Salamander eggs

Aluminum Chevy hubcap buried in the ground by the pump house hydrant acts as water dish and receptacle for salamander eggs

In the dog’s water dish we have a raft of salamander eggs.  I wish I’d taken a picture last week when both parents were still visible.  They’re in there, just hidden below the eggs.

Hardening off in the gutter

With LouAnn’s plants in the gutter waiting for the building of her wall, I’ve got to have a better way to control the depth of the water in the gutter.  It doesn’t need to flood for long, but it does need to flood reliably without running water over the top of the gutter onto the floor (yeah, that happened <sigh>).

So I did a bit of building and I now have a stand pipe in the gutter.

Recycled fitting stuck in a measured length of poly water pipe, 1½" of bicycle inner tube and a rubber band

I had intended to use a different fitting but the hole I drilled was just a bit too large.  Note to self, buy more sizes of hole saws.

With a “never say die” attitude, I started scrounging.

In one of our bins in the shop I found an 8″ long piece of poly water pipe with the fitting still stuck inside.  Ever tried to remove a fitting from poly pipe?  You’re better off buying a new fitting.  The assembly was just what I needed for a launching point for the gutter standpipe.  It wasn’t big enough to fill the too-large hole and I had no way to fasten it in, but it was the start I needed.  With a short length of bicycle tubing (always some of that hanging around) and a rubber band, I had the makings of a nice gutter seal/stand pipe.

Stand pipe installed in the bottom of the gutter.

I pulled the inner tube down until is acted as a sleeve at the end of the poly pipe and over the hip of the fitting.  I pulled a rubber band out of my stash and slid that over the upper end of the inner tube to act as a center for rolling the inner tube, applied aquarium sealer around the valley above the fitting hip and slid the assembly in the bottom of the hole in the gutter.  While Wadly held it in place I smeared more aquarium sealer around the gutter opening at the top and rolled the inner tube down until it snugged up tight against the bottom of the gutter.  I cleaned up all the extraneous aquarium sealer and it’s ready to go.  I still have to drill a couple weep holes and connect the fitting to the aquarium.

Back to quilting

The bottom two rows are the last of the orange blocks

Now that the planting and planning for the new plant wall is winding down I’m getting back to working on my sunset quilt.

When I pull the top off the design wall to sew the rows of orange blocks on I’m going to resew a portion of the sun.

If you click the image to enlarge it you can see there’s a bit too much slack in the lower right quadrant which causes the sun to lose its roundness.  That may seem like a nit-picky thing, but that part of the sun doesn’t appear to be behind gauzy clouds.  It’s a small detail, but it’s going to drive me nuts if I don’t do something about it.

Having a picture helps me see which blocks need to be swapped or rotated.  See the second row from the bottom?  The farthest left block and the 3rd from the left have the same material at the top.  I need to rotate one of those to break up any impression of a pattern.

In the gutter

Plants out of the test wall held over for LouAnn's wall have their roots flooded when the wall is being watered

That’s a provocative title, I know, but it’s just plants.

Some of the plants in my now disassembled test wall are going into LouAnn’s wall.  Planting them back in soil while waiting for LouAnn’s wall construction would be counter productive (pay attention, this is important) because water roots and soil roots are different.  The plants from the test wall already have water roots.  They can be planted into a new wall and experience no period of adjustment.  If I put the plants back into soil the roots would have to change and the plant would spend a while being limp and no new growing would occur while this was happening.  When I wash the roots off to insert the plant in the new wall the plant roots would again have to adjust and would spend the period of time the roots were adjusting limp and producing no new growth.

I’m trying to bypass that entire process by leaving the plant roots sitting in the gutter.  They get flooded every time the wall is water due to the strip of felt I have running through the gutter drain.  The plants look good, I don’t have anything that’s wilting.

Just to be VERY clear, roots growing in water are different than roots growing in soil are different than roots grown in a flood and drain environment.  Got it?

If I wash the dirt off roots and insert the plant in my plant wall, the plant will go through a period of adjustment before it gets happy and grows.  If I take a plant out of one grow wall and insert it into another grow wall, no adjustment period occurs.  If I take a plant from a plant wall and stick it in water (no flood and drain) I am assuming the same adjustment period will occur.  I am making that assumption because plant wall roots get lots of oxygen when the wall drains.  That doesn’t occur if they sit in water.

Wall as biofilter

Plant wall with gutter filled with spare plants being held over for LouAnn's wall

I got all the plants I wanted out of my test wall and in my new wall on 2/22.  I still have three big plants and a bunch of background stuff still to plant but that will have to wait a bit.  Visually the wall is a mess . . . but that’s a temporary condition.  The plants will grow and find their place.  It takes time for it to fill in and become a mass of greens.

If you’ve ever had an aquarium and have had to mess with all the extra equipment needed to keep your fish healthy, you will really appreciate a plant wall used as a biofilter.   The wall does it all!  The only maintenance required to keep the aquarium healthy is to keep the water topped up and the fish fed.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  No extra equipment, no water changes, no fuss, no mess.

1 pleco, 2 catfish, 4 small goldies, 8 silver cloud, 6 neon tetra, 2 sword fish, 3 guppies, 2 golden eye - total of 26 fish

Our aquarium is in full daylight and there is no algae except on the glass side of the thermometer where the pleco and cats can’t reach. That’s a total of 26 fish.  As the wall matures and the fish grow the system will stay in balance.

If Wadly had stuck with goldies I wouldn’t need an air stone or a heater, though I will say the plant wall does better using heated water.

Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings

So let’s look at the chemicals.  I didn’t bother with doing a PH test because our water is low PH and we moderate it with oyster shell in the wall gutter.  Everything is perfect.

Deconstructing my budget plant wall

The wall, a bit battered from traveling
Dribble tube
Gutter and screws
Aquarium sealer and an olive can lid
Roots almost a year later.
Roots growing in the gutter.

Coleus started from seed

I finally deconstructed my old plant wall.  I was hoping to video the deconstruction . . . no joy.  I had to leap while the weather was good.

You’ll need to click on each thumbnail to see the entire picture.  The thumbnail feature on WordPress truncates the image width.

The goal of my original plant wall was to test plant wall technology.  I wanted to see how it all worked without putting out a bunch of money.  Anyone interested in plant walls a la Patrick Blank might consider this approach.  You will learn a ton and be more able to spend your money wisely and construct more logically when you do decide to go all out and build the wall of your dreams.

The pictured dribble tube worked great.  I drilled holes using a small bit.  These are spaced a ½” apart.   One end has an elbow, the other is plugged with a shaved length of wood doweling.  I did the same kind of plug in my new wall and I think it works fine.

I used a piece of 2″ pvc for my gutter.  I used it because it was something I already had.  I cut a wide slot in it to accept the foot of the wall.  One end is plugged by a small olive can lid silicone sealed on.  The other has a radiator hose elbow stuffed in the end.  The idea is to use what you’ve got rather than spend money buying new stuff.  If it’s a miserable failure you can recycle the bits you choose to and chuck the rest.

I’m going to recommend you wash as much of the dirt as possible off the roots of the plants you’re sticking in your wall.  I really do believe the plants without dirt around their roots did better.

And finally, plants started from seed have a tendency to get top heavy and fall down the wall.  I think the plant doesn’t have to put out significant roots to get the nutrients they need so the root structure isn’t sufficient to hold the plant upright.  Look at the picture of the coleus planted from seed and you’ll see what I mean.

I’m working on a new step-by-step for a budget plant wall.  I’ll finish it and get it published as I have time.

Wood fern

A frond, a frond!

I tore my wood fern apart when I started this new wall.  I planted three small pieces and gave the rest away.  Two of the starts are doing great.  The third I can’t check because there’s too much greenery in the way.  I’ve tried to weasel my way in close enough to take a look and I get stabbed by the yucca.  Ouch.  Moving the big pots away to get a good look is going to have to wait until this afternoon.  I have the avocado, palm/ficus and yucca pots clustered at one end of the wall and they’ll have to be moved to finish the planting.  Today’s the day . . . at least that’s the plan.  I should do what I want on my birthday, don’t ya think?

So here’s the wood fern update . . . I’ve got a new frond!  <grinning>  How awesome is that?!  I think I actually have two new fronds but I can only see the end of one of the fronds (see above note on “ouch”).

Wood fern frond laying spore side against the wall felt.

So my next question is . . . will wood fern spores self-start in the wall?  I know from the little reading I’ve done on the subject that starting fern spores is an art as much as a science.  The things propagate in nature so . . . I’m just askin’, what are the chances of the spores starting in the damp environment of the wall?  Only time will tell, but that would be about as awesome as wall things could get.

One final note . . . the spider plants have totally perked up and have vigorous new growth <small celebratory dance>, the three varieties of cactus love being in the wall and one stem of the English ivy has finally firmed up.  We lost a lot of leaves in the interim (there were a lot of leaves to lose).  The leaves at the end of the 12′ stem are no longer limp!  The shorter stem is still looking sick but I’m still holding out hope.  We’ll see how it goes.

Drain filter seedling

I have no idea what this is . . . or what to do about it.

I keep a pretty close eye on my wall . . . not because I’m worried but because I’m fascinated, enchanted, in wonder. The process of plants not needing soil or watering is such a cool concept I’m still in awe.

I’ve got a strip of felt that runs from the wall drain into the aquarium.  This filter does a couple things.  It provides a path for the water running into the aquarium and it keeps the PH moderating oyster shell from washing out of the gutter.

Yesterday I noticed a seedling has gotten a start in my drain filter.  How amusing is that?!  I have no idea what it is or what I’m going to do about it.  It’s possible the roots would eventually block the drain which would be bad, but that’s the only reason I can see to remove the plant.  For now I’ll watch and learn.

The beauty of green

Plants too big to go in the wall, plants not yet in the wall . . . the combination of textures and shades is beautiful

Wadly’s working on the sun porch.  In one of my trips in through the glass slider I caught the beautiful spring light on the plants inside the door . . . lovely.  The variety of shades and textures pleases my soul.

Avocado, areca palm, ficus and yucca in big pots on the floor and the two vines I’m using as background fill and the flowering succulents that will go in the wall near the last.