08 February 2016

seedling stuff

Broccoli seedlings are up! I've uncovered all the new sprouts and put in windowsills but noticed they are leaning already. It's a mild day so I put them straight outside in the coldframe house. Will bring in at night.
I sorted through all my seed packets today to make a garden plan. Shoveled out the fireplace and put the ashes on the new garden beds, but they were still a bit hot. Lined the buckets with foil to prevent melting a hole (I've done that before by accident) and then layered the beds with snow before sprinkling the ashes on. Didn't want the leaf mulch to catch fire. Funny though, the back yard is completely bare of snow. There are still half-frozen piles in the front. Probably because the snow was piled higher in front when we shoveled.

So put down ashes and one 25-pound bag of dried manure/humus. Which did not go far. My husband spotted it when he was at the store for something else and thought I'd like to try it out. I'd mentioned that I need a pickup truck because wouldn't it be great to drive to a local horse farm and pick up a load of manure and hay compost for free? He thought the neighbors wouldn't appreciate the smell if I applied that to my garden. And of course I don't want the odor in my car. So this dried and bagged stuff seemed like a good deal. I wonder what my neighbors thought if they saw me shoveling snow off the front lawn into a wheelbarrow this morning...

This is my list of garden plants (and some for the yard): borage, swiss chard, oregano, basil, green onions, broccoli, marigold, cilantro, beets, lettuce, echinacea, tithonia, hosta, cosmos, passionflower, carrots, bell peppers, ancho peppers, chives, dill, summer savory, oregano, parsley, sage, bush green beans, cherry tomatoes, four other kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers. Half of that will be in pots on the deck.

Today I sowed my first milk jug with hosta seed. It's from one of the plants on the old property. I don't know if it's viable seed, but want to try...
Making a list of the plants in order of when I ought to sow them, so as jugs become available I can set them outside. As soon as I had seedling trays prepped I remembered how tedious they are to tend to- keeping the moisture content right, potting up, giving them enough sun (fairly impossible in this house). Better if they just grow up outside in jugs, tough from the beginning.


I made a birdfeeder out of a plastic juice container a few weeks ago. Haven't seen very many birds come to it, but the seed was slowly diminishing. This morning it was suddenly all empty. I suspected a squirrel. When I lifted it down to refill, noticed the wire I fashioned into a loop to hang it by was a bit tangled, made me guess squirrel again. It wasn't until I brought it inside that noticed there was damage. Something had chewed the opening deeper and wider.
I can see teeth marks.
My guess again: squirrel. Why did he do that? Maybe the opening wasn't big enough for him to get his head in easy, so he enlarged it? Now I can't fill as much seed. I got the idea to make this seeing similar feeders in a documentary about birds in Central Park. Those had wire mesh around the opening- I had assumed to give the birds something else to grip to. Maybe it was to thwart squirrels. I have window screening, I don't know if a squirrel could chew through that.

07 February 2016

new life

I have a few tiny seedlings on top of the fridge: some lettuces and marigold are coming up already. So very small.

And happy to see this morning a positive sign in my larger aquarium- two of my buces are sprouting new leaves! Can barely see the nubbin of bright green that is emerging in the center of 'midnight blue'. (In the background note that buce 'dark godzilla' is looking healthier color now).
Buce 'emerald green' also has a new leaf (its unfolding form reminds me of a springtime hosta)
from the side here through screen of vals, can see how it unfolds from the stem. Very glad to see this sign of health.
Pics taken in ambient light.

06 February 2016


Well, boiling half my prefilter sponge apparently did not kill off all the bacteria, or there's enough on other surfaces it didn't matter much. I checked water params this morning: ammonia and nitrite nil. There are still small tufts of BBA on the sponge I zapped, but it's turned kind of green. I've read about BBA turning red or orange as it dies off, but not green....

05 February 2016

tank plants update

Well, it's the end of a week with lights set back to where they were before on the thirty-eight, and I think it's looking greener. Maintenance day felt easier and quick this morning, because I didn't have a ton of dead foliage to trim out, or loosened stems to replant or anything that needed retying on the driftwood. Just a few ratty aponogenton leaves to remove, light siphoning over the gravel bed. Buces look like they might make it- the melting appears to have halted, even my 'dark godzilla' looks more natural colors now. One elodea stem came loose- a bit surprised I haven't seen any more send down roots. Staurogyne repens and pennywort all dead and gone. Fishes look great.

A bit puzzled about snails and water hardness. I've noticed many of my snails have white/broken looking tips on their shells- nerites and trumpets alike. I thought they needed calcium and have for a long time placed a piece of cuttlebone in the tank. Never see snails on it... Now I understand they need to get extra calcium from food, instead. Also read recently that if you get hard-water deposits (I do, a lot) don't need to add any calcium or mg to the tank it should have enough from the tapwater. So was I amiss in adding cuttlebone and epsom salts? I am going to get a test kit for gh and kh.

It's pretty much the same in the tenner this week. Rotalas are a bit taller, pennywort still only has three leaves but they've grown a bit bigger. Background plants are putting out new growth, tiny leaves at the nodes. I'm not sure of their identity anymore, I thought they were ludwigias but now think some might be alternanthera reineckii. Only one stem of bacopa monnieri left, the other came loose and it had no sign of root growth- just rot at the bottom. Some fissidens came loose and was floating around the tank in little clumps, I lifted rubber band off driftwood and tried to reattach. Buces in here look great, nice color and no sign of melting. Crossing my fingers they will start growing new leaves soon. Duckweed is forming a nice cover- probably a fifth of the surface area now (but spread out). Only three pieces of creeping jenny in there now, all the original leaves on lower part of the stem melted I shoved those further down into the substrate so only new growth on top showing. One is flush against the glass so I can see if it ever starts to grow roots. More dwarf rotala came free earlier in the week but last few days I haven't had any stems come up loose again at all, so hope that what's in there is holding on for good now. In both tanks the downoi is still alive, with new, thinner leaves emerging at center, but not really growing much bigger. In the larger tank they are stretching up on stalk-like stems.

I tried something to kill off BBA. It's growing more and more tufts on sponge prefilter. More in the past week, and the difference wasn't just resetting the light. I had been trying another change- running the smaller sponge filter with airline only at night. Put baffle on the HOB because the current flows differently through the tank that way and doesn't seem to have a dead corner- I see ripples all across the top. Wasn't sure if this would make a big difference for the fishes or plants- it can affect c02 levels in the water but most people who run airline only at night it's because they add c02 during the day. Last night I simply left it off the entire time, and the fish aren't gasping at surface in morn so I assume they're ok. If they don't need it I don't think I should run it. If have to pull out for QT, even a sponge without flow will have some bacteria colonizing it, I think. So the point of all this was- some people say BBA grows when there's too much fluctuation in C02 levels. I figured if I got an outbreak on my sponge the week I had airline running only at night, maybe better if it doesn't run at all (so surface turbulence the same night/day). And I put half the sponge (it comes in two segments) in microwave for 3 minutes, that's supposed to kill the stuff off. Kills my beneficial bacteria, too, but I figure it will recolonize quickly, and I'm keeping an eye on other levels in the tank this week (ammonia, nitrites) to be sure it's ok. If the BBA diminishes significantly on the half I zapped this week, I'll zap the other half next week or the week after (boiling, really).

04 February 2016

new start

I started some seed this morning. Swiss chard, peas, four kinds of lettuce, parsley, cilantro, broccoli, marigolds, echinacea purpea.
My old method of using repurposed food packaging trays with plastic wrap held over the top with rubber bands, to keep moisture in until they germinate. Put them on top of the fridge where it's warm, to sprout. I would use milk jugs for winter sowing again, but didn't save them all when we moved, so need to hoard up more.
Let a new gardening season begin!

01 February 2016


Looking glumly at my main aquarium. The tenner is doing so nicely, I wish I could get the balance right in the thirty-eight as well. I did what I've done once before- sat down with a piece of paper and went through backlog of posts here, making notes of dates I changed things with the lights and ferts, and what I'd noted of plant conditions. I think I had been expecting results to alterations too quickly- really the plant response can show a week or two after. So it's difficult to look at the record and keep in mind that when I change something, the state of growth or algae a week later is what to make note of...

That in mind, looking back it seems things were doing better when I had the photoperiod starting up with warm spectrum, then full intensity for midpoint of the 'day'. And during the weeks just after I had tried cutting back on dosing micros. So maybe that was correct to do after all...  Once again trying a change. The light strip is still up on its blocks with one thin plastic sheet for diffusion. I reset it this morning: 2 hour fade in/out, 7 hours color spectrum, 5 hours of that full intensity (with whites). I suddenly have fine thread algae busting out all over plant surfaces- almost like thin fur viewed at a certain angle- I think it's because I put in root tabs recently. Maybe on days I give root tabs I should step back with the other ferts...

So still trying to get it right.

I know I can get it there, the tenner is so clean and healthy looking right now I sometimes just sit and stare at it in amazement. The skull is becoming clean and white again, no algae except on older anubias leaves. I swear some of the buces even have new leaves emerging, and they don't seem to be rotting to mush like those in my thirty-eight. One of the 'isabelle' bunches came completely loose and it settled against those others tied to little stones. I let it be- maybe it will reach down a root and hold itself. I don't want to get into the tank and mess around just to retie one plant, since it seems to have settled in a suitable place.

And since I'm making a note about that tank- I'm continuing to find tiny ramshorn snails, but not so many as before. I see several a day and usually manage to pluck out one or two of them- it's hard to keep a grip on something so small with the tweezers. I simply crush them for Oliver to eat.

those that were outside

The mock strawberry plants in my coldframe house survived fine. They were just pretty dried out. I dropped some snow on them to melt for a drink. It was warm and steamy in there. I have high hopes for seedlings to thrive. Must get planting.
The rosemary is not looking too well. I saw some tender green shoots emerging near the base of the plant, so cut back a lot of the dead top growth. It is much diminished. I have had this accident with rosemary before and wasn't able to save it. So if it recovers or I get another one, will try to establish it outside. Rosemary left to go dormant and revive itself by its own timing has done much better for me in the past than those I try to overwinter indoors, and make mistakes putting them out again too soon.

29 January 2016

tenner plants

The report here is much the same. Buces and java fern came loose where the thread rotted way before I expected it to. I went back to using rubber bands.
Here's one tiny buce 'blue bell' that has its own stone now...
Next to the others it came loose from:
Yeah, that didn't work so well either. Band slipped loose again.
The 'isabelle' came loose from the driftwood and I really didn't want to pull that one out again and kick mulm all over the place. Tried to fasten it down hands in the tank, but it didn't work so well.
There's only one piece of bacopa monnieri still intact in my bigger tank, but it is growing new leaves. Here in the tenner I had to peg the two monnieri down again, this time with pinched plastic strips. If that doesn't hold them, I give up. (Seen through the plastic sheeting here, ambient light so not so pretty all the scratches on the film visible).
The downoi plant stayed down, now that I've got it pegged with a lead strip. Waiting to see if it grows.
Noticed my wisteria plant has some uneven holes in the leaves and ragged edges. Not sure if it's a snail eating them, or a nutrient deficiency or what. But it looks like something I've seen online, so going to see if I can figure it out..
There are lots of tiny roundish snails in here now. Some look like pond snails, others I viewed under the microscope and they're definitely ramshorns. I took out the mother ramshorn, also the one with white-streaked shell in the thirty-eight (my kid said "that snail looks old") and they became escargot for the fishes. Because for some reason suddenly when I started seeing tiny baby snails everywhere I didn't want them. Trumpet snails are okay, but I don't want loads of pond snails or ramshorns too, and I didn't realize that until I saw them in there. I've scraped out two more ramshorn egg cases, gradually plucking out all the baby snails I find, and will bait with lettuce too.

thirty-eight plants

I think they are slowly recovering, from when I changed the light back. It's been up 1/2" above the rim for a week now. I do think the crypts are looking greener.
But most plants still have brown algae on the lower leaves. Looks like new growth is keeping free of that; some of them (aponogeton) I have been rubbing off the algae, others that are too fine or small I left alone. Or, in the case of ludwigia, I cut and replanted the tops, discarding all the bottom half of stems that were dying from lack of light/algae coating. Only did this to the oldest ludwigias on one side of the tank so far (short row in the front here).
The other side they still have their dark skirts.
There are no more carpeting type plants in here. All melted away. One bit of staurgyne repens left that I pegged down, but I don't really expect it to stay on. The baby downoi plants all melted to nothing- I still have the older two plants. Their outer leaves are melting, new growth in centers and stems stretching up to reach the light. Might end up looking funny.
I was worried last week about buce 'dark godzilla', it had a fine coating of brown algae that I can't quite seem to rub off. New leaf growth looks better and at least the algae on it hasn't gotten worse this week.
Dismayed that the cotton thread I used is already disintegrating! I had to lift the driftwood log out of the tank again and refasten most of the buces with rubber bands. All had come loose except for 'isabelle'.
Some of the 'blue bell' leaves have holes in them. In my other tank the buce leaves with holes kept melting away until only skeleton edge of leaf margin and rib was left, then it rotted completely. So far not too many have done that.
I removed the mondo grass. A light nudge uprooted it and I saw there was no new root growth at all, so even though what's still there looks healthy, I don't want to wait for it to go into decay. Put root tabs in the tank today. Found it's much easier to get them deep in the substrate with tweezers, and hopefully that releases less into the water column too, because I get them in quicker and farther.