Wood- It is important to use a rot-resistant wood, such as cedar or redwood.  It is not recommended to use pressure treated woods as the chemicals currently used to treat the wood contain Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ) or Ammoniacal Copper Citrate (CC) and Copper Azole (CBA), to name a few.  Older treated wood that was used residentially contained Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) and was widely scrutinized for its use of the known carcinogen, arsenic.  You wouldn’t want these chemicals leaching into your plant’s water source.    

Build Your Raised Garden Bed

While there are many sizes and designs for garden beds, the detailed instructions below are how my husband and I built our 1’x4’x8’ raised garden bed using cedar.  Look at many plans and determine which best fits your needs.           

Materials:

        

  (3)—1”x12”x 8’ cedar boards with 1 of these boards being cut in half to give you (2)-4 foot long pieces (as shown in the picture)           

  (1)—4”x4”x 8’cedar post with this post cut in 4 equal pieces of 2 feet each (Most hardware stores will cut these pieces for you at minimal cost)           

24 galvanized wood screws           

Drill and a drill bit (making sure the drill diameter is smaller than the screw size) to pre-drill the holes to avoid any cracking of the wood           

C-clamps to hold post and board together while drilling and screwing           

Assembly:

   

Inverted, Completed Raised Bed Built in the Garage
Inverted, Completed Raised Bed Built in the Garage

Our raised garden bed was built on the garage floor, inverted.  In other words, the top facing boards were laid onto the garage floor and posts that are sticking up will be buried in the ground (shown in the completed assembly picture).  The garage floor gave us a level surface from which to build.             

 Attaching Post and BoardStart with one post and one board.  We started with one of the 8 foot boards and one of the posts.  Attach the c-clamp, assuring that the edges of both board and post are flush with one another.  Pre-drill and screw the two boards together using 3 screws for each side (see above picture).  Your short-sided board (4′ board) will be placed flush with the outside of the previous long-sided piece you just attached.  Continue this sequence through until completion.         

 Prepare your site 

Prepared garden area

    

Remove the sod from your future garden by digging down just below the roots and remove.  If you have clay soil, it’s wise to dig down at least 6 -12 inches to loosen up the soil.  This allows for better drainage.  Some people have had great success with lining the bottom and sides with a barrier of wet newspaper over the area to prevent weeds from growing.  Using a post hole digger, dig a hole for each of the posts.  You can estimate your hole location by placing your assembled garden bed in it’s future location and outline the post holes with string or spray paint.  I actually left my bed sitting on top of the grass long enough that the grass died under each post, so I knew exactly where to dig!  Dig deep enough to bury the posts completely.          

Carry the raised bed out to your desired location.   Place posts into the post holes that you dug.  Fill your bed with a mixture of compost and soil to about 1 inch of the top.