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Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Winter Indoor Gardening

Indoor Tiny Ponds

Tiny Ponds In Apothecary Jars

With the new year, comes a new hobby.  The indoor planted aquarium and tiny ponds.  Many of my old apothecary jars were re purposed to create soothing, elegant little water scenes using mostly edible water plants.  The substrates we start with are Carib Sea Black Tahitian Moon Sand and Carob Sea Eco Complete, also black.  When researching, the black substrates always looked the most attractive, in my opinion.

To start the plants out, most are generally isolated in a single container to observe independent performance.  The first plants received was the wolffia, shown in the foreground of the image to the right.

Wolffia, Water Meal


Wolffia, aka Water Meal was purchased from a very nice person running ForestGardenFarm on Etsy.  According to EatTheWeeds, this is the tastiest version of duckweed.

The bag was a bit warm after sitting in my mailbox for several hours before I could get them.  The apothecary jar had been sitting around with water and ecocomplete substrate for about a week prior to adding the Wolffia.  

We had a high rate of survival, and the Wolffia seems to have increased since purchase.  There are some random little roots suspended from the top - I'm sure it's some other kind of duckweed (lentil), but I'm waiting to see what it is.  I did try a few that stuck on my fingers after stirring the top water a bit and it was a little sweet.  Something definitely to keep around and also to keep separated from the future aquariums so that it has an opportunity to grow and thrive instead of getting gobbled up by the aquarium inhabitants.  

Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce, Pistia stratiotes

Water Lettuce is a very elegant type of water plant.  The botanical name is Pistia stratiotes.  The fuzzy leaves float atop the water line, while the feathery roots drift downward towards the substrate.  

The water lettuce plants were purchaesd from ksam43 on eBay.  Water Lettuce is not edible raw.  EatTheWeeds states it can be edible if cooked, but provides caution to test samples and wait a bit to see if there is any burning reaction before consuming more.  

In a planted aquarium, water lettuce will provide great hiding places and it looks like some red cherry shrimp could be kept busy cleaning up the roots.  

Good for the aquarium, and great for compost.  In the right conditions, water lettuce can reproduce quickly.  Unwanted plants can be thrown in the compost bin as an excellent source of nitrogen.

American Lotus, Nelumbo lutea

American Lotus

American Lotus is a pretty large plant.  I ordered seeds from deepwoodsgoods on eBay.  I received a bunch of seeds - more than I need, probably.  

When researching, I learned that lotus seeds are viable for an incredible amount of time, so extra seeds are no problem. The trouble can be sprouting the seeds, which requires scarification, constant moisture and a warm temperature.  

EatTheWeeds reports many parts of both lotus types are edible.  I had to get them.

A bit of research, a few feeder rings and some nylons were put together to create the optimal sprouting environment (hopefully) for the lotus seeds.  This is a great segue to the second new hobby, planted aquariums.

Planted Aquarium

10 Inch Diameter Cylinder Vase Start-Up Aquarium

I purchased some really big cylinder vases; 10 inches in diameter by 12 inches high.  I like the shape and proportions and thought they'd make some nice looking planted aquarium/window farm reservoirs.  

Sadly, one was broken upon arrival, but the other was intact and the glass is super thick, so I could get started.  

Sand added at the bottom - about an inch or so.  Then the eco complete over that - about an inch or so.  Both more on the 'or so' side.  The extra water lettuce plants were dropped in and the feeder ring with nylon covering was suctioned to the side for sprouting the lotus seeds.  In this way, the lotus seeds should have the nice tropical warmth and lighting needed to get started.

Wabi Kusa Aquascaping


Plant selections kind of dictates the aquascape style,..  or the style dictated the plants - I'm not sure now.  I really like the sculptural look of Wabi Kusa and ended up ordering some mini-cattails as the aquascape thriller for one aquarium.  These were available from yazs2000 on eBay.  

Realizing the tiny tank is limited, we can probably place the mini cattails in a wabi kusa ball to help elevate it to the proper depth below the water line (6 - 10 inches).  The plants should be able to pop out of the top.

Mini Cattail

Right now, the mini cats are just coming out of dormancy with a few white spikes poking out above
Mini Cattail, Typha minima
the substrate in their current isolated environment.  

In an indoor tropical aquarium, these will probably never bloom - which isn't all bad.  The poufs are like dandelions and will drift all over the place, possibly reseeding and becoming invasive in the neighborhood.

EatTheWeeds reports cattails as edible, with reservations.  Typha minima was not specifically mentioned, so I'll remain skeptical and proceed with caution if I dare to try a stem or two.

Eleocharis dulcis, Asian Water Chestnuts

Asian Water Chestnuts

We purchased the Asian Water Chestnuts from WellSpringGardens on eBay.  WellSpringGardens has always been a great source of plants and I highly recommend them.

Anyone having eaten asian cuisine has probably tasted some kind of water chestnut - a crispy round bit that doesn't have a lot of flavor.  However, it has been reported that eating fresh water chestnuts is a much better experience.  The flavor is much better and the texture is crisp and delightful.  We received a water chestnut during its dormancy.  After reading up on the care of these plants, they will probably never get mixed in with an aquascape due to how prolific they are and the need for being drained and resting in a true bog substrate for a period of time before harvesting.

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