We have water lilly pads surfacing. That must mean it’s spring . . . or something like it.
Archive for the ‘Hydro/Aquaponics’ Category
I updated the overflow drain on the larger bog filter tank. I’m still using electrical conduit elbow, but it’s 1½”, not 1″. The outlet pipe is also resized for an 1½” tee-less connector. I enlarged the hole in the piece of perforated drain which keeps the roots from plugging the conduit.
I’ve been finding more uses for inner tube. This plumbing change includes a piece of bicycle inner tube for connecting the two pieces of pipe together.
The only thing I wish I’d done before assembly was to paint the conduit black, but once the water hyacinth is added to the tank the leaves will hide the gray.
I couldn’t leave the corkscrew willows in the upper biofilter tank. The hydroton grow medium is not heavy enough to keep the willows upright and in the tank when the wind blew. I knew putting them there was a temporary solution. Yesterday I implemented a more permanent fix. The willows are only in the water for this summer.
The half-gallon pots have recycled window screen in the bottom to keep the gravel from migrating out the drain holes. The willow trunks are held in place against the side of the tank frame by truck inner tube pieces and staples. The pots are held up against the side of the tank by cord hangers over hex head screws. Everything can be easily removed when it comes time to plant the willows out after they go dormant this fall.
Now that all the other plants have been moved out for the summer, I can get a good picture of the gutter begonia in all its glory and litter. This is the dichotomy of prolifically flowering plants indoors. The litter is non-stop but so is the beauty. Click the image for the full impact.
The Cape Primrose has started it’s continuously blossoming cycle. After the initial single blossom stalk, each new leaf will produce at least two stalks with two blossoms per stalk all the way through the summer. Unlike begonias whose blooming period comes and goes, the Cape Primrose will just keep producing gorgeous blossoms.
The plant showing the single blossom is one of two or three. If you click on the second image you will see a new stalk starting on another plant. If you look closely you can see the base of the blossom stalk comes out of the base of the leaf.
The wall has gloxinia in it as well. I don’t know if or when it will bloom. The fun is in watching to see what happens.
I had a lovely visit with my brother Dan and his wife Vala yesterday. They live far enough away that I don’t get to see them often. I was gifted with some corkscrew willow cuttings which I’ve stuck in the upper bog filter until I can get them rooted and ready to plant.
It’s still too cold for starting seedlings outside. The water in the tanks has finally reached 55° which means we can start feeding the fish, but that’s still a bit too cold for plants to grow vigorously. Within the next two weeks that should all change.
I put the plants I’d wintered over in the laundry room out into the bog filter tanks. I also stopped at JMH Gardens and picked up some penny royal, fairy moss and some kind of pond bean. I can’t remember what Jill called it. I’ll ask when I go back in a couple weeks for the water hyacinths. I’m pretty sure “bean” is right, but given how I’d managed to mangle all the other things I purchased (fairy frost is a fabric not a plant), I’m feeling a bit less confident at the moment.
Instead of rock in the upper (smaller) bog filter I’ve added hydroton this year. The lighter medium will facilitate the take-down of the filter in winter.
The grow bed plumbing is finished with the exception of one 1½” end cap. Three 3-gallon buckets are ganged together using tee-less connectors and 1½” pipe. Terry painted the buckets black which will facilitate warming the water over the next few weeks.
Once I’ve got the new end cap drilled with holes and installed the flood depth can be fine tuned. I’ll plant the beds with seedlings the first of June if the water’s warmed enough.
It’s still too cold to put out any of the biofilter plants I’ve tried to winter over but it is time to get the tanks in and circulating. This upper tank is foam. I got it at a year end sale two years ago for $10, a great buy.
Last year I used a tee-less fitting and a piece of rubber hose for the upper tank outlet. All last summer I had issues with the upper tank overflowing due to a too small outlet with penny royal root blocking the flow. I’m hoping I’ve solved some of that with this year’s setup.
I pulled the tee-less connector and inserted a tapering vacuum cleaner wand extension pipe into the hole. After determining I would get a good seal, I pulled it out, trimmed it accordingly and reinserted it into the hole. No sealant was required to give a good water tight fit.
This change allows better outlet flow and the mean level inside the tank is lower decreasing the chance of overflow.
What you can’t see (I’ll drop the water level and get a snapshot before I put the plants in) is the 3″ PVC pipe that keeps the hydroton out of the outlet and inside the tank. The pipe is one foot long with a 45° angled end. This angle fits over the outlet and is fastened to the tank with a 2½” screw. The other end of the pipe is a straight cut which is covered with a piece of 30% sun shade cloth. The length of the pipe has saw kerfs to increase the ability of water to enter the pipe.
Here’s a great thing to share with you, a video of Patrick Blanc giving a presentation on vertical gardens at the California Academy of Science. The video is an hour and a half long and is broken into parts. I didn’t have any trouble with buffering, so give it a try. He talks about all his walls, what was good, what was bad and includes maintenance, inspiration, plants he used, insect control, maintenance . . . it’s well worth watching at least once if not more.
I’m going to miss this plant when it goes into LouAnn’s wall. It’s so robust and beautiful.
This is my new setup, sans the second bucket. I am waiting on tee-less connectors to add the second bucket to the dump tank (existing bucket). I’ll use a short piece of 1½” plastic pipe near the bottom of the buckets to connect them. The two buckets, connected together, will give me the volume I need to fill both beds in a single dump.
Here’s the list of parts.
- 2 five gallon buckets – mine used to contain pickles and were obtained from a local deli.
- 1 pump
- black tubing running from the pump to the bucket (visible in the top picture as the black loop to the right of the bucket and in the bottom picture).
- 100 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank (buried to first step in the tank side).
- 2 mortar mixing trays (the 8″ deep ones).
- miscellaneous scrap lumber – none of this lumber was purchased new. I’ve got 4×4 for the four legs (mix of pressure treated and cedar – it’s what I had), 2×6 for the between post supports and 2×4 for the top plate on which the tray rims rest. The bucket rests on a notched 3×4 and a notched 2×4 held up by 2×8 scraps screwed to the tray frame.
- a handful of 3″ decking screws
- 1 toilet flush valve.
- 1 16 oz plastic coke bottle (flush valve counter-weight).
- black tubing to feed flush valve counter-weight bottle (visible in the second picture – connects to a piece of aluminum tubing which inserts through the bottom of the coke bottle.
- miscellaneous hardware including a collection of stainless nuts and washers to act as the flush valve weight (offsets the weight of the plastic bottle so the flush valve flap closes completely).
- Plumbing parts – some 2″, some 1½”.
- Tee-less connectors to gang the buckets together. I never order enough tee-less connectors. They are the first connector I reach for when I have to fasten pipe to pipe or insert pipe into something. I could have replaced the 2″ tee with a tee-less connector for less than a quarter of the price of purchasing a 2″ tee.
It took me an afternoon to take apart the old single-bed stand (I needed to reuse the legs and some of the shorter lumber) and another afternoon to construct the new two-bed stand. You cannot see it from the picture, but there is a 2×6 that supports the center of the beds underneath going from left to right.
It took another afternoon to get the new bucket and flush assembly put together and get the tray flood plumbing set up.
I still need another 100 liters of hydroton. It should only take another 50 liters (1 bag) of hydroton to fill the beds, but I want to increase the size of the gutter for my plant wall so want some extra to ensure I have enough. Until I get the additional hydroton, I’ll let the beds cycle and build the nitrite/nitrate eating bacteria colony.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, mild, sunny and quiet. Wadly was off visiting family and I had the peace to putter to my heart’s content.
I managed to get the dump bucket for my grow bed rebuilt. This time I added a genius gizmo for the flush counter-weight assembly. This crafty gizmo was the happy confluence of circumstance and available parts and it all started with the proximity of the flush valve to the edge of the bucket.
Because my 5 gallon buckets have a lot of ridges and raised lettering at the center I mounted the flush assembly against the side of the bucket. This gave me a smoother flatter surface for sealing the toilet flush valve to the bucket and, by mounting the toilet fill assembly next to the side of the bucket, I was able to reduce the distance between the rollers that lift the toilet flush flap and support the flush valve counter-weight. I saw the lock assembly for a sliding window sitting on the bench ready to be taken out to the aluminum pile to recycle. That started the mental wheels turning and I was able to scrounge the remaining parts to pull this gizmo together.
The new roller carrier is small, requiring one small notch in the bucket collar for installation and support.
The rollers are from the bottom of a sliding glass door.
The bolts holding the rollers are stainless. I have no idea where they came from. Whenever we disassemble something for recycling, we take any potentially interesting small hardware and stick it in one of our multiple cabinets with plastic drawers. We had this particular bolt type in two lengths. The shorter was twice the length I needed but they do a perfect job. The additional bolt sticking out is more of a design statement than a flaw.
The holes in the center of the rollers was just a bit smaller than the circumference of the bolt which allowed the bolt to be pressed into the roller assembly. A bit of judicious encouragement from my rubber mallet did the trick and the rollers are now pressed onto the bolts.
The holes in the aluminum slider window lock handle were just slightly smaller than the threads on the bolts. Because the piece to receive threads was aluminum and the bolts were stainless,I was able to force screw the bolts into the holes to create the necessary threads in the aluminum carrier. You see what I mean about a confluence of circumstance? The bolts were the right size to press into the rollers and the holes were the right size to accept threading from the bolts. Kismet.
Each bolt has a fiber or teflon washer and a stainless washer to ensure proper spacing for the roller.
The rollers aren’t stainless and aren’t designed to be out in the rain. Terry painted them for me to help keep the rust at bay. As to the bearings, an occasional squirt of WD-40 (water displacement 40th formula tested) keeps rust in check and the rollers turning smoothly. the arrangement allows the cord to be lifted off the rollers and the roller assembly to be taken away from the tank/growbed assembly for maintenance. At some point I’ll make a plastic cover for the roller assembly to keep the rollers drier.
If you’re wondering what I used to extend the overflow tube on the flush valve . . . it’s a vacuum cleaner hand wand extension pipe. We’ve got a shelf under one of the benches that gets all the plastic pipe chunks we might need for a later project. Wand extension pipe is just plastic pipe and the taper makes them perfect for fitting onto other pipe or into openings of not exactly the right size.
The new ferns seem to be doing okay. I have a couple that are more vigorous, but they are different varieties so the differences in growth are easily explained.
The gutter fern is a delicate thing when compared to the stems of the Hawaiian begonia (Ricinifolia Immense). The stems of that particular begonia grow to be bigger around than my thumb. The other two ferns aren’t as big as my original wood fern, but they’ve just gotten started.
It’s been almost four weeks since I changed the watering frequency for the wall. The difference is really starting to show.
The heliocereus is putting shoots out of its shoots. It’s acting like it’s spring!
The peperomia is finally producing new growth both at the base and at one of the nodes on one of the stalks.
And finally, the wood fern shows the most dramatic difference. The part of the frond that had grown prior to the water frequency change looks really stunted. The part that grew after the change looks very different.
Yesterday I rebuilt my aquaponic system to accommodate an additional grow bed. The single tray I used last year was just not enough. I have switched out the gravel I used last year for hydroton (expanded clay balls) so (theoretically) the beds will be light enough to move inside when the weather grows too cold to sustain growing. A single bed filled with gravel would require four muscle men, a pygmy goat and some special equipment. That so won’t work for portable beds. With hydroton I should be able to lift the bed onto a rolling cart for transport indoors.
Now that I’ve got two beds to flood, last year’s system won’t work as is. Two beds means at least twice the water volume. I will gang together two 5-gallon buckets to make up the required flush volume. By ganging buckets together using a short length of 1½ pipe and tee-less connectors, I can supply the volume for both beds using my existing fill and drain system bucket.
So far I’ve got one tray filled and water cycling through but I have more to do before I’m ready to consider planting. I need to cut new piping for the drain system. I want the system to flash-fill the beds so I don’t have to rely on an auto-siphon for drainage. That reduces the complexity of the system and reduces the parts needed to get additional beds attached to the system.
The tank’s water temperature is still below 55° [brrr] but if I’m going to get a head start on the season, I need to get my beds functioning mechanically now. To get the beds up to temperature a little more quickly, I’m thinking of installing a solar water heating system for the tank. We’ll see if I manage to get it done before the tank gets up to temp.
Well, we’ve got a new baby. Our Peppered Corydoris catfish have a youngun. I noticed it this morning. It’s about an inch long, so it’s been around a while. I don’t pay too much attention to the aquarium. The sun was out early and bright and there that little bugger was . . .
As to the attached plant wall, I’m in holding mode until my Rex Begonias arrive. I dabble. the current dabble is a gutter avocado.
I eat a lot of avocado. I have already given away a 5′ tall many limbed avocado tree. Sometimes I just can’t help myself . . . this was one of those “what if” moments. I just had to set the seed in the gutter to see what happens. I checked it this morning and it looks like it’s starting to split!
I’ll give this one away as well once it’s established. I don’t have room for an avocado tree.
I was looking back through my posts and updating post tags and saw the picture of the biofilter I took at the beginning of what we are laughingly calling summer. What a difference. Next summer I’ll see if I can find a yellow canna to add to the mix. The orange and red are lovely, but yellow would rock.
I’m still battling aphids in the plant wall, but I am making headway. Instead of seeing a dozen, I’m seeing an occasional very lethargic speck of green with legs.
Jill at JMH Water Gardens gave me a recipe for a fish safe aphid spray that seems to be working really well. The fish are alive and the aphids aren’t. I see that as being the measure of success. Oh, did I mention it’s cheap to make out of common stuff? Yeah, that too. Blend oil into a beaten egg white, store in the fridge.
Jill’s recipe says 1 cup of oil to 1 tbsp of egg white. I confess to not being that precise. Store in the fridge, mix a bit with water in a spray bottle and spray. I did say I wasn’t that precise, didn’t I? Her instructions say 2½ tsp of the egg/oil mix to 1 cup of water. I don’t need that much at a time so I mix a little over a teaspoon to ½ cup of water. Spray as needed. It doesn’t keep so dump what you don’t use right away and mix new each time you need it.
I went out to water a couple mornings ago to discover what I had thought were seeds on the water lily pads weren’t. Everything in the pond was covered with hundreds of aphids. Ugh. I guess I need to wear my glasses when I check things out. Wadly missed it too but he’s been working long hours for National.
I hosed the aphids off the leaves, swished the lone water lily in the water until the aphids were washed off and overfilled the pond washing the floating aphids off onto the ground. There are benefits to an above ground pond.
The second wash off was yesterday. I’ll keep an eye on this. Jill at JMH sent me a recipe for a fish safe aphid killer. It is my sincere hope I don’t need it.
It turns out the big begonia in my wall is Ricinifolia Immense, a rhizomatous variety.
I got a start for my ricinifolia Immense from a friend over 20 years ago. I’ve propagated it, given friends starts, passed my plant on to someone else and just lately got a start back. This plant LOVES being in the plant wall. The growth is more lush than when it was potted. The leaves are bigger, the stalks are longer. The largest leaf on this new start is 17″ long and over 13″ wide. The stem is a full 2 feet long. This new start hasn’t bloomed yet. I don’t expect to see a bloom stalk until this fall.
And I’ll be really glad when the weak chlorotic leaves age and fall off . . .
We have one plecostomus in our tank. Click on the pic for El Pleco in all his spotted glory.
It’s important to note the plants in the wall aren’t going to get everything they need from the fish. From this I’m going to extrapolate that the fish aren’t getting everything they need from the fish food.
If you look at the two leaves in the picture, you’ll see one is chlorotic (showing insufficient chlorophyll from deficiencies in nutrition aka splotchy color). The leaf on the right, the chlorotic one, is the older leaf. The leaf on the left is healthy with a much more even distribution of chlorophyll. The leaf on the left is new, appearing after I sprayed the wall with worm casting tea.
So I extrapolate . . . if the plants are getting incomplete nutrition from the fish, the fish are getting incomplete nutrition from the food they are eating.
I got the glass for LouAnn’s aquarium a couple days ago but didn’t get around to peeling the paper away until today. It looks good. The edges were really sharp so I used a foam sanding block to knock down the abrupt edges.
I need to make a frame for the bottom, so I’ll stop in at Home Depot and see what kind of corner molding I can find. If I can’t find corner molding I can make a frame by cutting down some larger dimension lumber. I’d like to use hard wood, if I can find something I like within my budget. I used to have an iron wood 6×6 but I think Dan (brother) saw it and got wood envy. Maybe I can find some maple . . .
Our weather has been really miserable this year. Everyone’s gardens are in sad shape. We just haven’t had warm enough weather for plants to grow. We’re weeks behind on strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. It’s the middle of July and I’m just now getting local farm raspberries. I’m still picking salmon berries! In July! <gasp>
The tomato seedlings I planted out in May got hammered flat by hail. This year has been such a gardening bust I have lost most of my enthusiasm for trying to raise anything to eat. Pretty sad.
Last week I threw a variety of seeds into the grow bed. I’ll know what they are as they mature. Until then I’ll take joy in the fact that something’s growing . . .
Next year I’ll be ahead of the game. I’ll have my grow beds well started inside my sun porch until it’s warm enough to move them out. I’ll have hydroton in the beds instead of gravel which will allow me to move them with growy bits intact. That’s the plan, anyway.
I picked up water plants for Wadly’s “pond” today. I happily spent every penny in my pocket! Jill Hartman at JMH Greenhouse and Water Garden was wonderful to work with as we picked through her stock, determining what would work and what would be questionable. I’ve got two hardy plants and two that will have to come in for the winter. I also got pennyroyal and fairy moss!
When winter gets close I’ll run over and refresh my knowledge on what will hold in the pond and what has to go indoors.
Wadly planted the big potted stuff in rock filled wire baskets. I put the pennyroyal and one of the reeds in the particulate filter. Everything else went in the bog filter.
I still have more to do, but this will hold for a bit. I’m happy!
Though hard to see in this photo, there is a black hose attached to a white plastic elbow which allows water to flow into the counter-weight bottle when the water in the flood tank reaches sufficient height.
I made this change because the previous setup was too sensitive. This is less of a surgical solution and more of a “hit it with a hammer” fix. It works really well.
I haven’t gotten the second grow bed tray installed. I’ll get there . . .
One of the really good organic solutions for six legged pests is worm casting tea. I make a really small amount, but if you need to treat a bigger area, it’s easy to make more. Thanks to Ray on the Barrelponics Yahoo group for the instruction.
You’ll need a small airstone and a air pump. My aquarium air pump has two ports so I plug into the spare for making worm casting tea.
I’m giving the instructions for a quart, as that’s the amount I can make and use up before it’s not any good any more. It needs to be used within (if memory serves) a couple days.
For a quart, use filtered water, add 1.25 ounces of worm castings, drop the airstone in the bottom and let it bubble away for 12-24 hours.
Strain it and spray it where you need it taking care to get the under side of the leaves as well as the stems and tops.
Here’s the bonus bit. It’s perfectly safe for plant walls and aquaponic systems. Can’t beat that!
I took the largest of the tomato seedlings from the wall gutter and planted them in the growbed outside. Then it hailed and we had a spate of cold wet windy weather. The wet part isn’t an issue, but the cold and hail and wind . . . toast. <sigh> I lost half the seedlings I planted out and the last two look like they’re on their last leg. If we get a spate of warm weather they might pull through. If they don’t I’ll put the 4 tomato plants still growing in the gutter in their place . . . when they get significantly bigger AND the weather improves. I have sun shade cloth buffering them just a bit, but a big sheet of plastic would have been better.
I’m adding another growbed to my outside tank. I like the new setup so well I’m going to max out the grow potential of the fish tank. I have to inventory my bulkhead fittings. I need two uniseals the same size for connecting another 5 gallon tank to the existing 5 gallon dump tank. Adding another tank and bed will change the dump time from ~15 minutes to ~30 minutes.
I threw about a dozen lettuce seeds into the plant wall gutter. By they time they’re ready to transplant out I should have the new growbed up and running . . . and warmer weather. <fingers crossed>
Wadly and I got all the bits put together and I’ve taken pics to share.
This system is designed to be built out of 55 gallon barrels (see the barrelponics group on yahoo) but I’m having a hard time finding clean free barrels in my area. Instead, I opted for the $4.96 option . . . a mortar mixing tray from Home Depot. The gas to go to where I can get 55 gallon drums is more than the cost of the tray. Add to that the cost of purchasing barrels (current best price is $15 ea.) and I’m way ahead.
Wadly built the frame to support the mortar tray. I think it’s clever. All the wood is recycled bits and pieces assembled with torx screws.
I had originally planned for additional posts to hold up the dump tank until I got a clue <shaking head at self> and had Wadly cut me some 2×6 angled pieces to hold a 2×8 shelf. I drilled a notch on one side of the shelf to accept the bottom of the toilet fill kit installed in the dump bucket.
The 5 gallon dump bucket is recycled and the drain plumbing parts cost about $10. I didn’t have any of the adapters and connectors for 1½” pipe though I did have some 2″ and a 2″ elbow all glued together which I used. Everything is dry fitted so it can be disassembled and adjusted or cleaned.
All along the length of the drain pipe are skill saw cuts ¾” apart. They are cut across the length of the pipe and go through 1/3 the thickness. The next time I take it apart I’ll get pictures. The end cap had six holes drilled in it.
When I build the next bed I will run one drain down the center and see how that works. Or maybe use 1″ pipe instead of 1½”.
I have three tomato plans (SunGold, Beefsteak and yellow cherry) and 4 green pepper. I will add red pepper as well when I can get some plants.
Wadly has cut a cover for the tank but the edges need routered and it needs waxed to keep the rain from soaking in. It’s in the shop waiting for me to get out there and do the task.
Wadly and I got the new growbed up and running. I am using the same Rubbermaid 100 gallon stock tank for the fish and bought a new (spent a whole $4.96) mortar mixing tray for the growbed. It’s about 20″ x 30″ and about 7″ deep. It doubles the grow area from the old bed.
I’ve got the dump tank (recycled 5 gallon bucket) set up and working, though a little more fine tuning will no doubt be required. I’ve got to address the water into bed distribution line as the dump does two things that it shouldn’t, it spills water over the side of the bed from the rush of water and it digs a big hole in the gravel. I need to moderate that and will pick up the parts today to make that happen. Wadly and I jury-rigged what we’ve got. It works but badly and I can’t fix it without a few more parts.
I also need to get a petcock valve for the tank side of the tee to regulate the flow to the dump tank. For now I’ve bent the tubing and have a knee-high nylon (my favorite filter medium) around it to pinch the flow a bit. That will work in the short term but in the long term I’d like to have a little finer control.
Wadly’s going to build a cover for the tank to keep the sun out and the algae growth (causes a big PH rise) down. I had the tank covered with a piece of white tarp last year, but he’d like something with better eye appeal.
If you’re interested in a growbed of your own, visit the barrelponics yahoo group for like minded folk.