Water Lily Transplant Team


At the pizza place last night, I told my kids I was planning on taking the water lily out of the pond to repot, and asked if they would help. They did not respond enthusiastically.
I clarified by saying I wanted to blog about it, so I would need photos.  I won’t say they were eager…the only eagerness came from each not wanting the other to get to use the camera. Oh well, I’ll take any assistance I can get.
To prep, I checked my pond reference book “The Pond Doctor” which has enough illustrations to be useful, but not so many that it counts as a coffee table book. The directions for repotting recommend lining a basket with burlap, then adding clay soil, then removing the lily from the pond, rinsing the old soil off, cutting off any dead material, and placing the rhizome at a 45 degree angle with the growing tip at the center, then covering with gravel, then placing it back in the pond in shallow water, until it starts growing. Whew. That seems doable.

The water on top is warmer than in the depths of the horse trough, but not by much right now. My “shallow water” zone is a couple of cinder blocks I placed at the south end of the trough, one vertical and the other horizontal. They make a stand for plants, and the holes create happy little hiding places for the fish.
Step 1 Basket: I got a basket at the dollar store. It cost a dollar… I ran into a preschool mommy- Someone I hadn’t talked to since we stood around waiting to pick up our kids, 5 years ago. We had a nice discussion about what size basket I should get for the water lily. Actually, we talked mostly about how big the kids were getting, and our conclusion about the water lily was that I might as well get 2 sizes of basket, since they were only a dollar.

Step 2 Burlap: I bought a yard at the hobby store, which is conveniently in the same mini mall as the dollar store. I cut it in half and crisscrossed it in the basket.

We used the bigger basket- the recently fished out lily is in the smaller one.

We used the bigger basket- the recently fished out lily is in the smaller one.

Step 3 Clay soil:   easy to find, in theory, since my yard is nothing but clay. I found an inconspicuous spot to dig a bucket full.

Step 4 Remove lily: When I fished the lily out of the pond, I was surprised at the size. I bought it two years ago in a mesh bag the size you might buy garlic in. There wasn’t any soil in the bag originally, I don’t think, just some gravel to make it sink, which made

Step 5 Rinse soil off rhizome  very easy. I cut away most of the mesh, and

Step 6 Trim: I cut away the mucky stems and leaves from last summer.  Kate was appalled by the smell. She is the one who won the “I get to take pictures” argument.  Honestly, it wasn’t that bad- if pond smell is the only thing keeping you from repotting a water plant, get over it.

Extreme close-up of fresh growth.

Extreme close-up of fresh growth.

Step 7 45 degree angle:  I nestled the rhizome into the soil at an angle, leaving the growing tip out of the soil in the center of the basket.Then I wrapped the lose ends of the burlap up around the soil on top.

Step 8 Gravel: I know I have a bucket of gravel around somewhere- I am sure it will turn up in the spring cleanup. When I find it, I will put some scoops of it on top of the burlap, to keep the soil from making the water cloudy.   That’s a little joke- the water is pretty cloudy on its own right now.

Next fall, I'm going to put some kind of a screen on top so we don't get a tree's worth of leaves in the pond. It's pretty darn gross.

Next fall, I’m going to put some kind of a screen on top so we don’t get a tree’s worth of leaves in the pond. It’s pretty darn gross.

Step 9 Shallow water: I placed the basket on one of the cinder blocks very gently. Some bubbles came up from the burlap, but fortunately the soil was pretty moist already. If it had been dry, I would have had to hold the bundle down until the air bubbles had all come up out of the soil, and it was fully moistened.

Step 10 Scrub arms: Okay, Kate, you’re right, it is pretty stinky, and my right arm, which is the one that went into the water to get the plant, is pretty gross smelling.

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Science Fair- please, no wagering


“When is your science fair?” I asked the Boy one cool evening not long ago.

“I don’t know…” he responds.
Ooops. Hope it isn’t tomorrow, because we aren’t ready.
The Boy is a self proclaimed nerd, and loves science. He is memorizing the periodic table of elements (hint, if he asks you if you want to hear him say the first 37 elements, insist that he sing them. He’ll blush, but he’ll do it!)
He loves weather, and nature, and dinosaurs, and is getting into chemistry, and so there is a lot of pressure to have a really amazing science fair project. Pressure from his peers, but also from himself.
The problem is, we are pretty bad about follow through around here…
We brainstorm, and come up with things…then we get distracted by something shiny.

It turned out that the Science fair was a few weeks away, so we had time to follow through.
So,  the decision for this year was to examine the life growing in the jar of pond water we collected last summer . The 1 quart jar has been in his west-facing window, growing algae and stuff.

Look- follow through! With a map and a video and everything!

Look- follow through! With a map and a video and everything!

When we first collected the samples, we didn’t intend to make it a science fair project. I had read about the project in a garden book, and when I told the Boy about it, he thought it was a neat idea, and nagged me about it until I got a jar, and went with him to the park.

This made the “research question” portion of the science packet problematic… we couldn’t just say the question  was: “wouldn’t it be cool if we had a jar with pond water…?”

So, the research question became: “Can an ecosystem be formed by mixing materials from different sources?”
We took a video of the little critters that are swimming around, and looked at them with our thrift store microscope. With help from the interwebs, he determined that they were daphnia.

The science fair was a success- there was the usual supply of baking soda volcanoes, and several decomposition displays.  The Boy was the only one to have a jar of tiny critters with a water cycle. Our school fair is non-competitive- just an exhibition, not a competition.

This was on someone else's display. Now, I don't know Tyler or Jack H., but I am pretty sure they touched it.

This was on someone else’s display. Now, I don’t know Tyler or Jack H., but I am pretty sure they touched it.

Now we have to think about next year.

You can grow that- locally!


All politics is local, they say, and gardening is the same way. I have driven myself crazy for years reading books about organic gardening in Pennsylvania, or Upstate New York, or Maine, or Wales. I have tried to apply my learning to the ground here- dry, clay, and alkaline. I have finally learned to read Western-based garden books, or to temper my fantasies to something that is sustainable with the soil here, and the amount of rainfall here.

Every winter I am inundated with seed and plant catalogs. I read them, and place sticky notes, and highlight the varieties I want to buy. It is similar to the garden book thing- catalogs from Maine, or Oregon, or Pennsylvania won’t necessarily have what I need here- drought tolerant in Massachusetts is different from drought tolerant in Colorado.  Full sun in Michigan is different from full sun here.

This year, rather than placing an order to have seeds shipped to me, I will bike downtown, and go into our local greenhouse, where they order seeds in bulk, and will sell me little envelopes of whatever I want to plant. Well, not “whatever” …last year they didn’t have leeks in bulk, so I got a pre-packaged envelope off the rack, but they have many popular varieties that do well here. They have bareroot strawberries and asparagus and seed potatoes and onion sets. They also have people working there who, if they are not experts, they are informed, about where things are located in the store, and when to plant most things.

Your homework- find a greenhouse or garden center that is local to you. Locally owned businesses will only stay alive as long as we support them, and often the guys in the *cough orange aprons cough* don’t know much about the plants they are selling. You don’t have to bike (and in fact, I might not, but I should) but find a place that is local, and support it.

The lonely pile of seed catalogs this year- I am forsaking you for a local business.

The lonely pile of seed catalogs this year- I am forsaking you for a local business.

C.L. Fornari, amazing garden writer, has founded “You can grow that!” where on the fourth of every month, garden bloggers write posts encouraging anyone to grow anything.  Check her out at http://www.youcangrowthat.com/