Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How to protect stock tank gardens and ponds from freezes

Answer:  Skip the floating row cover and other conventional gardening solutions, and try a draw-string tarp instead.
This was so simple that it only took me three years to figure it out.  The draw string allows the entire bottom edge to be tightened around the circumference, sealing out the wind.  
Cinched and tied, as easy as pie.  Very quick and hassle-free to put on and take off.  This is a 6-foot diameter stock tank with a 9' x 9' drawstring tarp.    
Home Depot sells this one, for instance.  9' x 9' is a good size for a 6' round tank.  The vault in the center of the tank is created by cutting lengths of 0.5" PVC pipe to form supportive hoops.  
Neither floating row cover nor conventional tarps work well with stock tanks, which tend to catch a lot of wind because they are elevated.
In warmer times... one of my favorite photos, taken very early in our property development before we stained our fence and added other improvements.    
This weird looking shot is approximately the same view, except it was taken during a cold, cold night when the same two tanks were covered by a blue tarp and a piece of row cover (with warming lights underneath each).  Neither forms a good seal around the tank, and the row cover in particular is virtually guaranteed to blow off in bad weather, no matter how well it is secured.  
This year, greater Houston seems to be specializing in freezing rain and sleet.  My floating row cover got coated with a concrete-like layer of ice and the extra weight squashed the plants beneath it.  No such issue arises with a waterproof tarp - problem solved.

Anyway, this approach should be helpful whether you're using stock tanks for vegetables, ornamentals, or as fish and lily ponds.  Folks are quite varied in their adaptation of these tanks for personal use, and I'll close with a series of photos illustrating that.
I don't claim to have originated the idea of using livestock tanks as vegetable gardens.  I had my "Eureka!" moment when I saw this news article describing how the City of Houston was using them.

Screengrabbed from Chron.
Much of my motivation for choosing stock tanks derived from the fact that my back yard is very small, and we have a dog who necessarily must use the back yard as a potty.  I needed to isolate our edibles from her activities.

But gardeners in other environments had different reasons for choosing these tanks.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center  pioneered their use for artistic displays of native ornamentals.

Pic screengrabbed from The Flower Picture Gallery.  
Some users in arid climates use these tanks because they can't put a conventional in-ground vegetable garden due to the need to conserve water.  This was another "early-adopter" photograph that was originally published in Sunset Magazine.  I can no longer find the original URL for the article that included this pic, but it still appears on Pinterest and other sites.  
Stock tanks can be highly productive as well as beautiful.  Almost everything I blog about in the way of home-grown vegetable harvests derives from my two 6-foot circular stock tanks, one 4-foot circular tank (shown above), and two 5 x 2 foot oblong tanks. 
Where there's a will, there's a way:  The Topless Gardener used this tank to grow vegetables on top of concrete.  The possibilities are endless.  
A stock tank used as a water garden, design by central Texas blogger Sheryl Smith-Rodgers.  
I have a small kettle pond, and it did freeze on the surface repeatedly this month because I didn't cover it.  I'll be searching for a smaller string tarp now.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm forced to moderate comments because the spammers have become too much for me to keep up with. If you have a legitimate comment, I will post it promptly. Sorry for the inconvenience.