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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Listening to your Garden Grow

So many of you persistent Peeps have been asking the MOAM about the status of the Aquaponics project.

Normally I ignore such annoying inquiries.... I mean... get your own freaking project.  Don't be bugging me about mine all of the time.

But I realize the leadership position that being a Mountain of a Man is.... and that many times, it is my obligation to stoop to the cravings and dispositions of those less fortunate.

So WTF.... here is the aquaponics status.

The project is the FREAKING BALLS!!!!!!  Even better than I had envisioned.

  • The fish are thriving in the fish tank.
  • Then plants are blasting out of the grow beds.
  • And the Bell Siphons are draining the beds like a finely tuned Swiss Watch.

It is completely satisfying to watch the system operate in harmony with the siphon drains periodically pouring into the fish tank in random fashion, and the swirl filter pipes pouring the fish fertilized water back into the grow beds, whose water levels rise and fall in a predictable format.

The sound of water spilling into the grow bed and fish tank, and the gurgle of the bell siphons at the end of their periodic vacuum cycle adds a nice dimension.... like listening to your garden grow!

Last Thursday, Joanne made tuna fish sandwiches for lunch.   She makes them special.... chopping up red onions and celery, when I'm usually too lazy to add anything but Hellman's Mayonnaise.  When she was done, two small bottoms of celery stalks that had been in the refrigerator were left.   I took these, nestled them into a grow bed, and this morning, new celery plants are quite visibly sprouting.

We are on the second crop of lettuce on plants that have been cut back a few weeks ago.... tomato plants have to be strung up because they are too big to stand on their own, and pepper plants are filled with green peppers.  Zuchinis are just around the corner.

The fish seem vibrant and full of energy.   They are still very wary of me, but I hope to gain their trust and friendship soon.

I spread coffee grounds around the perimeter of the beds, and this seems to have repelled the gopher that harvested my conventional garden plants around this time last year.

Some tweaks have been necessary.  In order to keep the bell siphons kicking in regularly, the volume of water pumped from the fish tank has to be aggressive.  I am on my second 1000 gph pump and have to change out pumps and check the inside mechanism when the flow slows down,  Then the rate of flow overpowers the swirl filter and I had to install an overflow valve that returns excessive water back to the fish tank.

And the rate of evaporation has been greater than I had expected.  Boston is in a dry spell and it hasn't rained much lately.  When the water in the grow beds is drained, the pea stone grow media drys out quickly.  Tap water has to be introduced into the swirl filter to keep the level in the fish tank up every couple of days.

Also the solar system powering the water pump is only reliable when the panels are exposed to direct sunlight.... about four hours a day.   If I want to use off grid power twenty four hours a day, I have calculated that I will have to add six additional panels to the two that are now in service.  Maybe this is a project to take on in the fall.... but until then, the solar system will only be supplemental.

I haven't yet trimmed out the tanks with pine so that the galvanized tank support pipes are still exposed and unsightly.  That will get done sometime this week.

Next weekend is the 4th of July.  We will stage a photo shoot then and you can judge for yourself.

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