Notes from Windward: #69


Aquaponics Update--June 2009

Jon talks about aquaponics

     The barrelponics system has been operating for about a month now. Since I first got it online, there have been several issues that I have had to deal with: First, half of the lettuce that was planted in the gravel grow beds was eaten by what was probably a squirrel. It is not as serious when plants are larger and survive the loss of a few leafs.

      However, the lettuce plants were only a couple weeks old and had only a few small leafs to start with. It is a sobering reminder that in just a few short minutes, a single little creature can wipe out plants that have been growing for weeks. I quickly added a wire covering over the gravel grow beds and have luckily not had any more problems with lettuce killers. In addition to gravel grow beds, at the very top of the barrelponics system is a little setup to have some plants floating in water. So far, none of the rodents that lurk in the vermidise greenhouse have discovered the floating plants...

     And hopefully they never will!

squirrel mesh over the barrels

     Second, I discovered the hard way that the water pipes and filters need to be cleaned on a weekly basis. One of the filters in the floating grow bed got clogged, which stopped the water from flowing to the reservoir below. In less than 24hrs, half of the water from the fish tank had overflowed to the ground as it was pumped into the floating bed. This was another reminder that there are many ways to quickly lose a lot of water, which could result in the fish tank drying up and causing the death of some or all of the goldfish.

     Third, I was reminded of the power of water. The water flow from the reservoir going into the gravel grow beds is so strong that it can "decapitate" small plants, which means the water blasts all of the leafs off of a small plant and kills it. Thus, I must be careful to put plants away from the line of fire from the the water flow.

cucumbers coming up in the round duckponics bed

     With the help of Lindsay, I have selected and planted about 50 young plants (2 to 3 weeks old) into the gravel grow beds and the floating beds. I planted a good mixture of several types of lettuce leafs, dill, parsley, peas, vine tomatoes, and strawberries.

     Lindsay also gave me two larger tomato plants that are each about a foot tall. With the exception of the strawberries and tomatoes, I planted all the plants extremely close together. The peas and tomatoes both grow like vines so I have left room to install small trellises so that they grow vertically. The barrelponics system is about as full as it can get with plants. Now we have to wait and see what happens!

     So far, the peas have been the most exciting plants to watch grow. Two of them have nearly doubled in height in less than a week of being planted in the grow beds.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69