Notes from Windward: #69


Barrelponics and Duckponics 101

Jon describes how he's got the systems currently rigged

     Both systems operate in a very similiar way. They each have a water pump in their respective tanks. Both pumps are connected to the same power outlet, which has a timer on it. The timer currently turns the water pumps on for 4 minutes every 4 hours. Four minutes of continuous pumping is enough time to ensure that all the grow beds get flooded with enough water to cover all the gravel. Note: it is ok for the water level to be several inches higher than the gravel and flood some parts of the plants. The water drains fast enough that it will not kill the plants, but it will soak into the gravel and keep the ground moist for the plant roots.

the four-hour mechanical timer

     Barreloponics has a float bed at the top of the resevoir where plants float in a small body of water. There are peas, a strawberry, tomato, and several greens in the float bed. From the float bed water empties below into a larger resevoir, from which the water goes down the valve through pvc pipes into two gravel grow beds of equal size. The gravel beds have the same kinds of plants as the float bed. The peas and the tomatoes are tall enough that they use the help of some support structures to hold them up.

the barrelponics grow bed

     Duckponics has two large gravel beds. one has mint, squash, peas, and a good variety of greens, most of which are partially protected by wire to try make it harder for animals to eat the plants. But as the plants get bigger the metal cover may be taken off. The other gravel bed has lots of cucumbers and one strawberry plant. I set up lines of string above each cucumber plant to help give them grow vertically.

the duckponics grow bed


     The Barrelponics tank has about 30 goldfish living in it. They are currently not fed but they are thriving quite well on their own.

     The Duckponics tank houses both ducks and about 30 goldfish. Again, the goldfish take care of themselves and are not fed.

goldfish and wapato in the barrelponics tank


Power Loss:       Follow the extention cord that the timer and water pumps are plugged into up the hill to the lot behind vermidise and ensure that eveything is connected and then check to see if the power needs to be reset. All circuits in Vermadise are protected by
Ground Fault Interrupter Circuits and one of them may have tripped.

Water Loss:      The Duckponics water tank needs to be refilled with water at least every other day and sometimes everyday. Since the duckponics system is recirculating, it returns its water back to the water tank after it has flowed through the gravel grow beds. There is some minor loss of water due to evaporation. However, the duckponics water tank is also used as the main source for watering the garden downhill, which on some days can lower the water level by a foot.

     The Barrelponics tank's primary source of water loss is from evaporation. It will require being topped off about once a week.

     The one other possible source of water loss may come from a clogged pipe causing the water to overflow.

System Maintnence:

Daily:      In the morning, it would be good to have the person who is doing vermidise to turn the timer on and just visually confirm that both water pumps are operating. Afterwards, there is no need to do anything more with the timer or pumps. It will continue with its four hour cycle.

     Also, just give both systems a quick visual scan to inspect the plants and make sure there are no signs of severe water loss.

Special note:      The most common issue is that the float bed at the top of the barrelponics sometimes get caught on the drain pipe. If the float bed is not level simply adjust so that it is floating on the water again.

barrelponic's upper float bed

Every Other Day:       "Enriched" water from the Duckponics tank is siphoned off and used in the main garden so it may need to be topped off every other day.

the duckponics 1,200 gallon tank

Weekly:      The Barrelponics tank needs to be refilled with water once a week to give it fresh water and compensate for evaporation loss.

     Once a week someone needs check all the pvc pipes and clean out anything that may be clogged inside. This takes a couple minutes and often there is not anything clogged.

Special Note:      The most common place that gets clogged is the pipe in the barrelponics that drains the water from the top float bed down to the larger resevoir below.

Final Special Note:

     The barrelponics and the duckponics systems are both equiped with hanging water bottles that fill with water when the pumps go on. The weight of the bottle filled with water pulls open the valve in the resevoir and allows the water to flood the gravel beds. The reason for this valve system was to build up enough water pressure so that water would evenly come out of holes in pvc pipes above the gravel beds.

the water bottle valve system

     However, I have disabled the water bottles and permanantly opened the flood valves. I did this in an effort to make the two systems as low maintnance as possible for people to manage. Also, I have removed the pvc pipes that go above the gravel beds. I have found that just having one spot where all the water empties into the gravel bed is an effective way to flood the entire gravel bed since the water level still spreads out evenly and reaches all the roots. Thus. when the water pump goes on, the water flows immediately as it is pumped into the resevoir through the opened valve and follows the pvc pipes that empty the water into the gravel grow beds. From the gravel grow beds the water slowely drains back into the main water tank below.

Note:      The valve systems and the pvc pipes that go above the gravel beds are left next to their respective systems and may be used again if someone in the future wants to go back to that system.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69