While I await the arrival of my plants and Amanos (they will go into a holding tank until the tank cycles), I thought I’d share a bit more about process. We spend a lot of time here shooting pics of equipment, substrate additives, gadgets and doo-dads, but we rarely ever get a glimpse of good procedures for preparing plants for insertion into the scape. I have developed a few techniques over the years that I find very effective in doing a large-scale planting such as what I’ll be doing later today.
With 2 square feet of HC to prepare, it will be essential to the quality of my personal health that I make it easy for myself. I do not want to walk around like Montgomery Burns for the rest of the week, and Quasimodo already has the market cornered on famous singing hunchbacks.
Here is an overview of how I prep my planting area. Some may just hack at it with a devil-may-care sense of whimsy - limbs akimbo and roots flying about like a swarm of Africanized bees - but I find that being able to locate my spring scissors whenever I need them leaves me much more time and head space to focus on creatively composing my layout. Your results may vary. Here’s what I do.
I need a long flat one where I can sit, and a high flat one where I can access things while planting. Today, I have a sheet of melamine about 5’x2’ stretched across two cubical ottomans. Works just fine unless the cat gets spooked and rockets across the room taking my entire batch of veggies with her. I’ll hope this doesn’t happen.
The taller one doesn’t need to be as big, but it needs to be able to hold at least a few things, some of which are pictured below.
From left to right: Large SS pinsettes, needle-nosed SS pinsettes, SS spring scissors, (all courtesy of Rumford Aquatics) Fiskars spring scissors, Cheap-o Chinese-made chrome-plated pot metal pinsettes, pro scissors, curved pro scissors, angled pinsettes, sand scraper, and shrimp net.
I use each of these tools while scaping or trimming, remarkably. My newest set is the SS tools from Rumford Aquatics. These are pretty awesome and the quality is far superior to the cheap-o Chinese ones (though these have lasted me 5 years with an initial investment of $30 for the set).
The large pinsettes will be for planting stems and heavier-rooted plants like crypts. The needle-nosed are specifically for smaller rooted plants like HC. I knew this would be a trial of endurance. I have planted large plots of HC before, and it is exceedingly fatiguing, so I wanted something that would keep it enjoyable. These are incredibly low-strain, and the fine points will create little disturbance of the AS Powder.
The spring scissors are for trimming, like all the others. The Fiskars can be very helpful in trimming large stands of stems and hairgrass. They are still extremely sharp and shiny, even though they have been used for many years.
The net is for catching shrimp. And stray HC during trims.
Plant Storage and Prep
Here is where I took notes from Amano’s videos online.
Step One: Hire a dozen Japanese college kids to frantically run about and prep your plants for you. Make sure they hand you the right plants exactly when you need them.
There you go.
However, I can take some tips from what they show in the Sumida Aquarium videos. My long table is for plant prep. So are these:
10 for 10 bucks (puppy not included). Plastic shoe bins with lids. The bins can hold plants in water for temporary storage until I get to them, and the lids can be used to stage the prepared plants. I’ll photograph this when I get there, so it makes more sense. I’ll trim the HC into 1cm plugs and lay them out on the lids so I can access them easily while planting them. I’ll do the same with my other plants, the hairgrass, stems, and riccia.
Fishing line fro the riccia, hoses, zip ties. Things I find I need at random.
So, Amano uses hoses with garden sprayers to keep plants moist during a long planting, but I won’t have the water pressure to make this possible (I age my water in a barrel upstairs. Gravity feeds it to my tank.) Oliver Knott uses a different approach for his seminars. He uses a pump sprayer. I thought this was genius. I’ve used regular sprayers in the past, but they are fatiguing after a lot of planting, and they are low-capacity. They are always falling apart and breaking/dripping all over the place. Also, my wife keeps abducting them to use as window cleaners. Not very healthy for plants or fish.
She won’t get this one.
Intended for herbicide and other unpleasant nastiness, it’s really well-built, pump-pressurized, high-capacity and very easy to use with an adjustable stream. Best of all it was only $6 at the Big Orange Box. There are more expensive ones, but this one is good quality and the right price/size for my needs.
So, there are the prep materials. I’ll post more about how I use them when the stinkin’ plants arrive. I need to call to find out what’s up…