Archive for May, 2013

Raft System before planting

Raft System before planting

I do love aquaponics gardening.  I make way too many mistakes, but I continue to persevere.  Our raft system is running fairly well.  We have some fantastic basil.  I believe raft aquaponics and basil are the perfect match.  The plants grow tall and the leaves are twice the size of traditionally grown plants.  We have both sweet and purple basil.  Both are performing splendidly.  We have some butter crunch lettuce that is to die for.  The sage is looking good.  I just put some okra and a couple small tomatoes as an experiment.  We’ll see what happens.  I’ll try and get some snapshots of the root systems on these plants.  They are huge. I’ll get some photos this weekend to add.

On the downside, we’ve had some algae bloom that wreaked havoc on our catfish.  I’ve lost most of them.  Fortunately, there is enough ammonia in the system to keep feeding the beneficial bacteria and ultimately the plants.  In the meantime, I’ve treated the algae, added a bacterial supplement and covered the fish tank with shade cloth.  I didn’t have any of these issues when it was an indoor system, but there’s a whole new set of challenges having the unit in the greenhouse.  The plant growth, though, is way superior to indoors under lights.

Once I’ve fixed the ammonia and algae issues, I’ll add some goldfish and run my units off of those for a while.  Much better to learn on 15 cent goldfish than expensive or exotic species.

I have a flood and drain system ready to begin cycling as soon as the timer arrives.  I had some challenges with the auto siphons in the original design and decided to switch it to a timed fill and drain instead.  The flood and drain work great.  The timer should arrive just before Memorial Day, so I’ll cycle it for a few days then add some goldfish.  This unit will mostly grow zucchini and squash. I am told that by growing squash in an aquaponics system I can avoid squash bugs because they need soil to live on.  I can’t wait to get it started.

I have one more single barrel experiment to try before June.  I want to hook up a 55 gallon barrel, with the top third turned into a grow bed.  I will place it in the middle of my earthbox

First 2013 Tomatoes in Earthbox

First 2013 Tomatoes in Earthbox

garden and will run a hose off of the fill line so I can divert water to top up my self watering containers.  Yes, it will mean more frequent water changes in the aquaponics unit, but I believe the fish will benefit from that.  If it works, I will add a larger tank later in the summer.  This single barrel will grow oregano, thyme and dill.

In June, I will order my breeding colony of Tilapia.  They will be kept in an aquarium in the greenhouse.  I have three other aquariums to use for nursery and grow out.  By next spring, I fully expect to be using small swimming pools to grow out large numbers of Tilapia.

We will begin with Blue Tilapia as they are about the hardiest variety.  If all goes well, we will have to build another greenhouse next spring for the Giant Redclaw Crawfish.  I’ve been waiting two years already to get that project going.  I’m close enough to see it  now.  I have three obstacles between where I am and where I want to be; time, money and patience.  I’m a bit short on all three. Then again, who isn’t.


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