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.

Plant wall new year

Lots of new growth

I took a picture of the plant wall last night.  It’s really growing nicely.  I’m still waiting on the gutter.  It must be time to nag them again.  I ordered the new aquarium light.  It should be here next week.  I can’t build the new aquarium cover until I’ve mounted the new gutter and got the new light, so it’s wait . . . wait . . . wait.

The yoyo loaches are keeping the snail population in check and they’re fun to watch, but I doubt I’ll have any new babies while they’re in the tank.  They’re like short fat eels who will eat anything that will fit in their mouth.  They dive into the foliage, wiggling their way through to find buried goodies which is just what’s needed to get the snails and their eggs.  Fortunately it takes them a while to get up a head of steam in open water and the other fish have plenty of time to shift out of the way.  It’s amusing to see our sole head and tail light getting harassed when he has always been the one  harassing others. Payback, gotta love it.

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.

More babies

We seem to have a steady supply of babies in our aquarium lately.  Right now we’ve got 4 adolescent guppies, at least two baby guppies hiding in the foliage and at least one, maybe two, baby catfish.  Not bad for a 50 gallon tank.

The only change I’ve made recently is in feeding.  I’ve been tossing in a cube (frozen) of blood worms twice a week.  These are gut loaded with nutritional stuff fish need and I think the addition to the diet is making a difference.

The plant wall looks great.  The light is making the difference.  I don’t have a new gutter yet.  It’s still in the planning stage.

Let there be light

I got a florescent fixture mounted for the grow wall this morning.  It’s got daylight bulbs in it.  That should help keep the wall growing and healthy.

I had an epiphany.  I’ve been fussing about what to do for a gutter and I haven’t been making a lot of mental headway until yesterday.  My latest effort to find a gutter for the wall involved an internet search for gutter 12″.  I found a place in CA that custom makes gutters as well as carries all sorts of beautiful fittings for people with lots of discretionary income (aka people NOT like me).  They had copper gutters, galvanized gutters . . . and stainless gutters!

A light finally flicked on inside my head.  We’ve got a sheet metal place local to us where they can custom build me the gutter I need!  They’ve done specialty stuff for me before in stainless.  It won’t be cheap, but it will both look good AND perform good.  What’s not to like with that?  I asked Wadly to pay for my new gutter for Christmas.  He’s game so now I just need to design it.

Sump and reconnect

Pump out at the top, wall drain at the bottom. The sump sits in the corner under the plumbing.
Plant wall draining back into aquarium. The drain is supported by a hanger on the wall. It just looks like it's sitting on the

The black at the top is the wall drain.  The clothes pin is pinching shut the primer line.
The black at the top is the wall drain. The clothes pin is pinching shut the primer line.

Wadly and I got the wall connected to the aquarium last week.  The first picture is the plumbing to and from the wall.  When we move into our *real* house I won’t be able to drill holes with impunity . . . darn it.

Yesterday I got the sump connected.  I still have to paint the . . . I’m not quite sure what to call it.  It’s a collection of elbows and short pieces of pipe that takes the place of u-pipe and overflow box for controlling the level of water in the aquarium.  The portion in the aquarium will be green, the part out of the aquarium and inside the sump container will be black.  The next hot day we have I’ll pull it and paint it using Krylon Fusion.

I have the pump to push the water into the wall in the sump.  The wall drains directly into the aquarium.   I also have a very small fountain pump in the sump to keep the water circulating between the sump and the aquarium when the pump for the wall isn’t running.  I still need to clean up all the water and electric lines, running them so they won’t clutter the landscape and I still need to provide a cover for the sump to keep out debris AND I need to moderate the sound of running water in the sump.

After I manage all that I need to build a custom cover and light array for the aquarium.  And then I need to find and install the gutter for the wall for when the plant wall comes back in.  And install an overhead light for the wall.  Got the light, just don’t have enough electrical current available to run it but that should be fixed soon.

New aquarium

49 gallon aquarium

The larger aquarium is all set up and connected to the wall.  I’ve run 1½” black PVC pipe from the plant wall out in the sun porch through the wall to the left end of the aquarium.  The pump is in the right end with the hose for the pump using a separate hole high in the wall level with the top of the plant wall.

With the new larger tubing I had to put additional slits in the gutter stand pipe to prevent the gutter from overflowing.

I traded the pleco for a very much smaller one.  I bought five small neon tetra to give the two babies I already had a school and I bought two more catfish for a total of four.  With the guppies and adult neon tetra I have about 25 fish in the aquarium.

My next step is to get the sump built so I can maintain the water level in the aquarium when the wall is being watered, dose the wall separate from the aquarium and top the water up without adding water directly to the aquarium.

The larger traveling wall

Wadly on his beloved John Deere moving the plant wall

In the last couple weeks we’ve made a number of changes to our aquarium/plant wall setup.  We moved our plant wall outside for the summer and swapped our original 28 gallon aquarium for a larger 50 gallon one.

Yesterday I swapped our fairly large plecostomus for a scaled down model too small to eat new hatchlings and sleeping fish.  I also got two more catfish and five neon tetra about the size of the tetra babies we already had.  I think that brings our tetra count to 10.  Wadly will have to buy some more guppies to round out the pack.

I’ve still got a lot to do to the new aquarium.  I need new air hose for one of my stones, I still need to find/build a sump and I need to run plumbing through the wall to connect the plant wall to the new tank.

When we moved the plant wall out we hung it on the horizontal beam on the east end of the sun porch.  To leave it outside and still connect it to the aquarium inside the living room it was necessary to move it to the north wall.  Rather than remove the gutter and disturb all the plants again, we fastened a 2×4 to the back of the plant wall and moved it with the tractor.  It was a little time consuming but very easy nothing damaged in the move.

There’s no way to get it back into the house using the tractor but I wish we could.  This last move was incredibly easy.