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Posts Tagged ‘earthbox’

first indoor set up. I moved the container off the aquarium and floated herbs in water

first indoor set up. I moved the container off the aquarium and floated herbs in water

For some reason, when the growing bug bites, it doesn’t take note of the weather conditions. The itch it produces wants to be scratched and no amount of Benadryl will help. My advice is, go ahead a scratch it. Start your growing indoors. It’s easier than ever to have an indoor garden, and it doesn’t have to cost the moon.

For obvious reasons, my first choice is always to grow outdoors, but most of us don’t live in an environment that promotes all year gardening. We have that dark, cold season, lovingly called, Winter, with short, cold days, and long cold nights. Brrr….

A hoop or green house will lengthen the growing season, but won’t necessarily extend it indefinitely. So, if you absolutely must keep growing in winter, or, if you have no outside space to grow at any time, then consider moving your garden inside.

Once upon a time, the lighting alone for growing indoors would set off alarms at the power company as well as your local bank. Grow lights were outrageously priced to buy, and extremely expensive to run.

Fortunately, those days are gone. With LED and full spectrum CFL options available, cost is no longer an impediment to indoor gardening.  Space will generally be the limiting factor.

If you have a garage, basement, spare room, or even an unused closet, you’re in business. Even counter or wall space in a studio apartment can be utilized to grow some herbs, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and more.  All that’s needed is a little creative thinking.

I highly recommend starting small. I would use two or three self-watering containers, like Earthbox, and grow some herbs in one, some lettuce in one, and a small cherry tomato like, ‘Tumbler’ in the third.  I might even grow a Jalapeno with the tomato plant. I’ve done that before and It works well. 

Get a grow light for each box, or build a bank of them for the whole set up. You don’t have to break the bank.  You might even make a reflector from some aluminum foil. 

Set the lamps about 4 or 5 inches above the plants and raise them as the plants grow. Keep the light fairly close without burning the plants.  LED and CFL bulbs don’t give off a great deal of heat anyway.

EzGro Hydroponics Unit another indoor option

EzGro Hydroponics Unit another indoor option

Your plants are going to want at least 12 hours of daylight, so either remember to turn the lights on and off, or invest $10 or so in a timer. One of the cheap Christmas light ones will do nicely. You might even have one of those already.

A couple alternatives would be a small hydroponic set up or an aquaponics system.  My first indoor garden was a combination.  I had a tomato and pepper in a self-watering container filled with coconut coir rather than potting mix.  I also had a 20 gallon fish tank with some goldfish.  I floated some basil and lettuce on a piece of Styrofoam in the fish tank, and pumped water out of the fish tank with a small aquarium pump for the pepper and tomato.  It worked really well. 

If you try something like that, you’ll have to top up your fish tank regularly. Make sure you dechlorinate your water first. I kept a 5 gallon bucket of water beside the tank. I would refill it and let it stand at least 24 hours to dechlorinate naturally. There are some excellent fish safe dechlorinating products on the market.

As you become more skilled you can expand your garden. Many people have some good sized systems in their basements or garages. Others just grow a few kitchen herbs on the counter. It’s your garden. It’s your call.

If you have  questions or testimonies to share, please send them via the comments sections. Feel free to include photos of your indoor garden. We’d love to see it. Let us know what your grow, and what doesn’t work for you.

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Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

Just look at these cantaloupe plants.  They want to take over the world.  These little beauties are perfect illustrations of the power of aquaponics.  They are being grown in earthbox self-watering containers and are primarily being fed with water from my aquaponics systems.  How is that for awesome?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do supplement with a dash of chelated iron and some Epsom salts, but that’s about it.  I am loving the results.

I forgot to take photos of the current state of our raft system but it is the perfect way to grow greens, herbs and okra.  Also, I had some tomato seedlings that were struggling in their starter trays, so I moved them to the raft aquaponics for a couple weeks and, BOOM, the growth was off the charts.  I transplanted them into their earthboxes and they are outperforming the plants I put directly into the boxes.  It’s incredible.

With that awareness, We are putting up a series of small systems throughout the garden to provide nutrients for all our containers and wicking beds.  We bought two 100 gallon stock tanks to be used as fish tanks and are using half barrels as filters/grow beds.

system being planted

system being planted

The systems, as you can see from the pics are simple, almost rudimentary.  The half barrels are just sitting on top of the tank and are used primarily as a bio filter.   A simple 40 watt submersible pump sends the water up into the grow beds where it is filtered by clay pebbles and lava rock and falls directly back into the fish tank.
As a side benefit, they will also grow plants.

One of my additions to these new units was to add a garden hose faucet to the water line.  This is cheaper than running a bunch of drip lines, but saves a lot of time and effort vs. filling watering cans.

Because it’s late in the season, I’m using comet goldfish in everything except the raft system which has catfish.  Next year each unit will have catfish and Tilapia.  We will also add some 500 gallon (2000 liter) tanks as well, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  I have a lot of electric lines I need to run before I can even think about a major expansion.  For now I’m just enjoying the power of poo; fish poo, that is.

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Suddenly, everyone’s an expert on Aquaponic Gardening.  My Twitter account was loaded this morning with ‘expert’ tweets about how to properly grow fish and vegetables together.  Most of them were pointing to e-books, so were likely affiliates promoting a new info product.

I have nothing against info products. I dabble in them myself. It’s also quite normal to see a rising phenomenon like Aquaponic Gardening result in a proliferation of products aimed at the burgeoning market.  That’s free enterprise at it’ finest. The challenge for consumers is to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.  How will beginners know the good from the bad?

First, do some research on the author or creator of the material.  At least Google the author and see what information about him/her is out there. What experience does she/he have?  Can you see their operation?  Is the material consistent with other information on the market? What are others saying about the material?

If you are in doubt, email, FB or contact me on Twitter and ask.  I am making it a personal mission to become familiar with all the material out there on the subject of Aquaponic Gardening.  I firmly believe that Aquaponics is the future of backyard gardening.  I believe it will eclipse things like Square Foot Gardening, self watering container gardening  and hydroponic gardening in both popularity and production.

Aquaponic Gardening has many benefits including its adaptability to large and small spaces and even has real indoor possibilities.  Recent improvements in LED and CFL lighting have brought indoor gardening to a wider audience.

There are still some lingering drawbacks to Aquaponic Gardening, though, that require some attention.  The first is that the dependence on electricity keeps Aquaponics from being truly sustainable.  Solar technology has not developed to an everyman level, so for the near future at least, access to mains power will be required to run pumps, aerators, filters and in many cases, heaters.

The second drawback is affordability.  Right now, it’s fairly expensive to get started in Aquaponics.  Retail ‘out of the box’ systems are cost prohibitive for millions of people who might otherwise get involved.  Even homemade systems made from scrapped materials have built in costs for fittings, pumps, filters and the like.  While goldfish are inexpensive, edible fish like Tilapia can be quite pricey for the beginner. It is still much cheaper for most people to dig up a spot in the back yard, or build a raised bed, than it is to set up an Aquaponics system.  Until the start up cost gap is narrowed, we will find it difficult to move from pioneers and early adopters to the masses.  Making Aquaponics affordable to the general population is one of my goals.

Sometime this summer I’m going to add a resource page to the blog that will be a repository for links to websites, books, systems and people who can help us all be better Aquaponics gardeners and help keep us from being ripped off by charlatans.

 

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Here is what all the fuss is about.  Introducing, the Goldfish Garden prototype.  The GG consists of two major parts and a bunch of smaller ones.

The fish tank is a standard tank from Petco.  We have cheap feeder goldfish in it.  During the spring we grew basil in a floating raft sitting right in the tank.  It grew well, but our sunroom didn’t have enough direct light so it got a little stretched and stayed thin.  Good leaves with good flavor, though.  It bolted earlier than the ones grown outside.  We will be adding a few more fish later this week.  I don’t believe we will get enough nutrients for multiple plants from the few fish we have.

The upper container is an earthbox.  B and I have been EB fans for years.  We have about 40 of them for our outside garden.  I have modified this one a couple ways to make it compatible for aquaponics.  First, I put screening material around the divider between the growing segment and the water reservoir.  I also put screen on the inside and outside of the overflow drain.  I added the screens to filter out growing media since I’m using this as a flood and drain unit.

I have an aquarium sized submersible water pump (75 gal per hr capacity set at 50%) running from the tank to the feeder tube in the Earth box.  The pump is attached to a timer that is set for 3 minutes at 6 a.m. and three minutes at 6 p.m.  For now that allows the reservoir to overflow.  The overflow runs back into the fish tank.  The next generation will have the overflow run through a filter tank and then back into the fish tank.

The fish tank has a bio filter to assist in maintaining beneficial bacteria balance.  I have also incorporated a single air stone for extra oxygenation in the water.

The growing medium is coconut coir which is lightweight and ph neutral if any should get into the fish tank.  Coir wicks water well and should support plants effectively.

Speaking of plants, this unit is hosting 4 cauliflower seedlings.  As they grow, they will require a good amount of water and nutrients so we’ll add fish and adjust the water timer as required.  We may also need to bring in an LED grow light, if it doesn’t look like the box is getting enough direct sunlight.

Now it’s time to watch the results.  I have water quality testing products to monitor ph and nitrogen.  If this works, I already have a design that incorporates  a 300 gallon fish tank for Tilapia, an earthbox for larger plants like tomatoes and peppers, a floating raft for greens and an open tank for duckweed. But first things first.  Let the growing begin.

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