Members adventures in the Vegetable Patch all year round
So glad you are better now LL x
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Ingrid-Bergman,Madeleline,Norma-Jean,Dora,Janice,Jo,Robyn,Chrissy,Briony and Joyce
The Peds…Mork,Mindy,Bell,Saphire &
Vorky ,Blueped,Ginger,Ninger &Linky
Sunny Clucker was ere July 12-21 2012
Sunny Clucker was ere July 6 2016 to Sept 9th 2017
Sunny Clucker is here , rehomed Aug 18th 2018/
I think it's pretty obvious that I had more or less abandoned the garden last year for one reason (unable to get compost in spring) or other (mainly the pressures of homeworking) and 2021 doesn't seem to be starting off any better so I'm not feeling particularly enthusiastic as I normally would be at this time of year. I've not even ordered my seed potatoes or taken an interest in any seed catalogues.
I have however, still been reading up on climate change issues especially with the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from 1 to 12 November 2021 under the presidency of the United Kingdom. So I'm going to at least get back into the composting and algae projects this year, and when it stops raining, snowing or blowing a storm, top up my "brash" pile with another hedge and tree trim which got missed last year. I'm determined this year that there will be a big wildflower seed sowing event in spring, and hopefully I'll also get to plant the comfrey and asparagus grown in big pots on the patio this past year out into the garden.
I know the algae project on the scale I do it is so small, it would barely be a speck compared to the CO2 problem but I hope to expand on it. And with that in mind, I started looking out for the algae culture I got back in 2019 and to my amazement, found the supplier I used before on ebay. I ordered a 250ml culture of Chlorella vulgaris (single celled algae) yesterday with expected delivery on Monday to find it had being delivered today! I can store it in the fridge for about a month so that should give me time to gather what I need to start up fresh cultures in readiness for seeding various tanks. The biggest limiting factor at the moment will be the temperature - they really need summer temperatures along with good light to thrive, both of which seem lacking at the moment.
I have lots of ideas about the revised "algae farming" but before I get carried away as usual and then failing miserably, I'll just post as and when (if) things get done and see how it goes ...
With the Beast from the East 2 on the way, not a lot going on in the garden. I was a bit concerned that the algae I had bought would not survive so I have already started to spread some of it into partially filled 2L bottles of water and left them on the window sill. I'm not expecting any growth as the day temperature is well below optimum but when we have had some sun, it has been cosy in the window.
As my plans to be more "climate friendly" include no fertilizer (not that any were used in the garden), I do have a surplus from the allotment days. Most will likely be used for the potted plants only but I have been considering the algae project. To cut a long story short, algae, like all plants, need access to essential minerals for growth. The 2019 Algae project started off with some experiments to show growth using various sources of nitrogen - compost tea and urine showed exceptionally good growth and later, all other fertilizers except iron sulphate. I suspected the iron sulphate was too acidic but I still feel iron is worth investigating so I've set up an alternate experiment.
The problem with using urine and compost tea is the introduction of bacteria so this time round, I've kept to fertilizers. As well as Growmore, I used Phostrogen (all purpose fertilizer), dried blood (excellent nitrogen source and contains ... iron) and a liquid feed that was given to me for hydroponic growing along with plain tap water. The liquid feed contained a small amount of copper - I suspect this is to keep mould down but wasn't sure how it would affect the algae hence, part of the experiment. That's providing the algae survives until the weather is warmer and sunnier. I noticed the experiment / coffee jar results in 2019 were in June so only 4 months to wait ...
The "Beast from the East 2" was as bad as it was forecast - rooms in the house not heated got as cold as the winter of 2010/2011 and it got uncomfortably frigid even in the heated rooms. Thankfully the change from freezing easterly winds were replaced by southerly winds and temperatures have climbed to about 10oC give or take a couple of degrees either way, with even warmer temperatures forecast next week. My first concern was the fish pond - at times I couldn't hear the water from the biofilter and had visions of a giant ice cube and dead fish floating, but when I finally ventured out to find out what the damage was, not only was everything okay but I also found duckweed (which should have all died off in winter) was still on the pond surface. With damage to one of the pond walls, I had kept the water level much lower than in the past - my first thought that the reduced volume of water would not retain much heat but I suspect the lower level was better protected from the sub zero temperature under the plastic sheeting.
And the low temperatures had an impact on my algae project - I'd left the bottles on the windowsill for maximum light from the south side, but was also the coldest. However, when there was some sunshine, the temperature on the windowsill was much warmer than expected. For the moment, not a lot of growth as I would expect but there is a slight cloudiness in the water suggesting something is growing. The delivery instructions for the algae indicated it could be stored in the fridge for up to a month so the remaining culture should ideally be used up sooner rather than later that is on my to do list.
After last year's disastrous gardening due to the Covid lock down (unable to get fresh compost and working longer hours from home, meaning having to do a lot more than I would normally have to do at work just to prove I was doing something), I wasn't feeling particularly enthusiastic about gardening 2021. A bit of warmer temperatures and a hint of spring to come, I confess that I started to look at seed catalogues. I was pleased with the Bunny Tail grass last year and decided to add a couple more ornamental grasses to the shopping basket - Blue Festuca glauca and Ornamental Grass Squirrel aka Foxtail / Mouse barley I also got a packet of Coleus mix to add a bit of colour. And then some flower seeds - my sunflower last year were surviving in tiny pots but didn't amount to much which was to be expected but this year I thought I'd go for a dwarf variety which I've grown before - Teddy Bear is much shorter, bushier and has multiple flowers. Also Polyanthus Crown Exhibition Strain mix (which will probably not flower until next spring) and Masterpiece Rococo pansy mix (they look like ordinary pansies but have frilly petal edges) I still have plenty of other dahlia and various wildflower seed which I am keen to sow this year so ... roll on spring.
Well, my 2021 growing season "starts" from today Despite the spring-like feel to the weather (mild and sunny) I know it is way too early to start sowing in earnest but some things can be started off, and I also need to give the garden a bit of a trim and spring clean before everything bursts into growth. This morning I set off to the local garden centre and made a couple of purchases - top of the list was compost!
I was at the garden centre soon after the doors opened at 9.00 am hoping to avoid the inevitable crowds ... it seems however, I wasn't the only one to have the same idea. The garden centre is quite massive with an indoor shop with a huge floor space for just about anything related to gardening, as well as an expanded aquarium and pond specialist (it's where I bought the first batch of goldfish for my pond back in 2017 which is the last time I was at the shop) and a large outdoor space for all the trees, plants, garden furniture (including ornaments), sheds and pond liners and of course, compost, gravel, you name it. Navigating through the shop took some doing as the aisles had been rearranged to make it more Covid secure but I must have wandered about half a mile (well, it felt like it) before I finally exited the rear part of the shop to get to the compost. Even then, more navigating through the covered section where tables of spring flowering plants were for sale - crafty sales ploy, I found myself looking at them.
I got 3x 50L bags of compost for £12 and then faced another route back into the shop (a sort of one-way system where you entered the shop through one door and out the rear end before re-entering the shop through a different door and exiting the shop from a separate door - sound complicated? Try pushing a heavy trolley at the same time as wondering how to get out. Naturally I found myself pausing at the spring flowering tables again and finally decided 5x flowering primroses for under £5 was within my budget (considering I thought the compost was going to be a lot more expensive than it was) By the time I got back to the car, the car park was rapidly filling when I suddenly realised I had parked in a disabled spot (not intentionally as the road markings and bay lines were barely visible) and decided to make a quick exit!
Task today - to rescue the containers by the front door. The Pink Jasmine didn't get pruned last year and it had 6 foot or more lengths - some on the floor that had managed to root itself between the house and concrete driveway, the others swinging at waist height like triffids by the porch entrance which probably looked a bit sinister to anyone posting stuff through the letter flap. I found the secateurs and trimmed the stems right back to 8 inch lengths. Sadly, the 2 fuchsias in the same pot were dead, probably crowded out by the jasmine and neglect during the summer last year, so out they came. To finish, I put a layer of fresh compost on top.
Next, the lavender container. The lavender was not happy last year and one half looked like it had some sort of blight (leaves had shrivelled dry and fell off the stems on one side of the bush while the other side was green) By winter, the whole plant had died. The soil in this pot was free draining so root rot didn't seem to be the problem although I did wonder if there were root weevil larvae. After lifting up, I checked the roots but they looked fine but for good measure, I removed as much of the old compost and refilled the tub with fresh. Along with the 5 new primroses, I also planted a pot of hyacinth that I had left outside last year (started off as 3 bulbs when I got them as a Christmas present a couple of years ago, but looks like there may be more now) and ... 8 tulip bulbs that did not get planted last year The bulbs looked and felt solid and had about 1/2 inch shoot on top - I bet they will quickly grow and should (fingers crossed) flower this year. They were part of a belated 60th birthday present from a colleague so I really hope they do okay.
The rest of the compost is indoors now so that they can warm up before I make a start on sowing seeds (the bags were frozen solid after the overnight frost) which I hope to do in the next week while daytime temperatures are fairly mild (when it is sunny in the morning, the back bedroom where I have a pasting board set up by the window gets lovely and warm)
Talking about mild weather - the pond fish are feeding again. I topped up the water level last weekend and as I directed the hose over the pond wall, the water was not as cold as I would have expected. And the fish were swimming around so I gave them a few flakes of food and they ate the lot. The next day as I peeked under the plastic sheet, some fish (including Big Bertha, the Shubunkin goldfish) were waiting in anticipation.
Meanwhile I have been drawing up a "to do" list for the garden - mainly trimming (all the aquatic/bog plants) and then moving on to planting (especially the asparagus, comfrey and foxglove still in pots) The Sempervivum Houseleeks from seed sown last year survived the winter and will need a new home. The algae on the windowsill do appear to be multiplying - a couple of bottles seem more cloudier than before but some of the experiments (with the different fertilizers) are not doing much but still early days. Lots to do - and so it begins ...
Just catching up on your diary, as always so imformative
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Ingrid-Bergman,Madeleline,Norma-Jean,Dora,Janice,Jo,Robyn,Chrissy,Briony and Joyce
The Peds…Mork,Mindy,Bell,Saphire &
Vorky ,Blueped,Ginger,Ninger &Linky
Sunny Clucker was ere July 12-21 2012
Sunny Clucker was ere July 6 2016 to Sept 9th 2017
Sunny Clucker is here , rehomed Aug 18th 2018/
I wasn't going to bother growing veg this year and was just going to concentrate on flowers and the algae project no. 2 but I was tempted by the free p&p ... I restrained myself and kept to the basics of onions, garlic & potatoes when ordering online. I've never grown a spring planted garlic variety before so it should be interesting. The supplier only had the variety Flavor available (a softneck type) - I recall someone once said it did well so fingers crossed for a good yield. I'm thinking of popping the cloves inbetween the flowers in the fruit tree bed which gets good sunlight levels.
Potatoes - usually I go for second earlies such as Vivaldi but have decided to try Abbot which is an extra early variety (good for chips and baked potatoes) As my garden can get very shady when all the trees are in full leaf by summer, I thought an early maturing variety might do better. We'll see
As for the onion sets Corrado F1 ... I am starting to regret putting these in the shopping basket as onions really do need a good sunny spot. Unlike the garlic grown in the fruit tree bed, onions do better when the ground is cleared of weeds and anything that might compete for light, water and nutrients. Oh well, I'm sure I'll find somewhere suitable.
During the stormy weather last week, the plastic sheeting over the pond was lifted up and tossed about under the netting pinned over which normally holds the sheets in place. The wind was so wild that it was too dangerous to go outside to try and sort the sheets out until the direction had shifted from the back of the house. Inbetween the heavy rain and hail showers, I eventually ventured outside and put the sheets back but was aware that the pump wasn't working and the water had stopped pouring out of the biofilter overflow. It was late and I was tired so I turned off the electricity with intentions of sorting it out later.
Yesterday I decided to take a well-earned break from homeworking and popped outside - it felt surprisingly warmer outdoors than inside the house. I lifted the pump out of the pond and found the problem ... great wads of blanket weeds had clogged the grille I couldn't believe it at first but I had also noticed that there was enough duck weed covering about a third of the pond surface suggesting the water has been warm enough to allow the plants to still thrive during winter. It hasn't felt like a mild winter but I do wonder if the lower water level had kept the worst of the cold weather from affecting the temperature in the pond. My priority was to get the pump up and running again but I will have to start up the pond maintenance much earlier than expected including the blanket weed treatment as soon as possible.
Next task was to trim back all the dead leaves from the pond plants and reeds in the troughs and planter on the patio. I was a bit concerned that the earlier freezing weather had killed off the plants especially those still in pots, but I could see new growth pushing through the litter. Definitely a good sign that spring is well on the way ... and perhaps a reminder that I really need to venture down into the garden to tidy up the beds and start sowing some seeds! The crocuses in the trough planters on the patio are almost coming to the end of their flowering but surprisingly, the daffodils are a mix batch. In one trough, I can see flower heads poking up above 15 inch leaves but hardly any growth in the other troughs, most of which are barely 5 inches high - the hyacinths on the other hand are doing so much better. Strange. Meanwhile, as I looked down into the garden (and mentally sighing at the tasks still to do), I could see splashes of yellow colour from the daffodils in the fruit tree bed. What a lovely sight. And another reminder that I need to spend more time outside and make a serious start on the garden.
Yes, Spring has taken me by surprise too. Get out and enjoy it, the hard work but the Standing and Staring too. Does your home-working let you choose your own time or must you be at your desk for most of the daylight hours?
Dance caller. http://mo-dance-caller.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-i-do.html
Sunny Clucker enjoyed Folk music and song in mid-Cheshire
A bit of both - I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet targets to show I AM working but generally my line manager is happy for those working from home to fit round home life (especially for parents had children at home during the lockdowns and were home schooling) I am a morning person so I tend to start much earlier than expected (no need to dress up to go to work or commute) with intentions of finishing earlier ... only I tend to be too tired and stiff and sore to want to do anything afterwards. I do however, need to attend to meetings online which are of course, during normal working hours.
My garlic, potatoes and onion sets arrived this morning This afternoon I'm going to put my thinking cap on about where to plant everything - I've been mulling over a couple of ideas so would like to make a start on them.
I eventually made up 7 bottles (2L pop bottles) of culture - 4 in just plain tap water, one with a pinch of Phostrogen (all purpose fertilizer which contains trace elements for healthy plant growth), one with a pinch of dried bloodmeal (high in nitrogen which encourages growth in plants. Also contains some iron which I think might be key to growth of algae) And one bottle containing a liquid feed for a hydroponics system (it was given to me by a colleague at work which was used as a control against a new type of fertilizer they had manufactured) I noticed this liquid feed had a blue colouration suggesting it contained copper which is a good for preventing moulds especially when you considered hydroponics are likely to make conditions damp.
The results - all the tap water cultures were the first to start greening up. I found this a little surprising but left the bottles on the windowsill. At the end of March when temperatures shot up to 20oC+, the bottles of water warmed up and what a transformation. All but one showed good growth - the liquid feed with the copper is clearly an algaecide (but I wouldn't recommend using it in say ponds to control unwanted algae and blanket weed, as it is also toxic to aquatic environments) The best result was the dried blood experiment - despite being much slower to start growing after being seeded with algae, it was the greenest of all the cultures. Definitely the winner - makes sense really that a nitrogen feed greens up plants and encourages growth that it should do the same for algae (and looking at leaching of fertilizers from farm fields into water courses causes algal blooms) The Phostrogen sample was another that was slow to grow until the weather got warmer - it too produced good strong green growth but not as good as the dried blood. As dried blood is a natural by-product rather than manufactured, I think it is the better one to use (particularly as the algae project is about capturing CO2 from air which will then be watered into the soil to increase soil carbon)
I will continue to keep seeding more bottles ready for later in the year when the weather outside will be warmer and then use them in the new project.
Well, normally the bank holiday weather tends to be raining but after such a cold, wet, stormy and miserable May, we've had some real warmth and sunshine (it's been the first time I have actually stepped outside without a jacket or jersey on in a long time) Mornings have started grey and cloudy (typical overnight drift off the North sea) but soon burns off by mid-morning. The problem now is that after being indoors for so long, I feel like a vampire bat trying to avoid the strong sunlight ... the days of enduring painful sun burn are long gone (my father's side of the family had red hair and freckly skin, I inherited the skin that just burns and never tans) Worse, I now no longer have tree shade on my south facing patio! So for now, just short periods outdoors until I get used to it (I'm not fond of sun lotion if I can help it)
About 3 weeks ago, my neighbour hired someone to chop their massive ash tree down. For one, I'm glad they got professionals in this time instead of doing it themselves like they did nearly 20 years ago (I know something heavy had landed in my patio because of the damaged paving but they never owned up to it) but this crew did a fantastic job of carefully removing the branches that were spreading vertically across my patio as well as systematically cutting the top growth down until it is now just a 6 foot high tree stump. On the one hand I'm so happy the tree has finally been taken down - it towered over the house, and every weather forecast of gales or stormy weather had me worrying it would one day fall over (particularly as most windy weather came from the south or west which put it in my direction) The good news is that there shouldn't be any seeds being shed this year, and the autumn leaves should be manageable for a few years. On the other hand, my house will now be exposed to the full sun all day just as the seasons move into summer - my house still got warm over summer, but at least the tree had provided shade for half the day.
This weekend I spent Saturday recovering from 4 days at work (! I've started going back part time on site, and the rest of the day working from home ... it was surprisingly physically demanding so needed a day of rest) then yesterday was spent rescuing the pond. The plastic covers have finally been removed as both day and night temperatures are not as cold. The entire pond surface was covered in duckweed - for the past couple of weeks, I've had to net out some of it every day just to feed the fish but it would quickly spread and fill the gap. So now about three quarters has been removed. The first thing I noticed is that there was surprisingly very little blanketweed (in the past, great swathes of it would cover the pond walls) so the duckweed had been providing shade to slow it down. But I knew it was still around as the earlier duckweed clearance would be matted with it and the small pump to the biofilter would clog up every day, so time for a much needed blanketweed treatment.
Next, clean out the big pump and filter box. Once started up, it quickly stirred up some of the muck and the near clear water soon turned murky - this morning I cleaned the filters which were very dirty after just one day. This evening when it was time to feed the fish, the water quality was much better and the fish were not so shy and I was able to see them. All 3 koi look magnificent especially the silver and black, Big Bertha the Shubunkin is bigger than ever. I was also struck by the number of smaller goldfish swimming around ... definitely more than I started off with! I spent some time just watching them - of course, Lucas the cat was there watching too so just as well I have kept the green scaffold netting over the top for now (I need a new pond net as the original one has deteriorated - it was after all, used on the allotment for several years before being used to net the pond so no surprise there)
This morning I tackled some weeding on the patio especially the troughs with the daffodils and other spring bulbs that are dying back, and the big pots with the comfrey and asparagus. Only one asparagus hasn't come up but I'll leave it for now as there were a couple of pots where the stems were thin and only about 6 or so inches tall so time yet. One of the comfrey was in flower and there were plenty of bees visiting it. Even the sage bushes were coming into flower. The bees were also buzzing round the early raspberry and to my amazement, they really did have flowers. I had hoped some of the dahlias had survived outside but it doesn't look good so my next task will be sort those out. Sadly my patio fern hasn't come up either (to be fair, it was self seeded)
By the front door, I've had a lovely display of pink tulips (my belated birthday present from last year that I only got round to planting at the end of February) Only 4 flowered but I noticed the bulbs I had planted at the back of the big pot were slow to grow - they are now growing quickly and I can see some flower buds so still more to come. At the end of February I had chopped the Pink Jasmine right back and for a little while thought perhaps too much but the short stems are now covered in foliage bursting out so I'm sure I'll soon have triffids reaching out to any passersby trying to reach the front door.
Still loads to do - for one, the garden looks in dire need of a rescue. Thankfully I have booked the rest of this week off as annual leave and the weather looks set to be dry and comfortably warm (I really don't like it when the temperatures rise too quickly) so I'll try to sort it then. I'm sure Lucas will be happy to see me in the garden again - as soon as he sees me step out the back door, he goes into play mode (his favourite trick is jumping on to the chicken roof or shed roof and taking playful swipes at me as I walk by, and then do a mad rush around in excitement - he's like a big kid on steroids)
The past couple of days have been pleasantly warm, yesterday slightly warmer than the Bank Holiday Monday but today ... was too hot. Lucas has decided his breakfast time is when the dawn chorus is out which at this time of year, is now before 4.00 am - he reaches up from the floor level on to the bed with his front paws and gently pats my face but at the same time, with the loudest miaow in my ear. I was already stirring anyway, so after feeding the cat and downing a coffee, it was daylight enough so I went outside and quietly cleaned the pond filter box as well as cleared out the blanketweed sludge in the pump (it hadn't just clogged the grille but was a gloopy green mass inside the pump) before feeding the fish and then going down into the garden.
Just looking down from the patio, the weeds growing in the garden were well established and spreading out. Mainly bramble, dock and goose grass with sow thistle, willow herb and a prickly thistle and a massive clump of creeping buttercup in the middle. I made a start clearing half the bed in front of the glass greenhouse but had nowhere to put the weeds - I wanted to empty the compost bin on to that bed, but I also needed to weed it first. So there's a big pile waiting to go into the bin once done. As for the fruit tree bed, mainly goose grass but the ox eye daisies I grew from seed in 2019 are gearing up to flower soon. Despite a wet and windy May, I'm amazed to find the apple trees full of set fruit ... early days yet as most might drop off. I wasn't sure about the pears and I have not even looked at the Victoria plum tree.
One of my tasks which I didn't want to put off for much longer was to repot the asparagus. When the crowns arrived last year, I was unable to get compost for the bed destined for the asparagus due to the first Covid lockdown, so I had mixed old soil and compost and added a little fertilizer to deep plant pots. To be fair, it worked fine but (i) the bed is once again not ready but I do have plenty of home made compost now and (ii) the compost/soil mix in the deep pots had settled so I wanted to repot and add fresh (commercial) compost for the roots. Have to admit it didn't go straightforward - tipping over a deep plant pot with a 2 foot tall asparagus frond wasn't easy so there were a couple of accidents but I've since checked on them and they are all fine so good rescue.
While sitting at the "potting table", Lucas seemed excited that I was spending time outside. So excited, he went on to have a mad session flying round the chicken run roof and shed roof back and forth, and then to my horror went flying off at the far end into the privet hedge/garden beyond. I got up to have a look but there was no sign of him ... then I realised that he had most likely run on to the slope of the greenhouse roof before leaping off rather than jumping straight off the much higher shed roof. Another memorable moment this morning - I heard distinctive bird call (magpie or crow) and when I looked up, saw two birds flying into the trees at the bottom of the garden but as I looked up there was a bird of prey swooping around the sky (probably the one that visited my garden a couple of years ago) As soon as it went away, it was as if a switch had been turned on and all the other garden birds started to tweet and sing.
I managed to spend some time in the garden this morning but the strength of the sun was getting too much so eventually I had to go indoors. By late afternoon, the temperature was easily in the mid-20s which is a shock to the system (I'm sure it was only last week I had put the heating on in the house because it was about 11oC) That's the British weather for you. I had a lovely surprise this morning - 2 of the tulip flower buds in the front planter are now showing their colours - one is yellow, the other a flame orange with a tinge of yellow edge. I suspect the pink flowering tulips are an early flowering type, and the others are just coming out.
On Wednesday I made up some more 2L (pop) bottles with water and added a dash of dried blood and a pinch of Phostrogen (all purpose plant feed) and seeded them with the most actively growing culture of algae and then popped the bottles outside. Some were lined up behind the deep pots with the asparagus while a couple were at the front .... the ones at the back were shaded for half the day and are the greenest while the bottles at the front got sun all day and are not doing so well. When I lifted the bottles up this evening to give them a shake, the front ones were very warm to the touch - it's been at least 3 hours since the sun was on the patio so I'm guessing the algae had probably got cooked in the full sun. I did not expect that - in the 2019 coffee jar project, the jars were in full sun all day and yet were fine (and I even used to keep a 2L pop bottle of seed culture in the glass greenhouse which would have got even hotter than on the patio) The only thing I can think of is the dried blood - when added to the water, the particles remain black and some float on the top while most settle to the bottom. Perhaps they absorb the heat more than if it was just plain water?
This morning I went to my (pre-pandemic) supermarket for some much needed things I just have not been able to get hold of locally during the lock downs - the last time I visited was back in September last year so I went armed with a shopping list. There were loads of trolleys with garden plants on display outside the entrance ... as I've been lapse with the seed sowing, I decided to get 3 trays (£2 per tray or 3 for £5) of Busy Lizzies. I always check my till receipt afterwards and because it had been an exceptionally expensive shop, all the more reason to check only to find everything else was correct but the till girl had only charged me for one tray .... oops. I didn't go back to let her know though.
The asparagus have recovered well and put a real growth spurt on since repotting. And as suspected, the one pot which hadn't shown any growth was pushing up a spear so no losses over winter. One task I intended doing this week was to fix the board on top of the patio fencing by the shed. In 2019, I had ripped the rotted plank off but as I could not get hold of an equally long plank to replace it, had used smaller planks butted up to each other. During one of the winter storms this year, the wind was so strong that it had got between the shed and fence and blew one of the boards off completely. As I cleared the area to reach for the board wedged behind one of the garden bins, I was aware of a bumble bee buzzing around but it was only after I had put the board in place that I noticed a problem. A colony of bumble bees (they had white bottoms) had decided to nest at the bottom of the gap and about 10 bees seemed a bit confused that their entrance had suddenly disappeared. So I've had to take the board off again.
This morning as I cleaned out the pond filter box, I was surprised to see one of the goldfish leap completely out of the water. Thank goodness I keep netting on top of the pond. Later however, I started to notice a lot of thrashing around and realised that one of the females was being chased by a gaggle of males - ah, they must be spawning. An even bigger surprise was a pale yellow (almost off white) goldfish with yellow tinge to the face and fin tips and was easily about 6 almost 7 inches long was also chasing the familiar female (a Sarasa goldfish with a distinctive orange tail) - I can only think this is one of the "baby" fish I had found back in 2019 and is now an adult! How did I miss it growing so big? So the little goldfish in the pond this year must be from 2020 spawning - I really must try to do a head count but with the duckweed and elodea for them to hide in, it won't be easy.
The latest algae experiment did not go too well - as suspected, during the mini warmth in early June (couldn't really call it a heatwave but we did have strong sunshine and the patio is now in full sun after the neighbour's tree was cut down), the algae in those bottles that felt very warm after being in the sun all day eventually died. However, the ones that had been in partial shade went the most vivid lime green colour and clearly the injection of the dried blood and fertilizer had quite an impact. By the end of the week however, I had to move all the bottles as the heat built up - I put them on the floor next to the "north" side of the pond to get shade but perhaps too much shade especially as the weather quickly turned and went very cloudy and rained (the caps were loosely on top so the bottles didn't fill up with rain water) Still, an interesting experiment.
The biggest news is the pond ... before I built the pond (2017), there was always a subsidence issue on the patio which I thought the combined weight of the water in the pond and using the gravel and sand I had dug out to correct the level round it would have solved the problem. I genuinely thought the subsidence was the result of the patio being poorly built and the sand and soil under the paving was just settling in. However, the patio is once again showing signs of subsidence only this time, taking the pond with it. I had noticed the subsidence seemed worse after a hot dry summer and put it down to the neighbour's tree roots taking up water from the surrounding area.
When I brought the pond out of hibernation and had started up the pond filters in late spring, there was a lot of blanket weed and algae to deal with, which meant clearing the pump grilles at least twice a day and discarding the filter box water (on to the potted plants) daily. Eventually the water level started to look scarily low so I topped it up with tap water but perhaps a fraction too much. The "south" side wall of the pond had already started to give way but a few well placed patio slabs and a tub filled to the top provided enough weight to prevent it from collapsing altogether. Until that is, when I filled it. If the hot weather had continued, eventually the water level and the pressure on the wall would have corrected itself. But we all know what happened next .... day after day after day, we had rain and some when the thunderstorms arrived. And the rain still keeps coming. And the water level kept rising. This morning I had a peek in intrepidation to discover the wall was indeed very close to collapse.
I had been thinking of ways to quickly empty the pond to a safe level to take the pressure off the wall. I was also thinking that the biofilter drum was in dire need of being emptied to get rid of the accumulated dirt from the past year or so, and I had an idea. At work we use different types of rubber tubing, some of which are extensively used, but one lot had been gathering dust and was about to be thrown away ... of course, I took it home with plans to use it in a project. I looked at it and wondered if the tubing was wider than the pipes I'd used for the outflows from the biofilter drum and it was a perfect fit. I trailed the tubing length into the garden to capture it in a black (builder's) bin (originally bought to be used to store the chicken feed) and set the pump going.
Of course, you can't expect things to go to plan the first time round. The little pump supposedly has a flow rate of about 700 litres per hour but it's probably more like 400 litres. It runs 24 hours a day (unlike the big pump) and as such, it tends to have issues when disturbed or switched off (if it has been running for a long time, one trick is to leave it switched off for a good couple of hours before attempting to switch it back on) The other issue is that the propeller won't turn - it's not mechanical, that is, it is a simple fan on a magnetic end and the whole unit is loose inside the pump. And yet the only way to get it to start turning is to bang the whole pump. Of course, a movement like that and the pipe to the biofilter joint is disturbed and then falls off requiring a retrieval from the depths of the pond I think you get the picture ... all I wanted to do was empty a few inches of water out of the pond and I end up spending a good hour trying to get the pump to work.
Eventually, pump working and I can hear water landing in the biofilter and next minute coming out of the overflow. I find the air lock in the length of the tubing and finally, water starts pouring into the dust bin. After 10 minutes, the water in the bin is overflowing but there's hardly any water removed from the pond. I took the rubber tubing off the biofilter outflow pipe and went into the garden and pushed the bin over to flood the garden. Just as I was about to fit the tubing back, I noticed there was no water coming out of either the outflow or the overflow pipes but I could distinctly hear the water trickling into the biofilter from the pump. I waited and began to wonder if the water was simply overflowing out of the drum somehow (I can't see because I had boxed in the biofilter drum) so I switched the pump off.
Then it struck me ... the rubber tubing had a wider diameter than the biofilter pipes, and there was quite a long length into the garden. When I built the biofilter, the outflow end inside the drum was close to the bottom (the idea is that water landing on the top went through a series of filters before it reached the bottom so should end up as clean water and as the drum filled up with water from the pump, eventually the level would reach the outflow level and pour back into the pond. In this case, the rubber tubing once filled with water and laid down into the garden had a lot more water and weight, and it acted like a syphon ... in other words, the pump played no part in emptying the drum once the syphon effect was in place. No wonder it had not made much difference to the water level in the pond as all I had done was empty the drum first! Doh.
Second time round and it was a lot more successful and when the dust bin in the garden was full, I left it running a little bit longer before removing the rubber tubing. The water level in the pond is now a good 3 inches lower than before and on checking the pond wall, the weight of the water behind it was a lot less. I've left the pump and biofilter to keep on running - with anticipated warmer weather this week, no doubt I'll be back in the dilemna of having to top the pond up again.
Throughout June, I have been scooping out duckweed on a daily basis. It really has thrived in the now not-shaded pond and warmth of summer. Duckweed is very much another "filter" in my pond set up and also takes up carbon (carbon sequestration) - the duckweed uses the ammonia and nitrates from the fish waste and decaying plants, and incorporates it into new growth by multiplying. And as they use carbon dioxide to grow and produce new plants, this is also removed and used as compost or mulch. However, it really has become a daily chore when some days, all I really want to do is go out and feed and admire the fish.
As for getting the wall repaired somehow, the water level in the pond will have to be taken right down to patio floor level which doesn't leave enough water in the pond for the fish. I had considered buying a plastic pool to temporarily hold the bigger fish while repairs are carried out but they were priced too expensive. I do think the builders bins I had bought as chicken feed and bedding stores might make a good alternate (a few fish in each should be alright) But I will have to buy a new net before then (the one I bought in 2017 is broke) At least I should then be able to do a head count to see exactly how many fish live in the pond as this seems to have quietly multiplied over the past couple of years!
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