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August 18, 2019

Sunjo Electric Rototiller A Helpful Honest Review

sunjo electric tiller review blog banner

Ok, maybe I come from the old school way of thinking. If its a power tool then it needs to run on gas. In the past things that ran on electricity couldn’t even come close to competing to their gas powered counterpart.

I guess things have changed. Technology has come a long way even when it comes to lawn and garden equipment. When my wife told me she had ordered an electric rototiller from Amazon, I just about fell out of my chair laughing. 

sunjo electric roto tiller cultivator

What a waste of money I thought. That thing won’t even make it through the summer. It showed up right on time in a box. As far as assembly goes there is not much to it but screwing the handles on with the supplied thumb screws. After it arrived it was ready to go in less than 10 minutes, except for one small problem. We didn’t have the right gauge extension cord to power it properly. Keep that in mind if and when you order this. 

So we jumped back online and picked up a 100’ 12 gauge cord. Once that came we were back in business.

Video Review

I couldn’t wait to break this thing in. I was going to put it through the ringer. If you’ve ever used a rototiller before you may have noticed a slight delay from the time you put the tines in gear to when they actually start spinning. Being electric, this tiller has no delay. I started my test in hard dry clay soil where I wanted to remove some grass. 

The second the buttons are pressed it sprang to life. Chewing up everything it came in contact with. It did a good job at removing the grass, but with the soil being so hard and dry, it bounced around a bit instead of digging in. This is not unusual among smaller rototillers.

Who Is This Electric Rototiller For

This rototiller is designed with the homeowner, or “do it yourselfer” in mind. Made for smaller tasks and garden cultivating. 

If you have a landscaping business where you would require more robust industrial equipment, this is not for you.

Pros

  • Small – perfect for getting in and around plantings. The 16 inch wide up to 8 inches deep, tiller is just the right size to use in a garden between rows of plants.
  • Lightweight – weighing only 27.1 lbs and having a convenient handle at its place of balance to pick it up, there is no struggle maneuvering it around.
  • Power – 13.5 Amp motor, the tines spin at a rapid pace of 360 RPM making this tiller extremely effective.
  • Portable – by simply loosening the knobs, the handle will fold down in 2 spots so it will easily fit in the trunk of a car.
  • 3 position wheel adjustability
  • Minimal assembly required

Cons

  • Lightweight – because of its light weight, it has a tendency to bounce off of very hard ground. This sort of thing happens with any smaller rototiller, and this one is no exception.
  • The plug will come unplugged easily if it is not wrapped around the handle.
  • The clip to hold the cord in place on the handle is too small to clip onto a heavy duty extension cord.
  • Needs an electrical outlet to plug in to.

Where to Buy

Amazon but of course. You wouldn’t think of it for a product like this, but the 2 day free shipping is tough to beat. Check HERE (affiliate link to Amazon) for the most up to date price and availability.

Also don’t forget to get the proper rated extension cord. You can pick that up HERE (link to Amazon) as well.

Final Verdict

Would I buy this product again? The answer is a resounding yes. I have been completely proven wrong after my initial doubts. The pros far outweigh the cons and my wife is happy because I stopped laughing. My expectations have been blown out of the water. I admit when I’m wrong, and with this tiny powerhouse you can’t go wrong.

If you have any questions about this product please feel free to ask them below and I will respond as soon as possible. Until next time enjoy your backyard water garden!

~Jeff

August 14, 2019

5 Easy Ways to Enjoy Shade In Your Backyard

5 Easy Ways to Enjoy Shade In Your Backyard

Are you looking to create a shaded area in your backyard? Do you overheat or get sunburn when you spend a lot of time outdoors? If you live in a hot and sunny climate then there is every reason to have some shade. 

It can be more comfortable but also prevents you from experiencing some of the perils of too much sun.

In this post, we’re looking at five best ways to bring shade into your yard. These tips are incredibly simple and easy.

Spruce Up With Plants, Trees and Foliage

You may enjoy gardening anyway. Simply making a few different decisions on how you go about gardening can lead to more shade. Instead of focusing on smaller flowers and plants, you can opt for bigger trees and foliage to create a shaded yet tranquil area.

outdoor entertaining in the backyard

Trees are great for this, though they may take a while to grow. Conifers and other tall plants can do the job, and don’t take quite as long to grow tall enough to provide decent shade.

If you go for trees, make your selection carefully. Some trees have a lot more luscious leaves and provide more coverage as a result. This great list of trees for creating shade shows some of the best options based on how quickly they grow and the area they can cover.

Trees and foliage along one side of a garden can provide different levels of shade and different areas of shade throughout the day. This is great if you have a pond, for instance, since many aquatic plants such as water lilies will flourish with minimum of 4-6 hours of sunlight a day.

Try a Trellis and Vines

Vines such as Arabella clematis plants can grow brilliantly up and around a trellis. As well as looking great, this can provide some extra shade. Trellis can be added to fences or used to create a specific shaded area.

While plants and trees will take a long time to grow, vines on trellises can be a lot quicker. If you aren’t in a position to plan years ahead, this could be a solution.

vines on a trellis

Another great benefit of foliage like this is the fact that it can create partial shade. You may not want to block out all of the sunlight, just soften it. 

Trellis with vines growing along may still let some of the sun through without creating a harsh totally shaded area. Whether this is suitable for your backyard will depend on what you are looking for from your shade.

Install a Door Canopy or Awning

A canopy or an awning can be a brilliant way to create shade in a specific area of your yard. 

Awnings tend to be installed on the side of a building. For this reason, they are often used to create shade on a patio such as this beautiful flagstone patio design. This is a good way to ensure you always have control over where the shade is. 

Some awnings are even adjustable so that you can quickly and easily increase the amount of covered space. Install these over a seating area for guaranteed shade when you sit down to eat or relax.

Door canopies are another similar design which can cover doors and windows. They protect doors or windows from the elements, including rain, but if you get a big enough door canopy it can provide a small shaded area, too.

Go for a Sail Shade

A sail shade creates an outdoor shade by utilizing the same design as the sail on a ship or boat. This is how it gets its name. This design can be suitable for almost any backyard as they’re relatively simple to put up. Also, they come with their own anchor points, usually in the form of poles. This means you don’t need a suitable wall, you can install it anywhere in your backyard with relative ease.

Most of these shades have a good level of UV protection and can give a cooler area for you to relax within. Some sail shade’s even come with different configurations so you can choose where you want the shade to face, controlling the way the sunlight reaches your yard.

Buy a Gazebo 

Gazebos are available in a variety of designs and there is bound to be something to suit your needs. For instance, if you want a more permanent structure than a rugged, durable hardtop gazebo can be a suitable addition to your backyard.

hard top gazebo

Many gazebos are “pop up” in design, meaning they are easy to put up and take down again. This can be more of a temporary way to create shade. It means that when you are entertaining guests or serving food outdoors you can add a shaded area for people to sit underneath to enjoy food, drink and a cooler climate.

Pop up designs aren’t the only option if you think you might need to move your gazebo in the future. Often, the more permanent designs are also relatively simple to take down ready to be reconstructed in another spot.

Gazebos can provide the added bonus of being resistant to other forms of weather such as rain. They can help in the seasons which are not quite so sunny, and give somewhere to shield away from the rain, or even a spot for your next BBQ.

Gazebos are a little different to a lot of the other types of shade and shelter we’ve recommended in this guide. They can have sides which give a shielding and allow you to shut an area off. You can effectively make your own extra outdoor room with the right gazebo design.

Utilize Parasols and Umbrellas

If you’re most worried about shielding yourself from the sun rather than creating large shaded areas then a parasol can do a good job. The type you would take to the beach might be a little flimsy, but you can buy some effective (and big) parasols for the garden.

One benefit of parasols is the fact you can move them around, so if you want to sit in a different part of the garden, you’re not stuck!

A parasol is designed like a large umbrella but is for shade rather than rain protection. Also, they tend to have a tilt feature to let you control the angle. This way you can ensure it is positioned best to protect you from the sun.

Conclusion

Have you enjoyed our guide? Are you inspired to create a shaded area in your backyard? Maybe you have your own tips to share. If so, please leave your own thoughts in the comments and let us know what you think of the tips we’ve offered here.

August 11, 2019

How To Fix A Brick Walk In 7 Easy Steps

fix a brick walk blog banner
  1. Remove the affected bricks from the walk along with 3 courses on either side of the problem area.
  2. If roots are the issue, use a reciprocating saw to cut out the roots causing the problem.
  3. Fill in the void the roots left behind and then using a hand tamper, compact the ground.
  4. Pour paver sand over the compacted ground so that it is at least as high as the existing walk on both sides.
  5. Cut a notch on either end of a 2×6 or 2×8 as thick as a brick about 6 inches in. Do this on both sides. See the image below.
  1. With a back and forth motion move the board across the path removing excess sand. This will create a flat surface to re-lay the brick.
  2. Carefully lay the bricks down in place following their pattern.

Tools Needed

tools needed to fix a brick walk
  • 2×6
  • Hand tamper
  • Paver sand
  • Reciprocating saw and saw blades
  • Broom
  • Screwdriver
  • Circular saw
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure

Optional Tools

  • Stringline
  • Pipe or angle iron

Everything is temporary, no truer words have been spoken. Especially when you are talking about projects that are exposed to mother nature. Even your brick patio or walkway, that seems so permanent will settle. Tree roots will grow and before you know it, your once flat winding walk will be a giant tripping hazard.

roots coming through a brick walk

Lucky for you, things like this are simple to fix. Follow along and we will go over what you need to do step by step.

Check Out The Video

https://youtu.be/RRB_v8Blwsg

One Step At A Time

Step 1 – Remove all the bricks or stone from the affected area and a few courses beyond. I usually go about 3 courses further than the problem area. If your problem area is exceptionally large thats ok, we will go over how to fix it. Don’t worry, things always look worse before they get better.

Step 2 – Identify the problem. This could be a number of things. In our case the culprit is tree roots. This is a pretty straight forward issue. Using a reciprocating saw (best tool in my arsenal, here is a link to Amazon) made our solution easier. The disposable blades (affiliate link to Amazon) will rip through anything!

If your problem is a settling issue this could mean a number of things. 

Does water collect on your path? If this is the case, this issue will deed to addressed as well as the walk repair. Remember water always seeks the lowest easiest path. By simply raising something up you can eliminate standing water issues.

Does water flow through your path? In this case you may need to add some type of drain tile beneath your path to give the water an alternate route rather than washing your stone away.

Once you know the “root” of your problem it can be addressed and your walk can be repaired. Let’s move on.

roots under a brick walk

Step 3 – Depending on the issue, you may need to add more stone base, dirt, or sand to the area. If adding more sand and dirt is necessary, be sure to use a hand tamper to compact the stone to reduce the amount of settling that may occur. Do not skip over this step or you will be making another repair in the near future.

Step 4 – Once your foundation is solid, pour out paver sand over the solid stone base. Be sure to pour enough sand that the top of it is just over the bottom of the existing bricks (see picture). This way when you go to level the sand there are no voids.

Step 5 – Now using a 2×6 cut a 6 inch long notch on both ends as thick as one of the walkway bricks. Leave the space between the notches about 4 inches shorter than the area you are repairing. 

leveling brick walk

Step 6 – Now, using the modified 2×6 move the board back and forth over the existing walk creating a flat surface to re-lay the bricks you removed for the repair. Using this method the pitch and angle of the existing walk will be matched perfectly.

Step 7 – Starting at one end begin to lay the brick, following the pattern. You may find that by the time you get to the other end of the repair there is larger spaces. If this is the case, adjust the bricks over the repaired area to split the difference. This will make it less noticeable. Once all the bricks are back where they belong use more paving sand and sweep it into the cracks to lock everything back into place.

laying bricks

Repairing A Larger Area

If the area in question is larger than a walk, you will need a slightly different strategy than only the notched board. In this case you will need a string line and a either a pipe, or piece of angle iron. Something rigid and straight. 

Follow steps 1 – 4 just as described above. When its time to add paver sand to create a surface to re-lay the bricks on, place a string line on one side of the walk that doesn’t need repair and weigh it down with a brick. Now run it to the other side and make it tight weighing it down with another brick. 

Measure from the sting down the thickness of a brick and set the top of your pipe at that height. Do the same for the other side of the area. The pipe acts as a “bridge” to keep everything Pitched correctly.

If your area is larger than two board lengths, simply follow the above instructions and use more pieces of pipe to get from one side to the other. Use your tight string line as a guide and you can’t go wrong.

Other Variations

If you plan on putting in a brick patio or brick walk, following the above instructions may help you. There is just a little more excavation involved in the initial build. Check out my “how to build a flagstone patiopost and video. If you follow the steps for the foundation then create your flat sand surface like above, simply lay your bricks down and voila! Instant brick patio or walk!

Conclusion

Nothing lasts forever, even that solid brick walk or patio. Knowing how to fix it and keep it looking its best is what really matters. It’s not that difficult if you simply follow the steps above. Questions and comments are always welcome. Please leave them below.

If there are any projects you would like to see us do in the future, comment below. Until next time, enjoy your backyard water garden

~Jeff 

August 4, 2019

Pond Liner Repair In 7 Easy Steps

pond liner repair in 7 easy steps

If you ever tear, rip, or puncture your pond liner don’t panic! This can easily be resolved in a few simple steps:

  1. Get another piece of rubber liner big enough to go over the problem area by at least 2 inches all around.
  2. Drain the water 12 inches below the problem area, exposing it and make sure the area is clean and dry. 
  3. Use the prep solvent that comes with your liner repair kit (link to Amazon) and generously clean the area again. This will remove any fine dirt that may have been missed in the initial cleaning.
  4. The MOST important thing, be sure all the wrinkles are out of the liner where the repair will be made. Wrinkles will cause leaks.
  5. Apply the sealant around the area, a bit larger than the patch. 
  6. Gently apply the patch over the area and apply pressure all around to be sure of a good seal. (No Wrinkles)
  7. Allow the sealant to cure fully, then refill your pond.

My Story

I’ll never forget, I had just finished placing my last rock. I was beaming with pride. I could tell I was driving my family crazy with this project. It was all I was talking about for weeks. Now was the moment of truth.

I gathered my wife and kids around to witness my glory! I asked for a drumroll as they all reluctantly participated. Plugged in my waterfall and BAM! Just like that I had my very own waterfront property!

I couldn’t stop smiling. All those days of back breaking work, digging and climbing in and out of a deep hole all behind me now.

Something Was Wrong

As I looked on with pride, I noticed something. The water level going into my skimmer box was lower than it was when I had started everything up. This must be because water in the waterfall system caused my level to drop.

Was I crazy? I could feel the doubt in my mind beginning to set in. As I looked on, the water level slowly but surely got lower and lower and lower.

I started to get that sinking feeling in my stomach. You know what I’m talking about. Like the feeling you get when you are called on in class to give your presentation, and you didn’t even start it yet.

Starting Over

Well I thought, “back to the drawing board”. I shut off my waterfall pump and began to retrace my steps. How could i be losing water? I know I didn’t tear my liner when i was building this thing. I was told that it was ok to walk on the liner while it is being installed as long as rocks are not “ground” into it.

Then it occured to me what may be happening. When I calculated my liner I didn’t have enough to go all the way up to where my waterfall unit was located. Keep this in mind when you plan out your pond.

The thing is the liner I got would have worked with my original plan, but as I went this project got bigger and bigger. You’ll see when you do your project. Things change and you just need to adapt to them and make them work.

My Pond Liner Setup

Firestone EPDM pond liner installation

I took the liner from the main pond up as high as I could to my waterfall unit. Then I had to get an additional piece of liner and overlap the two. This should not have been a problem as long as the liner coming down the waterfall was on top of the liner making up the pond.

The two liners were like shingles on a roof. I didn’t use any type of glue or sealant to fuse the two together. The liner making up my pond was above the ponds water level by about 2 feet, with the additional liner overlapping it and going below the water level in the pond by a foot.

Now normally this shouldn’t be a problem. As long as the liner is overlapped properly all the water should stay in the pond.

As you can see from the pictures below the original pond liner only goes halfway up the waterfall mound.

Get To The Root Of The Problem

As I investigated further, I saw what was really going on. Since I had modified my plans a bit, the only readily available liner to make my waterfall and stream was only 3 feet wide. This is fine coming straight out of my waterfall unit, but as the water cascades down the falls it gets wider. Water was flowing past my 3 foot wide liner into the ground before it ever got to where the two liners overlap.

Urrg… this was going to take some strategic rock placement and waterfall foam to correct. 

Guided Waterfall Stream

Waterfall foam (link to Amazon) is your best friend when it comes to making water move the way you want it to. I needed to create a dam to control the water from running off the liner. If you run into issues like this use waterfall foam and disguise it with small rocks before it cures. This corrects the problem in the most natural looking way.

I was sure to let the waterfall foam set up for 24 hours, then started everything up again. This time with a lot less fan fair. I let the system run for another day and to my delight the water level never went down.

In conclusion

Fixing a pond liner is not that difficult once you find the problem. This can be a challenge all on its own.  Follow the 7 steps and don’t freak out. 

Sometimes you need to step back and see the big picture. Things aren’t always as they seem. What you think is the culprit, may not be. 

I would love to hear some of the challenges you are facing with your projects. Please comment below and share them. Your solution may help someone else. Until next time enjoy your backyard water garden!

~Jeff

July 28, 2019

Why You Need A UV Light In Your Pond

why you need a UV Light in your pond

Why Do I Need A UV Light In My Pond

UV lights do a few things for you and your pond. They kill harmful bacteria and sterilize the water, creating high water quality so goldfish and koi can thrive. The other thing… they destroy the free floating algae that plagues pond owners. 

Don’t neglect to add one of these into your filtration system. I know how frustrating it can be to create a beautiful pond, waterfall, surrounded by plantings only to have it turn into pea soup once the temperature gets warm. 

Green Pond Water From Free Floating Algae Bloom
clear pond water from a UV light
UV Light Installed – Clear Water

What Is UV Light

UV light (short for ultraviolet) is what is responsible for that awesome tan you get in the summer. It is also the culprit of painful sunburn. This type of electromagnetic radiation has the power to break chemical bonds and is damaging to living tissue (sunburn). Most of the UV light we encounter is from the sun.

visible light spectrum

Light that we see is only a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum includes all forms of light. The spectrum is broken down into 7 different categories based on wavelength. These categories from lowest to highest frequency are radio, microwave, Infrared, visible light (all light detected by the human eye), ultraviolet (UV), X-ray, and gamma rays.

UV lights frequency falls between what we can see as visible light and x-rays. When in contact with UV rays atoms and molecules can become ionized. 

When atoms get ionized they lose electrons which result in the atom or molecule having a negative or positive charge. This is harmful to living tissue. Because of this property, we can harness the power of UV light to disinfect surfaces, sterilize things, and wipe out all that nasty free floating algae in our ponds.

How Is UV Light Used In A Pond

A UV light for a pond consists of an outer tube with a smaller crystal tube inside it. The smaller crystal tube contains the bulb that gives off the UV light. The crystal tube keeps the bulb dry. Water flows through the outer tube, around the crystal tube, safely exposing the water to UV light. 

How a UV light works

How To Size A UV Light For Your Pond

In order to get this right you need to know a couple things first: 

  1. What is the size of your pond in gallons (use our pond calculator)
  2. What is the maximum flow rate the light can handle to be effective. Running 4000 gallons per hour (gph) through a light that can only be effective at a flow rate of 1000 gph is pointless and will yield poor results.

Where To Put My Light If My Pond Is Already Finished

This was my problem as well. My pond was built and the UV light installation was an afterthought. If you don’t plan on using a submersible UV light and wish to put it in line with your water return system, you can still easily hide your light (even if it is large) with creative plantings. Check out this quick video.

That’s what I did. My UV light is hidden in plain sight, tucked around the side of my waterfall mound. When you install your light be sure to give yourself easy access to it for occasional maintenance.

Which UV Light Is Right For Me

If you are just starting out building your pond (the best time to add a light) then you can easily incorporate this into your filtration system. Simply divert water that flows from your skimmer to your waterfall unit through your UV light.

If you are adding a light as a second thought it is going to be a little more involved, but there is still hope! You will have to dig up your return line in order to divert water through your UV light as it returns to your waterfall. 

Another option is to add an additional pump (usually with a lower flow rate to be effective) and add your UV light to that exclusively. 

If you plan on running your system all year round having your light on its own “water circuit” is a good idea. This way you can turn it off or remove it over the months it isn’t needed.

How Long Does A UV Bulb Last

The lifespan of a typical UV bulb is around 10,000 hours. Although the bulb will still be producing visible light beyond that time, its effectiveness will be diminished.

If you live somewhere that you run your UV light all year round, the bulb should be replaced every 12 months. If you only run your UV light 4 months per year like I do, then the bulb will need to be replaced approximately every three years.

How Do I Know When To Change My UV Bulb

With a UV bulb, unless it is completely burned out follow the above recommendation and change it after 10,000 hours. You could wait until your water begins to get cloudy with free floating algae, but who wants to go through that.

How Much Does It Cost To Run A UV Light For My Pond

money

This will depend on the size of the light that is required for your system, and the price of electricity at the time. If we were to choose a 40 watt light and the price of electricity is $0.31 per Kwh then the cost would be $9.05 per month based on the calculations from https://www.blitzresults.com/en/electricity/ 

Where Is The Best Place To Buy A UV Light

Here are some great options based on pond size. If you aren’t sure what size your pond is, use our pond calculator. I have found the best place to get any of these lights is on Amazon. Yes, these are affiliate links which means if you happen to purchase one of them I will receive a small commission at no charge to you. This helps us keep our website going. Thanks in advance for the support.

That being said we are only recommending these because it is what we would use in our pond builds.

Small Pond – 100 to 1500 Gallons

The Tetrapond UV clarifier is the ideal addition to a smaller pond. With a 9 watt UV bulb it will have little impact on your electric bill. This light can be used in or out of the water, making it an easy addition if you already have your pond set up.

If installing it in line with your existing system be sure the flow rate is between 210 – 560 gph. This light is most effective at this flow rate.

The other option is to hook it up with its own pump. Whichever is easiest. The recommended pump and light are bundled together in the link below. 

This light can handle a flow rate of 210 – 560 gallons per hour. Using a ¾ – 1 inch ID tubing to connect a pump and return line. 

Although this light claims to treat up to 2,000 gallons we are more conservitive and recommend using a more powerful light if your pond is over 1,500 gallons. 

This will solve your green water problems at a budget friendly price. Check HERE for the best current price (link to amazon) along with other helpful diagrams.

Estimated operating cost per month $2.04

Medium Pond 1500 to 3000 gallons

Stepping up to the next size will require a little more power and a larger unit. The 40 watt range is effective with a pond of this size. 

The stainless steel Patriot is our light of choice for ponds in this size range. The stainless steel is reflective making the UV light up to 35% more effective than other non reflective lights. 

patriot pond 40 Watt UV light specs

Although this light claims to treat up to 6,000 gallons we recommend stepping up to the next level for ponds over 3,000 gallons. This light will handle a flow rate up to 2,500 gph. This is what we would use in our builds. Check HERE (link to Amazon) for the most up to date price.

The estimated operating cost per month $9.05

Large Pond 3000 To 5000 Gallons

When it comes to very large ponds more than one light may be required, so we set the maximum size at 5000 gallons. The UV lights used for larger ponds are not submersible and will take up some space so be sure to take that into consideration when you are in the planning stage. You should give yourself easy access while at the same time camouflage your setup to disappear into the landscape.

Aqua UV is perfect for larger applications. It claims to handle up to 6,500 gallons as a clarifier. You will get your pond back. This light is effective with a flow rate of 3,500 gph which means you won’t have to sacrifice power when you run it in line with your system. It is available with or without a wiper. 

Aqua UV 57 watt UV sterilizer

The wiper cleans the crystal tube that contains the light bulb making it more efficient.

The performance of this light is guaranteed to clear your water within 3 to 5 days. 

Another advantage this has over other lights in this category is it’s electricity consumption, at only 57 watts. For the most up to date price and availability check HERE (affiliate link to Amazon).

The estimated operating cost, only $12.90 per month.

Will A UV Light Solve All My Algae Problems

The short answer is no. The reason for this, a UV light can only eliminate what flows through it. For that It does a fine job. However other forms of algae like string algae that forms on rocks and spillways also plague the pond. This type of algae will not pass through the light because it stays in one place. 

If your pond is overrun with string algae check out our home page and learn the secret to give it a quick knockout punch. This little secret is safe, inexpensive and eliminates string algae quickly.

A properly sized UV light is only one piece of the puzzle to ridding your pond of unsightly types of algae. A UV light will give you crystal clear water. When used in conjunction with barley straw and algaefix you have a winning combination.

In Conclusion

If you have had a pond for any length of time you know the value of a UV light. The constant battle with algae can be very frustrating. If you are just getting started, take my advice and don’t overlook the importance of having a UV light. Yes, you can always add one later, but it is definitely easier if you make it part of your original design when you build your pond (link to our how to build a pond tutorial).

You can’t go wrong with any of the suggested lights in this post. Don’t hesitate to pick one up and get your pond back. Any thoughts or questions would be greatly appreciated. Please leave a comment below. Until next time, enjoy your backyard water garden!

~Jeff

July 21, 2019

Know This Before Owning Koi

Know this before owning koi

The short answer:

  1. Koi need ample space to thrive – When estimating pond size, you need at least 300 gallons per fish. For example a 3000 gallon pond could house no more than 10 koi.
  2. Great water quality – this can be accomplished through various types of filtration system.
  3. Protection from predators

There is nothing more relaxing and calming than sitting by the ponds edge watching the kaleidoscope of colors dance just below the surface as the graceful koi move about.  There is something magical about these fascinating creatures.

I got the koi “bug” shortly after I caught the pond bug.  It seemed to be the natural progression of things. If you are in the same situation, then you know what I am talking about.  What started out as a mild curiosity has grown into a grand obsession.

I ponder such things as how koi can survive the harsh winter months. How a mere “fish” can be taught tricks, and actually learn things. The different personalities they possess. Koi are more than mere fish, they are extraordinary beasts that have an aura of magic, legend and lore that come with them.

Caring for koi properly begins with proper pond design. The old thinking that koi will grow to the size of their environment is false. They will grow to the size they are going to be regardless of the size of the pond. If you plan on keeping koi, the size of the pond must allow for this.

Pond Design

The right design is key to not just keeping these animals, but allowing them to thrive. Koi can reach lengths of 30” or larger depending on the breed. 

When designing your koi pond, It’s important the depth of their environment is greater than their length. Just like you and I, koi also need exercise. If they do not have the proper depth, they cannot exercise their fins properly by swimming up and down.

A proper environment should have a depth of at least 42”. This will not only allow them proper exercise, but also allow them to survive in colder climates. Depending on what part of the world you live, the frost line needs to be one of the determining factors of how deep your pond will be. The depth of your pond should be well below the frost line for your part of the world.

If your pond freezes solid, this could spell sudden death for your koi. Regardless of 42”, your pond should also be deeper than the frost line. If both of these criteria are met, then you will have success caring for these creatures.

Water Flow

Most pond kits (link to amazon for the most up to date prices) do not come with a bottom drain. Even if the kit is labeled a koi pond kit, without a bottom drain it may not suffice for optimal water quality. The bottom drain (affiliate link to amazon for a bottom drain to add to a pond kit) helps to take some of the maintenance work out of the equation. When set up properly the current in the pond forces most of the sediment and waste to the bottom drain where it can be removed and filtered out.  

Without a drain set up you will need to vacuum and remove the waste manually.  Save yourself some work and design this out of the equation. Not only will it save you work down the line but your koi will be happier and healthier with a cleaner environment.

creating propoer water flow in a koi pond

A proper koi pond setup contains a skimmer, bottom drain, and multiple return lines to create a swirling effect in the pond as seen in the illustration above. This swirling effect moves waste and debris to the center of the pond where it can be removed by the bottom drain.

The main differences between a water garden and a koi pond is the use of a bottom drain, and the filtration set up. The key to keeping koi is superior water quality. That being said the key to superior water quality is proper filtration.

What Filtration Do You Need

Gravity flow filtration systems are extremely effective keeping water crystal clear and koi healthy.  The reason they work so well is the water flows steadily and slowly to the bottom drain. The key words are slow and steady. 

The reason behind this is to move the waste, especially the large waste that settles to the bottom and keep it intact to the first chamber of filtration, ironically known as the settling chamber.

A gravity flow filter consists of different stages or chambers.  Each chamber with different water levels. Water is always seeking its own level.  A pump (link to my pond pump reviews) is placed after the final chamber pulling the water through the system and back into the pond. 

One challenge of the gravity filter is the fact that the water level in the chambers must be slightly below the water level in your pond.  Hence the term gravity filter. Since water always seeks to find its own level, the pond pump is merely used to pump the water back into your pond, and gravity pulls the water through the system.

The water enters at the bottom of the chamber, flows upward through filter media, then into another pipe at the top and into the bottom of the next chamber.

The filter media gets finer and finer as the water flows from one chamber to another. Most of the particulate is removed with this system, returning crystal clear water to your pond.  

One downside to this system is the space it requires. Keep this in mind when designing your pond layout. It will be necessary to have ample space for this and a creative way to hide it.

The cycle the water flows for filtration is as follows:

Bottom drain into settling chamber to mechanical filtration to pump, and finally back into the pond.

Below is an illustration of this type of system.

gravity filtration system

Other Filtration Systems

There are other methods of filtration that can be incorporated into your koi pond filtration system.  Each will also require ample space and need to be hidden behind the scenes while at the same time easily accessible. 

The typical pond kit does not have a bottom drain. It consists of a skimmer box (affiliate link to amazon for our recommended skimmer box) with a mesh net and filter media. The skimmer box also houses the pump. Water is then circulated to a waterfall unit where it flows through more filter media, and returned to the pond.

Koi can be kept with this style of pond setup, however it may require more hands on maintenance throughout the season. For example the netting and the filter media will need to be cleaned on a regular basis.

The differences between these filtration systems is how the water flows through them, and how thoroughly they can remove particulate. All of them require a pump of some sort. Some of the best filtration systems use a combination of both gravity and power to achieve exceptionally clean, clear water.

This is the golden rule, you can have as many koi as your filtration system will allow.

Once you have decided on the pond size, type of your filtration system and how to implement the whole thing into your landscape, the next decision is what is the overall feeling you are trying to create in the space.

The typical koi pond has the black liner along the sides and bottom. This really makes the colors of these beautiful fish stand out. Another advantage of having only the liner exposed is for the ease of debris to make its way to the center drain for filtration. Having a smooth bottom allows the water to flow more completely in the environment without getting hung up on rocks.

The koi pond edge is where rocks come in. A shelf should be excavated approximately 12 inches from the water surface and rocks or other edging material should be used.  The liner should go across this “shelf” and hidden up behind the rocks on the edge. 

The pond built in our how to build a pond guide has the sides and bottom covered with rocks. Check out the link above to do this properly. The rocks make it a bit more difficult to clean, however it has a very natural look that easily blends into the landscape. 

Your ponds edge and liner should be slightly higher than the surrounding grade to prevent rain runoff from entering your pond. 

Quick side note: Depending on your budget you may not use a liner at all and choose to have your pond made of gunite, the same material that is used for swimming pools. For the sake of discussion, we are not going to elaborate on this any further because this method is beyond the scope of the DIY’er. This method requires professional installation and specialized equipment.

Most of my clients prefer the look of a natural rocked in pond if their budget allows. It is still possible to keep koi without the use of a bottom drain as mentioned earlier.Keep in mind that more maintenance will be required to keep the water quality high.

to keep the water at the highest quality a UV light should also be installed into the system. More on that here. The UV light will sterilize the water and kill any bacteria, or algae that passes through it.

Design Variations

A raised koi pond is another method of building a koi pond.  A liner can be used in this as well. The only limitation with this is the depth you choose. Be sure it follows the guidelines discussed earlier so your koi can survive whatever type of winter you experience in your part of the world.

The raised type of pond can have two variations.  The first is a completely raised pond. Think of it like an above ground pool.  This would be constructed of cinder blocks and covered with a veneer of your choice. 

The part that is seen above ground can be constructed of cinder blocks and lined with an EPDM liner (affiliate link to amazon for the best price on pond liners). This serves as a very effective means to create your pond. It will have a more modern formal look. The variation you choose will depend on the surrounding design of your outdoor space, and your taste.

Depending on your décor, tile, stone, wood, or even bamboo are just a few great choices to finish off your raised pond. The raised pond is ideal for warmer climates, where a frostline is minimal.

If you live in a colder climate like I do, you can still have a raised pond but will need to modify it a bit. It will be constructed in the same way above ground, but excavated well below the frost line. 

Koi Ponds In A Cold Climate

When waste collects, it creates an environment that depletes the oxygen in the water as it breaks down. If the debris and waste is not removed, this unhealthy environment will be at the bottom of your pond. 

Guess where your koi go in the winter months? Down at the bottom where there is less oxygen.  

This could potentially suffocate your fish if the pond freezes over and the poisonous gasses cannot escape.

To avoid this simply add an aerator (affiliate link to Amazon for the best price) to your pond at a shallow depth. Placing the aerator at the bottom of the pond will introduce cold air at the bottom creating an unhealthy environment. The movement from the aerator will keep the surface from freezing solid and allow the poisonous gasses that build up escape.

A pond heater (affiliate link to Amazon) is another option if your part of the world is exceptionally cold. This keeps a small portion of the surface melted allowing the gases to escape.

Keeping the bottom as clear from waste as you can is imperative to the health and longevity of your beautiful fish.

A third option to deal with old man winter is to place your koi in holding tanks over the winter months, out of the severe weather.  It is not necessary to keep them warm, just keep them out of the elements where they could freeze.

Disease And Your Koi Pond

Koi, being as hardy as they are can usually fight off any infections that would be brought on by fungi, or bacteria. Stress is the main cause for disease in your fish. This type of stress is not from an aggressive boss, or getting stuck in rush hour traffic. This stress is caused by water quality.  

Water quality can be compromised by:

  • Stress
  • Placing sick fish into your pond
  • Overcrowding
  • Outside contaminates
  • Spawning

Just like with any ailment, catching it in the early stages is key. This can prove to be difficult at times, however if you pay attention to the behavior of your fish, say at feeding time you will notice these changes. If a fish isolates itself from the rest, this may be a sign that something isn’t right.

The problem with disease is that it can spread quickly and wipe out your entire population if not treated in a timely manner.

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to keeping fish, no truer statement could be made. The most important thing is to keep the quality of the pond water high. This will keep your fishes’ immune system in great shape and keep disease at bay.

Protect Your Plants

If this is your first experience with koi, be forewarned that they can be very destructive when it comes to pond vegetation. They will uproot and destroy anything they can. If you choose to have plants in your pond like most of us do, you will find that you will need to keep them in planters to protect them from the koi. 

protect your plants from koi

This keeps everyone happy, the koi get the benefit of shade and oxygen from the plants, and you get a little piece of mind that your plants will be there every time you visit the water garden.

In Conclusion

When it comes to creating and maintaining your koi pond, filtration and water quality are the most important things you can do. Not only will your fish stay healthy and thrive, but the beautiful environment you create will bring you years of enjoyment. 

The key to success is to get set up properly. It’s difficult to add a bottom drain a few years down the road, so decide and design your koi pond the right way from the start. Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success. I wish you success with all you projects, and if you have any questions or comments I encourage you to leave them below. Until next time enjoy your backyard water garden.

~Jeff

July 14, 2019

Climbing Mount Marcy

climb mount marcy
view from the top of mount marcy

At a Glance

Elevation: 5344

Distance to Summit: 7.4 miles

Total distance: 14.8 miles

Trail Entrance Location Coordinates (google maps): 43.108471, -74.368059

What to Bring

  1. ½ liter for every hour in the woods
  2. Jacket, the top of the mountain is about 20 degrees colder than where you start your journey
  3. Dense foods. Granola bars, nuts and trail mix, string cheese
  4. Toilet paper
  5. Bug spray
  6. Leg Gaiters – Waterproof to keep your feet dry (amazon link for the best price)
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Properly fitting already broken in footwear – hiking boots or trail running shoes
  9. Map – although the trails are well marked a map is always a good idea.
  10. Adjustable Hiking Sticks (here is a link to amazon, I won’t hike again without them) they certainly help you to move quicker over some of the terrain. Just about everyone that flew past us were using these to navigate the trails.

Why Mount Marcy

You know how your hanging out with your buddies and the night starts to get late, that’s when the really “good” ideas come out. That’s what happened back in December. Somehow the idea that we would all climb a mountain seemed like the one thing we all HAD to do. 

I’m writing this as it’s still fresh in my mind, before the blisters have healed. Our group was not a band of hiking fanatics, just 4 amateur with ages ranging from 16 – 43 on a mission.

marcy dam

How did we decide on Marcy, well it’s the highest peak in New York and the Adirondacks with an elevation of 5,344. So it was the obvious choice for us. We would also be within a 2 hour drive from where we vacation on the 4th of July, so it was the perfect day trip.

After doing a little more research I realized that it wasn’t just the mountain that would be a challenge, it was the 15 mile (14.8 miles)  hike that came along with it. As I said before, we are complete amateurs. To us, a 3 mile hike is a long distance, so keep that in mind as you read.

Here Is The Video Of Our Adventure

How Do You Get To Marcy

The best way to get up Marcy was through the Van Hoevenberg trail. There is a welcome center without an address. That’s where the trail begins, you will need to use the coordinates 43.108471, -74.368059 in google maps, or a good old fashioned map to find it.

My GPS did not work properly on the ride up and cell phone reception is very limited so keep this in mind if you plan to rely on technology.

Newbies in the Woods

Get your parking pass inside if there is no one at the gate. We began speaking with one of the welcoming members upon arrival. She was asking us questions to make sure we were prepared for our day in the woods. I guess we really stood out!

Adirondack welcome center

She immediately pointed out that most of us were wearing cotton. A bad choice for a day long hike in the summer. Live and learn… the hard way. Cotton does not wick away the sweat as well as other materials. Instead it just gets heavier and uncomfortable as we found out first hand.

“Just go as far as you can. There is no shame if you don’t make it all the way up.” She said. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to discourage, or inspire us but with that we headed toward the trail. 

What to Expect Climbing Mount Marcy

Be sure you register at the registration hut before you begin. Also take note of the bear warning, for correctly storing your food. The trail was clearly marked with blue discs, and a mile marker sign every few miles. Marcy is not the only mountain along the trail, but that was the focus of our trip so we never ventured off in any other directions.

mount marcy trail bear warning

The trail was well worn with lots of foot traffic. The only hiccups were the roots that gnarled their way through it. I thought, “this is a piece of cake.” 

starting the hike to mount marcy summit

Marcy Dam

At 2.1 miles you come to Marcy Dam. We were fortunate to have perfect weather for our day out as you can see in the pictures. You cant see Mount Marcy from here but this is a great place to stop for a water break.

The next stretch of the trail gives you a taste of what’s to come. You begin to head upwards a bit, walking over rocks that litter the trail. It was a bit muddy because of the wet spring/summer we have had. Navigating the rocks isn’t too difficult and it keeps you out of the mud. I recommend wearing gaiters to keep the water out.

Indian Falls

The next highlight on the hike is Indian Falls. You come to a stream you need to cross and there is a sign for the falls. Marcy was one way, and the falls was another. We decided not to travel to the falls not knowing how far away they actually were, and like I said earlier we were on a mission. We figured, depending on how we were feeling we could hit the falls on the way back.

We were informed by other hikers that this was about halfway to Marcy’s summit. We didn’t realize it was the “easy” half.

Never Ending Stairway

We headed down the trail marked with blue discs and came to what looked like a dry creek bed with very large rocks going up. This went on for just over 2 miles. At this point we were all starting to slow down. The enthusiasm we started off with was slowly draining with every step upward. At this point the black flies were relentless, and every water break needed a re-application of bug spray.

climb mount marcy creek bed trail

Once through the dry creek bed, the trail changes back into a more typical trail. The vegetation also begins to look a bit different. As you make your way along the trail there are small clearings with breathtaking views. This helped motivate us to keep going.

About a mile away from the summit there is a clearing where you can get a good view of Marcy. It looked so far away but we had come this far so going back was not an option. This was the “fun” part of the climbing according to my son (16). From this point on the trail changes, and you are now faced with climbing the rock that IS Marcy. The trail is marked well with yellow stripes. Some of the spots were challenging to navigate, mainly because we were out of gas. This last bit of the trail was the greatest. The view was spectacular with every changing movement forward.

climbing mount marcy

Although it was July in New York the top of the mountain still had a little snow on it. The air was cooler and the wind was a consistent 20mph, but it was refreshing on the warm buggy day.

small snow pack on top of mount marcy

The vegetation completely changes at this point, there are no more trees. You enter a tundra climate zone. 

On Top Of A Mountain

Upon reaching the top, after a short rest we were greeted by a ranger. He informed us that he was there to greet people and answer any questions they had. He was enthusiastically knowledgeable about anything we asked.

One of our questions: “Is there a shortcut to get back down?” (probably heard that a million times) and he told us the quickest way down was the way we came up. He hikes up to the summit every morning and hikes back down at the end of the day. I found this to be quite unusual, and couldn’t imagine doing this on a daily basis.

Retracing Our Steps

Once we felt a little rejuvenated it was time to start the long hike back to the car. You would think going down would be the easy part, it wasn’t. We moved along at a steady pace. The difficult part was the 2 miles or so of creek bed that seemed to never end.

Once we were through that the rest was fairly easy… just long.

We never did make it to see indian falls. I guess i’lll save that for my next trip. 

Is Mount Marcy Hard to Hike

This is a loaded question. There are lots of variables, like what kind of shape you’re in and how much drive you have. It was not too difficult as far as the climb goes. The most difficult part of the hike was the last mile or so, but even that wasn’t too steep.

The majority of the hike is a creek bed filled with boulders. It was difficult to look around and take it all in. my attention was mainly on the ground, trying not to twist my ankle. Two miles of this wore me down.

The length of the hike is another factor. Now i consider myself in pretty good shape. I work out 4 to 5 times per week for an hour or so at a time, watch what I eat, not overweight, but that wore me out. 

My son 16, had no problems and was waiting for us to catch up on many occasions.

Our Plan 

Begin hiking by 7:00Am

Reach the summit by 11

Recover for an hour then head back down at 12

Back to the car by 4

I assumed we would be hiking at an average pace of 2mph for 14.8 miles

Total time: 9 hours

Reality

Began hiking at 7:30

Reached summit at 1:05pm

Recovered for about 45 min and started to climb down at 1:50pm

Back to the car at 6:15

Total time: 10 hours 45 min

As you can see we were off a bit from our original plan. If you plan on doing this in a day be sure to get there early, parking does start to fill up the later it gets. If you are new to this type of hiking give yourself some extra time, another reason to begin early.

All in All A Great Day

plaque on top of mount marcy

It’s always great to get out in nature and get inspired. This trip recharged my batteries and filled me with enthusiasm. Trying to recreate what mother nature does so flawlessly is a challenge. But with this newly lit fire inside me I am up for it.

After doing something like this, as time passes your memory of the struggle weakens while the memory of the accomplishment gets stronger. I know it won’t be long until i find myself deep in the woods climbing more peaks. As I was warned by another hiker we ran into “Be careful, this is addictive”.

~Jeff

June 25, 2019

How to Build a Flagstone Patio A Helpful Guide

how to build a flagstone patio

I’m warning you, be careful, if your wife is anything like mine, she knows how to plant a seed in my mind. Once planted I have no choice but to carry out her plans. She is crafty that way… and that’s why I love her. All she did was merely mention adding a flagstone patio near our backyard pond and BAM… I was obsessed!

flagstone patio by the backyard waterfall

Basic steps

  1. Plan – choose location and size
  2. Dig and level area
  3. Build up a level 4 inch compacted gravel base
  4. Add patio sand on top of the gravel base
  5. Lay out flagstone overlapping on another
  6. Trace and cut flagstone for a natural tight fit
  7. Level flagstones one at a time
  8. Fill the cracks with patio sand
  9. ENJOY!

Tools and Supplies

Most of the tools needed, you most likely already have, like a shovel and rake. The reciprocating saw and disposable blades (affiliate links to Amazon) are a must have if you encounter roots of any kind. As you can see mine is an older model, but it has served me well.

Another thing you will need to do this project right is an angle grinder and diamond blade (affiliate links to Amazon.com). Depending on the size of your project you can get a 3 pack of diamond blades like the ones I used in the video, or a single diamond blade.

  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Level
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Angle grinder with a diamond wheel
  • Metal rake
  • Sand
  • Driveway stone
  • Flagstone
  • Ambition!

A Video From Start To Finish

The Planning Stage

We needed more of a gathering place close to the pond, that would allow us all to hang out together. Here is a breakdown of the steps to get this done from start to finish.

Just like all the projects featured on this site, planning is a big part of your success. Whether it’s a pond, waterfall, grill island, concrete countertop, or simply a stone wall, you must have a vision of what you want before you set out to create it.

Figuring out what works best in your outdoor space is the first step. You need to picture what would fit best in your space. Brick has a rustic look to it, but a bit too formal for our application. This was why we chose flagstone. The natural look of the stone plays off well with the surroundings

pallet of flagstone ready to be a patio

This material is semi easy to work with, and it matches our natural looking pond. The field stone compliments the look of the slate and the whole thing comes together, creating an inviting natural patio and walk.

This Flagstone Patio Will Be A Piece Of Cake

My original thought was to scrape off the grass and merely place the flagstone in the dirt, leveling and fitting them in as I went. I marked out where I wanted it to go with a can of spray paint, and then chopped an outline in the grass.

Using a roto tiller to pull up the grass over the area. As I did this I ran into lots of roots. If you ever do a project like this… be sure to do it under the largest tree on your property (can you feel the sarcasm here!).

Root Removal

Once I was done complaining I realized there was no easy way to do this, and it had to be done the right. I ordered 5 tons of driveway stone and began to remove the dirt and cut out the roots about 5 inches below where I wanted my finished patio.

The easiest way I have found to remove large roots is with a reciprocating saw. The blades for these are relatively inexpensive, you can get a 10 pack on Amazon. This will allow you to cut through roots in no time.

Do not use a chainsaw. As soon as the chain makes contact with the dirt it will dull out.

Getting Back on Track

I used the dirt that I removed around the edge of the new patio. The ground was pitched about 6 inches on one side, and needed to come up if I wanted the patio to be somewhat level.

After I had removed enough dirt i used a hand tamper to compact the ground. Doing this helps reduce the amount of settling once everything is done.

Once the dirt was dug out and packed down, begin filling it up with driveway stone. When you do this, rake the stone until it is the level and pitch you want your flagstone to be.

bringing up the grade for a flagstone patio

If your driveway stone is higher than the surrounding elevation, dirt will need to be added around the edge to keep the driveway stone in place. If not when you go to compact it, the driveway stone will just fall away on the edges. Use either a power tamper, or hand tamper to compact the driveway stone.

This is where things are different between laying a brick patio and using flagstone. Flagstone varies in thickness from piece to piece, so your base doesn’t have to be perfect. Brick on the other hand demands a consistent surface to be laid on.

Each piece of flagstone needs to be placed and leveled individually. Since the flagstone is not always uniform the way it sits, it needs to be completely supported underneath to avoid cracking. Using a layer of paving sand on top of the stone base you just compacted down accomplishes this. Now the flagstone has even support and this will also stop it from rocking when stepped on.

Large pieces of flagstone can be difficult to manipulate without a helping hand. There are two benefits to using larger pieces of flagstone:

  1. Large amounts of surface area are covered by on piece
  2. The larger size makes the stone stay where you place it.

Using a pallet with wheels attached to the bottom was extremely helpful to move the large stone from the drop off point to the worksite. Keep this in mind when you have your stone delivered and place it as close as you can.

How To Start Laying Flagstone

My technique was to begin in the middle with a few very large pieces and then build out from there. It’s like having a giant puzzle. Finding the perfect piece for that perfect spot is what will set the whole thing off and make it look amazing.

If the pieces don’t fit… make them. Lay one stone on the other and trace the rustic edge. Using an angle grinder with a diamond wheel, score the line you just scribed. Flip the stone over and try to match what you did on the first side.

Scoring the stone on both sides will create a breaking point. Gently tap the piece you want to remove with a hammer and it should fall away. This technique may take a little practice but after a stone or two, you will get the hang of it.

This is the easiest way to make nice tight spaces between the stones. By using one stone to trace the other you maintain the natural looking shape rather than cutting straight lines to make them fit.

Place your first stone and pitch it the way you like, making sure it’s supported completely with sand. Find your next piece and off you go. Try not to have too many seams in a row. It just looks better to have a seam broken up after a rock or two.

finishing off a flagstone patio

If and when you place the last piece in place, take a breath and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

After a short rest it’s time to fill the cracks with more sand. Use polymer sand if your seams are 2 inches or less. The polymer sand resists washing out and minimizes weeds. Once it gets wet the polymer sand will lock the whole thing together.

finishing a flagstone patio

Dump out a bag or two depending on the size of your project and sweep it around with a push broom until all the cracks are filled. Now wet the whole thing down. Try not to blast the cracks and wash the sand out.

Now that you put your “puzzle” together it’s time to finish the edges and bring the whole thing together. I used the dirt from where the patio was going and created a berm.

Just adding a few plants really help to set the whole thing off. Now mulch and voila! Instant outdoor entertaining space.

planting and mulch around a flagstone patio

In Conclusion

That’s all there is to it. Don’t put it off until next season. Start now and before you know it you will be enjoying your new patio.

Put all the pieces together one at a time. It may look overwhelming but if you go step by step anyone can accomplish this. Hope you found this useful. I would love to hear about projects you have created to bring your outdoor space to life. Please comment below. Until next time… enjoy your backyard water garden.

February 28, 2019

Planting Water Lilies

Planting water lilies banner
dew drops on lily pads

Planting water lilies may seem like a daunting task, but if you take it step by step and use the right variety, you too can have a green thumb.  There is nothing more beautiful than a delicate water lily bloom floating across the calm water on a silent pond. Check out this short video, or keep reading.


Gazing out over the water the blooms are like stars gleaming in the night sky.  How does nature create something so beautiful?  When I try putting water lilies in my backyard water garden I got lily pads, but no blooms.  What was I doing wrong? 

Part of the problem was, the part of my pond where the lilies are planted is in the shade for part of the day.  If you want your lilies to bloom, they prefer full sun. Another reason why I may not be getting blooms is the fact that I never fertilized them before they were planted.  Two rookie mistakes that I could have avoided.

Tougher Than You Think

That’s the great thing about water lilies, although they look fragile and delicate, they are extremely tough and very hardy.  Water lilies can be grown in every USDA zone across the US.

Some varieties go dormant in the winter and can be left in the water, while other tropical varieties need to be taken care of during the winter months.  The tropical varieties require a minimum water temperature of 70 degrees F.

pink lily bloom

Although the tropical varieties may need more care, let me assure you they are worth the effort.  The blooms from these plants are truly incredible.

Water lilies grow best at a depth of 16 to 24 inches.

The easiest way to go about planting lilies is to use a container or pot.  This makes them easy to remove if you live in a climate where your pond freezes solid during the winter months.  If your pond does not freeze solid, you may still wish to move your plants to a lower depth in your pond during the cold season.

Another reason we recommend using a container for your planting is to protect them from any fish you may have. You can get cheap planter baskets right from Amazon. If planting in a koi pond be aware that koi can be very destructive when it comes to pond plantings.

Planting Step By Step

  1. A water lily is a tuber so it requires a shallow, wide pot.  The pot should be approximately 12-18 inches wide, and 6 – 10 inches deep.  If your container has drain holes in and around it, line it with burlap, or landscape fabric to keep the soil in place.
  2. If soil does escape from the pot it could cloud the water in your pond.  Use a dense soil unlike potting soil that is light and fluffy. Soils that contain peat, perlite, or vermiculite all have the tendency to float out of your container.
  3. Use an aquatic fertilizer that is designed for pond plants and mix it into your soil.  Be sure to use the recommended amount. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Also, if you over fertilize your plants you will also encourage algae growth and could turn your pond green.
  4. Cut off any old dead leaves and any thick roots.  Leave only the small hair like thin roots and the budding leaves.  Place the lily up against the side of the container with the bud pointed at a 45-degree angle towards the center of the planter.
  5. Cover the tuber with soil and then place pea gravel over the soil.  The gravel will help to contain the soil once it is lowered into the water.  Place the container into the water with care. Be sure there is no air trapped in the container after it is submerged by lowing it in at an angle.

Let Nature Take Its Course

Your pot should not be planted any lower than 18 inches to begin.  If your pond is deeper than that and it doesn’t have planting shelves, then you will need to put the pot up on something to reach that depth.  The leaves will float to the surface.

water lily starting to bloom

Planting these winter hardy water lilies will make it look like you do have a green thumb after all.  By following these simple steps, you will have a water garden filled with lily pads and magnificent blooms.

Conclusion

If you are ready to get your hands dirty and plant some of these wonderful plants in your water garden pond be sure to get winter hardy variety if you live in a cooler climate. The pre-grown water lilies are ready to enchant your water feature.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them below.  We love to hear from you, that’s what we are here for.

February 7, 2019

Keeping Koi Safe From Pond Predators

keep your pond fish safe from predators
koi and goldfish in the backyard pond

Something you may have not given much thought to is how you will keep your fish safe from pond predators.  Here is a typical scenario that may give you a wake up call

The Time has come to finally sit back and enjoy your amazing water feature.  Weather you put it in yourself, or hired professionals for the installation you are ready to take in the ambiance of this amazing… wait, what happened to the fish that were in here.  I know I had three, now there is only one. And why are those rocks overturned? Vandals?

Know Your Enemy

Depending on where you live, your pond and koi fish can fall victim to an array of unwanted guests.  From the dreaded blue heron that will feast on your prized koi. Even raccoons and chipmunks pose a threat to your beautiful creation.

blue heron by the waters edge

The Bird of Death – For Pond Fish

The predator that concerns me the most is the blue heron.  In my part of the world this fisherman is always on the top of its game.  A perfect example of how nature has created the perfect fisherman. With its spear like beak and the “S” curve of its neck, always ready to strike with speed and precision.

It will land in the shallow waters, and remain perfectly still.  The patience this bird has is incredible. It will stand there, stoic waiting, waiting then bam! Lunch!


These birds fly by scoping out promising hunting grounds from the air.  This bird will darken the sky when it flies overhead, as if some mythical beast has just spawned from middle earth.  Its legs stretched out behind it as it flies. At first glance you may think you are looking at a pterodactyl, or something prehistoric.

Blue Heron taking flight

Now What

The best defense against such an intelligent predator is to take preventative action before these birds have claimed your pond as their new hunting ground.  You have a few options at your disposal that will prove to be effective:

  • Decoys – You can use decoys to keep them away, but keep in mind that you are dealing with an intelligent advisory.  They will learn that decoys are just that, decoys. As long as you keep them moving around your space decoys will be effective. When doing research for this article I came across this ultimate pond protection kit on Amazon.
  • Water spray – A motion sensor device designed just for this shoots a stream of water when it is triggered, keeping away many nascence animals.
  • Water Dye – This is another tactic that can be used to ward off herons that are looking for a free lunch.  The dye will make your pond look deeper than it truly is and help hide your fish from the sky.

I’ve even heard of people going as far as putting rebar grates over the tops of their ponds.  To me that seems like overkill but I suppose once you lose a koi or two you may see things differently.

black autumn pond netting
Seasonal

Pond netting could be the answer if you don’t mind clearing the debris that gathers on it every now and then.  If you enjoy your pond from a distance, then this would work well for you. The black netting is very difficult to see from a distance and will keep just about anything out.

When it comes to netting, I use it for a different purpose.  I don’t bother with the net until the leaves start falling in autumn.

Keep the Pests out by design

backyard pond with waterfall

When you build your pond, the best practice is to build it into shelves so there are steep drops, then a level shelf, then another drop, and so on until you reach your desired depth.  One reason for this is for planting. This way you could enjoy different species of plants that need different depths of water.

The other reason for this is to keep out predators.  If you had your edge gradually go down into the water, it would be more like a beach.  This would be an open invitation for raccoons, weasels and the like who would all love to make a meal of those beautiful koi.  The gradual decline gives them easy access in and out.

digging a backyard pond with three levels

In order to combat this, when you dig your pond dig it in layers.  This has two advantages. One, raccoons and the like will only be able to get what they can immediately reach. Two, the layers are perfect for planting different types of vegetation.  Not all plants prefer the same depth in the water.

Danger Comes From All Angles

Baby water snake made a home in my pond skimmer box

Although your biggest threat may seem to come from the sky, do not overlook other dangers that come from the ground.  This tiny water snake attempted to make a home in the pond skimmer box.

If not taken care of my fish may have been inn danger as the snake got bigger.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as the old saying goes.

One other type of pest to look out for is one that is as old as the dinosaurs. This hungry slow moving beast will turn your pond into a buffet if you don’t catch it in time. The snapping turtle. We recently relocated one that was found near my pond.

It’s Not All Bad News

chipmunk made his home it the side of the waterfall at the water garden

Having a pond also attracts all sorts of other inhabitants.  A pest is a very objectionable word. It’s the same as calling something a weed.  A weed is just an unwanted plant. One persons weed is someone else’s pride and joy.  It all depends on if you see something is a pest or not.

Right now my pond has attracted this crazy chipmunk who has turned my waterfall hill into Swiss cheese.  For the time being its fine. He is fun to watch scamper about. As long as he isn’t doing damage he can stay.  He also adds an element of entertainment to the space.

Chipmunks aren’t the only things that the pond brings into your yard.  The variety of birds that grace my pond with their presence is astonishing.  Birds I have never seen in the wild before now bathe themselves in the rushing waters of my waterfall.

Small Creatures Welcome

Oriole bathing in the backyard waterfall

I have seen Orioles, yellow finches, sparrows, cardinals, blue jays, and other birds I couldn’t recognize.  This has awakened my curiosity and now find great pleasure in bird watching. We have even downloaded an app that plays specific bird calls to coax some rare breeds to our water garden.

color changing tree frog blending in at the water garden

Frogs and toads are another added bonus to pond ownership.  There is nothing sweeter than a frog song in the midsummers night air.  Mosquito control is another perk for inviting these wonderful creatures to call your backyard pond home.

To Sum it Up

It’s a good idea to put some kind of preventative action into place before your pond turns into a buffet.  However, if you go too overboard it will cut down on your overall enjoyment. That’s the main reason you have a pond in the first place.  The key is, just like everything in life, to find the perfect balance of keeping your space safe without taking away your overall enjoyment.

If you have any tips or tactics to share, we would love to hear them.  Please leave a comment below. Be safe and happy gardening!

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