Friday, October 17, 2014

Mary, How does your garden grow?

Well my name's not Mary but I'll show you comparisons of lettuce seedlings started in a raised bed vs. in my aquaponics system,

Planted in April 2014 

and the same in the raised bed
Here's what I had in May..

Here you can see the green Romaine is quite a bit more mature than the dirt version:

The dirt version:

The same with the reds:

And in dirt:
Another planting (2nd) later in September:
P.s. Notice anything different in the coloring of the lettuce?  Its
the result of a mineral deficiency which is mainly iron depletion. 
I'll share more under the post: "Tricks, Tips, and Headaches".  

And the dirt version (I assure you these were planted at the same time).
Oct 2014:  
I've started a winter batch (3rd for the year), here its about a week old:

So I'll talk about tomatoes in another post. They were ridiculous growing in AP...look for Part II

website: No Dirt Required


Thursday, October 9, 2014

July 2014 - Largest Private Aquaponics - Part II - The Inside

And now for the insides of this mega AP system:

You got to have an "I love me" pose. Here in the north bay are 20 4x8 media beds (without the plant media), plumbing still in progress.

The media beds filled with pumas, water is running and the system is being "cycled". 

The south bay has four raft beds (each 80' long) under construction. Notice the big evaporator system on the back wall. Probably should have started with that wall first to have had cool air sooner, but...

I'm looking for a leak, yes you can just image how long that took to find the bugger, and it wasn't anywhere near where I was looking.

Looks a lot better partially filled with plants.  Now on to the seedling room...

 These seedlings will be planted in the media beds and populate the rafts.  

And finally, the fish house. Look for more in Part III - The Fish Are Swimming.

Glimmering in the sun, just waiting for lots of growing year round.

website: No Dirt Required


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

May 2014 - Largest Private Aquaponics System in Texas

At least that's what the owner tells us. Before I get started, here are the specs:

I was asked to "help finish" this aquaonics project east of Marshall some time in May.  What I didn't know was that there was only the medal frame and slab in place.  So, it was a loooong hot summer for me and a few of my fellow compadres as we worked to add 4'X16' polycarbonate panels up to 30 feet high, vents, fans, rigging, 50 foot evaporator cooling system... I've tried to figure out some unit of measure to compare it to other GH builds. I wonder if it would surprise anyone if I said I probably used 100-150lbs of 1" & 1 1/2" self tapping Tek screws in the construction of this very complex 60' X 100' greenhouse?

For those with math skills, 60'X100' = 6000sf', but I mention 11,000sf' in the specs. Ah yes, well that's the other part of this system, the Fish House (Country Store).  In total, there is an estimated 18,000 gallons of water pumping through the green house, through the 3000 gallon holding sumps, and back up into the fish house. 

And for those who've read some of my other posts, I like to start at the beginning and show my progress as the project completed.

The top panels are in place, the top vent in installed, and just beginning to install the side panels. 

This is my "panel cut out garb". I had to cut out big sections of panels for side vents, doors, and evaporator wall.  This was very unpleasant. 

Three walls are now complete (the vents have yet to be cut out in this picture). Notice how wet and muddy many (most) of the pictures reveal.  I was surprised with how often it rained out east.

Here is the other part of the system. The Fish House once framed out will add more than 4000sf' to the system.
 Happy Gardening...

website: No Dirt Required 


Monday, October 6, 2014

July 2014 - Brent, a fantastic neighbor and customer

So I've decided to venture out from "starter" IBC setups to provide custom Aquaponic designs.  Brent had this spare irregular space on the back side of his patio and he asked me, "Hey, do you think this space is good for anything". To which I replied, "Have you every considered putting an Aquaponics system in that space". Well, an idea was born for a 400+ gallon three 8x3 media bed Aquaponics (CHOP) system.

Here's the before picture.

Here's are some construction shots:
I used a 275 IBC for the fish tank and painted it to protect the plastic.
The construction started with digging a hole for the IBC (fish tank)
in order to be buried at least two feet deep for insulation effect. 
Notice the 4x4 with a spare piece of 2x10, this represented
the over all height of the media beds...
Then I began to plumb the sump tanks which I configured
one under each bed, all cross connected, each progressively
deeper that the other one so that the main sump (which
houses the pump) was the lowest point of the sumps to ensure
water supply. 

The sumps before connecting the 2" PVC.
I build beds with 2x12x8 treated lumber, 3/4" treated 
plywood for the bottom.

The beds are built over the sumps after the plumbing is complete.
Strong recommendation on completely testing the plumbing
before you put media beds in place.  Trying to work under the
beds in tight spaces will surely make you appreciate testing ahead
of time.

Here is the plumbing roughed out (not glued). Notice I don't
have it connected to the fish tank yet. I used 1/2" crushed
granite ("Texas Pink") which when wet looks very pleasing.

And so after lots of plumbing adjustments, here is the final project.
Notice the panels on the front which are left over fence pickets
cut and stained to match the fence behind the AP system.

You will find that there is no such thing as a finished A/P system.  There are many additional things that can be configured with a home system. In Brent's case, next we're working on a removable PVC/plastic greenhouse for the winter months so he can keep growing. We'll add tank heaters, electric blow heaters under the beds and under the green house.  Stay tuned for the winter setup pictures.  Next year I'm adding a solar backup system to ensure his system stays functioning during any power outages.

And to top it all off, Brent has allowed me to give a tour of his system any weekend. We're located in Lewisville just north of Main St and 35E.  Email for a tour. Happy growing!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

April 2014 - Plants, Fish, Water, and All Things New in the World of Aquaponics

Here is a brief journey through my first seasons of growing in Aquaponics. I am very grateful to Adam Cohen (Green Phoenix Farm) whom provided me with my first starters of several different varieties of lettuce and yellow pear tomatoes.

April 7th planting - 

And more April planting.

You may notice what appears to be a coke bottle as the
would be correct.  I'll explain in more detail under "Tricks, Tips,
and Headaches".

Here's another view of the red and green varieties of lettuce, and
8 tomato plants in the back row. I would later regret having so many
in just one bed.  They later grew to about 10' tall...

Early May - Very pretty colors...plants look very healthy.

Late May - Lettuce is ready for harvest! For those keeping track
that was about 35 days from planting 2" starters till harvest!  
Is that crazy or what?
Look how delicious this lettuce looks.

   My First Salad picked at the end of May 2014!

   Happy Growing!

- T.C.

Dec 2013 - The Start of Something (fill in adjective)...

Having lived on a farm in southern Indiana, I enjoyed the benefits of harvesting healthy food grown from our garden. As such I want to teach others about the value, convenience, and benefits of growing local healthy food in their own back yard with a small system called Aquaponics.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sep 2014 - Lesson 10,001 Dead Fish

15, that is the number of dead goldfish I found in the back on my system.  I lose one or two a day sometimes in this Texas heat but 15! What the "#$%^" is going on.  So lesson learned (another almost daily lesson), when you cover your tank with plastic to keep the evaporation down and the newly added fish from jumping out (see "Kama Kazi Fish" article), make sure you don't have any holes in the plastic. It rained which weighed down plastic causing it to dip into the tank, thereby making holes a new adventure for inquisitive little fishes to go looking for food and to get stuck in.

Tonight I kept finding one, then two, and then three would float to the front...but I kept smelling this very strong fishy smell...and sure enough after closer examination, I see a small pile of dead fish stuck up on top of the plastic, an inch away from their freedom (cue dramatic music).

So, my CHOP system apparently isn't as constant in height as I thought. Anyway, that problem is now  solved by removing the plastic entirely.  As for jumping fish, well, I'll just throw them back in when I see em flopping about on the ground. And as for evaporation, it's turning a bit chilly (for Texas standards) so that may be a non issue for this season.  I'll probably put blue board over the tank if it gets hot again in if only I can get this fish smell off my hands...