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If aquarium uses fresh water, it’s OK for plant use

Q: We have just recently set up an aquarium in the house. When it comes time to clean it, can the water be used for our house plants? – A.S., Albuquerque

A: As long as you haven’t set up a salt water aquarium, yes, you can use the fresh water for any type of plant life you want to. Think of it as pre-diluted fish emulsion fertilizer. When I had my aquarium, I’d use the water indoors during the spring and summer months, and then use any dormant months’ collections for the outside creatures. Sometimes the water can smell fishy and having that odor in an enclosed house can be unpleasant. The outdoor plants welcomed the additional water and vital nutrients that the aquarium water offered, especially during the dry, cold months of the winter season. Yes, use the changed water to give your plants, any of them, a treat.

Q: I have discovered a ground-cover plant on our daily walks that I’ve not seen before. Can you tell me what this plant is? – T.M., West Side

A: From the leaf sample I received, although a bit mangled and dried out, I believe you’ve discovered a variety of sand verbena (Abronia ameliae). Since the plant isn’t in bloom, I might be wrong as that would be a way to tell for sure. The foliage of the plant seems a cool gray color with fairly large heart-shaped leaves coming off the main stem in an opposite pattern. Grow this verbena, which is actually in the four o’clock family, in a spot where it’ll get quite a bit of sun and some water. Kept well watered, this plant will give up the ghost very quickly. The bloom of this plant will be a mass of bright purple flowers, looking a bit like a dandelion in seed, a ball-shaped colorful treat. They are a hummingbird’s and butterfly’s delight. Growing so low to the ground, you might not smell the blooms but they are listed as fragrant. I’m not sure where you’ll find this gem, but call the local nurseries to find this charmer. Maybe, ask the homeowner where they found it, too.

Q: My bougainvillea is so ready to be placed back outside. What do you think, will it be safe temperature-wise? – B.G., Bernalillo


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A: No, not yet. With the most recent cold snap we went through I’d be most reluctant to set out anything I’d wintered over indoors. Unless, of course, you as the responsible one, will bring in your treasures each and every night – especially in your area. The cooler temperatures tend to settle in the valley areas so you’d be taking quite a chance. Me? I’d wait and tell your plants to be patient a bit longer!

Q: I’ve used the “wall-o-water’ tool you’ve talked about and so far they are working well for my young tomato plants, even with the recent cold weather. My question: Do I take the “walls” off the plants once I’m sure the weather is going to cooperate? – I.B., South Valley

A: You have two options here. Yes, remove the walls, then hang them upside down on a clothes line so they dry out completely. You might need to prop open the “tubes” so the contraption really dries out. Next option would be leaving the walls standing. If you do that, be sure to insert a tomato cage on the inside to make sure there will be a certain amount of air circulation around your plants. Leaving the walls-o-water on, so to speak, in the sun and the elements for the balance of the growing season will wear them out rapidly. Whereas, allowed to dry out and be stowed, you’d have them available for growing seasons to come! Happy Digging In!

Need tips on growing your garden? Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio West, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.
— This article appeared on page 13 of the Albuquerque Journal