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Old 10-07-11, 10:02 PM   #1
Cyclaholic
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The gardening thread

I thought my fellow greenthumbs, especially the ones stuck in apartments, might like to see this. If you like to garden but don't have access to arable land here's a fun and easy way to grow almost anything without land or even soil!

There's no mucking around with expensive chemicals as you do with hydroponics, much of which gets tipped out and replenished with more expensive chemicals. These plants are fed by fish! if you want to enjoy some organically grown healthy fish with your pesticide-free organically grown fruits & veggies you can grow table fish like perch or tilapia in your system.

This is my daughter's little window sill system. She filters her goldfish tank with strawberries....





It hasn't been running long but there's already some yummy strawberries coming up...


This is my small balcony system, it's still establishing the bacteria population that provides biological filtration so it's not quite ready for fish yet. It will eventually get some silver perch and yabbies (freshwater crayfish). In the meantime there's some seaweed organic liquid fertilizer in the water to feed the tomato plants, which are starting to take off.





Looks a bit rough at the moment since I made it out of recycled bits from here & there, but I'll be making a nice enclosure around it to tidy it up a little and to keep the sunlight out of the tank.
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Old 10-07-11, 10:05 PM   #2
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Very cool!

How did you learn to do this? Are their plans for it somewhere?
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Old 10-07-11, 10:13 PM   #3
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Very cool!

How did you learn to do this? Are their plans for it somewhere?
I discovered "aquaponics" on the Internet while researching some problem I was having in my veggie garden and totally fell in love with the concept. much of what I've learns has come from reading up on backyardaquaponics.com

...it might be the engineer in me that likes the idea of 'gadgetizing' my veggie garden.
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Old 10-08-11, 08:06 AM   #4
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That. is. awesome. Keep updating! This should be a blog!
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Old 10-08-11, 08:38 AM   #5
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That's awesome!
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Old 10-08-11, 08:43 AM   #6
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I vote this to be Thread of the Year!

I don't have fish but this could justify a modest tank...I recently moved back to apartment living.
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Old 10-08-11, 09:01 AM   #7
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I was hoping for a bit of passing interest, wasn't expecting this sort of enthusiasm!

...I'll keep updating if you guys are interested. There's lots more to come, including a couple of extensions of the balcony system - it's meant as a test bed for a bunch of stuff like towers and DWC channels. Then there's the bigger system I'm building in the back yard with 2 x 125 gallon fish tanks and 2 veggie beds each the size of that balcony system's fish tank.

I'm learning heaps right now, and I'm happy to share whatever I learn with anyone here that wants to have a go at doing something similar.
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Old 10-08-11, 06:25 PM   #8
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Where's the pot plants?
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Old 10-08-11, 06:36 PM   #9
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very nice! roo boy.
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Old 10-08-11, 07:22 PM   #10
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Wow that is WAAY cool! I've never heard of doing it this way, and it seems to be a win/win. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 10-08-11, 08:13 PM   #11
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Ok...

I went to the website and I'm hooked (yea, yea, yea... whatever.).
I have a couple of ponds that this might work with.

Thank you Cyclaholic.
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Old 10-08-11, 09:36 PM   #12
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If I could grow tomatoes inside without the threat of tomato worms, that would be worth any expense for the fish tanks.
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Old 10-08-11, 11:11 PM   #13
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If I could grow tomatoes inside without the threat of tomato worms, that would be worth any expense for the fish tanks.
If you have pests like the various worms & caterpillars that love tomatoes and/or fruit fly (we have it all here ) the only effective way to protect the toms in aquaponics is through physical exclusion, growing them inside is perfect so long as they still get enough sunlight. you can't spray anything remotely toxic because it will either kill your fish, or just worse kill the bacteria that does the biofiltration. This system forces you to grow truly organic produce.

To protect them outside the best stuff I've found so far is sandfly (or fruit fly) netting that you can buy off the roll. Here it's about $7 per linear yard, and the roll is about 2 1/2 yards wide. I make little tents for my dirt garden tomatoes with it as I don't use pesticides at all. They're washable and reusable.

BTW, I have been growing cherry tomatoes every year for a couple of decades now. I've never protected them from out local bugs as they're naturally quite resistant (most bugs cant penetrate the fruit's surface) but the bugs around here are pretty tough too. Every year I harvest the seeds from the most bug resistant plant for the following year's planting. Subsequently every year I get more resistant plants and lose less and less fruit to bugs. These days I might lose a few percent at most each year. A few years ago I started doing the same with a 'black russian' variety, but not for bug resistance but frost resistance. This past winter I had my first successful (but small) crop of tomatoes that grew in the frostiest part of my garden! it was barely half a pound of tomatoes but the biggest and hardiest ones will be seeding next winter's crop. I finally have something to be really excited about in the garden during winter!
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Old 10-08-11, 11:18 PM   #14
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Ok...

I went to the website and I'm hooked (yea, yea, yea... whatever.).
I have a couple of ponds that this might work with.

Thank you Cyclaholic.
Good for you, dude! keep reading, especially those blog-type threads about other people's systems and how they develop over time and I'm 99% sure you'll get hooked badly enough to have a go yourself.

you have to be a bit 'different' shall we say to get into this weird type of gardening.... have you noticed there's a pretty strong Aussie cohort on that site?
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Old 10-09-11, 05:56 AM   #15
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I'm curious how the aquaponics tomatoes' taste compares to hydroponics, which look beautiful but taste like wax.
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Old 10-09-11, 07:57 AM   #16
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I'm curious how the aquaponics tomatoes' taste compares to hydroponics, which look beautiful but taste like wax.
I'll let you know in a couple of months
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Old 10-09-11, 08:04 AM   #17
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Cool...this part of South Carolina has poor soil (way too much clay) so this would be an elegant solution. A good learning experience for me too...never had fish before.
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Old 10-09-11, 05:25 PM   #18
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I have heard of this, but never on a small enough scale for me to try. I checked out the website, and think this would be a terrific thing to try with my biology students! (I teach high school biology). Thanks for sharing! I have a feeling I'm going to be hooked...
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Old 11-07-11, 01:00 AM   #19
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It's been one month since I started this thread and I promised I'd update it.....

Stefanie's windowponics system:
We weren't happy with the tube setup, it proved to be an inefficient use of the space and the 1/8 inch tubes were prone to blockage. It wasted most of the tube volume and restricted the planting area to just 5 little pots. It was a very small scale version of much larger commercial hydroponics systems and I suppose it would have worked if we made it work, but I think we have come up with something much better at this small scale....

We cut the top off the tube and converted it into an open channel, then filled it with hydroton (fired clay balls).

The same pump delivers the fish tank water but through a 19mm tube, at the highest point, which then flows downhill through the media and back into the fish tank.

We made this change 9 days ago and this is the growth we've seen. The tallest plants are a bush bean, the rest are several types of lettuce, some spinach, silverbeet, chives, and basil.

The fish are very happy and the water quality is excellent. The tank never needs cleaning or water changes as the plants take up the nutrients. As the solids accumulate in the hydroton we'll introduce a few composting worms to break them down and make them available to the plants - that's the secret of aquaponics that gives such amazing plant growth.


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Old 11-07-11, 01:01 AM   #20
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Out on the balcony:
The tomatoes are starting to set fruit - lots of fruit...


There's several trusses on each branch and pinching out the side shoots has to be done almost daily because the plants are so vigorous. Keep in mind that they only get around 4 hours a day of direct sunlight here whereas the optimum would be 6 to 9 hours.




...and that's after thinning them out!
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Old 11-07-11, 01:01 AM   #21
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New system #1:

I'm happy enough with what I've done so far to take it further so I'm in the process of setting up two additional systems...

A simple flood/drain system...

Comprising of two IBC tanks, each of which is a 250-ish gallon (1,000 liter) HDPE cube in a galvanized tubular steel frame on a palletized base. For the grow beds I cut off the top quarter of each tank & frame, the remaining 3/4 are the fish tanks.

There is one pump in the system. The pump is in the fish tank on the left hand side (the sump tank). Water is pumped up into the grow beds which each have a bell siphon. The beds flood then drain cyclically, the bed on the left drains back into the sump tank, the bed on the right drains into the fish tank (the tank on the right) which then overflows into the sump (the tank on the left) completing the water circuit.



The beds are full of 1/2" gravel (granite) which is inert and doesn't impact on the water pH. The round white tube in the middle of each bed is the bell siphon. Once this system is established I'll probably extend it with a channel system or some towers.

I only finished setting it up as you see it here 4 days ago and threw in a whole bunch of different seeds to see what grows best, some of them have already started coming up...

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Old 11-07-11, 01:02 AM   #22
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New system #2:

As I'm in the Southern hemisphere the narrow side of my house faces North and so gets full sun all day long (except on a cloudy day, like when I took these pics ), like the southern side of your house in the USA would. I figured I might turn this otherwise wasted space into a productive veggie area with this aquaponics system...











The first stage is finished and plants are in the floating raft (the white styrofoam with yellow cups). the second stage is that row of blue (one is yellow) HDPE half barrels which will be full of gravel and make up a flood/drain system through that external bell siphon. There will be an additional 5 half-barrels and a row of 24 strawberry towers when it's finished.

I've added ammonia to all the outdoor systems and now I'm just monitoring the water while the nitrification bacteria establishes itself in the systems. Once that's established I'll be adding the aquatic life, probably some silver perch and freshwater crayfish. that will be a whole new fascinating chapter in this story!

Well, that's all I have for now. Let me know if you guys want me to update this thread as things develop through the season.
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Old 11-07-11, 01:14 AM   #23
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please continue to update. It looks great. It makes me want to make one. I will probably wait until spring so keep the updates rolling in.
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Old 11-07-11, 09:55 AM   #24
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Yes, please update. I don't think I could do a large system, but it might be fun to try a smaller system next spring.
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Old 11-07-11, 10:11 AM   #25
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Very cool CH!
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