Early Spring Pond

  • Plan This Year’s Improvements: Use this early Spring time to get an idea of any new improvements you want to make to your pond. Will you be adding a water feature, or a new UV light? This a great time of year to get started. The weather is cool, and everything is already shut off for the winter.
  • Take Inventory: Have you convinced your spouse that you deserve a new underwater light with 144 different color combinations? Or maybe just a new pond net? Having a pond can be an expensive hobby. I like to buy one new major item a year. This keeps the cost low, and after a few seasons you will have everything you thought you needed.
  • Start Fresh with a Healthy Pond: This time of year, the pond is very fragile. Everything is starting to come out of the winter freeze. Be prepared for anything with PH Up/Down, Microbe-Lift and other pond treatments. Don’t get too excited about starting up your pond. A lot of pond owners start moving water far too soon and end up with busted pipes when the last frost hits. There always seems to be a week or two of spring like weather and then one final freeze. A lot of wineries know about this and if you still see plastic frost shields on orchards then it would be wise to follow their advice.
  • Check Electrical and Plumbing: Now is the ideal time to make any fixes to your plumbing. With all of the water flushed out of the lines you shouldn’t have to worry about replacing any broken spots. It is best to find any electrical/ plumbing issues now, before the Summer sun comes out and makes this a time critical fix.

Enjoy your creation. After all, this is what owning a pond or water garden is all about. Isn’t it? Unless you are in the tip 1% and pay someone to care for you. In that case I’m flattered your reading my article.

Bottom line. You will learn your pond. each pond is an ecosystem that develops its own quirks. Learn what your pond needs and try to help it get there. Working with nature is the only way to achieve a healthy pond.

APS Pond Supply is an online retailer of pond supplies located in Tri-Cities, WA. We offer low prices on pond pumps, pond filters, water treatment, Koi food, UV sterilizers, and much more. In our community there are limited affordable places to shop for pond supplies. We feel our prices (including shipping) are very competitive online as well as locally.The mission of APS Pond Supply is to offer the best pond supplies available with exceptional customer service. Our website is optimized to provide you with a safe and secure environment to begin or continue your water gardening adventure.

Crafting Shed

Begin the deck with 2x4s, pressure-treated, by attaching them to the frame vertically by employing a framing nailer. Install two 9-foot side pieces and lay them beside each other before installing two 4-foot end pieces. Mark each location of the joists to make sure that they will be evenly spaced at exactly 16 inches, then secure the end pieces and secure the joists to the frame using the framing nailer. Next, install 5/4″ decking to secure the decking boards using a screw gun. Install each with the cleaner side facing upwards, and install the first board along the edge and allow it to overhang the frame’s edge by half an inch.

Using the complete deck as a work surface, begin building the walls by laying out 8-foot-tall wall panels for the sides, top plate, bottom plate and studs that are spaced at 16 inches. Secure them together using a nail gun and repeat this process until the wall panels are finished. Nail them to the deck to raise the walls and scan the structure using a framing square. Build two more narrow panels for the wall that will hold the door using two 2x4s for the side for more strength on either side.

After both the front wall panels are set in the constructing a storage shed and the structure is finished, add 2x4s across the top to make a double top-plate. This will ensure that the shed is stronger. Once all the wall panels are done hang 4″x8″ sheets of OSB siding for the outside.

To make the roof rafters cut 2×6 boards and make them 13 inches long at the center. Now secure them with cleats made from OSB. Raise and attach them to the headers, then use 1×6 strips for the tops of the rafters and tie them to add support for the roofing sheets. Next, nail down the roofing sheets with self-sealing nails and washers.

After the completion of the boxes, cut holes for the windows and the storage boxes using a reciprocating saw. To make specific cuts through the OSB, cut between the studs. Next, attach vinyl siding to the outside of the shed using the manufacturer’s instructions. Starting at the corners, work your way to the middle and secure the siding using nails to the OSB.

Now once the main steps to construct a storage shed are completed, the doors and any storage pieces can be added. Make the two doors from one sheet of 3/4″ plywood that will be cut in half and has a 1″x4″ trim for the outer frame and barn-style “X” braces. Use 1/2″ plywood for the storage pieces that will be fastened with glue and nails for securing previously cut openings. Having a ramp to use for the front door will make it easier to store and retrieve tools such as mowers.

Take Care of a Bamboo Plant

Sunlight

Bamboo does best in direct and full sunlight. For this reason, don’t be afraid to plop your bamboo plant right in the middle of your garden. Don’t worry about hot spots or too much sun, the bamboo wants that.

Soil

Think acidic! Whether you plant your bamboo indoors or out, make sure that you plant it in some moderately acidic soil.

Bonus Tip: When you bamboo plant sheds leaves let them rest on the ground on top of the soil and mulch. This is will enable to the soil to stay moist and provide the nourishment that your plant will need to keep growing well.

Watering

Younger bamboo plants will need more water than when they are older. Water your younger plants twice a week. During the summer months of dryness and wind, make sure that you water your bamboo daily and be generous. Once you have the bamboo right where you want it and at the desired height, you can drop down your watering to just once per week. Don’t worry, your plant will continue to flourish and the reduce water will cut down on growth.

Planting Multiple Trees

If you’re going for a natural looking yard screen, then the bamboo is the perfect plant to provide it. Plant your plants about 3 to 5 feet apart. Bamboo is a giant grass and each year, your plants will throw up taller and stronger shoots so that annual maintenance of your natural screen may be necessary.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea

Leave them alone! Really. Quit tinkering with your plants trying to give them every little thing they need. What they really need is good soil, and adequate amount but not an over abundance of water and some sunshine. That’s about it. Quit fertilizing them and pouring all kinds of concoctions on them.

They know what to do. They are genetically wired to do one thing and only one thing. Make leaves and make flowers! Okay, so that’s two things. But they know that. They don’t need you sticking your nose in their business. If you give them the three things mentioned above and leave them alone they will grow and bloom.

Nikko Blue is in the macrophylla family of hydrangeas and therefore most people say to prune it right after it blooms. That’s great advice and you should follow it, but this spring I discovered something that has me a little perplexed. I bought about 50 Nikko Blues this spring. They were in the field and were dug just a tad late. On top of that I think they got tazed by a little frost. That’s a new gardening term, Tazed. In other words, they didn’t look so good, and were pretty much unappealing.

So I decided to prune them really hard, even though it was the middle of May.

What happened? After they were pruned they flushed out with beautiful new growth and then started blooming like crazy! Not only did I prune them in the middle of May, I cut them back really hard.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it many, many times in the future.
Quit tinkering with your plants!

They don’t need all of those store bought concoctions to make them do this or do that, sing and dance and jump over the moon. They just don’t need it! They need good soil that drains well, water on a regular basis, and sunshine. That’s what they need. That’s all they need.

Mike! Liar, liar Pants on Fire!

You just said you fertilized these hydrangeas in June! You’re telling me not to fertilize and you are fertilizing. You tell me one thing and then you do something else yourself. What gives Mike?

Great question! You caught me. This is really important for you to understand. The plants in my landscape do not get fertilized ever. Except maybe the roses because if and when I remember to do so I spray them with Bayer 3-1 Rose and Flower Spray and that does contain some fertilizer. All of the other plants in my landscape do not get fertilized ever. They haven’t been fertilized since I bought them.

Why no fertilizer for the plants in my landscape? They just don’t need it. They do absolutely fine without it.

Plants that are grown in the nursery in containers are grown in what is called a soil-less growing mix. In other words, the soil in the pot is not soil at all and it does not contain any soil. It’s usually a combination of bark mixes. There are a lot of reasons for this and a big one is drainage. These bark mixes drain really well. But that means that a lot of nutrients are getting washed away before they can be absorbed by the plant. And these soil-less mixes are really low in nutrients to begin with. So plants grown in containers have to be fertilized. Plants in a landscape do not have to be fertilized. I hope that makes sense.

If your Nikko Blue is not Blue, or Blue enough you can add Aluminum Sulfate to the soil and that should make the blooms more blue in color. You can get the Aluminum Sulfate at any full service garden center.
How Do You Propagate Hydrangeas?

Most hydrangeas are easy to propagate if you do them in the summer using soft new growth. Not spring, but summer. Mid June or later.

Quit tinkering with your plants. Just let them be plants. They know what to do. In order for plants to make a flower bud they have to slow down or almost quit growing all together to work on flower buds. But if you are dumping all kind of performance enhancing concoctions on them they can’t slow down and make flowers. It’s like you holding the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor then trying to turn the corner. It just not going to work!

Creating Edible Hedge

Due to the small garden spaces, I would recommend to use ‘dwarf’ tree varieties, and there are plenty of them! You can use them as hedges to create privacy in your yard. You can use crabapple and citrus trees that can be trained to give you a lush privacy screen. Or you can use shrubs, such as blueberry, raspberry, hazelnut, elderberry or gooseberry as excellent alternatives.

Whilst the main purpose of an edible hedge is to produce edible nuts, berries, leaves and other parts, you should also ensure to mix with them other plants that attract pollinators and other beneficiary insects. This can increase the amount of food you can produce by approximately 30%!

Also keep in mind that most edible hedges will lose their leaves in winter. If you are looking for an evergreen hedge you should consider citrus fruit, sweet bay or rosemary.

If you don’t have enough room, you can always train trees into fences by using the technique of espaliering. Espailering is the technique used to train shrubs or trees grow in a flat line, it gives it more strength if you can train the tree against a flat wall or trellis.

This technique has been around for centuries, as it allows large trees to be grown in small areas, and also to provide a creative way of growing fruit. It is mainly used on apple, pear, apricot, plum, cherry and almond trees.

You can get rather creative with your patterns when espaliering, one thing to keep in mind, no matter which pattern you are choosing, is that you will have to constantly prune and train your chosen plants to keep them growing the way you want them to, so you have to ensure that you have the dedication to keep on working on your fruit plants.

Art of Pruning

Begin with the basics. First cut back any diseased or damaged branches. Cut back to the undamaged and health branches. If there are two branches that are crossing, cut the most awkwardly placed branch back to the main stem. If there are any weak branches, cut them right down to the base. Pruning to preserve the shape of the tree or shrub or if you are want to promote growth, then the pruning is done between the buds on the stems. If the buds are positioned opposite each other on the stem, make a clean horizontal cut just above them, about 1 cm. If the buds are placed alternately you should angle the cut, starting on the opposite side of the stem and slanting upwards so the top of the cut is about 1 cm above the bud on the other side. Remember that if you want to influence the shape of the tree or shrub you will need to prune back to two or more buds, as the new branch will grow in the direction the bud you prune to, is facing. For example, if a plant is growing over the path or paving, try to prune away from the path or paving, while if possible, not to spoil the plants overall shape.

Knowing when to prune which plants is important. There are shrubs that flower on the current year’s growth. These are pruned in early spring which promotes further flowering and growth later in the season. Other shrubs flower on a one year old wood and flower early in spring. These are cut back as soon as their flowers have faded. This ensures flowering the following season. Any trimming of shrubs that produce their flowers on short growths which extend from the main branch should be done in late spring, once the flowering has finished.

Transplanting Seedlings

The Principle Involved

Knowing the principle of air circulation, which is the reason behind not compacting the soil, and also knowing that compacted soil cuts down on growth and production, I should have figured this out years ago. But I didn’t. Dah! (I have a feeling I’m in good company though.)

Try This Approach

Try this approach when transplanting any tiny seedling or even when youre potting-up tiny seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other warm weather crops. The same principles apply for larger transplants.

  • Place the seedling in the hole where you’re going to plant it.
  • Place the dirt around it to fully cover the root.
  • Do NOT pack the soil down.
  • If the soil is moist (like just after a nice rain) firm it EVER SO GENTLY.
  • If the soil is dry, sprinkle with light mulch to just cover everything and THEN water with a sprinkling can. The water will firm the soil enough for good root to soil contact. The mulch will keep the soil from compacting when watered.

Benefits

This approach helps keep the tiny roots in tact, and also gives the roots the air circulation they need for good growth.

This is basically the same reason we prepare soil deeply to begin with: to allow air circulation within the soil. With oxygen circulating, the beneficial microorganisms in the soil (the soil life) can thrive and do their jobs to help you be successful.

When the soil is compacted and no air can get through, that’s when the bad guys in the soil can thrive.

It’s the very same principle that causes compacted soil to cut down on production of produce by as much as 50%!

Crucial Steps To Successful Herb Gardening

Make a plan

Rather than just going to the garden center and purchasing whatever herbs smell good or look pretty do some research and choose plants you will actually cook with. Figure out which herbs will go with the food you and your family enjoy eating. It’s fun to add a few plants to experiment with but start with a basic lineup and go from there.

Follow and connect with bloggers and garden sites online for useful tips and advice.

This is a great way to find other new herb gardeners and people that are experiencing the same challenges you’re facing and may be asking similar questions. Local stores sometimes offer specials on the web along with videos and classes. One site that I enjoy is hosted by P. Allen Smith. He has a show on the Create Channel, a website, and a newsletter that you can subscribe to.

Avoid overwhelm by beginning with containers

Before you launch into a major project of tilling up your yard for herb gardening try growing herbs in containers first. This is a great way to make sure it’s something you want to continue doing and it gives you a chance of trial and error to discover what grows best in your yard based on sunlight, drainage, etc.

Follow the caring guidelines that come with each of your plants

This will tell you the amount of sunlight, water, and any other special instructions that they need to thrive. Read the labels before you buy for expected growth size and to make sure that you have the right size container in mind and the best location selected in your yard for each plant. You can get moisture control potting soil to avoid over watering but I’ve always just done the finger test in the dirt to see if it feels dry. With super hot climates herbs that are in the full sun may have to be watered every couple of days if it doesn’t rain.

Do not bury your herb plants too deep

Most herbs that you purchase have a pretty well-developed root system. You only need to gently separate the root ball and rest the plant in a whole deep enough to cover the dirt. Make sure the leaves are kept exposed and your herb will take hold in its new home.

Do not pack the dirt around your herbs too tightly

If you push down too firmly on your newly planted herbs you may inhibit their growth. Just add water to the hole, fill it with soil, and gently press the dirt around the plant.

Purchase the largest bag of potting soil that you can physically handle

This is the way to get the best price per cubic feet but dirt is heavy so don’t risk your back. Usually the employees at a garden center will load it into the car for you. Then if you have a cart, just slide it out of the car and onto that. There are so many types of potting soil promising to make your plants grow twice as big, control the moisture, etc. I just use a good quality soil with fertilizer, intended for vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Organic is also an option but it’s more expensive.

Hornbeam Tree

Identifying a Hornbeam Tree

A full grown hornbeam will live for up to 350 years (if pollarded or coppiced) and can grow up to 30m tall.

The common beech is often confused for the hornbeam. It has a smooth, stubby and warped trunk, which turns rigged with age. The grey bark is pale and has vertical marking running down them. Twigs have small hairs and are brown to grey in colour. Leaf buds are much like beech buds, only a little bit shorter, with a slight curve at the tips. The leaves are oval shaped, toothed and have pointed tips. They are smaller and more furrowed compared to beech; they also turn from yellow to orange during autumn before they fall.

Hornbeam has a monoecious reproductive system, meaning that the male and female flowers (catkins) are located within the same tree. Once they have been pollinated, usually by wind, they turn into paper thin fruits with wings; these are known as samaras.

Significance to Wildlife

The hornbeam does not shed its leaves and provides all year round shelter for birds, as well as roosting and foraging opportunities.

The leaves are usually eaten by caterpillars of moths such as the nut tree tussock. Small mammals will eat the seeds during autumn, along with small birds like tits and finches.

Myths and Legends

It was thought that a tonic made from the tree useful for curing sleepiness and fatigue. The leaves were also used to heal wounds.

How we use hornbeam

The timber has a speckled grain and is cream to white in colour. You’ll find this wood is very strong and durable, and has many uses for making flooring and furniture.

Historically it was used for making ox-yokes (this is a wooden beam that gets fitted on the shoulders of an ox so it could pull carts along), as well as chopping blocks for butchers and parts for water and wind mills. It was also used to make poles from pollarded and coppiced trees.

The wood burs very well and is often used to make charcoal and firewood.

Threats, Pests and Diseases

As with most trees, the hornbeam can be vulnerable to some fungal diseases, particularly Phytophthora. Grey squirrels can also cause damage to trees by stripping the bark.

Plant in Clay Soil

Planting in clay soil is great for the vegetation that have roots strong enough to break through the hardened ground and compacted clay. Amending an area to make suitable for gardening other types of vegetation is doable. The main idea to remember is to amend an entire area NOT just a single hole for the desired plant to root.

Why is it important to improve the soil structure in an entire area rather a single location? If a gardener focuses on a single location once the plant roots it will grow root length only as far and wide as the hole that was amended. Once the roots reach the soil that is clay the roots will grow inward as they are unable to penetrate through the unforgiving clay soil. The plant may survive, but it will be severely root bound.

Checking soil quality is very important, drainage of the soil is imperative. I also researched a multitude of opinions on the best practices of checking soil quality, and the one common factor each opinion offered is to check more than one or two locations in the ground. Some locations of your yard may require different types or amounts of amendments making it even more important to check the soil’s texture in multiple locations. Dig a hole one foot deep fill it with water wait for it to drain, refill to the top, and time how long it takes to empty.

Proper drainage of the soil helps plant growth. If the water drains to slowly you more than likely have clay, but if it drains to rapidly, It will not be able to retain water or plant nutrients for healthy plant growth. In soil where the water drainage is faster than cup and hour the soils may have too much sand. In cases of clay soil with poor drainage mixing builder’s sand or compost (annually) will improve soil quality.

Adding organic amendments to the soil lightens soil texture, discourages compacting clay, adds nutrients, improves drainage and aeration, and moderates soil temperature, and provides pore space. Amend clay soil with organic matter, decomposed organic matter, (if you can tell what it is it is not decomposed enough) by working the compost into the soil.

Using undecomposed organic matter such as wood chips or mulch are great for on top of the soil, but should not be worked into the clay soil during the growing season. the reason it is not suggested during growing season, the undecomposed matter will continue its decomposition and rob the soil of further nitrogen to aid in its process. Sometimes it is referred to as a work in progress when using material that has not fully reach compost.

During the winter months its is fine to use the under decomposed material, the finishing touches of turning to compost will occur during the non growing season, I know there is always an exception to the rule.

The most important aspect to remind yourself, clay soil can be great soil if amendments are made. If you have questions about the pH levels in you soil don’t hesitate to contact your local County Extension Service and request a soil sample be taken.