Monday, August 25, 2008

Algae in Your Pond?

Those of us who have water gardens know that algae can be quite the problem. Green water is not what we want to see when we head out to our pond to check up on our plants or our fish.

Algae are simple organisms that feeds off of sunlight, producing oxygen and food that is good for plants and fish. However, when there is too much algae we start to get a problem – most commonly known as an algae bloom – in the form of bright green water.

While this is a completely natural occurrence, it can have dangerous consequences if it is left unchecked. The oxygen that algae produces during the day can quickly be used up by the algae itself over night if there is a lot of algae. I’m sure you can imagine how this might be a problem for your plants and fish.

But what causes these algae blooms?

There can be a number of things that cause this. Firstly – too many nutrients in the water, such as phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon. Fish waste, dead plants, fertilizers and decaying fish food all product the nutrients when they are decomposing.

Secondly – too much sunlight makes for overactive algae.

Thirdly – not enough oxygen in the water.

And how can you prevent it?

You can prevent the decomposition of too many nutrients by skimming the top of your pond every so often to remove any dead plants and leaves. You can also reduce the number of fish that you have in your pond, and therefore creating less fish waste in your pond.

Add more plants to your pond. This will help by providing more competition for the oxygen that the algae produces, as well as providing more shade to your pond – remember, algae needs sunlight! If you can add other items that would block sunlight, that’s a great idea too. There are products that you can add to your pond’s water that claim they actually do this, but I am not completely sure how these work as I haven’t really ever tried that method – but I may in the future as it sounds really easy!

In order to create more oxygen in your ponds, you can also increase the amount of oxygen in your pond. You can do this by adding a small fountain or waterfall in your pond. Not only will this help eliminate algae, but it will also help your fish be healthier. If you don’t want to add a small fountain or waterfall, there are pond pumps that have been created specifically to oxygenate your water.

While there are things you can add to your water to eliminate algaecide, it’s not always a permanent solution. You can, however, find this usually at your local garden center. If you want to go with something a little bit more organic, usually barley extract or barley straw works just as well as a man-made algaecide.

You also have the option to add a filter with a UV clarifier in it. Keep in mind, if you choose this option, that the filter must have a UV clarifier, otherwise you won’t eliminate the algae. The UV light that the clarifier produces causes the algae to clump together, and then allows it to be caught in your filter.

Any of these solutions should help to keep your pond clear and algae-free, so you can enjoy it more fully.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How to Stop Rabbits from Eating your Garden

The past couple of years, we have had a problem with rabbits in our neighbourhood. It started off small, just a rabbit here or there, but now... well, you know what rabbits are like. And we've discovered that they are all quite fond of our hosta garden. I've been looking into ways to get rid of them, and we'll definitely be trying them in the next couple of weeks. We definitely want to keep away from installing a fence if possible – a lot of people recommend this for vegetable gardens, but we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our hosta garden quite as much if it was fenced in.

Here are some of the things we're thinking about trying:
  1. Garlic bulbs or concentrated garlic oil around the garden.

  2. Old items of clothing – shoes, shirts, etc – in the garden. If an item smells too much like humans, then the rabbits will tend to avoid the area. (This may not work in areas like ours where the rabbits don’t seem afraid of us at all.) Cut hair also works – you can get this from a hairdresser.

  3. Urine or dried blood from a rabbit's natural predator – coyotes, foxes, wolves, etc – sprinkled around the garden bed. You can usually buy this at a garden centre. Probably not the best way to do get rid of rabbits in a vegetable garden; make sure to wash anything that you eat first! This may also make your garden smell.

  4. Flakes of soap. You can either buy these, or grate your own soap, but make sure that the soap is pure, with a neutral pH level and it doesn't contain anything that may damage your plants. Reapply soap flakes after heavy rain.

  5. Moth balls and moth flakes apparently keep rabbits away, but be careful not to place them around vegetable gardens, or where any children or pets may get to them. You might also want to avoid putting them near an open window, as they may make your home smell.

  6. If you can spend the time doing so, create a raised bed garden. Even just a slight difference of about one and a half feet will prevent the rabbits from eating your plants.

  7. Place things in your garden that rabbits might mistake for other animals – a hose will look like a snake, for example.

  8. Use empty pop bottles in your garden, either as mobiles or half buried in your garden. The wind blowing over the opening of the bottle, or the bottles banging together will scare the rabbits away.

  9. Some home remedies that people have been using are listed below. Please note that using hot sauce or cayenne peppers may scar the leaves on your plant initially, but should grow back. These mixtures should be applied to your plants for a few days in a row – after this point, the rabbits should have learned not to go near your plants – after that, only apply when the rabbits starts coming back.

    • 1 Tbsp hot pepper sauce or hot Tabasco sauce mixed with warm water

    • 1 clove garlic, 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp dish soap, 1 quart warm water all pureed together

  10. Rabbits really like clover, so if you plant some of that the rabbits will be more likely to eat that than your plants.
As I said above, we want to avoid installing a fence, but if you think the fence would work best for you, it's a good idea to dig a trench around your garden that you’re going to install the fence in. Remember, rabbits are diggers, and they can squeeze under fences that have even the smallest space in them. If the fence is about two feet above ground, it should be tall enough that the rabbits won't be able to jump over.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Terra Composter Revealed has released images of the Terra composter that they are going to be carrying next year. Compared to other composters, I think it looks like a nice, stylish change from the big black one I’ve currently got in my backyard. That said, I'm going to have to wait to see the price before I decide whether or not to purchase it.

What I really like about this, as I said above, is that it LOOKS nice. A lot nicer than what I currently have hidden in the back corner of my yard. I bought one of the rain barrels that carries (the smaller one), and this looks like it's made of the same plastic. If it is, then I know that it's not going to be too heavy, and that it will stand up to a lot of abuse that I may put it through.

The back door is apparently designed in a way to make it hard for rodents to get into, which is definitely a plus for it. I've had problems with raccoons in the past, so anything that will detract from the raccoons getting into my composter is appealing to me.

I've never bothered to make compost tea before – I know, it's supposed to be great for container gardening, and for house plants, but it just always seemed like much too much work for me to bother. It looks like this new composter, however, has an area to collect compost tea, and a spout to drain it from the composter. I can definitely see how this would benefit someone who is as lazy as I can get. ;)

The one part I’m not sure whether I like about this composter is that it looks like it would be a little difficult to turn the compost, as it looks a lot thinner than it is tall. It might be hard to get all of the compost mixed together properly.

What do you think about this compost bin? Is there anything in particular that you like or dislike about it?