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Bedford Ramblings
Steve Mills

Geoponic, Hydroponic, Aquaponic, Aeroponic. Almost sounds like a song I know.

Posted Monday, February 9, 2015, at 12:14 PM
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  • Commercial aquaponics often combines edible fish production along with veggies or herbs. My full-scale plan is to develop a commercial operation on a back hill that is Southern facing. I would grow the fish in large containers inside a greenhouse enclosure.

    Then pump it up to the top of the hill with a windmill pump (plenty of breezes up at the top) and let gravity feed it back through a system of pipes and growing beds to return to the fish tanks filtered naturally.

    But, I would like to experiment before making such a commitment and suddenly it dawned on me that I had half of the system already! Maybe that is why I do not sleep well.;-)

    We seem to hover around 30+ goldfish even though we continue to give them away each year. If we are going to continue to feed these fish and pay for a ump to operate 24/365, why not get more use out of them?

    I know, I could put one at the bottom of each corn plant, but that is not exactly what I had in mind. Why not set up a mini aquaponic system in and around the goldfish pond?

    Once again, I am fortunate not to live next to neighbors who might get a little bent out of shape about this, and a wife who rolls her eyes but prefers this obsession as opposed to others that could cause more issues that a strange looking garden in front of the kitchen.

    I have not worked out the design or mechanics of it yet. This blog is going to actually help me "talk it out" and may provide some entertainment, enlightenment, or creative ideas for all of us.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Feb 9, 2015, at 12:11 PM
  • By the way, we do not pay for an umpire 24/365. It was meant to be a "pump".

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Feb 9, 2015, at 12:14 PM
  • Here are some thumbnail reasons why aquaponics can make sense for almost anyone, extrapolated from an article in Mother Earth News.http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/aquaponic-gardening-growing-fish-vegetables-together.aspx

    * 90% less water than soil-based gardening

    * four to six times more productive than soil-based gardening (Yikes)

    * systems only require a small amount of energy to run a pump and aeration

    * Aquaponics does not rely on the availability of good soil, so it can be set up almost anywhere

    * Aquaponic gardening is virtually free from weeds, soil borne pathogens/diseases, and many insects

    * gardening is necessarily organic, because to do otherwise would harm the fish.

    * It is completely scalable. The same basic principles apply to a system based on a 10 gallon aquarium for ornamental or herbs to a commercial operation growing many varieties of plants.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Feb 9, 2015, at 4:09 PM
  • OK You woke me up........But I am working all week and have to research before I can be of any help..........Just wanted you to know I am with you on this project.....Although I may roll my eyes every now and then...........

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Tue, Feb 10, 2015, at 6:11 PM
  • Sorry about awakening you. :-)

    I have a "bio" filter I use now to clean the water for the goldfish population. I built it myself using a plastic container with lid. The pump hose goes to the bottom of the container then percolates up through lava rock, gravel then sand.

    I've emptied it once maybe 5-6 years ago and may do it this year but wondered about growing a few plants out of the top. Should be plenty of "nutrients".

    After the water comes out of this filter it falls to a small pool, then falls again to a short man made stream and after10 feet falls again into the main pond. I guess I already growing aqua phonics since I have had a batch of watercress growing in the stream for many years.

    The roots not only take up excess nitrogen but also catch a lot of solids as the water makes its way back to the pond. I empty the muck from the upper level pond and stream at least twice a year. This usually finds its way into the garden somewhere.

    I am undecided what I will grow in the bio filter. Maybe a tomatoe or two.

    I may also grow some plants in the stream, in addition to the watercress. Hmmm, what to grow and how?

    From there I plan to divert some of the water to other growing beds before returning that water to the main pond. I could grow lettuce and baby Bok Choy in a retrofitted gutter or 4" diameter plastic pipe. I have the gutter so that would be the

    Least expensive.

    On the sides of the pond I am considering a series of plastic containers, daisy-chained. Maybe one of these daisy chains will culminate in the tub where the water will drain through the growing medium before exiting out the drain to the pond.

    Please forgive any typos. It was all typed on my phone.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Feb 10, 2015, at 10:30 PM
  • Aquaponics or hydroponics may be good for your walnut challenge Palindrome.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Feb 10, 2015, at 10:37 PM
  • This is was interesting even though I'm not familiar with any of it.

    Sounds like you have some good ideas going.

    -- Posted by gorillabeard on Thu, Feb 12, 2015, at 10:48 AM
  • Thanks gorillabeard. Comes from an overactive and sometimes twisted mind.

    Upon researching growing mediums in which to grow the roots, I am trying to come up with something less expensive than what is currently being touted on the Internet for this method, like everyday gravel.

    Gravel crushed to a half inch size should do it but experiments will be in order. Some exact same plants, using the same water in the same spot.

    The gravel won't be lighter but I won't have to pay shipping from some remote vendor. I could buy it locally.

    Styrofoam chunks might do it but what chemicals would be released into the plant or water returning to the fish?

    Is anyone aware of a local sandstone quarry? That would have the porousity to encourage good bacteria growth and be lighter.

    Anyone have other ideas?

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Feb 12, 2015, at 11:08 AM
  • Now I am looking at raising my current bio-filter by about 12" to allow me to use gravity through all my growing beds. I checked the capacity of the pump I have and it looks like I have more than enough oomph.

    The filter is currently about 4 feet above the intake and I can supposedly go up 18 feet so, 1 foot is a non-issue. It also pumps 1800 gallons per hour max output so I do not expect a flow issue.

    I originally over-sized it to make sure I had a strong 'stream' flow to create good water sounds and aeration from the three waterfalls. We rarely sit out there because my wife gets bit at the hint of an insect so the sound is only heard by the birds, and pets.

    The birds by the way, appreciate the flowing water right now with the pond frozen over. It stays open enough for them to get a drink.

    All water exits will have a drop to create aeration so I do not anticipate a lessening of oxygen to the goldfish. The extra 'filtration through plants may take out the excess nitrogen and eliminate the algae flush we get every spring.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Feb 15, 2015, at 8:43 PM
  • As I started imagining the water flow through the growing beds I became concerned about enough reaching the plants at the end of the cycle and the amount of nutrients available to the 'end' plants.

    As the plants grow, their roots will start to slow the water flow down and probably back up the flow coming through and/or filter all the nutrients. I may not realize this before I start to see stunted plants at the end. Yes, I should notice a diminished flow at the end, but what do I do after the fact?

    To overcome this I either need large enough 'pipes' that the roots will not overpower the space or I need to find a way to supply water to every few plants without going through the previous plants.

    I think my solution will be to make a primary flow pipe that has no plants in them with side 'arteries' that feed into the growing bed ever to or three plants. This will insure "original" water gets to all the plants.

    I am not sure of the procedure to insert drawings inside this post but if someone will educate me, I will draw something that explains my plans in more detail.

    Shutoffs will need to be planned so I can service the system without shutting it all down and the growing beds will have to be accessible so I will not want to permanently glue many joints if I use pipe. Guttering would be more accessible but also allow for more evaporation and algae growth. (I think)

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Feb 15, 2015, at 9:02 PM
  • Those shutoffs can also regulate water flow. I could possible be pumping more water through the system than it can take.

    And from having operated this self-enclosed system for many years, I know that blockages for several unexpected reason can cause overflow and at my rate of pumping I can empty the goldfish pond in a few hours.

    We've had a few close calls. :-)

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Feb 15, 2015, at 9:08 PM
  • I've already changed some plans on how the beds would be laid out and what the growing beds will look like.

    I built the goldfish pond as an aesthetic, relaxing focal point when outside on our deck and from our kitchen. I almost forgot that original purpose and was going to run growing beds on both sides.

    That will effectively block the view from the kitchen so....XX it will only be the far side and/or the stone wall that has the beds.

    Likewise, if I want aesthetics, I can't have white pipe or Rubbermaid tubs everywhere. Instead, I am looking at enclosing those things in something that disguises them until close up.

    Maybe wood or hypertufa constructed as an exterior?

    The last thing that popped in my head was the base growing media. I think I will go with the small crushed rock for the bulk of it if it test out as neutral and not acidic, but the base growing media for the young starts may just be litter box clay.

    Not the clumping kind but the actual clay particles ofn original cat litter. Can you guess what I was doing as this thought came to mind? :-)

    I can't wait to start experiments.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Feb 20, 2015, at 7:58 PM
  • At a market gardener's meeting the other night I had a fellow "roll his eyes" at my interest in aquaponics. He does some hydroponics but for some reason seems to think aquaponics is a whole lot more expensive.

    Could be, but as I mentioned somewhere above, I already have the fish side of it going with an oversize pump, so the only expense will be the growing containers, growing medium and water delivery system, which is not much more than hydroponics, so.... I can't see how it is going to be too much of an investment.

    If it is, I will pull the plug because extra expense is not in my budget.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Feb 26, 2015, at 4:28 PM
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