High-tech eyes on garden have endless possibilities


After last winter’s pond misadventures, we decided we have to be smarter about our winter garden maintenance.

We picked a wonderful time to make improvements, too, since it’s been even colder and snowier this year than last.

The first improvement was the purchase of a couple of box filters with pumps.

We put them in the ponds in December to serve as back-up aerators in case the main waterfall pumps failed. Last winter our pumps worked perfectly, but a New Year’s Day sub-zero temperature plunge created an ice build-up and the water level in the pond dropped.

There wasn’t enough water in the sumps for the pumps to function, so the recirculating lines froze and the fish and frogs in the ponds suffocated.

The box pumps won’t stop any lines from freezing, but they provide back-up oxygenation for the creatures living in the water.

We also invested in a pair of remote, internet-connected cameras to monitor the pond water levels.

The little cameras have nice, clear color video during the day. At night, they use infrared imaging. We can instantly check the pond water levels 24 hours a day now, even when traveling.

As an increasingly lazy, aging gardener, I endorse any gizmo that lets me do outside work from inside when the wind howls and the temperatures drop below zero.

The cameras are positioned to monitor water levels, but that’s not the only thing in the picture.

They indicate when they’ve sensed movement so we can fast forward through boring footage and check out anything that triggers the motion sensor.

We’ve been entertained by voles popping out of the snow to take a look around and rabbits strolling over the frozen pond.

And, of course, we get a great view of the local deer stopping in for a drink.

We’ve seen the paw (and hoof) prints of all of these visitors in the past but few of the actual animals. I’m particularly anxious to see the owners of the fox tracks.

Until Sunday, we were tempted to set up another camera to record the birds on the feeders outside the kitchen.

But we realized it was a bad idea when an avalanche of snow whooshed down the roof and buried the lot of them.

We immediately retrieved what we could find, but one tube feeder is still missing. We assume it’s buried under the now icy pile of snow.

Each of the video cameras cost about $40.

That’s not peanuts, but those dollars seem well spent on cold nights when we don’t have to venture outside to check water levels.

That kind of assistance makes it much easier to keep the high-maintenance ponds in our garden.

The potential for garden cameras seems endless.

Once the snow is gone, I intend to use our new cameras to spy on our garden.

I’d like to discover what bird is nesting in which bird house, if the hummingbirds really visit some of the tropical plants we save from year to year and which critter gnaws down my aster foliage.

One of our dogs is acting like a real Wisconsin badger and digging the hostas right out of the ground.

Now we can find out which one.

The possibilities are endless now that I have a couple of extra sets of eyes in our garden.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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