GreenScaping Part 3: Practice Smart Watering

Just  a recap in the Series of GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard

 

Water Deeply, But Infrequently

Most plants do best when their roots are allowed to dry out between watering.  Learn the signs of when its time to water.  For example, your lawn is in need of watering when footprints remain after you walk across it.  Vegetables and other annuals will show signs of wilting, but other established perennials will only need watering if they remain wilted after the evening cool-off.  Trees and shrubs, once established, won’t need watering unless for extreme cases of drought.

Make Every Drop Count

Having a healthy and beautiful lawn and plants doesn’t have to jack up your water bill.  Consider some of these water saving activities:

  • Help retain moisture and reduce evaporation in your soil by adding compost and by mulching.
  • Select low-water-use plants.  Once established, they thrive exclusively on rainfall.
  • Soaker hoses and drip irrigation on beds are huge water savers.  They save as much as 50 percent compared to sprinklers.
  • Incorporate a water timer.  This will assure the correct amount of water and the appropriate time of day for watering.
  • Water in the early morning.  Watering mid-day actually allows for evaporation and evening watering allows for mold and other plant diseases.
  • Water lawns separately from other plantings.  Ensure the sprinklers are properly aimed and aren’t watering the pavement.

Let the Rain Soak In

Utilize your rain.  If not used, the rain flows from roofs, pavement and compacted soil.  It eventually will cause flooding downstream, which in turn, causes erosion and pollution after picking up pollutants along the way.

  • Direct downspouts to your yard, or into rain barrels or rain gardens.
  • The use of compost and mulch can help retain this rain and help prevent erosion.
  • Use open pavers or gravel instead of pavement to allow rain to seep into the soil.

 

Protecting Your Water Garden From Pond Predators

If you are a pond owner, you know the ever present danger of predators to your koi or other beloved fish.  The main offenders, usually being heron and other predator birds and raccoons, love your fish in a completely different way than you do!  Their constant fishing expeditions can destroy your pond’s population in no time.

Help protect your fish by understanding these predator’s lifestyles and what you can do to help eliminate their feasts.

Heron

Heron are usually solitary hunters, feeding mostly at dusk and dawn.  In the spring and early summer, feeding may increase due to the feeding of their young.  They hunt in slow moving water, standing motionless until prey come close enough to be caught by the rapid thrust of their bill.  It’s easy to see how our somewhat tame koi would be easy victims of such creatures.

Raccoon

Raccoons are nocturnal and are quite adaptable foragers.  Getting fish from a pond requires the use of their lightening quick paws.  Raccoons are great swimmers as well.

Predator Control

Decoys

Keep in mind that most stationary objects such as these decoys can become unthreatening to a predator over a period of time.  Presumably, they can detect a fraud, when the fraud never moves!

Floating Alligator Decoy

This alligator is hinged in 3 places to give a realistic, free-flowing version of this reptile.  It’s a great conversation piece to your pond as well.

Coyote Decoy & Heron Decoy

Both of these decoys are good representations of these creatures.  Herons are said to be territorial creatures when it comes to feeding so the theory is that the heron decoy will detour them from visiting, except in early spring when the male heron is searching for a mate.

Netting

Most people prefer to only use netting for leaf capturing because it takes away from the natural setting of the pond.  However, it is quite effective means of predator control.  Make sure the netting is pulled tight and is not allowed to drape into the water as this could allow for predator invasion.

Motion-Activated Scarecrow Sprinkler

It’s pretty much defined by its name.  It senses motion and shoots a short burst of water in the direction of the motion.  These sprinklers can be hooked up to one another for an effective water barrier.

 

Koi Kastles

These protective homes are submerged at the bottom of the pond for a safe refuge for your fish.  Corrugated tubing, readily available at your local home improvement store, can also be cut into manageable lengths and placed on the bottom of the pond as a safe area for your fish.

Other Options

Water lilies or other types of broad leaf plants can offer a natural protection for your fish against predators.  Dogs are also a  great protector against heron landing around your pond.

GreenScaping Part 2: Plant Right for Your Site

A few days ago, I introduced the series Greenscaping and discussed step 1 of 5, which was titled, “Building and Maintaining Healthy Soil”.  Greenscaping, in essence, is a set of landscaping practices that can improve the health and appearance of your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources.  Today brings step 2 in this series.

Step 2: Plant Right for Your Site

Know your yard so you’ll know what plants can go where.  What spots are sunny, shady?  What is the pH of your soil? What type of soil do you have (e.g. sandy, clay)?  All of these questions will help determine what plants can go where.  Also, determine the location of plants, play areas, privacy, etc.

Choose the Right Plant for the Right Place

Based on the questions you answered above, select plants that do well in those conditions.   Choosing native plants is equally as important because they have evolved with this environment over many years.  Always envision the mature height and width of any plant before placement, especially near your house, driveway and power lines.

Choose Plants That Resist Pests

Some plants are more pest- and disease-resistant than others.  Always research your potential plants before planting.  This can save you time and money on pest control.

Give Plants a Good Start

Incorporate one to three inch layer of compost into your planting beds before planting.  Follow instructions on proper planting instructions.  A good layer of mulch atop your newly plantings, along with consistent water the first few years will help to build the deep roots that are desired.

Make Space for Wildlife

Invite birds, butterflies and other wildlife into your yard, protect streams and fish and make a more attractive yard.  Some ideas include:

  • Plant native plants.  Consider varieties with berries, fruits and flowers.
  • Plant in layers (e.g. ground cover, shrubs and trees) to mimic the forest.
  • Don’t plant invasive plant species.  Check with your local Cooperative Extension Office for a list of invasive “noxious weeds”.
  • Use pesticides only when necessary to minimize harm to birds, beneficial insects and fish.  Always follow the label directions when using.
  • Provide a bird bath or similar water source.  Make sure to change the water frequently to avoid a mosquito breeding ground.
  • Leave wild “buffer” areas of native plants along ravines, streams and fencelines.

Learn more about attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

GreenScaping Part 1: Building and Maintaining Healthy Soil

GreenScaping, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is landscaping practices that promote the health and appearance of your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources.  A great article by the EPA titled, “GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard”, will be summarized here and will encompass five posts due to the length of the article.

By practicing these activities, you can:

  • Save money by eliminating unnecessary water and chemical usage
  • Save time by landscaping with plants that require less care
  • Protect the environment by conserving water and by using chemicals responsibly so they don’t contaminate our waterways and drinking water sources.

How can this all be possible?  Working with nature in five steps, the first post of this series will focus on:

Step 1: Build and Maintain Healthy Soil

In nature, soil recycles dead plants into nutrients used for new plant growth.  This circle of life helps to maintain the approximately 4 billion organisms found in a teaspoon of healthy soil!  These beneficial organisms help create a loose soil structure which allows for proper air and water circulation, as well as, aide in proper plant root growth.  Other good deeds include: the storing of water until plants need it and protecting plants from pests and diseases.

Soil Test

A good starting point towards achieving healthy soil is a soil test.  A soil test will give you a good baseline on determining the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime your soil contains or possibly needs.  Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for more details.

Compost

Compost is a critical part of healthy soil.  It helps to feed the beneficial soil life so that it can, in turn, feed and protect the plants.  It also retains nutrients and water for sandy soils and helps to loosens clay soils.  Every spring and fall is an ideal time to add between a quarter to half-inch of compost to your existing lawns or beds.

Mulch

Mulch is a layer of organic material, such as leaves, aged wood chips, or grass clippings.  Mulch helps to stabilize the soil temperature, prevents weeds, and retains moisture.  Spring and fall is an ideal time to assure mulch levels are adequate (no more than 3 inches).

Slow-Release or Organic Fertilizer

If needed, look for fertilizers that contain “natural organic” or “slow-release” ingredients.  These will fertilize plants slowly and evenly and allow for strong root systems.  “Slow-release” types will help to reduce nutrient run-off into the ground and surface waters.

Remember, healthy plants grow in healthy soil!

 

Next in the series:  GreenScaping Part 2: Plant Right for Your Site

Got Frogs? Toads?

Got Frogs?  How about toads?  These amphibians are considered by many specialists to be excellent indicators of the overall environmental stability of their local ecosystem.  These sensitive creatures are usually the first casualties in an endangered ecosystem.

Their existence is important in both their predator and prey roles.  When traveling to Panama a few years ago to help with golden frog rescue efforts, Zoo Animal Care Supervisor Jeff Landry commented, “I was so surprised at how quiet the rainforest was and how much algae was growing in the ponds, this was due to the lack of frogs in the rainforest and the frog tadpoles that feed off the algae. With no frogs reproducing, there are no tadpoles, which have big consequences on the environment.”

Frogs and toads feed largely on insects, so it’s quite easy to see their importance in our environment.  The frog shown in the above picture is a Bull Frog that visited my pond last Spring.  Their diets differ from other species in the fact that they eat fish, small ducks and other frogs; making them not as desirable in your serene pond environment.  Attracting the insect loving frogs and toads can be done with a few suggestions from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

  • Leave some leaf litter under your trees, shrubs and in the garden.
  • Encourage native ground covers, grasses and wildflowers.
  • Build a burrow for their protection.   This can be as simple as a punching a hole in a flower pot, place the top opening on the ground in a shaded, moist garden area.
  • Ponds with natural vegetation and rocks are welcoming to them as well.
  • Erecting a toad light that is no taller than 3 feet and is located near the border of a garden or rocky area.  This light will attract insects at night, which is when they feed.
  • Discourage children from catching and caging of frogs and toads.
  • Minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

 

 

References for this article:

http://www.hoglezoo.org/meet_our_animals/conservation/year-of-frog

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12148-35095–,00.html

 

Water Features Can Fit Anywhere!

Whether you have a big or small yard, a water feature of any size is easily achievable.  There are so many options available that the only limitation is your imagination!  So, it’s alright to think outside the pond!

Aquatic Patio Ponds

Aquascape’s Patio Ponds (right) have the look and durability of real stone with the light weight of fiberglass.  These Patio Ponds make it simple to create your own water garden.  Just add water, plants and fish! Available in 3 sizes and 3 beautiful colors to choose from.

Bubblers, Spitters and Fountains

Aquascape has a complete line of bubblers, spitters and fountains available in ceramic, stone, fiberglass and brass.  New for 2011 is the Giant Mushroom Fountain made from a fiberglass stone composite.  All the beauty with less weight. These water features are versatile, in that they can accent an existing water feature or can be a stand alone focal point.  You won’t be disappointed with the selection or quality.  Check out our selection.

Aquarock Kit

Aquascape’s Aquarock Kits are a complete kit all contained within a five gallon bucket!  How easy is that?  Available in 2 stone colors.  This is a great family project as well.

Container Water Gardening

Do you want to save some money and make your own water feature?  It’s easy and fun project.  Create your own water garden with items you might already have around your house.  Check out this blog article to find out more.

 

Pondless Waterfalls

Pondless waterfalls are an alternative to a pond. In essence, it is a waterfall without a pond. Check out our wide selection, including the Atlantic Water Gardens Colorfalls (right).  The Colorfalls Lighted Falls  are designed to work with most retaining walls and to add that beautiful sheer waterfall for hours of enjoyment.  You have a choice 4 different colorful low energy LED lights to enhance your experience.  Three different sized kits are available.