LL's Gardening Diary

Members adventures in the Vegetable Patch all year round
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Gwenoakes
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Gwenoakes »

If your lovely new addition takes a fancy to your fish you may have to think of a cover to keep them safe, LL.
We had a cat once that used to sit aside the pond and 'dabble'. Only problem with that was he used to scratch the fish, although he never took them out and ate them.
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

The pond when it is not under winter cover has a small (1cm squared) mesh covering to keep the heron out - I know I've seen the occasional cat around my garden so I'm almost sure they will have investigated the pond. In summer, the overflow from the big pump (not the trickle biofilter one) doesn't make it easy to see the fish when water lands on the surface, and especially when the duckweed grows so fast as well so I'm quietly confident the fish will be fine )t'

As for the fish tank indoors with the 2 goldfish, I am almost certain that it will be a big attraction especially when the LED light is on because it really brings out their orange colour and I often find my gaze wandering to the tank .... I am however, concerned about Lucas might decide to jump onto the canopy because it might shift on landing but I think some tough tape will hold it into place.
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KarenE
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by KarenE »

Like you LL I am also strating to look forward to the growing season - I think I'm going to border some of my plot with flowers this year, both for pest protection and pollination atraction. Plus it's dead space so may as welluse it for something!

How wonderful to hear about Lucas - hope he settles in well!

As ever LL your diary has been an inspiration this year )t'
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lancashire lass
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Sunday 26th January 2020

Post by lancashire lass »

KarenE wrote:As ever LL your diary has been an inspiration this year


)t' thank you.

I really don't have much to report in the garden diary - the weather so far this year has been dull, wet and mild with a couple of frosts earlier last week. Despite a record breaking high pressure over the UK and promise of stable conditions, it has been murky and damp with raised pollution levels so I'm glad of something different approaching. Amazingly this morning the sun came streaming into the living room for what seems like the first time in forever and I just had time to go outside to feed the pond fish, empty the soiled cat litter on to the garden and top up the compost bin before the forecast cold front arrived by lunch time and now it's ... raining.

I'm pleased with the cat litter - being biodegradable, the wood (or grain based which I bought recently) is emptied on to the fruit tree bed like mulch. The pellets break down into a sort of sawdust and add to the carbon levels in the soil while the cat pee and poo (which doesn't smell once on the soil) will be adding to the nitrogen levels. After last year's poor vegetable yield (courgette / beans / winter squash) in that bed, I am definitely going to be planting it up with flowers this year so no risk of cat poo contaminating any food. This year will be the Year of the Flowers whether the cultivated type or wild flowers. I have also been offered some lavender plants from a colleague - I don't know what state they are in but I have accepted them after last year's seed germination failed.

On Wednesday, my seed potatoes arrived in the post - my fave Vivaldi - so one task I will have to do before planting in about 8 weeks time is prepare the raised beds in the polytunnel (I'll be planting them in the nearest tunnel this time which got more light than the rear tunnel) The asparagus delivery is planned for mid-March so I also need to organize the old wildflower / sweetcorn bed.

Meanwhile I am collecting 2L pop bottles for the planned "vertical garden" - I'd like to erect the garden behind the fence on the drive - it catches full sun from late morning until late evening so the flowers will get a lot more light. No-one on the street will actually see it and when the car is on the drive neither will I from the house but at least it will be functional. I'd really like to erect another along the bottom wall of the bay window but as that will be on display, it will need to look a little more professional when setting up.

I am also still collecting coffee jars for my "algae farm" - I read an article that algae capture 40x more CO2 than the equivalent in trees so makes sense to expand on the original project. Of course, my mini farm will have nowhere near the same capacity of even a single tree but every little bit helps and the algae once watered into the soil become part of the soil carbon so all good. This morning I retrieved the bottle that I used to seed the jars from the glass greenhouse - amazingly, the water is still green so I have brought it indoors and started the culture up again. There is another reason which is actually a work thing which I'm excited about - it would seem I have a skill from a previous employment that my current employer is very interested in but the researcher I was helping didn't listen to what I was trying to tell her that needed to be done - the end results were not surprisingly inspiring. So a colleague & I decided we needed to do some basic stuff to build up experience and I suggested trying algae (similar preparation as the researcher's sample) hence I was pleased to see my seed stock was still very much alive.

Other than that, not a lot going on. For now I am enjoying the rest but at the same time wish the weather was more inviting at weekends as I would like to get some things sorted in the garden before spring arrives!
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KarenE
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by KarenE »

Yes it would be nice to be able to get a head start. I dread to think what my lotty plot looks like at the moment. Interesting aboutt he cat litter pellets and poo - I didnt think cat wee and poo were at all good for gardens so that is interesting. As you say though, not good for veggie or fruit plots probably!
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lancashire lass
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Easter 2020

Post by lancashire lass »

Since the 16th March after the first UK government update on the coronavirus advising people with health issues to start working from home, I have found myself stuck indoors. I managed to find lots of computer work which would keep me busy but perhaps too busy ... unlike at work when I would have several breaks away from the desk to attend to other jobs and requests, I didn't have the same luxury while at home especially as I still had to put in my daily 7 and half hours work in and expected to keep to office hours. You'd think being at home 24 hours would mean I'd have time to do some gardening jobs but I've felt less inclined than ever before. In the end I decided to book annual leave so extending the Easter weekend break for a week which has enabled me to finally get a move on. The improved warmer weather has really got things going in the garden, weeds in particular have been growing but I've also been blessed to see the fruit trees bursting into blossom and every morning woken to the sound of the dawn chorus. And on top of that, Lucas my newly adopted cat has finally ventured out into the garden despite a good week of being allowed out for the first time (he seemed reluctant to go past the back door step) ... three weeks later, it's lovely having his company while I've been outside.

On Good Friday 10th April, I ventured out of the house to do a little essential shopping and dared to go to Asdas (the last time was the weekend before tighter isolation restrictions were announced to combat the coronavirus ... an unforgettable shopping experience seeing so many people packed into the supermarket and shelves empty) but my plans to buy compost at the same time on Friday was thwarted as we all queued outside for nearly an hour as I hadn't realized the shop had introduced a new opening time of 8.00 am (and even then, NHS and other keyworkers were given priority access first) ... normally I would have gone to buy the 3 for £10 compost and then the food shop on a second trip but I couldn't see how I could do both at the same time as the queue behind me took over half the car park! So I have no option but to rely on the little bit of compost I had originally bought last year for early seed sowing which I didn't do. I did however, fill the car up with fuel - the price of petrol was £1.04p per litre ... the last time I had filled up a month earlier was about £1.15p/litre (which in itself was low compared to pre-Christmas price of about £1.24p/litre) so quite a significant drop in price that I haven't seen in what, 2 decades? Even though I still had half a tank, I was determined to take advantage of it.

I had taken the winter covers off the pond and done a little maintenance earlier last weekend and started the blanketweed treatment, but now I wanted to get the big pump and filter box prepared as temperatures started to rise. After a good clean, I started it up for the first time and I was happy to see it working okay. Up until this point I had barely seen the fish as they hid under the duckweed which had quietly been growing under the covers - perhaps the combined rise in water temperature and movement by the overflow has made the fish more active and seemingly more eager at feeding time. I thought I'd lost one of my Shubunkin goldfish (I had named him Bandit due to a distinctive patch between his eyes) but it seems that all the goldfish and koi had survived the winter, and I think I may have gained some more ... I can't be sure but briefly saw something about an inch long swim by (last year's 3 babies are now about 3 inch in size) I will leave the duckweed (and a sprig of watercress that I had dropped into the pond last year) as they will take up the nitrogen waste in the water ... when they multiply, I will harvest to use as mulch in the garden and this will also in effect remove the excess nitrogen in the water and shift it to the soil.

Every morning I have emptied the dirty water from the filter box and used it to start watering the containers on the patio and drive - the raspberries are bursting into leaf and I can also see the first flower buds forming on the summer raspberry varieties, and the 2 fuschias and pink jasmine are also starting to burst into leaf. Sadly, the lavender hasn't fared too well and I'm not quite sure why - half the plant has died ... I might have said due to severe winter weather if we hadn't had the mildest winter I've ever seen. So I might remove it from the big pot and try to rescue it but in the meantime the 3 little lavender plants I accepted from a work colleague are growing well.

The pond plants I bought last year that were originally destined for the wildlife pond yet to be built are recovering so I trimmed off the dead leaf litter. I think I might reorganize the patio pond planter and thin out some of the rushes and add a couple of the potted plants to add variety. I'm still debating the wildlife pond progress and would still like to go ahead but damage to some of the pergola/gazeba roof sheets from the winter storms need to be fixed first. Too late for frogs but perhaps for the best and allow the pond to mature and be more inviting next spring. Over winter, the big hedge trimming pile at the bottom of the garden had gone down quite a lot so I decided to move some trimmings that had been left in the garden on to the pile which enabled me access to the hedge. I gave it a little trim using the clippers ... it's unlikely I have disturbed any possible nesting birds and after the savage cut back last year, the hedge has recovered well and bushed up nicely. Meanwhile, the trimmings pile is being used ... while out in the garden I kept seeing a bumblebee flying in and out so despite it looking like a carbuncle, the pile is providing a home for insects.

On Saturday 11th April, my asparagus was finally delivered. I bought them in August last year along with the seed potatoes with the free postage offer - they were due to be despatched on the 23rd March but with the coronavirus lockdown, the delivery was delayed. I received an email last week to say they would be sending them soon but also offered a chance to cancel if you wanted ... as they were originally meant to be delivered to my works address, I replied and asked them to be delivered to my home address instead. I had a quick look and the crowns look very healthy. My plan is to mix some of the soil from the proposed bed with some of the compost and plant into deep containers to start them off before moving them to their final bed. Last year I grew sweetcorn and wildflowers in that bed - I made a start on clearing the bed and at the same time found a few plants that may be flowers so I lifted them and put them into pots (they don't look like weeds as I know them but I'm still unsure what they are so will be a wait and see what happens before deciding what to do with them) I still have to organize the bed into rows - just clearing the bed was such hard work that it left me stiff and sore.

Meanwhile I had loads of cardboard which I wanted to get out of the house. When I had put my climate friendly garden plans into place last year, most of the cardboard from my grocery shop had gone into the compost bin but as it was both full and also winter (so would not decompose) I had been collecting the cardboard for the new season and it was starting to get out of hand (I had visions of being seen as some sad hoarder if anyone came to the house for whatever reason :oops: ) So yesterday (Easter Sunday 12th April), I moved most of the cardboard/paper out and into the garden ... I decided to use the cardboard as a sort of weed suppressant and also add carbon to the soil. For the past few days the weather had been warm, dry and not windy so a good time to spread them on to the soil surface. I then started to empty the used compost out of the containers that had been used for growing the garlic last year directly on top of the cardboard to weigh it down. The idea is to then spread the compost out of the used growbags from the polytunnel on top and then sow wildflower seeds directly. By the time their roots start growing, much of the cardboard should be rotting and breaking down under the compost.

I also trimmed some of the brambles growing in the fruit tree bed. Despite a massive clear out in 2018 during the garden rescue, I still had a couple of persistent plants that were awkwardly growing behind the trees and difficult to get to. Some of the heavy duty cardboard got put on top with a heavy weight on top - hopefully that should stop them coming up again but I might break my vow to use weedkiller in the garden and dose them. Meanwhile I have found the source of the new seedlings and they are coming from next door }hairout{ - as I trimmed a particularly long bramble threaded through the pear tree, I followed it back and found it was growing from the neighbour's garden ... as I looked over the fence, loads were growing along the fence. Considering how neat and tidy their garden normally is, I can only presume the brambles were being left to grow on purpose (do they think I climb over the fence?) Very odd.

Today (Easter Monday 13th April) the weather is forecast cold down to about 8oC from recent temperatures of 20-23oC, but thereafter temperatures are set to steadily rise. As I'm still recovering from the recent physical work in the garden this weekend, I may just take it easy and potter today. I still have seeds to sow for the planned extended vertical garden (the 2L pop bottles stacked on top of each other) so there's still loads to do even though I may be limited by the lack of compost.
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Mo
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Mo »

I've been thinking about cardboard as a weed suppressant too, do you worry about chemicals leaching from it?
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

Mo wrote:I've been thinking about cardboard as a weed suppressant too, do you worry about chemicals leaching from it?


No, I'm not worried. I've used cardboard on the fruit tree bed before and found it just rots down. Weeds and other plants grow fine afterwards and there's plenty of life in the soil when it is turned over so if it was an issue, nothing should grow. There are 2 types of cardboard - the heavy duty corrugated type and then there's the less defined one used for packaging food. In an ideal world, the corrugated one should go in the recycle bin as it made from wood, whereas the thinner type is made from the recycled heavy duty card and less likely to be used again. Unlike wood preservative, cardboard shouldn't contain much in the way of chemicals as it is handled - the printing/dye may be an issue but as long as the card is not plastic coated, they will simply degrade.
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lancashire lass
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14th April 2020

Post by lancashire lass »

I decided to get on with sowing seeds - I set up the garden table outside on the patio and filled 10 seed trays with compost (I had bought last year) and got on with sowing flower seeds. All fresh seed bought at the end of last year included nasturtium, pot marigold, foxglove, dahlia (double pom pom and another tray with cactus hybrid), borage, Busy Lizzie, Bunny Tail (little fluffy grass seed head), English bluebell and Iris Yellow Flag. I'm a bit annoyed that I cannot find last year's seeds as I also wanted to sow the dahlia seeds I grew last year (a mixed dwarf type) and bee balm.

All the trays were left in the glass greenhouse with the door open during the warm sunny weather and closed late afternoon to keep the heat in.

I'm still deliberating on whether to grow vegetables this year (apart from the potatoes and asparagus which need planting) I was disappointed last year and feel my garden doesn't have the right amount of light. However, with the uncertainty of food availability in the coming months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit not to mention the after effects of the winter floods, perhaps I should still try to grow something. I always intended to expand on the flowers this year as part of my climate change / insect diversity project so growing space will be tight anyway.

As for the wildflower seeds I had bought with intentions of making seed bombs (which I never got on with and now a little bit difficult to disperse during this coronavirus lock down anyway), I am considering just scattering them on the soil surface between the fruit trees. I had made notes on the best times and locations in a book but I think I have left it at work (it was something I was doing during my lunch time while researching which seeds are better grown for the area) so will need to research it again. Some seeds are biennial (that is, grow this year, flower + seed next year), some are tall which would be better grown at the back of the bed, while some are lower for the front. I still need to prepare the beds by dispersing the compost from the flower pots / growbags from last year's use, and as we've had no decent rain for a while, will also need watering.

Talking of weather, there's something familiar about this spring - a warm dry spring is usually followed by a cool wet summer .... Having saying that, 2018 was a warm dry spring and then a hot drought summer so I suppose it could go either way but I can't help feel 2020 might be similar to 2019.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Freeranger »

If we could only predict the weather......
Perhaps the drop in CO2 as a result of the lockdown will have a positive effect on the summer? Let's be optimistic.
My growing conditions here are challenging anyway - we're high and often have cloud and rain, and a very short growing season. I'm trying this time to make more use of things like dark pots/beds at low level to get warmth, and have thought of using mirrors and light colours higher up to bounce more light about, and vertical gardening to make more use of what light there is.
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lancashire lass
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Thursday 16th April 2020

Post by lancashire lass »

Freeranger wrote:beds at low level to get warmth


actually, cold air drops down and sinks in well topography - I had this problem on my allotment plot as mine was at the bottom of the hill and was one of the last ones to start picking up in spring (also, as water drains down, this makes the lower ground soil cold and slow to warm up too) It was also more prone to frost damage than upper plots.

Today I planted the 10x asparagus crowns (Burgundine variety) into deep pots. The crown and roots looked very healthy so I am hopeful they will do well. I soaked the roots in a solution of diluted seaweed extract for about an hour or two while I prepared the pots. As my stock of compost is fast disappearing and still needed for seed sowing, I decided to mix some of the soil from the bed where they are intended mixed with fresh and used compost (from the growbags) and added some fertilizer. The first time I grew asparagus, I planted them in pots before taking them to the allotment a year later to plant out. That same year I also bought some more asparagus and planted in the same bed ... the ones that were grown in pots established more quickly and were always much bigger than the later ones even several years later when by then they should have been about the same. I had to leave those plants (too established to dig up) when I moved to the bigger plot - I planted new crowns directly in the soil but they didn't seem to take off as well as I'd like. To be fair I gave the plot up soon after but I often wondered if there was something in the pot idea.

I piled the compost up to form a cone on which sat the crown and the roots spread out over the top before adding more compost on top. After watering the pots, I then decanted the used seaweed extract solution on to where the crowns were so they would benefit (seaweed extract contains growth factors so should help to get them going) However, I meant to add the last of the mycorrhiza granules that I had on to the roots so I'm kicking myself for forgetting. When I plant the potted crowns out in the bed, I'll try to remember then.

Meanwhile, I forgot to mention one of the seeds I sowed on Tuesday - a mix of Sempervivum (House leeks) I'm not sure if they'll germinate or how well they'll grow but it seemed cheaper than buying plants (one of my "roof garden" ideas though I was thinking of something a little bit smaller) The seed was incredibly fine like dust so I suspect they'll take a while to get going so I'm not expecting my roof garden any time soon {rofwl}

I still haven't found last year's flower seeds but I did come across some sunflower seeds (not the tall ones but the dwarf ornamental/multi-headed type) which are within sowing dates. I also found 2 more seed tray inserts so I would like to sow the rest of the Busy Lizzie seeds (they are critical for my 2L plastic bottle vertical garden)

I have to mention that we've had some really lovely sunny weather this past couple of weeks and being able to walk round the garden has been nice. This morning I saw a yellow breasted black headed tit (identified as a Great tit), the second time I've seen it in the garden this week so obviously nesting close by. Tits eat little insects like aphids so always welcome in my garden - just as long as they don't become prey to my cat! And no end of bees especially bumblebees and other flying insects around so all good.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Freeranger »

actually, cold air drops down and sinks in well topography - I had this problem on my allotment plot as mine was at the bottom of the hill and was one of the last ones to start picking up in spring (also, as water drains down, this makes the lower ground soil cold and slow to warm up too) It was also more prone to frost damage than upper plots.


Yes, and given all of those things, I intend to try and counter-act them a bit by using the dark colours to absorb heat into the containers and act as a bit of a heat sink. Raising beds will also help with the water/drainage issue. I think this is all quite standard, and many of my organic gardening friends do it. My veg patch is at the bottom of a glacial valley en-route to the burn, so it can get more than usually cool and needs a bit of help.
We have an unusual variety of birds already this year, Great Tits included. A whole load of siskins which have been flying around as a flock and are quite a sight (and sound). I think they're a little higher and more northerly than normal.
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lancashire lass
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Dahlias + other flower seeds

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I had a peek at the rescued dahlia tubers from last year's sowing and found little shoots forming so I decided to plant them. Unfortunately I am getting compost short and unable to get my usual supply as a result of the coronavirus lockdown so I looked at the pots I'd left on the patio after lifting the tubers ... okay, not ideal but better than nothing. I threw in some fertilizer and gave the compost still in the pots a good mixing (also, just checking there are no grubs or vine beetles) and then made a little well in which I put the tuber and back filled with fresh compost. Out of the 20 or so tubers I had lifted, 15 were growing so have been planted - as for the others, some don't look like they survived but I'll leave them a little longer to see if any try to grow.

I'm glad these tubers have survived because I still haven't found last year's seeds as I had intended sowing some more to go with the new dahlia seeds I bought (the double pom pom and the cactus hybrid). The missing seeds are obviously all together with other seeds I sowed last year because I can't find any }hairout{ (these included the wildflower mix, courgette, tomato, chilli, bee balm and French marigold) Even more annoying is that I had sowed half the new Busy Lizzie seeds with intention of sowing the rest a little later (like now) and can I find that packet? It should have been with the rest of the new seeds that I sowed last week. I really wanted to grow lots more Busy Lizzie for the intended expanded "vertical garden" with the 2L pop bottles.

Meanwhile I did find some other flower seed packets which are still in their sealed foil packets although a couple are past their best before date but I think I'll sow them anyway and see if they germinate. There were 2 packets of sunflowers (I thought they were dwarf type but seems they can grow up to 6 feet tall) both of which were freebies - as I opened one packet, 2 decent size seeds amongst what looks like dust but are in fact very tiny seeds so I'm not too hopeful. I also found some Night Scented stock (I really do like the fragrance and usually sow them in hanging baskets to hang by the door), as well as Californian poppy and Livingstone daisies.

One of the "wildflowers" I dug out of last year's wildflower/sweetcorn bed and popped into a plant pot is now flowering. The tiniest blue flowers I've ever seen for such a big plant - I think they may be Chinese Forget Me Not which were supposedly one of the seeds in the wildflower mix but I can't be too sure. It doesn't look like a typical weed in my garden. The other 2 types of "wildflowers" are still growing - again, they don't look like weeds so I can't wait to find out what they are. Just before Christmas I had bought lots of wildflower seeds for the "seed bombs" but that's not going to happen so I'm going to just scatter them down the fruit tree bed - at least I'll get to see how they grow.
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Re: Dahlias + other flower seeds

Post by fabindia »

lancashire lass wrote:Meanwhile I did find some other flower seed packets which are still in their sealed foil packets although a couple are past their best before date but I think I'll sow them anyway and see if they germinate.


I think many of us are in the same proverbial boat when it comes to shopping for the garden. I have planted a few seeds from out of date packs if they do come up, great otherwise not a lost lost other than a bit of compost.
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Pond maintenance

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Generally I'm very pleased with my pond and how it is maturing. I've had the big pump running for about 3 weeks now and the filter has been very efficient and taken out quite a lot of muck from the water which I have been using to water some thirsty potted plants. I had started the blanketweed treatment at Easter and used the last of the stuff I bought last year so on Monday I ordered some more online so I can do monthly treatments now. It seemed a lot more expensive than what I've bought before until I realized I'd ordered a pack to treat 3000 gallon (I thought it was 3000 litre) Oh well, it won't go off so should last a bit longer this time. In the past great swathes of blanketweed would grow on the pond liner at this time of year but this time seems to be much reduced and if anything, appears more like a green carpet which I have left alone - the fish have taken a serious interest in eating it and this shows up as their colours look more intense. However, I started to notice something strange happening to the duckweed on the pond surface.

When both pumps are running, the water outflow landing on the pond surface triggers a slow clockwise current which makes the duckweed clump together into an island which gently spins round. I know a lot of people especially dedicated koi enthusiasts don't like duckweed but I like it as a natural water filtrater. The fish waste built up in the water releases a lot of soluble nitrogen which can start to make it toxic to the fish but plants (and algae) naturally take it up as a form of fertilizer and grow / multiply. So once the duckweed spreads across the pond surface, I remove about two thirds of it which I use as mulch in the garden (sort of composting) and thereby remove the nitrogen waste from the pond water. This usually encourages the remaining duckweed to multiply while at the same time allows more light into the pond for the oxygenating plants like elodea to grow. So a natural cycle which I am happy with. Recently I noticed the "island" of duckweed just wasn't moving on the pond surface and even more surprising given the warmer weather and light levels, wasn't multiplying as expected. So I decided to investigate and found the duckweed was entangled in ... blanketweed }hairout{ So I've spent the past hour trying to lift it out but I think I've only managed to clear about a quarter of it along with loads of duckweed which are all now on top of the compost with the asparagus pots. At least some duckweed is now free and the island is once more spinning round but I'm hoping the treatment arrives sooner rather than later! The water underneath is lovely and clear so at least the fish are not getting trapped in it.

I had also ordered a new UV bulb for the sanitizer (kills off harmful bacteria and the single cell algae which makes the water go pea green) which arrived yesterday afternoon. If I had bought the recommended bulb, it would have cost about £40 (price plus postage from overseas) but I took a chance and sourced a UK one at just under £9 (I could have bought 2 for the price of £12 but I wasn't sure if it was the same as the original so only trying it out) I have to say it was identical so this morning got on with changing the bulb. I looked at the old one which had typical scorch marks on the glass near the filament but the filaments were still sound even though the UV light had stopped working - it gives off a slight purple glow which I can see through the perpex nozzles when it is switched on but when I noticed it had stopped glowing, presumed it was no longer working .... unfortunately, I can't see a thing until it gets dark but in the meantime I have put the new one in and have got it working again (the transformer box thing feels hot to the touch so I know that is on even if I can't see if the bulb is working) Not that I'm eager for the day to pass quickly, I am itching to find out.
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