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    Well the holidays are over, the tree is down and all the holiday christmas decorations are put away.  I could probably leave my christmas tree up for months as I always miss it once its put away.  Its hard to imagine the room is exactly like it was a month ago because it looks so bare now. With that behind I start thinking that in just a few months it will be spring again.  My how time flies.  The plants are all beginning to grow nicely in the greenhouses and within a couple months will be ready to plant.  

    No sooner said then the snow began...let's hope February is a quick month and we can all get started on our spring projects and planning our gardens.  Actually January is a good month to start ordering some plants for your gardens, at least I'm getting alot of plant magazines in the mail.  So its getting me in the mood.

     

     Official its Fall now.....the other day it was 88 degrees out....today its 52 degrees and looks like fall.  Chill in the air, cloudy skies and rain off and on.  I still need a few more nice warm days before settling in for the dreaded winter months.    I still have to prepare my pond for winter....I always seem to let it go until the last minute.  Hopefully I get those few more warm days or I'll be sorry.

    I decided to share some preparation tasks for your pond before the weather changes and we all settle in for the winter.  This will help improve your pond water and hopefully help make the spring clean up less work. 

    FALL/WINTER POND MAINTENANCE TIPS

     1. Before winter arrives, you will want to make sure your pond and filtering system are clean to ensure good water quality throughout the winter months. With the arrival of fall it is wise to do a partial water change to remove any built up contaminants to improve water quality. Partial water changes need to be made before water temperatures fall below 60 degrees to minimize fish stress. Adding pond salt at this time will improve the slime coating of fish, to help them ward off disease and parasites.

     2. Before the leaves begin to fall, cover your pond with one of our pond nets. The goal is to try and keep the pond as clean as possible for the winter months. Leaves will sink to the bottom of the pond and rot, causing excess carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. After the first frost, take out any floating plants, as these will begin to decay. Trim back hardy lilies and bog plants and place below the freeze line.

    3. Switch to Microbe-Lift Autumn/Winter Prep. This will help break down organic material in the pond before winter sets in. Microbe-Lift Autumn/Winter Prep helps accelerate the decomposition of leaves, scum, sediment and other organic matter during the fall and throughout the winter months. Also, Microbe-Lift Autumn/Winter Prep helps to maintain a healthy immune system for your fish during the winter months. Microbe-Lift Autumn/Winter Prep will help jump-start your pond to a healthier environment in the spring.

     4.Reduce your fish feeding as the water temperatures drop below 60 degrees. Start feeding your fish a couple of times a week. We recommend switching to a wheat germ based fish food formulated for fall and spring feeding. When water temperatures drop below 60 degrees, the metabolism of your fish slow down. Both Tetra-Pond Spring/Fall and Microbe-Lift Cold Weather fish food are highly digestible cool weather diets that are made with less protein, but contain wheat germ, which is easily digested. They also contain higher levels of fat, which help your fish survive their winter hibernation. When water temperatures reach 50 degrees, stop feeding your fish completely. Feeding at water temperatures below 50 degrees can possibly kill your fish. A pond thermometer is a must have.  This will help you in determining when to stop feeding your fish and will also help to know when to begin feeding your fish in the spring.  Its also a good idea to know your water temperature for those adding tropical pond plants to your pond in the spring.

     5.Adding Microbe-Lift Barley Straw Extract will help control string algae throughout the fall and winter months. Barley Straw Extract is an effective and eco-friendly way to reduce algae. Unlike algaecides, which are ineffective in water temperatures below 50 degrees, Microbe-Lift Barley Straw Extract will continue to control algae throughout the winter months.

     6.Before freezing temperatures begin, install a pond de-icer. Ponds covered with ice do not allow toxic gases to escape causing fish loss. A pond de-icer will keep a section of your pond open to allow oxygen and gas exchange.

     7.During the winter removing snow from the surface of the pond will help submerged plants and microscopic aquatic plants to continue to produce oxygen as long as light penetrates through the ice. Insufficient light, along with the decomposition of plant and leaf debris may result in insufficient oxygen for the fish, causing them to suffocate. Removing the snow from a portion of your surface area will reduce the likelihood of this occurring.

     

    I'm not certain of the identity of this butterfly.  I thought perhaps it was a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.    I'm really not certain, although it sure liked my dwarf crab-apple tree.  It came back day after day.....I'm thinking it was the same one.

    I know we don't want to think about it but it won't be long and fall will be here and we all know what comes next.....its time for us to be thinking about taking the extra care with our pond plants to make them comfortable for the winter cold.  I've noticed the butterflies aren't as plentiful as they had been but occassionally I'm able to catch one.

    HARDY BOG/MARGINAL PLANTS

    Once your hardy marginal plants begin to brown, usually after the first hard frost, prune back excess foliage and discard any decaying material, so it does not compromise the water quality over the winter months.  Potted bog plants such as Pickeral, Thalia Dealbata, and Japanese Variegated Iris should be placed at a sufficient depth to avoid freezing the crown of the plant. Most of the other hardy bog plants can be left as they are and will return the following spring.

     

     

    Tropical Bog Plants

    Many of the tropical bog plants will winter well indoors in a sunny window or with a grow light. They do not need to be  submerged in water. Keep the soil constantly moist by placing the potted plants in a tray of water.

    Aquatic pond plants need to be fertilized monthly to flourish and bloom profusely. At Dragonfly Aquatics we recommend Highland Rim Aquatic Plant Fertilizer tablets. Specially formulated for blooming aquatic plants, with a 10-26-10 nutrient ratio.Highland Rim Fertilizer tablets give your waterlilies, lotuses and blooming marginals plenty of phosphorus to produce the most spectacular blossoms possible. The large 10-gram tablets are safe and non-toxic. They will not promote algae blooms in ponds and they will not harm fish or other aquatic life. Highland Rim Aquatic Plant Fertilizer is available in packs of 12, 36, 80 or 300 tablets. Be sure to order fertilizer tablets with your next plant order.

    We've been so busy taking orders and shipping orders, we just haven't had time to write on the blog as we should.  It has been a whirlwind of a spring so far.  Those in planting zones 8 on the west coast  have had an usually cold spring and should have had their plants in a month ago.  But thanks to good old mother nature, they are still waiting  for their normal warm temperatures.  Hopefully things have finally warmed up.  We held up shipping their plants and it became a daily routine of checking their 10 day forecast to see if they could climb out of the 50 degree weather they were experiencing.  That was their high!  For those of us in the lower planting zones, we should be able to begin putting our plants in the pond, mother nature cooperates  for a couple days and then slips in a few fridgid night time lows in the 30s and 40s.  What do we do?

    Just remember, we need to play it safe and make sure the weather is going to cooperate and keep our new plants protected from the cold.  If we put water lettuce in too early, the leaves will turn from their nice green to white.....water temperatures too cold.  Water hyacinths turn brown......again too cold.  Play it safe with your newly purchased plants and if you think the weather is still too cold,  put them in a container and keep them indoors for a few days.  If it is warm during the day, go ahead and place them outside to get the sun.  I would rather play it safe and protect the plants, then to take a chance of them dying and having to replace them. We do our best to ship the plants when it is safe for you to put them in your pond. We watch the weather highs and lows across the nation and try to ship the plants accordingly. Unfortunately, those cold fronts coming down from Canada, make it somewhat difficult to second guess Mother Nature!

    Next month hopefully we will all be sitting by our ponds thinking how nice everything looks and forget about the crazy spring we just had.

    I thought I'd publish this article we wrote last year again.  When trying to get some of the bog plants started in your ponds its best to start them out slowly in the water, since most of them are swamp like plants.  They can tolerate a few inches above their pot once they are established and growing. When growing them in our greenhouses we have them growing in two inch net pots in bins that have about one inch of water in them so the water is keeping their roots wet. 

    Here's the article.

    I've been wanting to write something on this subject for some time now. Finally, I have a bit of time to address the subject of water depth for bog plants and marginal plants. Simply put, bog plants like their "feet" wet. Translation....roots and soil moist at all times.  When the plants are first planted, this is especially important. Many of the bog plants will take deeper water as they mature and spread. But, when you first receive your bog plants, you will have better success if you place them where there is no more than a half inch or less of  water above the soil line.  Think of the marshes and swampy areas, you have passed while traveling down the road. These natural reservoirs, fill during the rainy season and will dry out during dry spells. The plants adjust to the varying water depth and grow and spread rapidly.  If you have a question on a particular plant, just ask and we will be happy to help you plant and grow beautiful marginal and bog plants.

    Walked out to the pond the other morning, and there they were, a pair of Mallard Ducks! My first thought was, oh how pretty they are, and what a cute couple they make! I started to have visions of the nest they would build next to the pond, after that the family of ducklings would appear. It would be so wonderful to watch them grow up, learn to swim, follow their parents around and in the pond. Then the voice of reason came! Ducks are not really welcome visitors to your backyard water garden. Unfortunately, ducks make a mess. Their droppings add unwanted nutrients to your pond. Not to mention, they are vegetarian for the most part, and they will eat your plants. The same plants you have spent your money on, they will eat.  So, I listened to that voice of reason, scared the pair off, made them feel unwelcome and they have not been back since. I'm sure they have found one of the larger ponds or lakes in the area to call home.

    marsh-marigolds-in-my-pond2

    Here we go again.  I call it the Spring Tease.  Just when plants are beginning to sprout and the warm weather hits....big time....it teases us with a mention of snow!  The cold front here in Ohio and across the north has moved in for a few days.  If you have already put plants out in your ponds, be sure and bring them in or protect them.  

    I was going to clean my pond last week, but with taking care of our customers and being busy taking your orders and sending orders I just haven't gotten around to it yet.  I did see that I had some marsh marigolds blooming and bog bean.  It gets me anxious, wanting to put more plants out.  Good thing I held back.  I'll just leave them be in the nursery where they are nice and warm.  Besides, I really need to clean my pond at home since I neglected to do that last year.  It's pretty bad.  I think I need the Microbe-Lift Sludge Away.   I have alot of build up of sludge on the bottom of my pond.  Maybe then I'll only need to change out half the water this year.  I did start putting the Microbe-Lift Spring and Summer in a couple weeks back and the water is crystal clear, but now you can really see the goop at the bottom.    For those that haven't tried the Microbe-Lift Sludge Away it works great at speeding up the removal of sludge & muck naturally.
    It is especially helpful for ponds that have a rock or gravel bottom, where vacuuming is impractical. Microbe-Lift SA/Sludge Away is formulated specifically for the removal of organic bottom solids that are slow to degrade but works faster at warm water temperatures, however, Microbe-Lift SA/Sludge Away may be used effectively at any temperature year-round.       

    bog-bean-in-my-pond

    We had highs in the low to mid 80's the last couple of days here in Ohio.  One week snow, the next unseasonably warm. Don't want to get too used to it though, next week we will be back to the normal spring time temperatures. Normal here this time of year is mid 50's to mid 60's. Nothing like a few warm days though to get people out working on their ponds.  The weather has been on the unusual side. One week snow, the next record breaking high temperatures. It makes it very difficult to know when to ship plants. Many of the plants we sell are cold sensitive and trying to second guess Mother Nature is sometimes impossible! We have customers in the Pacific Northwest that are still freezing, the time has passed when we usually can start to send their plants. Old Man Winter just isn't moving out of that part of the country yet. Hopefully, things will start to warm up for them in the next week or two.  And for us in Ohio, we can only hope the milder temperatures will continue. We just want to remind everyone, just because you are having warm temperatures today, does not mean it is safe to put plants out before your last frost date. It has been such a long winter, I know everyone is a little impatient....I am too! But, always remember, Mother Nature likes to throw curve balls at us! Just when we think it is safe to put plants out, along comes a freeze warning!

    This is what some of us in the North woke up to this morning, and this was after some of it had melted.  What happened to those 50 and 60 degree days???  Hopefully they will be back again soon.  How can we get started cleaning our ponds and thinking putting those new plants in if the water is too cold to put our hand in it.  And what about those fish and frogs???? They are hiding again.

    Whenever this happens, those of us who wanted our plants shipped thinking its finally warm wonder, now what do I do with them.  Make sure you protect them by bringing them indoors until it warms up.  Remember most of the plants have been indoors in a greenhouse environment and shiver even when the temps are in the 60s.  But we need to make sure the water temperature have stabilized to 65 degrees before we put those floating plants out.  

    The floating water plants in your pond need to have the water temperature reach 65 degrees.  They will show signs of yellowing leaves and black spots on their leaves if left  in water temps below that.  The water lettuce will wilt and turn white if too cold.   We tend to get anxious in the spring and sometimes put floaters in before the water is warm enough.  Even the lotus and waterlilies need the warmer weather to start growing.  But at least those were outside all winter and were pulled to ship out. 

    Hopefully, like last year, this is a short spell and in a couple weeks things will turn around and we can once again start looking forward to enjoying our ponds.

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