Long time, no post. Not exactly a good way to keep people entertained with my blog, granted, but, like many I’ve been dealing with hiccups in my system as of late.
It started with a fish die off fiasco (essentially lost my initial batch of Talapia, lost my second batch of Talapia, switched temporarily to Goldfish to keep the veggies going, but bought a sick batch from a local Petsmart ((hint: if you see a lot of floaters in the tank when you go to buy, find someplace else, they’re already diseased)) so got a second batch from another store location and that seemed to do the trick) then I had to deal with Ph problems in the water.
Following my growbed expansion, all my measurements sorta went out the window with regards to maintaining proper Ph. For the longest time I was putting in waaaay to little Muriatic Acid to bring my tap water down to a more reasonable 6.8-7 ph (I was getting 8+ and was shocked that the Goldfish seemed to handle this without issue)… I only just achieved this great feat in the last week. I’ve been battling that little hiccup since August of 2014. I knew from others experiences, that I’d rather err too ‘high’ on Ph, than too low (as I find it is more easy going down than up in this arena). You also don’t want to adjust the Ph too fast, or you risk stressing out your fish and killing them off.
I finally got my fish still kicking after about several months as well as finally getting my Ph down to where its supposed to be.
But when you have too high a Ph in your system, you risk stunted plant growth, which is the Pandoras box of which I was trapped. So instead of last seasons HUGE growth, only 2 things in my system made it through without too much issue, that being my Basil and my Carrots!
CARROTS!?? you say? Aren’t root based vegetables and rock media at odds with each other when trying to grow those types of plants? For the most part, yes. You will get the beautiful artwork of carrots that you see on this page, as opposed to the ‘traditional’ versions you see in your grocers store! But, they are edible and they take a while longer to get to size (at least that was the case with my system). For my carrots, I had the high Ph problem that stunts growth, plus the plants battle with growing in lava rock. The end result…
about 7 months to get to harvest and some of the most squat and odd looking carrots I’ve ever been party too 😉
But the experiment was a success and I found that carrots in my system are a fairly hearty plant even with a high Ph issue.
I used Zanahoria Short n Sweet carrot seeds from Burpee. I figured at the time the shorter squatter carrots were a much better fit for my system, versus the typical longer carrots we normally plant in dirt. These typically have a 68 day harvest cycle, but as I said, it took me nearly 3x that time to pull what you see in the pics right now. I also did this because I needed the root filtration that the carrots were providing my system to keep the water clean for the fish. My other plants were doing terrible due to the high Ph problem, so now you know the full story. Just some food for thought 🙂
I know for most people out there, if your system isn’t indoors or have a greenhouse, you are working on other projects to pass the time (its currently in the 70’s here in Phoenix). So while most people rag on us about our ungodly summer heat, you gotta admit, that while most of the US is freezing its nickers, this is the best time of the year for us 😉
Well, that’s a wrap for now. More updates to come now that the fish and Ph are seemingly under better control.
Till next time!
Today was more of a sit back and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor kind of day. One thing I had originally started in on was pruning back a bit of the greenery, but other chores made that a secondary concern. Thankfully the Mrs. took to the task and cleared out a bit of overgrowth.
(A word of advice, while you can pack your plants more closely in an AP, I don’t recommend it as the larger plants have a tendency to ‘hog the spotlight’ i.e. the sun. For those plants that like a lot of direct sunlight, getting shaded out by other plants can hinder their growth, if not outright kill them). So sadly, most of my snow peas went kaput as a result of this garden ‘bullying’. The Kale and Cabbage decided to take command of the grow bed and the peas suffered as a result. Thankfully we harvested quite a few pods before pulling them.
Otherwise the rest of the garden is doing swimmingly!
One thing that really blew us a away was when we harvested the beets… I’ll let the pictures do all the talking in that regard 😉
While the size is quite impressive, I have found that allowing them to get too big can result in fibrousy beets (in this case its a toss up as to whether you can use them for various food recipes, but often times its just better to juice them.)
The cabbages are monsters, but not quite ready to harvest.. the main ‘balls’ are nowhere near ready, so I’ll give them another month and check in again on their progress. The other monsters in the room are the Kale.. these guys have been harvested almost on a daily basis and provide a great source of vitamins as they pack a micronutrient punch! Love them Kale chips 🙂
Fennel.. the tops are exploding, but the base, which is what is harvested still needs time to mature, so much like the cabbage, more time is needed.
I’m also very happy to see the Swiss Chard is doing swimmingly. We grab a few of those every few days when the mood hits.
In the new beds I laid seeds down about 10 days ago. Already seeing a number of those starting to break through. In these shots you can see my cucumber and mixed sweet bell peppers coming up with some vigor!
In addition I also planted short carrots, cucumber, lettuce, spinach, cantaloupe and tomatoes. Let the next experiment begin!
The day has finally arrived, I have my FULL AP up and running!!! Whoo hoooooo!!!! 🙂
Originally, the plan was for 6 months from start to finish… well… almost made it 😉
1 year and 11 months later, my full AP grow space is now complete… WHEW!!! Not that I’m one to say anything is ever completely over.. its the journey, not the destination right?… Right!?!?!
I was able to determine that for the last 2 grow beds, I was gonna need roughly 1.2 tons of cinder/lava rock to fill those beds. Now originally I thought about having this delivered, but as with all things, there was a monkey wrench in that plan, they informed me that because this is the start of the busy season, I would not get my rock delivered till Monday! Whaaaa!?!?!
Well, as you can guess, that will just not do! A man with a plan (along with a 1 year delay) is not going to stand for another delay of 3 days! I will be at work, I cannot wait till the following weekend.. so I made an effort to take the old pick up truck and haul the last of my material myself.
Now let me just say, 1.2 tons in the bed of a 1/2 ton pickup that is 35 years old is an experience! I NEVER went over 35 miles per hour, because the drop in my rear was quite impressive, let me tell you! 😉
Still, the old girl did herself justice and got the rock media home without bottoming out, a flat, the bed disintegrating, the tail gate busting open and spilling its content, etc. etc. She came through with flying colors and I love that old beast even more as a result!
Once home, grabbed the wheel barrel and started shoveling it out of the bed, into the WB and hauling it to the beds. This took all of close to 4 hours from start to finish, but it was work well done, the beds are filled, the siphons are doing their jobs and now the fish tank is a nice rusty Kool Aid 😉
This is of course normal. Had this happen when I got the first two beds installed. Eventually the sediment will settle and the water will clear naturally.
In order to accommodate the additional flow needed for the beds, I had to completely shut off my excess ‘pressure valve’ completely. Normally I was using this to aerate the water in the tank, but now with 4 beds siphoning off at random, there is more than enough water returning to the tank via the 4 inch pipe at any given time to keep things properly oxygenated. Although, I am considering adding a DIY Venturi to the pressure valve. The reason is mainly because I like projects. With the main system completed its now time to give considerations to the finer details 😉
As mentioned before in Part 2, I am planning on replacing the hoop house with a Pergola. A materials plan is in the works and I plan on posting updates with regards to that as well as the Venturi and the addition of a swirl filter to the mix.
Lots of plans, lots of ideas, and plenty of motivation!
I was able to make some fantastic progress this weekend. Got the new grow beds lined, plumbed and did an initial fill of the beds to check for leaks and to make sure the siphon’s were doing their job. All in all, aside from a few extra trips to the hardware store for some missing parts, some sore muscles and finding that I was a bit short on the lava rock to fill the beds completely, this weekend went by without much incident.
Next weekend I’ll have the additional lava rock shipped and added to the beds (what lava rock I did have on hand was good enough to fill about 2/3rds of just 1 bed). I’m also planning on taking on the next stage of my AP build, which will be to replace the hoop house with a pergola. The first stage of this little endeavor will be to start first with a bit of re-organizing some of the 1″ rip rap that I used to create a flooring for the AP. I’m going to start by shortening the width of the existing rock base by about 3-4 feet. Originally I had though I would be building a total of 8 grow beds, as I’ve found, 4 is going to be more than adequate for me needs. So I’m going to move the base that would’ve been under the other 4 beds and use that to surround my fish tank.
The reason for this is simple, 1. it gives a more aesthetic look to the tank, 2. it helps complete the tie in with the grow beds and 3. I normally need to top off my tank about 2-4 barrels a month. Sometimes, I step away to grab some other material, I forget I’m filling the barrel and it spills over, creating a lovely mud pit that my dog loves to trample around it. So that’s gotta go!
The hoop was always going to be a temporary structure, and it has served its use and well, but it iss a bit of an eyesore. Ultimately, the backyard is in need of a total revamp. The Aquaponics ‘Greenhouse’ was always meant to serve as a strong focal point to the north of the yard.. so now that the AP build is nearing completion, it is time to work on the other elements that will tie in with it.. starting with the Pergola.
For those not familiar with Pergola’s, I’ve got a few I can show you that give you some idea of what I’m looking to do.
The new growbeds will effectively double my overall systems grow area to about 96SF from the original 48SF. For a family of 2, this will be more than adequate 😉
The new beds are to the east of my current ones and have finally been moved on to the support blocks and leveled. My next step will be to get the liner inserted, creation of two additional siphons and then finishing up on the plumbing. Due to the grading of the yard, the new beds will be roughly 6 inches higher than the first two. This works to my benefit as the output pipe needs to maintain a good angle to get the outflow back to the fish tank.
The fish seem to be doing well. Switched up to Goldfish after my first batch of Talapia died due to a parasite in the system (my best guess). Overall, the system has been performing splendidly! It has fully matured and can be readily seen with the strong growth going on in the first two beds.
I’ve been supplementing the system every two weeks with Seaweed extract to make sure extra nutrients are getting to the plants. I started doing this about 6 weeks back after seeing that my peas were looking a little on the ‘pasty’ side. So far, the Seaweed appears to be working quite well 🙂
New plans are in the works to start in on a worm farm and creating my own ‘Worm Tea’ to help replace the Seaweed extract. I did add in worms to my growbeds and they are munching away happily, so I’m going to see about grabbing a few more and trying to raise a bit of my own. This will also double in the creation of worm castings to be added in later via some wicking beds that I’d like to use for root based veggies like carrots, yams, potatoes, etc.