Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Bean Catcher

I haven't been posting much at all, to say the least this has been a unusual summer. I just finished this project over the last couple of weekends. I think it came out pretty cool.
We were kicking around some ideas to do different din the garden next year,I got this idea for "The Bean Catcher". The plan is to plant the beans around it next year and let them climb. I think it will work pretty good.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Community Pond

This pond/fountain is a community project that is getting real close to being finished. As you can see the fountain & pond are operational it has some plants in the pond and goldfish. Now it's adding plants around the outside and planting of grass. Last winter it was just a dream but thanks to some local companies, Polar Tank Repair and Two River Enterprises for welding up the 12'x14' stainless tank. Herman Ebnet for providing the machinery and helping move the donated rock from local land developer Tim Berschied. We got it built.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

First Pond Cleaning

It's spring time when I have to take the dust filter off the wet & dry shop vac to suck out the rest of the gunk & water. This old shop vac seems to have a lower power rating but much more suction power than my other new one. My wife has the vision that our first patio is a extension of the house. Therefore it is important for it to be cleaned constantly , just like the inside.

The small pond is the first one cleaned this year. Some people have the philosophy of cleaning under the rocks. The preformed pond seen here works well, I have had to apply black silicone twice to cracks the year after installation as the ground settled. I has worked well since.

Cleaning under the waterfall for some people is like cleaning under the rug, where I usually store stuff. As long as she she sees this as her job it's ok with me. The larger ponds are a different matter, I am still working on finishing modifying them, to my satisfaction. Now we need to get about 8-12 dozen feeder gold fish, for my wifes watwr barrels and ponds as they are vicious mosquito larva eaters, they will aquire brilliant colors that they don't get being feed " fish food". The prettier ones we bring in to aquariums in the winter.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Shady Vegetables

Having a lot of shade doesn't preclude no vegetable plants in the garden for the rabbits to eat. Here is a list of plants that can deal with shady areas. Remember though they still need a few hours of sunlight. A green rule of thumb is if you are growing a plant for it's leaves,buds, or stems, it can deal with the sun glasses. We have planted different kinds of lettuce in with flowers successfully for interesting effects.
Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, cress, and radicchio
Brussels Sprouts
Swiss Chard
Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring Thoughts

Oh my goodness spring is finally here in Minnesota and time to clean the yard and think of........ oh wait I'm not young any more so my fancy turns to..... ? Sometimes I forget, ya ponds and things that keep me out of trouble. There are so many pond things to think about fish, what kinds, how many. Filters, bacteria food, fountains. What is leaking , what isn't. It is almost to much to think about. Ah, I'll just wander around the yard, after cutting a bunch of hedges this morning.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fountian Pond

Our community garden is going to try something really different. They need to build a pond. It started out as just needing a collector for water that spilled off the fountain onto the ground. We thought about all kinds of solutions rubber ponds, concrete. Then I got the brilliant idea of making one out of stainless steel and covering the outside of the pond with local fieldstone.
It just so happens we have several local companies that work with stainless. Liking the idea when approcached they carried it to the next level suggesting that instead of a round shape it be formed in the shape of a local lake. Here is a rough sketch of what we are thinking about. I will post as to how it goes.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Green Walls

Wow ! was all I could say when I first saw these at

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hydroponic Garden

If you can't wait any longer then maybe it's time to start with the hydroponic garden technique. A neat video I came across. With some imagination you can build your own.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Water Effect Downspouts

These are called Rain Chains are a unique and beautiful alternative to traditional closed-metal or plastic downspouts. They break the fall of the water, guiding it visibly downward onto pebbles, a pot or stone basin. Rain chains sound great! That is what the company that sells them says I find them a breath of fresh air. I don't know what they sell for but I might have to create my own version of them to try them out.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Illegal Gardens

A rant on conservation and possible illegal gardens, even though all this is good advice some of it may be illegal to implement ! I started this post thinking about conservation of heat loss using nature where according to the U. S. Dept. of Energy buildings in the United States use a whole bunch of energy. I had some numbers but they referred to "buildings" and even though the article I was reading was about landscaping for conservation in houses the statistics quoted were not qualified as just for homes. I don't argue that having deciduous trees positioned properly around your house will definitely help cool it in the summer and let light in the winter. We have what we call the garden room facing south. There are many days in the winter the furnace does not go on all day. We also have a ceiling fan that helps move the air to the rest of the house. We have two trees and a garage about 30 feet from the house. Keep these trees away from your ponds.

If you must have coniferous tress in your yard I think they should be on the north to northwest side of the house, at least where we live. It is said tall hedges or trees can cut heating costs as much as 40 percent. Then I started thinking about the advice about creating rain garden (remember it's a good idea) and replacing turf with native plants and grasses, so less water is used for watering and helps eliminate the environmentally damaging upkeep such as mowing and fertilizing. The biggest problem I see with this is local ordinances that have requirements for height of yard grasses. It is a mental adjustment, I remember a number years ago I was in Chicago and was lost , as we tried to find our way back to down town we were in a residential area where people did not cut their yards, I don't mean just a few none of the yards were cut for quite a few blocks. I was appalled at the thought that they did not care about how there yards ;looked now I realize I was looking through the glasses of a rural Lutheran and whether these folks knew it or not they were years ahead in conservation practices. We have one old fellow in town that mows around all the groups of ox-eye daisies that grow in his yard. People talk about him as being nuts but on thinking about it. He is doing exactly what the EPA is talking about. I am sure he is in violation of local ordinances. I wonder what other people think about replacing the lawn mower by naturalizing the yard ?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Rain Garden for Investment

From Naterraland Reality
It makes common sense that part of the reason for protecting the earth is just protecting your investment.
Not surprising, lakefront real estate with cleaner water commanded significantly higher prices.
Rain gardens are landscape areas planted with wildflowers and other native vegetation designed to replace portions of lawn.
Rain gardens are beneficial to lakefront property for several reasons.
• To help protect streams and lakes from pollutants carried by storm water – lawn fertilizers and pesticides, oil and other fluids that leak from cars and other harmful substances that wash off roofs and paved areas.
• To enhance the beauty of your lakefront property and the surrounding area.
• To provide a valuable habitat for birds, butterflies and many beneficial insects.
Spring and early summer is the best time to build and plant a rain garden. It’s easier to dig and the plants are more likely to thrive.
Determining the right size and plants.
The appropriate size of your rain garden depends on how deep the garden will be (typically between four to eight inches), what type of soil the garden will be planted in and how much roof and/or lawn will drain to the garden. The length and width is important to ensure it properly catches water. A good rule of thumb is to make the rain garden about twice as long (perpendicular to the slope) as it is wide, usually about 10 feet wide.
For plant selection, choose native plants with a diverse mixture of sedges, rushes and grasses. They not only add to the garden’s beauty, they also create a thick underground root matrix that keeps the entire plant community in balance. In fact, 80% of the plant mass in native prairie communities is underground. Once the garden has matured with a deep, thick root system, weeds will naturally decline.
Another nice benefit of a rain garden is the low maintenance required once the plants are established.
As you make plans for your rain garden, consider the following tips and proven guidelines.
More tips and proven guidelines to remember.
• Place the garden at least 10 feet from the house or cabin.
• Do not place it directly over a septic system.
• Although tempting, don’t put the rain garden on a part of the land where water already ponds. The goal is to encourage infiltration and your land’s wet patches show where infiltration is slow.
• Keep the garden level to prevent rain runoff.
• Make a berm across the bottom and up the sides to keep water in the garden.
• Select plants with a well-established root system, usually one or two years old.
By reducing storm water run off, a rain garden can help you improve and maintain the water quality of your lakefront real estate or riverfront property while increasing its value. And that’s beautiful any way you look at it.
Source: University of Wisconsin Extension; “Rain Gardens: A How-to Manual for Homeowners.” And “Protecting Your Waterfront Investment.”

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Pondless Waterfall

In  Southern California there is a growing popularity of “The Pondless Waterfall” it seems the latest outdoor craze is all about waterfalls that just disappear !!  They’re pretty cool because without the pond, you can fit a waterfall just about anywhere . That’s double cool for people with small backyards who really want that jungle waterfall feeling. They’re also cheaper. Think about it… you don’t have to excavate a pond. There’s a big savings on labor and materials right there.
         How it works:
"The pondless Waterfall” as it’s called in the industry, basically works like your ordinary backyard waterfall and pond, except that the water gushing down the waterfall seeps into a hole in the ground which is covered with gravel (not a pond) and is then pumped back up to the top. More efficient and cost effective, it’s easy to see why the pondless waterfall is taking off, especially in these penny-pinched times. The pondless [waterfall] movement has opened up a whole new market everybody’s a winner more people can afford them, they add value to your home, and as far as contractors are concerned it’s very easy to install and get running. 


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Landscaping with Stones

By Carlo Morelli
 A patio or a garden is a place where you expect to find comfort and peace, a place where you want to bring the nature closer to you, especially if you live in a city. For this purpose, you should symbolize the relation between nature and human, by using natural elements like stones or water. Landscaping with stones is the solely and the most at hand solution. If you intend to bring nature as close as possible, then the best option is definitely represented by the landscaping with stones, be it the case of water stones or regular, mountain stones. What stones do is to bring completion to the process of creating a relaxing, comfortable and charming environment. Besides the plants or the small waterfalls, a beautifully organized landscaping with stones is sure to augment the value and the beauty of the space. The more precious the stones youre using, the more valuable can your propriety become. If arranged correctly and with the help of a professional designer, your stone arrangements are sure to make a blast, a fantastic impression on the viewer and on your visitors. A skillful organization of the stones brings out that feeling of freshness, of peace and calm. Landscaping with stones, also named hardscape, requires great skills of organization, especially if the space doesnt allow you too much. For this reason, the best job can be done by a specialist in this field, by a person who knows how to integrate and how to combine all the natural elements, be it the case of plants, trees and/or stones. A professional knows exactly what to place where and how to combine the components in order to attain your purpose. Therefore, I advise you not to begin constructing and decorating the landscaping with stones, unless you have previously had a meeting with a designer. The amount of stone that you want to use in the decoration of your house depends on several things. In the first place, it depends on how much time and money you are willing to spend with the landscaping with stone. Some people keep it simple and decorate with stone only the driveway entrance, while others prefer a more rustic atmosphere by landscaping with stone almost every inch of their garden or they even go inside the house. In the second place, it depends on what type of environment you want to create when landscaping with stones, because some prefer a simpler, a more modest, not too crowded places. In this case, they choose to use only a small quantity of stones. The answer to this question is simple: anywhere you like. Most prefer the landscaping with stones in their patios, due to the fact that it is an open space and the stones seem natural outdoors. The patios are, in fact, what connect the interior to the exteriors, thus creating a bond between the house and the landscaping. The landscaping with stones actually creates outdoor living spaces, spaces that become familiar and relaxing. More extravagant people prefer decorating their entire house with stones. This landscaping with stones is therefore a matter of preference and choice when it comes to the amount of stones used. Some use stones only in their outdoor spaces, other use them everywhere, from their living-rooms to their bathrooms or balconies. You can use stones to decorate the walls, the paths in your garden, the interior or the exterior columns, for the outbuilding or in the water gardens. An important aspect in the landscaping with stones is represented by the colors and by the shapes of the stones that you choose according to your desired style and imagination. For all these you should just consult a professional expert in this field. Visit and read tips on how to make the most of a small yard and xeriscaping. Article Source:

Sunday, January 06, 2008

10 Reasons to have a Garden vs. Grass

1. Americans spend $30 billion every year to maintain 23 million acres of lawn. That's an average of $1200 per acre, per year. The same sized area could still provide a beautiful space for recreation and feed a family of six if converted to edible landscaping as opposed to traditional landscaping.

2. The food you grow in your garden is infinitely fresher, tastier and nutritionally superior to store - bought foods that travel an average of 1,500 miles to your table.

3. The bounty you obtain will allow you to share the unique gift of homegrown, gourmet - quality fruits and vegetables with your friends and neighbors.

3. You will lessen your dependance on the intolerably wasteful factory - farm megacorporations that despoil our environment to produce carcinogenic "nourishment".

4. You can eliminate the need to maintain an unnatural and energy - intensive lawn and transfer that time and energy to build something that is both functional and beautiful - your edible landscape.

5. The simple act of gardening improves all aspects of health - physical, emotional, spiritual and social - to enable us to build strong bodies, strong families and strong communities.

6) You will have the ability to teach your children, friends and neighbors how they too can drastically improve their health and quality of life through gardening.

7) Instead of merely protesting the negative actions of others which all of us get wrapped up in at times, you can make a direct positive impact on the vitality of your home, and therefore community, and therefore our world in general.

8) Gardening is unbelievably educational - you will learn more about biology, chemistry, meteorology and countless other life sciences and their interaction with each other as you cultivate your nourishing garden.

9) Kids just can't get enough time in the garden! Rather than having your children dull their minds with video games, television and the internet, they can be getting a real hands - on education, develop a positive work ethic, and get a great workout to boot.

10) You will be giving a gift back to nature - providing habitat for native birds and beneficial insects as well as stopping the harmful input of petrochemicals - and she will return the favor in abundance with delicious food as opposed to useless grass!

via Bountiful Backyards


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rain Gardens and Ponds

When you make a garden a "rain garden" you can improve local water quality while creating a beautiful natural area that will attract birds and butterflies. Rain gardens allow rain and snowmelt to seep naturally into the ground. This helps recharge our groundwater supply, and prevents a water quality problem called polluted runoff. Rain gardens are an important way to make our cities more attractive places to live while building urban ecological health.A rain garden of any size has a positive impact.
As part of its 2008 capital improvement project, an area city, Sartell is offering residents a chance to have a rain garden installed in the right of way adjacent their property.
They will use native flowers and non-native flowers and shrubs to improve the appearance of the neighborhood a variety of shapes to choose from. The 2008 plan will affect more than 120 households . Storm water generated in those neighborhoods now flows directly into the Watab and Mississippi rivers. The city installed 51 rain gardens in 2007. One could easily work the concept of a rain garden into a waterfall pond area.
All that being said, a couple of really good resources to get information on making your own rain garden are the following Minnesota sites I came across.
Rain Gardens
whole list of resources


Friday, January 04, 2008

Most Beautiful Waterfall

I found this photo on the web but there was no indication of where the photo was taken. This has to be the most beautiful natural waterfall I have ever seen ! It looks like it is not completely natural as in the background there looks to be a dam that people are walking over. There is a trail along one full of tourists admiring the view.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Pond Liners- The Hole Story

Even though I have been slowly replacing our ponds with liners over the concrete if I were younger or richer.  There is no doubt in my mind that concrete is better long term.  Here is a article  by pond expert Douglas C. Hoover; CEO of Aquamedia Corp, master Waterfall Builder,architect, engineer, freelance writer, author, designer & builder of over 1,900 waterfall and ponds in CA (26 years).  A experience he has had with liner as opposed to concrete pond. Enjoy

Sometimes I get calls from people who have purchased a new home with an old pond that has a big problem. The number one complaint is that it will not hold water; second is that the water is green; third is that the rock work is ugly – an eyesore!

At that point I ask if their waterfall and pond are constructed with a pond liner, and they are surprised that I knew that. However, eighty percent of all these types of calls pertain to a liner pond and waterfall. We have replaced over $80,000 worth of defective liner ponds. One customer in Rancho Bernardo, California, had spent $14,000 to have a koi pond and waterfall built by a large and well respected local pond liner supply company. They complained of needing to add water daily since the liner pond was constructed over a year ago.

The pond liner installer's response was that the loss of water was from evaporation. The liner pond was fitted with a manual auto fill system and they discovered the solenoid was turning on every 15 minutes to replenish the loss. In addition to the annoying water loss, they could not enjoy their fish for half the year because of murky green foul-smelling water. They reported the pond liner company came out dozens of times dumping various concoctions in the pond with a promise of startling results. The results were startling all right – our client sued the pond liner store and contracted with us.

The first thing I discovered was that the volume of the liner pond was 8,000 gallons and the waterfall pump was only 1,000 gallons per hour. It was taking eight hours to run the total pond volume through the filter. Secondly, the filter was rated for a 2,000 gallon pond, not 8,000. (Filters are usually overrated by their manufacturers as it is.) Third, the ultraviolet light was also rated for a 2,000 gallon pond, making it only one-quarter effective (according to its ratings) at controlling suspended algae growth. Fourth, because the pump was only 1,000 gallons per hour, it was not strong enough to properly backwash the filter, which requires four times the flow to be back-flushed properly.

Consequently, the filter was overloaded with rotting waste material that was contributing to additional pollution of the liner pond. The fifth defect in design was caused by the pond's large surface area, which was surrounded by several deciduous trees that were dropping their leaves into the liner pond. Needless to say, there was no skimmer installed. So all this debris ended up rotting on the bottom of the pond, contributing to the nitrate and ammonia overload.

The sixth discovery was that the suction drain on the bottom was at the same end of the liner pond as the waterfall. Consequently, the water was only circulating between the water returning to the pond and the water leaving it (from waterfall to drain). Half the liner pond was not circulating properly and was stagnating because the nitrifying bacteria were not receiving adequate oxygen to do their job of breaking down the nitrites.


We were asked to assess the condition of the liner pond and determine the cost to correct the problems found. We turned off the waterfall in the liner to test the evaporation theory and discovered (with the falls turned off) that the pond was losing 25 to 30 gallons per day, or 750 gallons per month! Installing a larger pump filter and UV was not going to solve all their problems.

I suggested that since a reputable pond builder and store owner was involved, he should get a second opinion. He was confident that, with our reputation of 22 years and 1,800 ponds under our belt (at that time), we knew what we were doing.

After finding a temporary home for the fish, we drained the liner pond and quickly made two discoveries. As the water was being pumped out of the pond, there was a small waterfall developing from the water that poured back through a hole in the liner created from a tree root. Also, water was leaking back through a loose seal around the bottom drain as fast as we could pump it out. (This continued for some time, revealing there were hundreds of gallons of water being stored in the sandy soil surrounding the perimeter of the liner pond due to the ongoing leaks.)

We offered to repair the faulty drain and patch the punctured liner and refill it, but the owner insisted we do it right, using rebar plus 3500 PSI concrete and skimmer. Unfortunately, not one single item in the entire system could be reused in the new construction. Even the PVC piping had to be scrapped since it was undersized for the pump.

In the final analysis, because this project was not thought out or designed properly, the initial $14,000 spent was entirely wasted. Replacing everything and installing it correctly cost the customer $17,000. The new pond was constructed of 3/8” and ½” rebar, 10” on center with 4 ½” of 3500 PSI concrete and fiber mix added. The ugly fiberglass waterfall was removed and replaced with a natural looking waterfall constructed of concrete real granite rock.

A skimmer was installed on the opposite side of the pond from the waterfall. The bottom suction drains (two anti-vortex drains in series to prevent turtles or fish from getting sucked against the drain) were placed on the opposite side of the pond from the waterfall to maximize circulation.

Next, a Venturi valve was installed to add additional oxygen and create a circular current in the pond. This delivers oxygenated water to all areas. A 6000-gallon biofilter was installed with two 180-watt ultraviolet lights. The high efficiency filter pump, which runs 24 hours a day, and is rated at 4,800 gallons per hour.

We installed a second pump of the same rating to allow for twice the flow volume off the waterfall on demand. It is also operated by a timer that comes on twice a day for one hour. This keeps sediment stirred up in the waterfalls and pond to aid the filter in removing it. The skimmer now removes 90 percent of all debris falling into the pond before it can become waterlogged and sink to the bottom.

The electronic water level control we installed in the previous pond at the owner's request was the only item that was reused in the new system. It is designed to add water to the pond automatically as needed due to normal water loss through evaporation and wicking around bog planters into adjacent soil.

This story has been repeated dozens of times over the past few years. Fortunately, most of them were on a much smaller scale.

Most of our business is word of mouth, so I imagine there are many people who, not knowing whom to call, simply gave up and turned their water feature into a rock garden. Think twice before investing too much money into a liner pond. Ask the contractor specific questions about the precautions he takes against leaks caused by roots and critters. Also, get several bids on concrete and rebar constructed ponds, they usually only cost 20% more and can be expected to last for decades.

My last word of advice, be patient, take your time and thoroughly investigate the contractor and his claims.

An ounce of prevention...

Douglas C. Hoover; CEO of Aquamedia Corp, master Waterfall Builder,architect, engineer, freelance writer, author, designer & builder of over 1,900 waterfall and ponds in CA (26 years). Invented the AquaFill electronic water level control system for ponds, pools, fountains & spas.