Colocasia gigantea “Thailand Giant”

The first year (2012)

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The second year (2103) with weekly fertilizer

It was love at first sight when I first saw this plant. Living in Indiana, I love to have that tropical feel in my backyard during the summer. I bought this plant online and planted it in a pot after the threat of frost was past. It was a beautiful addition to my patio.

Keep in mind that in its native habitat, it reaches heights of 9 feet or more. My plant, however, only reached a height of maybe 3 feet.  The leaves were truly gorgeous though. You can see plant in the above picture, which is directly behind the standing woman (me!).  I’m confident that with a longer growing season plus more fertilizer would have made this plant grow exponentially more than it did. I will be experimenting with that next summer.

Overwintering
With its native habitat being Thailand, it prefers zones 8-11. This is important information when considering your overwintering needs. After some research, I learned that not all species of the Colocasia genus are quick to grow corms. And this happens to be one of those. For my growing zone, this particular plant should be brought indoors during the winter and placed in a cool location (45-60°F) with bright light, being careful not to overwater as this plant will be semi-dormant. I have chosen to overwinter this plant in my garage under a grow light.

Harvesting the Seed
As Autumn approached, the plant produced several inflorescences, I wanted to try my hand at propagating it. Inflorescences are essentially the complete flower head, shown in the picture below, consisting of the spathe and the spadix.  The spathe is the white thin bract that surrounds and protects the spadix.  While the spadix is the spiked center portion, which contains the male and female portion.
Pollination occurs when the male portion of the spadix produces a powdery-like build-up of pollen. In nature, the pollen can be transported with the help of insects. Hand pollination can be achieved too, especially if your plant is contained indoors.
Individual seed pods are located towards the bottom of the spadix, which is the female portion (see picture).   Each seed pod will be about the size of a pea when ready for harvest and the individual pods are full of seed. An entire seed head may have up to 100 or so individual seed pods. So, there is a potential for thousands of seeds!

Seeds shown settling to the bottom of the bag

When is the seed ready?
You will want to wait until the white portion of spathe actually falls from the plant. The seed will develop in the lower (female) portion of the flower. After 3-4 weeks, cut the flower completely off at the base of the female portion. You can then peel that surrounding green portion that is around the female part and you should see the swollen seed pods containing seed.  Take the entire seed pod, soak it in a Ziploc-style baggy with 1/3 water and all the air pressed out. Let the seed pod soak for a couple of hours to soften. Once soft, massage the entire seed head and you should be able to see the tiny seed. Try to get the seed to sink to the bottom of the bag (see image below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Alternate Method
Now I’ve also read where if the spadix is left alone, the female portion of the spadix will eventually rupture open full of seed.  From there, the seeds can be extracted.  I have yet to try this technique.  However, I have successfully extracted seeds with the prior technique.  I then dried the seeds and will propagate in the Spring.

Anyone have any thoughts or experience to share?  Please feel free to share your knowledge.

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Chinese High Fin Banded Shark

Want to liven up your pond with a new fish this year? You might want to consider the Chinese High Fin Banded Shark to add some interest to your pond. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they resemble sharks in their juvenile state, they still exhibit a peaceful temperament, even a playfully swimming manner. They are even known to change color depending on their mood.
These omnivorous bottom dwellers prefer cooler temperatures with stretches of warmer weather, as they are native to the Yangtze River in China.
Some other considerations for raising these fish:
• Provide well oxygenated water
• Appear to be a schooling fish, so consider buying in groups to mimic their natural habitat
• In their natural habitat, adults grow up to 40 inches.
• Can be fed sinking algae pellets, sinking goldfish food, brine shrimp and blood worms

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Nymphaea ‘Scarlet Flame’ Named 2012 Collector’s Aquatic Plant of the Year

The International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society (IWGS) recently announced the 2012 Collector’s Aquatic Plant of the Year: Nymphaea ‘Scarlet Flame’.   Shown above, this beautiful day-blooming tropical water lily was introduced by Florida Aquatic Nurseries and won 1st place in the IWGS 2011 New Waterlily Competition.

“‘Scarlet Flame’ is truly unique in its appearance and stands in a league of its own,” says Brandon McLane of Florida Aquatic Nurseries. “This free-flowering tropical waterlily produces up to 3 blooms at a time and is accented by bright green pads with red undersides. We’re quite pleased with the results.”

 

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!

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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.