1. I am an absurdly optimistic person. I am convinced, even when I shouldn't be, that everything will work out okay.
2. However, having had my share of disasters, I'm a big believer in back up plans.
3. It rarely occurs to me to give up. It's possible, I suppose, that I'm a bit crazy, but so what? Life's more fun that way.
4. I often ignore the little voice telling me not to talk to strangers and will strike up a conversation with almost anybody.
In fall 2011, inspired by Sweetbay's pumpless, filterless frog puddle, my son and I installed a frog pond made from two 17 gallon farm grade muck buckets. Dug into the driest shade in my garden, I was convinced it would support wildlife without needing a pump or filter, neither of which were options. I stuffed it full of the floating oxygenator, hornwort, and several aquatic plants. I added frogs from a friends yard and guppies to control the mosquitos. Then I waited. The frogs left, the plants took over, and the guppies died. Worried I was cooking up West Nile virus, I added mosquito dunks and waited again, convinced the frogs would return. They never did.
When no frog spawn filled the pond this spring, I cleaned it out, replaced the frozen hornwort, and added tadpoles from a rural garden center. I was so happy to have a pond full of future frogs, I danced ridiculously around the house singing, "I have tadpoles! I have tadpoles!", horrifying my family and scaring the dogs. But when the tadpoles disappeared within a few days, I knew there was a problem. Worried about the oxygen level in the water, I anxiously filled a small vial with pond water and dropped in a few chemicals. To support life water needs to contain 6- 8 ppm of dissolved oxygen. How much oxygen did my water contain? Zero, zilch, nothing, nada. My much loved frog pond was a stinky stew of frog death.
Furious and convinced my oxygen tablets were too old to be useful, I stomped into the house and began making phone calls. Several businesses later, I was connected to a man who was an expert at aquatic gardening and owned a pond company.
HIM; No, they do not carry dissolved oxygen test kits. I was the only person who has ever asked for one.
HIM: Hornworts ability to oxygenate a pond is limited. ME: Really?
HIM: Did I have a pump or filter? ME: No ( I could hear him sighing on the other end before explaining the affects of ammonia build up in my pond.)
HIM: Could I install one? ME: No, the outlet was on the other side of the garden.
HIM: How about a solar oxygenator? ME: My pond is in the shade HIM: Laughter
What do you mean I need sun to run a solar pump?
At this point I should have realized my pond was a disaster and all the water needed to be removed. Frustrated and hungry, I began researching solar oxygenators while taking out my fury on a dish of hummus and a pile of pita chips. Finally having found one that was reasonably priced, I stomped back out to the garden to measure the distance between the frog pond and the lone patch of sunshine that could fuel a solar cell only to discover the cord from the oxygenator to the sunny spot would be too short.
At this point, I could have given up. I'd already convinced myself a pumpless pond was a brilliant idea, seen it fail, and then chatted up a total stranger in my attempts to learn why it had become a black hole of death. But I didn't. It just didn't occur to me. Instead I took out the biggest rocks, filled the buckets with potting soil and decided to turn my frog pond into a bog garden.
Five happy lobelia
Lobelia siphlitica is also known as Great Blue Lobelia and is native to swamps and lowlands of the east coast. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
How much potting soil would I need? I had no idea. How boggy should the bog be? I don't know that, either. If I'd made it too dry, I'd take out some soil. It it was too wet, I'd add some soil.
A large clump of shasta daisies grows in front of the pond turned bog garden. Once they bloom and are cut back the lobelia will give this area some much needed height. Diervilla, rudbeckia, veronica, daylilies, phlox, and monarda also fill this bed. The dog run is between the garden and the fence.
After a bit of research I filled my bog with native lobelia siphlitica, which was amazingly available on the cheap at my local Lowe's. I slid the lobelia in the quagmire and headed into the house. By the end of the day I'd also almost burned dinner and briefly set myself on fire, but I didn't care. I now had a bog garden. It was time to happy dance.