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.
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!
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.
It looks like the babies I thought were guppies are actually neon tetras. They’ve finally gotten big enough to have color and shine. Cool! Where they were hanging out in the tank should have been a clue. Guppies stay right at the surface until they’re big enough to not be eaten. Tetras hang out in the middle darting in and out of the foliage and cat babies cruise the bottom.
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.
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.
Remember the hooch in the jungle, the cabin by the lake? The reed sitting in the north end of the bog filter tank is now blooming.
Last year I had two reeds, a small triangular stemmed one that looked like a very small version of this one and a zone hardy one that had small crimson blossoms. I lost the small reed and the zone hardy one has morphed into this gigantic thing that’s nearly 4 foot tall with blossoms that aren’t crimson this year.
I can safely say I have no idea what’s going on. I plan to whack this thing in half when it dies back and give half to Mindy.
I came out this morning to a guppy in the sump. Oops. I fetched her out but it’s apparent I’ll need some way to prevent the little buggers from taking that ride.
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.
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.
Wadly sits in the kitchen in the morning, drinking his coffee and gazing out over his domain. This morning he said “our cabin by the lake is now a hooch in the jungle.” It made me laugh. The reed has gotten to be a fairly impressive size.
The first picture is what we see when we walk out the door. The second is what Wadly sees sitting in the kitchen. You can see why he’s calling it a hooch in the jungle.
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.
I’m planning the changes I want to make to our aquaponic system when the wall comes back indoors.
This time I want the water level in the aquarium to be fixed, so I’m planning to install a sump. In reading up on sumps I ran into a good tutorial on one of the salt water aquarium sites. What I found delightful, beyond how clear and informative the information was the author’s style. “I once had a zebra goby that, despite my lectures, would make the trip several times a week before I finally managed to find an effective way to enforce the height restrictions on the ride.” Part 3, sump tutorial
Wadly’s changing to a bigger tank. The new tank is the same depth front to back but is 4″ taller and 18″ longer. That’s a fairly significant increase in water volume. The addition of a sump bumps the volume even further. I will be able to have the tank heater and small circulator pump in the sump along with the larger pump required for feeding the wall. Moving the pump and heater out of the tank will really clean up the inside which will make Wadly even happier.
Wadly’s current tank has been very successful. Having it attached to the wall keeps the tank’s inhabitants fairly healthy and clean with little work on our part. The tank’s health and stability are supported by the baby catfish, baby guppies and, most surprising of all, baby neon tetras we’ve had since the tank was established. The baby tetras were jousting last night. They’re so flashy it’s easy to see their antics from across the room.
Lorr (our son) has discovered wholesale rot under the window and into the floor and floor supports where his 60 gallon aquarium housing Carlos the turtle, two gigantic plecos and a couple really fat goldfish. Moving the tank is a must so it looks like Carlos is coming to stay. The big concern is keeping Carlos comfortable. The goldies can join mine in my 100 gallon tank outside and the plecos can go to the aquarium store.
Wadly’s next day off is Tue. We’ll drag the big aquarium out of the loft, clean and set it up for all Wadly’s fish. We’ll leave the smaller aquarium set up to accommodate Carlos temporarily while we get is larger tank set up and up to temp.
To keep both tanks using the wall, I’m going to have to install a sump. I haven’t done that before. It should be a learning experience.
I’ve moved the plant wall into the sun porch for the next two months. Terry wants to change his tank to a larger one and I need to solve my recurring aphid problem, so the wall’s out!
When I move the plant wall back in I’m going to make a couple changes. I am going to mount the gutter on the room’s wall instead of attaching it to the plant wall. Moving the plant wall with the gutter attached was not a productive act. The way I’d built it, the gutter couldn’t be removed from the plant wall without taking the plant wall off the room wall. The only way to set the wall down was on the gutter. Yeah, it was ugly. There was no permanent damage done but it was beyond messy.
The mounting system is a success. The plant wall was easy to lift off the mounting bracket. I’d definitely recommend using that scheme. To hang the plant wall in the sun porch Terry used deck screws to fasten a beveled 2×4 to the horizontal support beam in the sun porch. The wall slipped right on it with no fuss.
I’m using a temporary gutter right now made out of billboard vinyl. It’s not bad! The hydroton is light and takes up enough room so when the gutter is full of water it isn’t too heavy for the quick and dirty support assembly I build using 2 sticks screwed to the ends of the wall frame holding up a metal rod taped and rolled into the vinyl at the front. The vinyl trough ends are folded up and stapled to the wall frame. It doesn’t leak and it doesn’t add to the weight of the wall. It’s not a permanent solution but it is a quick and dirty temporary one that works. The drain is a threaded bulkhead fitting with a piece of plastic water pipe inserted in the top. The water pipe has holes drilled to allow the water to drain. The closer to the top of the pipe, the more holes I drilled. It’s just enough to let the gutter flood to the right depth and slowly drain when the pump shuts off.
I’ve got the pipe for the new gutter ready to cut and mount but I’ll wait until the new aquarium is in so I know where to place my drain hole. The new aquarium is 18″ longer so I have some good options. I won’t be able to use a hard plastic threaded bulkhead because of the curve of the pipe but I have some Uniseal bulkhead fittings. If I don’t have the right size I’ll order some more.
To keep the fish in the aquarium happy and healthy, I’m doing the water changes via buckets. I siphon 5 gallons of water out of the 25 gallon wall receptacle and I siphon 5 gallons of water out of the aquarium. Then I dump the aquarium water into the plant wall receptacle and the plant wall water into the aquarium. It doesn’t take long, isn’t messy and isn’t very tedious so I’ll continue to do that twice a week until Terry gets the tanks swapped and I can move my plant wall back in. We’ve got lots of baby fish right now and the catfish has just laid eggs again so I don’t know how he’s going to manage the swap without disturbing everyone.
A friend sent a digital slide show of aerial photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Included in the slide show was a wonderful picture of rooftop gardens. The slide had no designation for where the photo was taken and a search of the internet got me no closer to finding it.
I’ll take the penthouse, please.
The two clinging vines are doing great, slowly spreading over the wall. Now that I’m inspecting the wall more closely I’m seeing more moss.
It’s aphid season again. I’m keeping a close eye on my wall as I’m already spraying it when I see aphids. Fortunately they gravitate to some plants more than others and I check those plants daily to make sure they’re free of aphids.
In my close study of the wall I found it had gained sphagnum moss! How cool is that?! I’ll keep an eye on it to see how fast it spreads. This is pretty exciting!
We have water lilly pads surfacing. That must mean it’s spring . . . or something like it.
I got my new begonias in the wall yesterday. They arrived in rough shape, which I think is to be expected when live plants are shipped. The box was a bit smooshed.
In the wall I’ve got two angel wing, two that are pale silver (Napoline and Snow man) and a couple that have curly leaf edges (Curly Annie and Curly Eyelash). There are even two that are a combination of all the above . . . okay, maybe not the Angel Wing bit, but a pretty green spotted or ringed in silver. I’ve also put two small plants that broke off from the parent in the gutter to hold them over for LouAnn’s wall.
I didn’t put all the new begonias in the wall. Of the dozen I received I still have four in pots. I’ll put those in LouAnn’s wall as well.
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.
The wall is doing really well. The gutter begonia is ridiculous and the floor is littered with discarded pink petals. The flowers are appearing in a slow wave from the bottom of the cascading growth to the top.
The avocado all have multiple roots, though no stalk has appeared. I am expecting to see that feature shortly.
The hoya has finally started to grow. This is a very promising sign.
I got an email from Keith at Rex Begonias. My plants should be here today or tomorrow.
I’ll be filling in some of the empty spots in the next couple days.