If you are looking to add an element of tranquility to your backyard landscaping, one way to do so is with some kind of water feature. Like most things, however, having that thing is just one part of the equation; taking care of it is the other. So, how exactly do you take care of your water feature so that you can enjoy it for years? That’s what we are going to discuss in this post. From the tools, to the terms, and even seasonal “gotchas” that can be easy to overlook, everything you need to take care of your water feature is right here.
A Good Skimmer
A good skimmer does exactly what the name implies; it skims the surface of the water to removing any floating debris (e.g., leaves, grass clippings, dead bugs, etc.).
Be Mindful of Your Water Level
No matter the type of water feature you have, you will experience some degree of water loss and evaporation; the degree of which will depend upon several factors, including: air temperatures, direct sunlight on the water feature, general splashing, stream length, and waterfall height. In the thick of summer, when the mercury is high, you’ll want to combat natural evaporation by replacing water weekly.
One quick and easy way keep track of your water level is to reference it against the mouth of the skimmer. Ideally, you’ll want a water level that sits about 3/4-inch from the top of the skimmer mouth. You’ll also want to be sure to assess your water level whenever you are emptying your debris net. Buildup in the debris net can displace water and give a false impression of how much water is actually present.
Once you have a baseline of your water feature’s normal water loss rate, it is fairly easy to tell when it is losing more water than it should. Telltale signs of a leak include more-frequent-than-normal water refills and/or your water fill valve running all the time. The latter will make a hissing sound. Leaks are most commonly found around waterfall and stream perimeters. This is because, in time, the ground around your water feature settles and the water starts to spill over the liner edge. Fortunately, leaks like this are pretty easy to fix.
Autumn and Winter
When the leaves start to fall, you’ll need to empty the debris basket more frequently—perhaps even daily. Tannins that come from leaves, as well as tree bark, and other organic matter can cause the water in your feature to turn brown. When this occurs, do your best to remove as much debris as possible and add some activated carbon to bring the water back to its normal state. The amount of activated carbon you will need depends upon the amount of water you have. The packaging for the activated carbon will indicate how much to add for your feature.
Because winters get really cold and last a long time in Michigan, you will have to shut down your water feature at some point.
To do so, start by unplugging the pump and taking it out of the water. For the duration of winter, you’ll want to store it, submerged, in a bucket of water, to keep the seals from drying and cracking. Keep this bucket with the pump in a location that won’t freeze (e.g., basement, heated garage, etc.).
One option, because cold temps last so long in Michigan, is a floating de-icer. This is perfect for those early and late frosts we get in autumn and spring. A floating de-icer uses a thermostat and kicks on once the water temps reach freezing or below. Then it heats the water to above freezing and shuts off. Again, this is not an “all-winter” solution, but a safeguard against the inevitable, unseasonable cold spells we can get in Michigan.
In spring, it can be common to find a layer of gunk has formed on the bottom of the pond. The water will also likely not be as clear as it was before winter. If this is the case, you’ll want to do a complete clean-out to start the season. Ideally, you’ll want to do this before the water temperature is holding at 55 degrees.
To do a full clean-out, you’ll start by draining the water. Next, you’ll use a basic garden hose to rinse any gravel and/or rocks that are part of your water feature. It’s most efficient to start at the top and work your way down. During this process, you’ll want to turn on the clean-out pump from time to time. This will ensure that the dirty water is being pumped out before any sediment has time to settle again. Keep that pumping process going until the water runs clear. When the water is clear, remove the clean-out pump out and start filling your pond!
In all, taking care of a water feature is usually pretty simple and doesn’t take much time. Still, it’s best to be mindful of this maintenance before you make a decision to spend money on a water feature, only to find out you don’t have the time or tools to properly care for it.
When you ready to get started with an interesting new water feature to your landscaping, we would love to talk about it with you. Just contact us or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today.
The Juglans Nigra, more commonly known as the Black Walnut tree, is a fairly valuable hardwood tree. For that reason, it is a popular choice in some larger landscape design plans. For smaller projects, (e.g., your backyard), however, the leaves and fruits of the black walnut tree can seem to be more trouble than than the tree itself is worth. Beyond the black mess that the fruit can scatter on the ground, there is actually a pretty long lost of plants that just don’t grow well near Black Walnut trees. This is because of a condition known as “alleopathy.” In short, alleopathy occurs in plant environments when one plant in the environment produces a chemical that undermines the growth of certain other plants in the area.
What Causes Black Walnut Toxicity?
In a word, “juglone.” This is the chemical that Black Walnut trees produce all throughout the tree, particularly in the roots, buds, and nut hulls. You’ll also find juglone in the leaves and stems, but in smaller amounts. The juglone from the leaves and stems works its way into the soil when the leaves fall. For this reason, juglone occurs in the greatest concentration in the soil below the tree’s canopy. That said, some plants that are particularly sensitive to juglone can still present symptoms even if they are not under the canopy. Simply removing a Black Walnut tree isn’t always an immediate fix, either. After the tree is gone, the decaying roots can still emit juglone. This can present problems for juglone-sensitive plants years after the tree itself is gone.
The Black Walnut tree is not the only tree that produces juglone. You’ll also see it in English Walnut, Shagbark Hickory, Pecan, and Butternut. That’s because these trees are related to the Black Walnut. That said, they don’t produce nearly the same amount of juglone. In fact, the amounts are so little that they rarely, if ever, lead to problems in sensitive plants.
Symptoms of Black Walnut Toxicity
If you suspect Black Walnut toxicity, you’ll first want to examine the proximity of effected plants to the Black Walnut tree. The root zone is going to be the real hot spot. If you have a large Black Walnut tree, the root zone could extend out as far as 60 feet. If your plants are in that zone, symptoms will include, slow growth, yellow leaves, wilting, and finally death. Some plants are so sensitive that even the smallest amount of juglone can be very toxic, leading to death in a matter of just months. These symptoms can parallel that of basic nutrient deficiency, which is why you want to check proximity to your Black Walnut tree(s) first. That said, you can’t treat effected plants with nutrients. In fact, there is no known cure for effected plants.
So Which Plants are Sensitive to Black Walnut Toxicity?
The list of plants that are sensitive is pretty extensive and contains many common plants. We’ve broken it down into categories for you.
Trees: Crabapple Species, European Alder, Hackberry, Larch, Linden, Mugo Pine, Norway Spruce, Red Pine, Saucer Magnolia, Silver Maple, White Birch, White Pine, and some Viburnum tree species.
Shrubs: Amur Honeysuckle, Blueberry, Cotoneaster, Hydrangea, Lilac, Potentilla, Privet, Red Chokeberry, Rhododendron, Yew, and some Viburnum shrub species.
Herbaceous perennials: Autumn Crocus, Baptisia, Columbine, Lily (Asian Hybrids), Peony, and Rhubarb.
Annuals and Vegetables: Asparagus, Cabbage, Eggplant, Flowering Tobacco, Pepper, Petunia, Potato, and Tomato.
How to Control Black Walnut Toxicity
First, and it should be pretty obvious by now, place juglone-sensitive plants at a safe distance from your Black Walnut tree(s). If you are in a fairly small space and can’t get too far from the Black Walnut tree(s), try planting in raised boxes. This will help to keep the soil free from juglone emitted by tree roots. That said, you’ll have to take special care to keep those beds free from Black Walnut twigs, leave, branches, and nuts, as they can bleed juglone into the soil in the beds. Further, avoid using anything Black Walnut-related (e.g., wood chips, bark, leaves, etc.) as mulch or compost. Finally, your best bet is to work with the juglone-tolerant plants listed below.
These Plants are Tolerant to Black Walnut Toxicity
Common Name / Scientific Name
American Beech / Fagus Grandifolia
American Chestnut / Castanea Dentata
American Elm / Ulmus Americana
American Hornbeam / Carpinus Caroliniana
Black Cherry / Prunus Serotina
Black Locust / Robinia Pseudoacacia
Black Oak / Quercus Velutina
Box Elder / Acer Negundo
Cucumber Tree / Magnolia Acuminata
Flowering Dogwood / Cornus Florida
Fringe Tree / Chionanthus Spp.
Hawthorn / Crataegus Spp.
Hickory / Carya Spp.
Honey-Locust / Gleditsia Triacanthos
Japanese Maple / Acer Palmatum & Cvs.
Mulberry / Morus Spp.
Northern Red Oak / Quercus Rubra
Ohio Buckeye / Aesculus Glabra
Pawpaw / Asimina Triloba
Persimmon / Diospyros Virginiana
Pin Cherry / Prunus Pensylvanica
Red Maple / Acer Rubrum
Redbud / Cercis Canadensis
River Birch / Betula Nigra
Sassafras / Sassafras Albidum
Scarlet Oak / Quercus Coccinea
Serviceberry / Amelanchier Spp.
Shingle Oak / Quercus Imbricaria
Silverbell / Halesia Carolina
Slippery Elm / Ulmus Rubra
Southern Catalpa / Catalpa Bignonioides
Staghorn Sumac / Rhus Typhina
Sugar Maple / Acer Saccharum
Sweet Birch / Betula Lenta
Sweet-Gum / Liquidambar Styraciflua
Sycamore / Platanus Occidentalis
Tulip-Tree / Liriodendron Tulipifera
Tupelo / Nyssa Sylvatica
White Oak / Quercus Alba
Wild Plum / Prunus Americana
Willow / Salix Spp.
Witch-Hazel / Hamamelis Spp.
Yellow Birch / Betula Lutea
Yellow Buckeye / Aesculus Octandra
Common Name / Scientific Name
American Bladdernut / Staphylea Trifolia
American Hazelnut / Corylus Americana
Beauty Bush / Kolkwitzia Amabilis
Black Raspberry / Rubus Occidentalis
Black-Haw / Viburnum Prunifolium
Currant / Ribes Spp.
Devil’s Walking Stick / Aralia Spinosa
Elderberry / Sambucus Spp.
Euonymus / Euonymus Spp.
Exbury Rhododendron / Rhododendron Hybrids
February Daphne / Daphne Mezereum
Forsythia / Forsythia Spp.
Fragrant Sumac / Rhus Aromatica
Fringe Tree / Chionanthus Virginicus
Honeysuckle / Most Lonicera Spp.
Juniper / Juniperus Spp.
Korean Spice Viburnum / Viburnum Carlesii & Cvs.
Maple-Leaved Viburnum / Viburnum Acerifolium
Mock-Orange / Philadelphus Spp.
New Jersey Tea / Ceanothus Americanus
Ninebark / Physocarpus Opulifolius
Pagoda Dogwood / Cornus Alternifolia
Prickly-Ash / Zanthoxylum Americanum
Purple-Flowering Raspberry / Rubus Odoratus
Rose-Of-Sharon / Hibiscus Syriacus
Shining Sumac / Rhus Copallina
Shrubby St. Johnwort / Hypericum Prolificum
Silky Dogwood / Cornus Amomum
Smooth Sumac / Rhus Glabra
Southern Arrowwood / Viburnum Dentatum
Speckled Alder / Alnus Rugosa
Spicebush / Lindera Benzoin
Wild Hydrangea / Hydrangea Arborescens
Wild Rose / Rosa Spp.
YuccaYucca SppEvergreensCommon NameScientific Name
Chinese Juniper / Juniperus Chinensis
Common Juniper / Juniperus Communis
Eastern Hemlock / Tsuga Canadensis
Eastern Red Cedar / Juniperus Virginiana
Common Name / Scientific Name
Bittersweet / Celastrus Spp.
Clematis / Clematis Ssp.
Dutchman’S Pipe / Aristolochia Durior
Greenbriar / Smilax Spp.
Honeysuckle Vine / Lonicera Spp.
Virginia Creeper / Parthenocissus Spp.
Wild Grape / Vitis Spp.
Wisteria / Wisteria Spp.
Herbaceous Perennials, Spring Wildflowers and Bulbs
Common Name / Scientific Name
Aster / Aster Spp.
Astilbe / Astilbe Spp.
Bee Balm / Monarda Spp.
Bellflower / Campanula Spp.
Bellwort / Uvularia Spp.
Black-Eyed Susan / Rudbeckia Spp.
Bleeding Heart / Dicentra Spctabilis
Bloodroot / Sanguinaria Canadensis
Bugleweed / Ajuga Spp.
Bush Clover / Lespedeza Spp.
Buttercup / Ranunculus Spp.
Christmas Fern / Polystichum Spp.
Chrysanthemum / Chrysanthemum Spp.
Cinnamon Fern / Osmunda Cinnamomea
Coral Bell / Heuchera Spp.
Cranesbill / Geranium Spp.
Daffodil / Selected Narcissus Spp.
Daylily / Hemerocallis Spp.
Dog’s Tooth Violet / Erythronium Spp.
Epimedium / Epimedium Spp.
Evening Primrose / Oenothera Spp.
False Dragonhead / Physostegia Spp.
Fragile Fern / Cystopteris Fragilis
Gentian / Gentiana Spp.
Goldenrod / Solidago Spp.
Grape Hyacinth / Muscari Spp.
Hellebore / Helleborus Spp.
Hollyhock / Alcea Rosea
Hosta / Hosta Spp.
Jack-In-The-Pulpit / Arisaema Triphllyum
Jacob’s Ladder / Polemonium Reptans
Joe-Pyeweed / Eupatorium Spp.
Lady Fern / Athyrium Spp.
Lamb’s Ears / Stachys Byzantina
Leopard’s Bane / Doronicum Spp.
Lilyturf / Liriope Spp.
Lobelia / Lobelia Spp.
Lungwort / Pulmonaria Spp.
Mayapple / Podophyllum Peltatum
Meadow Rue / Thalictrum Spp.
Peppermint / Mentha Piperita
Perennial Sunflower / Helianthus Spp.
Primrose / Primula Spp.
Purple Coneflower / Echinacea Purpurea
Rattlesnake Fern / Botrychium Spp.
Sensitive Fern / Onoclea Sensibilis
Siberian Iris / Iris Sibirica
Siberian Squill / Scilla Sibirica
Snowdrop / Galanthus Nivalis
Solomon’s Seal / Polygonatum Spp.
Speedwell / Veronica Spp.
Spiderwort / Tradescantia Virginiana
Spring Beauty / Claytonia Spp.
Stonecrop / Sedum Spp.
Summer Phlox / Phlox Paniculata
Sweet Woodruff / Galium Odoratum
Toothwort / Dentaria Spp.
Trillium / Trillium Spp.
Tulip / Selected Tulipa Spp.
Violet / Viola Spp.
Virginia Waterleaf / Hydrophyllum Virginianum
Wild Ginger / Asarum Spp.
Windflower / Anemone Spp.
Winter Aconite / Eranthis Hyemalis
Wood Fern / Dryopteris Spp.
Yarrow / Achillea Spp.
Moles tearing up your yard and garden? Fret not. Here are some pointers on identifying moles and ridding your grounds from them.
Moles. What Are They?
It’s good to start with this question, because voles will make a mess of your yard and garden, but they are different. In short, moles are ground dwellers. They are carnivores, so they prefer to eat insects rather than your plants and vegetables. That said, moles’ underground tunnels can really do a number on your lawn and garden. They can even make it easier for other animals to access your plants.
If you have a host of moles on your grounds, it could actually be a sign of another problem. Frankly, moles are most often found where the soil is loaded with organic matter. Soil pests are drawn to this type of soil. Subsequently, moles are drawn to those soil pests. In short, the presence of moles is often a red flag that your soil life situation is not ideal.
Are Those Really Garden Moles?
There is no way around it. Moles are wonderfully awkward looking creatures. You’d want to pet one if it wasn’t tearing your yard to pieces. They have really tiny eyes, fairly pointed muzzles, clawed paws/flippers (for digging), and they are kind of shaped like potatoes. When they move, it is actually with a swimming motion. They use those clawed flippers to open the soil in front of them as they traverse your lawn. Moles prefer soil that is loamy and moist, as it makes it easier for them to move. They tend to avoid warmer weather, and are most active early in the morning and evening in spring and autumn. They will also surface after a good, warm rain.
As mentioned, moles have pointed snouts. Those snouts are also hairless. They have tiny eyes and ear canals, which are difficult to see because of their fur. They don’t have external ears. Their forefeet are essentially digging mechanisms: broad, clawed, and webbed. Their hind feet are similar, just a little more narrow. Most pictures make them look bigger than they are, but they weigh about four pounds and measure about seven inches long.
As mentioned, moles are carnivores, so they dine on grubs, insects, and other soil organisms, which also happens to include the ones you want, such as earthworms. Voles, which are vegetarians, dig close to the surface. Moles, on the other hand, dig deeper in the soil. By deep, we mean 10 inches or deeper. On occasion, they will surface after a warm rain, as mentioned above, or if they think a mate is nearby. It’s pretty easy to spot mole tunnels. They look just like little mountains in your yard. That saying of making mountains out of molehills is very accurate. On occasion, you can spot surface tunnels, but they are more rare.
Some of the more popular fixes include spreading tobacco or dried blood on the ground. (Where you get blood for spreading on the ground is the subject for another post!) With these treatments, you will want to apply after each rain.
Sometimes, a deterrent can be as simple as a having a cat that strolls the yard and gardens.
Since moles are carnivores that feast on the grubs and insects in your yard, a solution might be to make the grubs and insects less tasty. Say, for instance, the grubs and insects tasted like castor oil. If that was the case, moles might look in someone else’s yard/grounds for food.
Here is a simple DIY solution to your mole problem. Create a mixture that is three parts castor oil and on part dish detergent. From that mix, use about four tablespoons mixed with a gallon of water to saturate all visible mole tunnels and mounds.
Another option is to submerge an ear of corn into roofing tar, then jam it into one or more of the mole tunnels. Rumor has it that the moles really don’t like the smell of that tar and this option can block some escape routes.
For something even simpler, adding a dash of red pepper around tunnels entrances may do the trick.
Coffee grounds on the soil might prevent tunneling. In addition, earthworms love coffee grounds. So, it’s a win-win.
This might sound like it is coming out of left field, but hear us out. Wind power. Using it to set up some ground vibrations can sometimes be enough to irritate the moles and drive them off. One simple wind-power solution can be to just driving children’s pinwheels in the ground across the lawn.
If you have tried these options and they are not working, you might be left with no other alternative than trapping. Sometimes, depending on the degree of the problem, moles leave you no option. Of course, we recommend a humane trap. You’d be best off letting the mole(s) go no less than five miles from your home. Ideally, you’ll want to do it in a rural area, so they aren’t becoming pests in someone else’s yard or garden.
First things first, pay attention to your soil. If you have plenty of grubs and bugs, you are practically inviting moles. You can try to spray your yard with milky spore disease or even beneficial nematodes. These will both get rid of grubs. Further, they will also remove the any Japanese beetle larvae from your yard, which is another benefit! If you have specific plants you want to protect, which is often the case, try digging a two-to-three-foot hole around the plant(s) and line the sides and bottom with of that hole with wire mesh. (Moles can’t make it through mesh.) Put your soil and plant in the hole. Granted, this is more of a preventive solution, but sometimes the best solutions are preventive. If you really want to try bulbs, you have to make what is, essentially, a cage of 1/2-inch mesh screening. Put the bulbs inside, with the root plate down, and then just sink the whole cage at the recommended depth for the bulb. The benefit of this approach is that rodents can’t get in, but the stems can grow through the cage.
We’ve covered a lot of ground here. (Just a little pun intended.) We’ve tried to offer you suggestions to take care of your mole problem yourself. Yes, it can seem like a lot of work. It can also seem like you’ll be spending your summer fighting moles. If you would like professional mole prevention services, we can certainly help. Just give E.P.M. a call at (517) 990-0110 today. We can work with you to get a plan set up right away.