Root Trimmin’

Plant wall, current iteration

It’s been a while since I posted anything about my plant wall. Having the begonia bucket overflow onto the floor is a good time . . . definitely. Root incursions are a thing and today was the day.

All the plants are doing great. Other than the aforementioned need for a very infrequent root trimming to keep the drain system working, it’s completely trouble free. It runs, I ignore it, It grows, I ignore it. Leaves die off, I trim ’em. Not too arduous a job in my opinion.

The begonia bucket is a small plastic flat backed bucket picked up at the feed store for a few bucks. It’s plumbed with an overflow and seep. The overflow runs into the pipe garden below it. The pipe garden also has an overflow and seep which feeds back into the fish tank. The begonia’s finally gotten so leaf-heavy I’ve got it supported to keep the leaves out of the way. All the plants are adding leaves, runners, off-shoots, branching . . . no blossoms yet on this setup but now that the begonia has grown legs and has produced an off-shoot, I expect by next spring I’ll have blossoms.

I might move the whole setup farther up the wall and add another tube for some of the plants I had before but eschewed when I started this setup, like primrose, peperomia, hoya, strawberry begonia . . . I have the tube and the caps and the drain system . . . I just need Wadly to spray that sucker green.

 

New media with a twist

Leaves showing signs of chemical imbalance
Leaves showing signs of chemical imbalance
I noticed some chemical burning on the tomato plant leaves and tested the water.  8.0 ph when I need 7.3.  Ouch.  Burn baby burn.  While all three tomato plants have blossoms, only one is producing fruit and shows no sign of the chem burn.

PH is totally busted.  Ouch.
PH is totally busted. Ouch.
I didn’t just test the PH, I tested nitrate, nitrite and ammonia. All were perfect for the system. For those readings, I couldn’t be happier.

PH after 2/3 water change
PH after 2/3 water change
Our well water is 6.0. For the house I “condition” it by running it through oyster shell to bring the PH up to 7.3 naturally. For a quick and very un-permanent fix to the problem I did a 2/3 water change in the fish tank and got what I expected, close to perfect PH. This, however, is a really poor solution. I flushed my nutrients (okay, I lied. I dumped the water in outside planters) and added kelp to compensate for the loss.

The whole point is to have a system I don’t have to think about or fuss
about or test or monitor or . . . you get my point. I cannot keep doing
water changes. I don’t want to have to add anything to the water to
keep the water at 7.3. Which means I’ve got to find a different media.
This media, as suspected, spikes the PH.

Moving on

I’m the type of person who continually tweaks and adjusts.  Some of the stuff I try is a bust and some is inspired.  I have a rack hanging over the back of my kitchen sink with a drip tray under it where dishes are set to dry.  It keeps my counter space clear and allows all the drips to fall into the sink.  Brilliant.  And I’ve done other things with far less stellar outcomes, they’ve inevitably led to ideas about other things so it’s all good.

Here's the plant wall winter 2013
Here’s the plant wall winter 2013

There are a lot things I like about my current plant wall, and few things I don’t care for. Because the plant wall surface isn’t covered with plastic ala P. Blanc, the rate of evaporation is significant.  Wadly adds roughly 6 gallons of water twice a week.  I’d like to reduce the evaporation.

Dying foliage allows pathways for water to drip onto the floor.  A change to prevent that in future is a must.

Slow growing smaller plants get crowded out by the bigger, faster growing plants.  They just can’t compete.  I’d like something that nutures both the big and bushy and the smaller, more delicate plants.

As this plant wall is a single piece, it’s heavy and difficult to move.  Repositioning plants and editing is difficult.  I’d like something a little more modular that takes up less vertical space for the same number of plants that allows the fish to be as much of a focal point.  At this point I can’t tell you what’s in the tank, other than healthy reproducing guppies and at least one fresh water shrimp.  I’m sure there are algae eaters and plecko in there as well but I haven’t seen them in . . . a really long time.

So, on to the new plan, something modular with less exposed surface area that will allow for planting a few seasonal edibles and allow us to see the fish.

What fish?

Aquarium obscured by Ricinifolia Immense, strawberry begonia and creeping philodendron.

The wall has really grown this summer.  I mean REALLY grown.  It’s now a struggle to see the fish.  Somebody remind me . . . wasn’t this project for the fish?  That’s a 50 gallon aquarium hiding back there!

Begonia invasion

Begonia as far as the eye can see . . .

Here’s what the wall looks like today. The begonias are taking over . . . and still no new gutter.

There’s a philodendron crawling across the floor . . . and the palm at the top is doing okay.  The spider plans are barely holding their own, the dieffenbachia is also doing well as are all the various dumb cane varieties.

The hoya is doing nothing . . . still.  It does occasionally get sneaky and route water off the wall onto the floor so I’m keeping an eye on it.

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.