Category Archives: Uncategorized

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. 

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.

Preparing Your Pond for Spring

 

Spring is officially here!  With an unusually warmer than normal winter this year, most ponders have already started getting their pond ready.  Are you one them?  Need some ideas to assure your pond will be ready?  Read on….

Clean Up

This is the time to remove any debris that has accumulated during the winter.  Leaves, twigs and fine sediment should be removed with a net.   A skimmer net is a good choice for removing sediment, as it has a finer mesh than a fish net.  Be sure to the remove pond heater and bubbler that you may have added over the winter to keep a hole in the ice for proper gas exchange.

Assess Your Water

Now is a great time to test your water.  Getting a baseline for your water quality will allow you to understand the current condition of the water.  There are several water testing kits available.  If you need help understanding the importance of what each water testing parameter represents, read this article titled, “Water Quality Parameters for Your Pond”.

In the spring, your water is rich in Dissolved Organic Carbons (DOC’s) because the fish are coming back to life.  While their metabolism increases, the beneficial bacteria that naturally help to remove these organics aren’t fully up to speed because of the water temperature.   This time is also referred to Aeromonas Alley due to the prevalence and rapid growth of the Aeromonas bacteria.  This is potentially a vulnerable time for your fish. 

Partial water changes are a great way to help dilute any excessive toxins in the water, while simultaneously adding fresh oxygen back into your pond.  When refilling your pond, be sure to apply a water detoxifier to remove chlorine and other heavy metals.   The addition of beneficial bacteria can help your pond adjust to the addition of the ammonia and nitrite levels after a long winter.  These products are temperature sensitive but are available in cold water varieties as well.  You can also consider a Spring Starter Kit, which will have all essential products to help your pond off to a great start.

Happy Spring to You All!

Water Quality Parameters for Your Pond

 

Your pond’s water quality to your fish is as important as our air quality is to us.  With that said, do you test your pond water?  And if you do regular testing, do you even understand what those tests mean?  This article gives you a look into each of the common testing parameters available in most water testing kits.

pH

The pH of your water is the amount of hydrogen ions that are present in your water.  The pH scale has a range from 0-14, acidic to basic (alkaline), respectively.  The midpoint, 7, is considered neutral.

Your pH controls many of the chemical balances in your water.  One very important chemical balance is that it affects the toxicity of the ammonia in your pond.  In general, the higher your pH and water temperature, the higher the ammonia toxicity will be in your tank (if ammonia is even present).

Ammonia

In your pond, fish will release waste into the water.  In addition, decaying plant matter and uneaten fish food will break down.  All of these activities will create ammonia.  This buildup of ammonia is lethal to fish, especially at escalated pH levels.  If left untreated, ammonia will damage delicate gill membranes, causing respiratory distress or death.  As the ammonia levels increase, beneficial bacteria named Nitrosomonas will begin to consume and convert the ammonia to nitrite (NO2).

Nitrite

As stated in the previous paragraph, Nitrite (NO2) is the result of beneficial bacteria named Nitrosomonas consuming ammonia and converting it to nitrite.  Nitrite is extremely toxic to fish, preventing the fish’s blood from carrying oxygen.  This prevents the normal gas exchange from their gills.  If severe enough, the fish will die from oxygen starvation.  So clearly, this is yet another important parameter at which we should monitor.

If your pond is established and your nitrite level is in check, it’s probably safe to say that you have abundant amounts of the beneficial bacteria named Nitrobacter.   It will consume and convert the nitrites to nitrates (NO3).  This newly converted nitrate will then be consumed by plants and algae as source of nourishment.

Phosphate

Monitoring your phosphate level is important because it is one of the primary nutrients responsible for algae blooms.  Common phosphate sources include decaying plants, waterfowl excrement and treated landscape run-off.

Carbonate Hardness (KH)

Carbonate Hardness, or alkalinity, is the measurement of the water’s ability to neutralize acid, known as the buffering capacity.  Buffering capacity is the water’s ability to keep the pH stable as acids or bases are added.  So if the water has sufficient buffering capacity, it can absorb (like a sponge) and neutralize additions without affecting the pH.  There is, however, a limit on the sponge’s ability.  Once this limit is reached, the pH can change rapidly.

Carbonate Hardness is also an important source of energy for nitrifying bacteria that consume ammonia and nitrite.

General Hardness (GH)

General Hardness, or Total Hardness (TH) is a measurement of the dissolved salts in the water, mostly composed from calcium and magnesium.   The concentration of dissolved salts is important to fish for 2 reasons:  Osmotic regulation (equilibrium of the internal salt concentration) and blood calcium levels are regulated by the amount of General Hardness levels.

New Plant Hardiness Zone Map Reveals Warming Trend

 

 

The USDA released their new version of the Plant Hardness Zone Map in January 2012. The new map is generally one 5- degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous released map back in 1990. This mostly is a result of using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period. More specifically, it uses data measured at weather stations during a 30-year period from 1976-2005. The 1990 map used data from a 13-year period of 1974-1986.
Another change with the new map is the addition of an interactive “find your zone by ZIP code” function. Click here to see the new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.