23 August 2016

into the QT

I gave up trying to cycle the QT. I did everything I could think of to give it an 'instant cycle'- I swapped sponges off the little filters, sterilizing the QT one (which had only been in there half a day) and moving over the one from the main tank, which should have plenty of bacteria in it. I siphoned a handful of gravel out of the main tank, tied it into a piece of pantyhose and put that in the QT near the filter. Dropped in a few snails and a food wafer (the snails congregated on it, so they're feeling fine). Checked on the water quality a few times each day. Did another water change to see how that alters parameters. Ammonia is still worrisome- it's 0.5, when I do a water change that brings it down to 0.25 but it goes back up again.
However I felt I had to do something- Oliver was looking lethargic, his face getting pale in splotches and his eyes cloudy. (Picture of him in the salt bath the day before yesterday- not a very clear image but I really like how the lens of his eyes are visible here if you look close.) This could be because I took his heater out and all of a sudden it got cooler at night- so his tank temp dropped to 76º.  It was a mistake to not just go buy a second heater. But I still wanted to treat him in QT- not sure exactly what this thing is on his side; if it doesn't respond to the fluke meds and I need to try something different that could kill plants or snails, I don't want to do that in his home tank.
So. The best results I've had using QT in the past is when I did frequent small wc anyway. I moved Oliver over this morning. Tried to get a few closeup photos of him in the cup, but he didn't like being in there so I quit trying to take pictures and moved him into a plastic baggie to float. Acclimated him for half an hour, now he is cruising around the tank inspecting stuff. Doesn't look stressed. I dosed the tank with a half teaspoon of PraziPro. I'm going to do 25% water changes twice a day, which will turn over 50% of the water each day while he's in there, to keep ammonia in check and the water really clean. I'll re-dose the estimated amount of meds that get removed with each water change- so for every two and a half gallons replaced, dose 1/8 tsp or a dash.
I do think it's the nicest-looking QT I've ever set up. Hopefully all those silk plants I added will start harboring some of the good bacteria (if the fish is in here for a week or more) and make him feel sheltered enough to be relatively comfortable.

cleanup

Starting to clean up the garden. I have cut a few bunches of herbs to dry (more on that later) and took out all the green bean plants today. It is a relief not to see sickly plants in that area anymore. I don't want to eat any more of my green beans anyway, they don't look good. Curled and mottled pale ugh.

Waited for a cool night so I could get the plants into a trash bag with most of the whitefly still resting on them. Cleaned up all the leaf litter from around the plants too, as it is probably full of disease the insects have spread. Either the cool weather or my hand-removal is helping- I found less whitefly on the broccoli plants than before. I wiped undersides of the foliage again and found fewer whitefly eggs/larvae than before, and only four caterpillars. Also some white specks on the yellow traps, so maybe that helped some too. I'm going to rinse them off and re-apply the sticky stuff.
Pit that the chrysalis of the white cabbage butterfly is a pretty thing -I squished it.

I am going to smother this plot (where the green beans were) with shredded cardboard, compost and leaf mulch, and hope for better luck next year. At least the soil looks good- rich, black and crumbly- and there's lots of worms. I disturbed at least half a dozen this morning. They look healthy. Crawl away quicker than you'd think a worm can move.

21 August 2016

QT frustration

I have stuff to note about the front yard, and the garden, and my loosing battle against whitefly- pitched too late. But instead I'm preoccupied with the fish. This morning I set up the QT tank.

This is what I did: rinsed dust off all my QT equipment. Set up the 10 gal tank w/half new, treated water. Put in the QT sponge filter on an airline. I took half the older bio-cubes out of the base of the filter in the tenner, replaced w/new ones, and put the old ones in the QT filter. Squeezed out the tenner's sponge into the QT tank. Moved some sacrificial plants into the QT from my main tank- loose pieces of hornwort, baby watersprites, some subwasser tied onto stones that I don't like because the stones are too white and show up against the substrate. Also a handful of spirodela polyrhiza floaters from the tenner. Added five more gallons of water from the tenner, in the process doing another water change on Oliver's tank. Moved over the heater (I only have one that size now and the plants/snails in tenner will be fine w/out a heater for a week or so, it's still warm enough ambient temps here). Now my QT was ready, half new water, half tank water, some live plants and some fake plants & hidey holes, filter and heater running.

I let the setup run for half an hour and tested the water. No Nitrite, only 10 Nitrates but it had 0.5ppm Ammonia. I was hoping by moving in some material from the established filter in the tenner, and some plants from the other tank, I'd have enough good bacteria to get an 'instant cycle.' Guess that's not the case. Debated whether I should throw in some trumpet snails to provide ammonia and boost the cycle, wait a day or two to move the fish, or put him in anyway and do daily wc to keep ammonia down. Then I'd have to re-add the medication to keep the dose steady for prescribed amount of time...

Meanwhile I did another partial wc and went to the store, bought a handful of fake silk plants to add in there. Want it to be full enough the fish isn't stressed by feeling exposed. Came home after an hour shopping and cut all the silly pink and purple flowers off the fake plants. Checked the tank- still 0.5 Ammonia. I did another partial wc of 2 gallons. Rinsed the fake plants in the bucket of tank water. Set them all in there, added some clippings of arrowhead on the back thru holes in the lid skirt, tested the water again. Still 0.5! I tested my big tank to be sure the test kit isn't wonky- especially since I found two motionless nerites on their backs this morning, and one hasn't moved off since I righted them. Maybe another dead nerite? Nope, Ammonia in the big tank is zero.

I paused to rescue a male cherry barb- he'd got hold of what looked like a strand of hair- kept working his mouth and this long trailing bit of stringy stuff hanging out. Didn't look good if that went into his gut. I caught him in the plastic box that's the lid of my API test kit (use this for all kinds of things) and trapped him against the glass at water surface so I could grab the thread bit with tweezers- that was tricky. He sure didn't want to be cornered. Finally I got it and held on he thrashed himself around like a fish hooked on a line, and then the thread came free. There was a bit of dead plant material on the end of it- that's what he'd tried to eat I guess. Let him go.

Did a bigger water change on the QT tank- fifty percent. This time I double-dosed prime, to try and neutralize the ammonia. It didn't lower the ammonia. Instead it's gone up. Now it's 1.0ppm. I guess the tank is full swing into a cycle and don't know what to do about it. Maybe I'll rinse out the big tank's prefilter sponge and pour it in there. I think I'll wait for tomorrow- it seems to be spiking pretty quickly and since Oliver has had a fifty percent wc on his tank three days in a row, he's in fairly clean water so I think he could wait a day for treatment...

I can see why people don't use QT though.

20 August 2016

something's on my fish

A white oblong bump protruding from his side. Bigger than an ich spot. He is darting around as if irritated.
It showed up suddenly this morning- yesterday I did the usual 50% wc. I did add root tabs for a few plants, and fed him something he usually doesn't get- bits of crushed shrimp pellet (later in the day he got his usual 2 betta micropellets).
I took pictures to try and get a diagnosis on the forums. I think it's a parasite because it looks as if protruding from under the scales, but not sure- doesn't look like fish lice or anchorworm or any other pics I can find online.

I am not sure if this is something I can knock off by giving him a salt dip, or try to remove with tweezers, or if a medication will kill it... Trying to figure that out. Meanwhile, he's eating like normal and doesn't have clamped fins or anything like that.

18 August 2016

above view

of my little garden plots. A while back I moved all the green bean pots onto the garden soil- they used to be in a row edging the garden. Figured their roots that reach down out of the confines of the pot could still add nitrogen to the soil. The other end of that bed (top left here) is all nice blue-green color of the broccoli plants, but they're in sad shape. Attacked by three kinds of caterpillars (I picked loads of them off the other day and fed some to the cherry barbs) and whitefly. I squish as many stinkbugs I can find. I am also ruthless towards japanese beetles, white cabbage butterflies and their larvae.

The plot on the right looks really empty. Because we ate all the swiss chard that was in there, and I had cosmos flowers that got dug up by the chipmunks/squirrels so many times they finally collapsed. Central there is one little cucumber plant. It has flowered, but I'm not sure if we'll get any cukes. I'm not expecting much of it.
The main bed that's been established longer did much better this year (I think just because it had better nutrients for the plants). It looks all empty because we ate what grew! Among the few beets and carrots I haven't pulled yet is this volunteer something from the melon family.
I think a cantaloupe or honeydew from errant seed in the compost?
There is also a little funny ring of seedlings- again I think seeds that sprouted from compost or a squirrel's activities. They grew up around a beet plant and I didn't pull them with weeds them because the beet sheltered them from view. Now they're in empty space I'm letting them grow to see what they are. At first I thought sunflowers or something else from the curcurbit family, but now that the true leaves are emerging they look more like echinacea or nicotiana.

Easy to see these are suffering from bug attacks, too (sigh).

17 August 2016

the catch (and other things)

Didn't get exactly what I expected. I put out eight beer traps last night- five in the vegetable garden and three among the salvia. I did catch three slugs- two big ones from the salvia area and a smaller one near the swiss chard. But the rest? Ants in one. A black beetle near the peppers (sorry for that, I think beetles are good guys). A few earwigs. Some pill bugs. And crickets! More crickets than anything else. Do crickets eat garden plants? I thought they went for decaying material, or fruit. Maybe they fell in by accident.

Wiped the underside of broccoli leaves with my hands again. I'm not sure, but it seems there are less whitefly swarms this morning. Maybe smashing off the larval stages and eggs by hand did some good. Or maybe some got caught on my yellow boards after all. I am seriously considering trashing all the sickly green bean plants and keeping the broccoli, just to continue picking caterpillars off them... A handful more of those today. I tried to identify the ones I don't know- that aren't cabbage loopers. All I was able to narrow down was that they're some kind of moth. If they were butterfly larvae (other than the cabbage white) I would have just moved them to a landscaping plant, not stashed in the freezer for my fish.

Speaking of fish, I am going to have to re-think my food trap. Functionally, it's great. The black kuhlis are ecstatic each time I lower it into the tank. But they're getting injured. It had been four or five days since the last time I used it, and their scratches were healing. I took a good amount of time sanding the edges of the entrance and exit holes with a metal nail file and tiny strips of sandpaper- now the plastic is all scuffed in those areas, but it did feel a lot smoother- at least to my fingers. Not good enough for the kuhlis though. I watched them go in for soaked micropellets. They went through the holes a lot more smoothly than before- not as much hesitation- I think the sanding job widened the opening a bit. But still they got hurt. When all was done and the kuhlis lay around hanging off of green crypt stems and lounging under the subwasser baskets with full tummies, I saw that the two biggest ones (Sluggy and Curly) definitely have new scratches. Must be the trap. I may have to go back to feeding them under a rock. It sure looked more difficult for them, and was entertaining to watch! but not foolproof (sometimes the barbs got the food anyway). However they never sustained scratches from digging under the rock.

Other notes: looks like the lysimachia in the back planting bed is dying. Of the newer plants I have lost completely one heartleaf brunnera plant, and half of the astilbes. Lupine and larkspur are dead. But these ones are fine: heucherella, columbine, bee balm, argyranthemum (although it looks funny, lower foliage has died off leaving tufts of green on the terminal ends of stems). I will have to get a picture of that. The young echinacea I put in this spring are doing great- they're not big yet, but they seem fine through all the heat. To my surprise gerbera daisy plant is steadily growing, while the dahlia remains small, stunted looking- that plant has not impressed me at all. Well, this list definitely tells me what I will be adding to the garden next spring- more of those that made it (I'm glad that bee balm is one of them. A bit disappointed that lupine is not). I just don't want landscaping plants that have to be pampered.

One last note: when I was setting out beer traps, I noticed a big difference in the soil. In the garden where I've built it up continually with my best compost and worm castings plus shredded cardboard, leaf mulch and grass clippings, the soil was nice and loose, dark and soft and full of gleaming healthy-looking worms that moved away from me pretty quickly! I could dig into it easily with my hands. Lovely soil. Makes me hopeful for a better garden next year, if I can pay attention and get on top of bug control earlier. Soil around the salvia in the landscaping bed was very different. Dry, compact, paler in color. I admit I don't give them nearly as much attention. That area gets leaf mulch and compost only twice a year- or when I think of it and have extra after feeding the garden. Only new plants get the rich worm castings when they first get planted. I'm really tough (or stingy) on that set of plants!

This post really got all over the place. I don't usually write one up about so many subjects at once- and without pictures. But it was all on my mind this morning.

16 August 2016

big pepper plant

Well what do you know, this plant is finally making fruit.
It's a lot healthier looking than the three sibling peppers down in the garden spot. I think because up here it avoids the insect attacks. Something is eating the leaves of my other peppers- I can't find any caterpillars or frass, and don't see slug tracks so not sure what is causing the damage. Going to start putting out beer traps again...

frustration

Well, I have finally figured out the cause of this disease I see almost every year in my garden. It's whitefly. It causes the mottled, blotchy yellowing splotches on the leaves. I should have realized this a LONG time ago, but somehow for all my reading, I never saw the various symptoms all listed together until yesterday. The leaves have that tackiness, too- from the flies' honeydew secretion.
I have a really bad infestation. I tried two measures yesterday- painted some wood pieces (cedar shims) yellow and smeared with a mixture of vaseline and dishsoap. This is supposed to trap them. I went among the plants picking off caterpillars (there's cabbage white butterfly larvae too- and two other kinds as well) and every time a swarm of whitefly went up, I watched some alight on the yellow panels, and fly right off again. So they didn't get stuck. Then I went out there with a vacuum hose. Supposedly you can suck adults and nymph stages right off the plants. I just tore up some leaves.

It's worst in the broccoli and green beans. At this point I don't think I will get any broccoli heads at all, and the beans I pick are starting to look poorly too. Other parts of the garden aren't quite so bad- there are some mottled spots on the little cucumber plants, and the thyme. Even if I manage to get rid of all the whitefly, I doubt the plants will recover now. I think I should just go out on a cool night- when they're in a stupor- and uproot all the plants, smother the plot with compost and try again next year (with a different crop in that spot).

My daily morning checks on the plants has had some use, this week. I have got lots of small caterpillars off them. Two days in a row I got several dozen at a time, then only ten or so, this morning only found five. So I have managed to lower their numbers just by hand-picking, and now I have some treats saved up for my fish (saved in tiny jars in the freezer). I was also swiping the underside of the worst-affected leaves with my hand, wiping off some adult whitefly that didn't move away fast enough, and lots of the nymphs and eggs. I'd do this with a bleach wipe but it might harm the suffering plant? or maybe I should try with a paper towel dampened with soap or something. I didn't think this would have much effect,  but there do seem to be a few less swarming up this morning...

Going to set beer traps tonight for slugs, too- I think that's what is making ragged holes in the pepper leaves.  Last night it rained. Today it will be way too hot to be out there past 10am. Heat index 109º.

15 August 2016

crazy flowers

This plant I had never grown before, all that time having its seed packet- has become a grand success. I can't believe how lush it looks. I'm planning to start a lot more of it next year and use it to fill in gaps in the landscape.
It does fantastic in the hot weather, and the odd fuzzy flowers get attention for sure. I've even seen one of our neighbors come back from her morning walk to take pictures of it. Here's my latest shots.
I like the flowers that form this broad base and make a kind of rough fan shape.
Others are a lot looser in form, kind of spiky.
It's all nuts!

Edit add: I have noticed bumblebees working their way over the broad, flat sides of these things. I'm glad to serve something to the bees- even exotic and foreign as these flowers look.

fresh eatings

from this past week.
I cut all the swiss chard. There's not much of it.
Made a chard frittata, and it will probably be the only one this year. Oh well! It was pretty good.
Have picked a few of the big tomatoes. The plants are not very prolific, but what they do give us tastes just fantastic. These are the brandywines. A few days later I picked two similar-sized beefsteaks.
Made them into a plate of capresi with fresh mozarella and just-picked basil leaves. Yum! Also a salad one day. Cherry tomatoes go without speaking- the kids help themselves nearly every day and when I can I pick a bowlful and just keep it on the counter for snacking.
There's frequent, but slim, pickings of green beans. Sometimes I save them up in a tupperware until I have enough to make a decent side dish. Or just steam what I've got for the day and everyone gets a total of five or six beans on their plate. It's pathetic. However they don't complain!
And I still have loads of carrot foliage I saved in the crisper. I have been adding this to all kinds of things. I put it in spanish rice instead of parsley- it was good, but really did change the flavor. I have tossed it into soups. I sprinkled some into a spaghetti pie the other day, and added some to my chard frittata, just to have ways to use it up.

I am eyeing a tree in the front yard. It makes pretty pink/purple flowers in spring, and forms hard little rosy fruits in the late summer. They look better this year than ever. My youngest keeps asking me if we can pick and eat them. I think they are crabapples, and I know you can make crabapple jelly. I just want to be absolutely sure I have identified the tree correctly first. Will have to take some pictures or pick a few samples of fruit and leaves, to compare in a book or something.