Blog Archives

Fanatic Progress! – Tank, Pump, Plumbing, Grow Media.. we’re Cycling Baby!

Yes, it has been a while my friends.. my sincere apologies on the lack of updates as of late. Finances had been put on an extreme budget as of late, so progress was put to a stand-still. Thankfully I’ve been able to get some freelance work as of late, so I was able to obtain the materials I needed (pump, grow media, liner, pvc and assorted fixtures) as soon as I was able to get a few jobs completed.

Today’s post? WE ARE CYCLING!!!

Truth be told, this was one of those final pieces of the puzzle that seemed to be forever in coming. But thankfully with a little help and some great support from family and friends, we have arrived at this glorious moment in the AP Greenhouse build!

So, lets get the meat and potatoes of what’s occurred since our last post..

  1. Got the tank and grow beds lined
  2. Purchased the pump, filled the tank
  3. Installed first grow bed
  4. Created my first hand made siphon and plumbed the intake and outflow for the 1st grow bed
  5. Dropped rock media into 1st bed (lava rock or red cinder)
  6. Started pump for first time (big deal.. really says something about your AP getting going)
  7. Dropped in some ammonia to get the bacterial cultures started

For your benefit I’d though I’d list some things I learned from the school of ‘hard knox’. Prepare for a lot of ‘detail bits’ that usually won’t go through your mind in the pre-planning stages. For me this included getting the 4″ outflow pipe set at enough of an angle to go down toward the tank. In order to do this I had to raise the grow bed another cinder block higher than I was originally planning on (or about 6-9 inches). Other small ticket items like PVC joints, size reducers for the pump, creating an outflow valve to relieve excess pressure on the lines till I get additional grow beds installed (pumps rated for 2,300 gpm), etc. etc. Lastly was ants. Those little buggers are a real pain here in the valley. So had to treat some areas to keep them at bay. All of this sorta seemed to pop out of the woodwork at the last minute.

Thankfully though, with the help of a friend, all of these items were able to be taken care of within the span of one day (the wait came from saving up the money and getting the supplies shipped over the past few weeks).

The last item I purchased was a 55 gallon food grade barrel for my top off water (this originally contained Soy Sauce, so had to go through a few rinses before it started to smell.. acceptable). Plan on using a hose and siphoning out what’s in the barrel when needed until time permits me to install a outflow fitting near the base of the barrel to make it easier to pour into the tank.

Did some readings yesterday after my first week of cycling. When I started I had ammonia at 4 ppm. As of yesterday that had dropped to 1ppm and my Nitrites were hitting between .5-1 ppm. Threw in some additional ammonia this morning to feed the hungry buggers. We’ll see how soon it’ll be before the Nitrates start to kick in.

My last project was to build the cover for the tank to help protect it from debree floating in on the wind and to keep anybody from falling in 😉 Added some excess lining on the opening cover near the water outflow pipe to negate any paint from leaching into the water and help protect the wood. That was a good investment of my time let me tell you! I still need to add a handle for ease of opening, but for the most part it came together quite nicely!

Lots more work to do, but for the most part we are now at a stage where fish and plants should be forth coming in the next three weeks or so! YIPPEE!!!

Well that’s it for this part of the story. Plan on adding in another grow bed within the next couple of weeks time and start working on getting my Ph between 6.8 and 7 as well.

More updates to come as funds permit!

Urban Farm Fanatic Item #2 – Aquaponics Greenhouse… The Build Continues!

Well, the opportunity to finally get down to the fun part of building the greenhouse, i.e… actually building the greenhouse has come! No bushes to dig out, no irrigation to dig around for, no screening out river rocks. Just fun old, “Break out the power tools and grunt like Tim the Toolman Taylor building!!!” Arrrrghhh arrrgh aaahhhh!!! 🙂

Originally my thought was to just start adding in a few images as the build progressed, but by the end of the day I had realized that I had been quite the camera bug.. and so putting together just a few still frames wasn’t going to do this build the justice it deserved. After all, you plan a project for months, you need to give it the full blogging treatment. So, I decided to dust off what little knowledge I have about video editing and put together a nice little clip of the days progress… and yes, this all occurred in just one day! (The magic of the hoop house build.) All together about 8 hours of work.

After completing the first days work, I’d have to say the hardest part of the initial build was the 2x4x6 foundation. I was wanting that to be as level as I could get it, but realized that the ground was in no way level for my needs. I pre-drilled holes for each of the pieces on my back porch which I knew to be level, then moved them into the yard for assembly (the greenhouse’s dimensions are 12×40). I used scrap blocks to add support to the low lying areas. Followed that up with the sledgehammering of the 3 foot re-bar pieces (drove those half way into the ground.. my right hand is dead by the way from swinging an 8 pound sledgehammer).

As for the easiest part, that would be the assembling and installation of the PVC supports. Got a nice little 45 degree joint to mount the two 10 foot sections together, slid one end over the re-bar on one side, then bent and slid it over on the opposing side. That part took all of 20 minutes to complete the entire hoop!

Next weekend I will be receiving a large order of rock that will be applied to the foundation. The plan was to do that anyway and I thought it better to work with the rock in order to achieve a level base rather than trying to dig up the surrounding dirt and raking that around. But as I said.. next weekend.. right now the old bod is ridiculously sore, so I’m going to be giving it a breather before I put it back to work!

Enjoy the video!!! 🙂

Farming/Gardens – Aquaponics – Making the Most Out of a Small Space

Efficiency should be your number 1 goal when putting together a system of growing, whether that is for growing fruits/veggies or livestock. The more complications you add into that system, the more there will be chances for it to go wrong.

Most Urban Farming methods rely on systems that can take advantage of small spaces simply because that is the hand people are dealt. Usually somewhere indoors, maybe a patio  or if lucky a small yard. So when I went researching for a means to create such a system for my own urban dwelling, the choices got narrowed down real quick. I had looked at wicking beds, hydroponics, traditional dirt farming, raised planter boxes, pot gardens, etc. Ultimately though one technique came through with the most bang for the real estate buck.. Aquaponics. Essentially the creation of a small ecosystem utilizing plants, fish and bacteria colonies that works in a closed loop.

The beauty of this system comes from its many benefits. .

It’s scale-able:  You can put a system together with 1 goldfish in a 1 gallon bowl, 1 pump and a small planter bed to grow your greens.. all the way to a commercial based setup that can feed thousands.

Water usage: A system that can provide soluble nutrients to your plants while utilizing less than 1/10th of the water needed for traditional soil based farming of the same grow area.

Elimination of ‘Killers’: No pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or weed killers are needed.

No Weeding: As mentioned in #3, weed killer is not required because few, if any, weeds will show up in an AP system. The ones that do slip through, you simply grab, pull gently, and the entire plant, along with its roots are removed never to regenerate again.

Stop growing horizontal: Vertical tower growing is becoming more popular by the day.. by taking advantage of vertical empty space, you can take a just a few square feet and expand your grow space by a factor of six or more (depending on ceiling height).

Eliminate bending: Don’t know about you, but constantly having to haunch over to tend to a garden was fine when I was a kid.. as I got older though, the bod just didn’t have the same flexibility or spring in my step. AP offers you the ability to set the height of your grow beds, thereby eliminating much of the need to bend over.

Growing time is reduced: You can essentially grow the same foods you do now in traditional dirt farming in 1/3 to 1/2 the time. A constant supply of nutrients, water and oxygen is supplied to the roots of your plants in an AP setup. This helps the plant improve both in size, nutrient density and how quickly it can be harvested.

You can add fish into your diet: Talapia, Perch, Catfish, Crayfish, Barumundi.. the list can go on and on, but you can essentially provide a stock of your own fish for consumption.

There are many more benefits to this type of system. All together you’re maybe looking at 2 to 3 moving parts.. the main pump, the air-stones pump and maybe a backup pump. The rest of the system relies on gravity and what are known as auto-siphons that help the water fill and drain from a grow bed (these have no moving parts but rely on air to create an open/closed drain). There are many different styles and types of Aquaponics that can be referenced for your own setup, should you decide that’s a direction you want to go.

But again, the decision of what type of growing style you go with is a personal choice. I’m simply describing something that has many benefits for the small space dweller.

Its not a perfect system, there are a few drawbacks like not being able to grow many root based vegetables. But the community supporting it is vast and growing everyday. New ideas and development may one day solve some of those drawbacks.