Bog filter 2012

Upper tank in August sunshine
Penny royal in small tank.
Hyacinth, bean and fairy moss.
Blooming reed

The larger of the upper biofilter tanks is doing really well, though the water hyacinth has not bloomed this year and I’m holding no hope that it will.  The triangular water reed has nearly tripled in size even after removing half the original plant last spring to give to Mindy.  Jill?  Can I restock you when I cut this back in the fall?

This year this larger filter tank is loaded with hydroton which provides shelter for the roots.  The water bean, hyacinths and reeds are mega happy, sans blooming.

The smaller tank is also filled with hydroton and has last year’s penny royal which amazingly enough, wintered over due in part to the tank being made of closed cell foam (insulative), containing hydroton (insulative) and filled with standing water (insulative).

Because the maple tree and the triangular reed are sheltering the smaller biofilter tank from the sun the penny royal is growing much more slowly, which is a plus.  Last year it was horribly root bound it grew so fast.  I cut out most of it and thew it away, then took the remaining bit and cut it in half to give to Mindy.

I like the fairy moss as a fill-in between the larger plants.  It helps keep the mosquito population down.  Having marigolds growing in a pot on the back frame helps as well.  I don’t worry about mosquitoes in the big tank – fish food!

The reed is blooming, though it hasn’t yet peaked to produce the mass of feathery tendrils that will be the end product.

Bloomin’ Bean

Blooming water bean

The bean I got from JMH last year is blooming.  I have two blossoms, this one and another in the middle of the tank.

I picked up Fairy Moss and water Hyacinths today.  The upper tank’s looking pretty good.

Upper and middle tanks

This is what the upper two tanks look like right now.  The penny royal is growing, the season triangular reed is coming up.  The water hyacinth and fairy moss is spread in the middle tank.

So far, so good!

Flood and drain versus drip

The begonia in the gutter has more flower stalks and bigger leaves even though the plant is the wall is older and has more leaves.

My plant wall has two systems.  The wall itself is a drip system.  The nutrients drip down the roots.  The gutter, however, is a flood and drain system.

This morning I was catching up on posts on WindowFarms and read a post by Ed where he has modified the bottle window farm into a flood and drain system.  Brilliant!  His post caused me to look at my wall and evaluate its health/growth in comparison to the plants in the gutter.

The begonia in the gutter is faster growing with more flower stalks and bigger leaves.  That’s pretty definite as far as supporting evidence goes.

So the moral here is, if it’s food you’re interested in growing, flood and drain is going to be more efficient/effective.

Snail killer

Yoyo loach

The loaches have done a wonderful job of snail removal.  It’s been over a week since I’ve seen a snail.  Prior to that, I’ve only seen two and they’ve been at the top out of the water and where the loaches couldn’t reach them.  <squish>  Wadly doesn’t like the loaches but I think they’re darn fun to watch.  He likes his slow and mild guppies.

Hawaiian begonia blossoming!

Blossoms for the first time in over a decade.

One of the begonias in the wall has masses of blossoms. The light, the warm water temps and the consistent nutrition are really pumping out the flowers. Now the Ricinifolia Immense is joining the gang. It’s put out a blossom stalk for the first time in over a decade.

Consolidating for storage

Ready to be put away

I’ve pulled my grow bed apart and gotten it stored away in the loft.  I’ve put the hydroton in barrels and buckets for the winter.  I’ve still got to pull the grow bed frame and cover the tank.  Next year I’ll try and find a nice clean 55 gallon drum (plastic) for storing the hydroton.  That’ll let me put it all in a single container.  The 30 gallon drum I’ve got just isn’t big enough on its own.

Vertical gardening

Open source window farm

Every so often I do a search on plant walls and vertical gardening to see what’s new.  This morning I ran into this.  It’s pretty cool!  But better than just the idea is the way this system works.  It is built on the airlift model.  Instead of using a pump and timer to handle delivering the nutrient rich water, the system uses an aquarium air pump.  While you can buy the whole system, they provide full instruction for a number of different models that can be made from plastic water bottles.

This is very cool.  If you’ve got a kid who needs a science project, the hanging plastic bottle farm would be a stellar undertaking.  Add an aquarium and some fish and you’ve a great “watch it work” project!

Watch this video.  Then visit our.windowfarms.org and start reading.  Fascinating stuff.

More blooming begonias

Begonia in the gutter ready to burst into bloom

I haven’t done anything about a gutter yet, and I need to . . . desperately. I’m making that a priority for tomorrow.  I’ve got two sewing machines to run up to be repaired and will handle it on the way.

All the baby fish are doing great.  I lay on the floor and watch them scoot around the tank.  Some are big enough to come out and feed with the adult fish.  I wish I could get a picture but they’re just too small to get into focus through the glass.  I end up with tiny little blobs of lighter colored stuff in a fuzzy greeny background.  Ugh.

One of the gutter begonias has blossom stalks topped with buds ready to bloom.

The big begonia is doing really well though the leaves aren’t quite to the size achieved last summer.  They’re close, just not quite there.  The wood fern is doing well.  I have  some stuff that is just limping along.  My cape primrose isn’t happy.  I’m hoping it will come around . . . it’s really slow to show happy or sad so I just have to be patient and see if the changes I’ve made help.  By late spring I should know.  I think the gloxinia is toast . . . I think it’s been totally overgrown by the surrounding foliage.

About 1/3 of the rex begonias I planted are still growing.  I think they would have done much better if I’d gotten them in the wall when all the other plants were about the same size.  Now I’ve got stuff that’s gotten huge and the rex begonias are pretty much lost in the undergrowth.  Time will tell whether they make it out of the understory.

All the philodendron, ivy and dumb cane varieties are doing tremendously well.  They really like the wall.  The hoja is doing good.  The rain forest cactus are doing fine.  The Christmas cactus bloomed a couple weeks ago, just one pretty salmon colored blossom.  It’s another plant that’s going to be lost in the undergrowth.  It just grows too slowly to stand much of a chance.  <wince>  Ditto for the epiphytes I planted last summer.  I have to stay philosophical about all this.  That’s what planting a vertical garden is all about, learning what works and enjoying the result.