Tag Archives: Greenhouse

A few updates

Now that we have had a little of warmer weather is seems as things are going full speed ahead. I wanted to give a little update on several of the projects and activities for anyone following.

Indianapolis Flower and Patio Show

I will be presenting Permaculture Thursday 3-13-14 and Aquaponics on Sunday 3-16-14. More details.

Website

We will be migrating our website to a different host to be able to give more features, benefits, and more freedoms. There may be a bump in this transition. You can always follow us on Facebook as well.  If you are wanting to schedule a class, or consulting time check out the available time/dates on the calendar.

Greenhouse

The greenhouse is 70% dismantled. I decided to tear it down this winter due to the inability to expand it, heat it, and cool it in summer. I decided to build a hoop house instead over the existing pond and growing area.

Hoop house

The V1.0 of the hoop house was an utter failure big lesson learned. It was a test, and using materials I already but didn’t stand up to the 10” of snow we got in one day. I used PEX tubing, and some rebar along with clear 6mil plastic sheeting.

The version 2.0 was another big lesson learned. I used 10’ PVC pipe and attempted to connect with “T” fittings in the middle and bend the 20’ sections into an arch. Well the pipe would bend, the “T” couldn’t handle the stress and I shattered 3 trying to make the hoop.

Version 3.0 was to make it in an “A” frame just to get something out and plants in the ground. So far this is holding. Version 4.0 I am on the lookout for metal “T” fittings and try it again. Pictures of all will come when I write them up.

Podcast

In the near future I and another individual will launch a new podcast. We are focusing on topics we hold important and highlight local small businesses in the process. There will be podcasts of each of us on various topics, podcasts of discussions (we both have the gift of gab), interviews, and even Q&A from listeners. We modeled a lot off what Jack Spirko has done with TSP. He paved the way for a great podcast. We wanted to focus on things locally that impacted us here in the Midwest as well as highlight local small business owners. If you are a small business owner and would like to discuss being on the show let me know. There are some requirements before we ever put an advertiser, local business, or recommend anyone or anyplace to listeners. If you have a topic that you think people would be interested in again, please let me know. More details when we have everything in place probably in the next week. We are both very excited to get this out. Not everyone can attend classes, so we can reach more people while in their commute, at work, doing dished, or just hanging out at home.

Logo

Our new logo is back at the designers. 1st round comments went back and we are waiting on the revised images.

Alternative Gardening MeetUp

I ran a poll on the Alternative Gardening MeetUp site and we are now adding Homesteading to the mix. It just flowed since you would need to do something with the food you produced, and most of the people in the group were already interested in the topic. If you are not a member, we are building meetings all the time. Here is the new site. http://www.meetup.com/AlternativeGardeningHomesteading/

Tour of our place

We will be scheduling tours as soon as our property dries up and some green starts to show again.

Midwest Sustainable Education Conference

We had to cancel the conference due to lack of interest. We didn’t meet the minimum number needed before the deadline at the resort. This was a tough decision, but had to do it. If you were interested in attending, but didn’t register, I would love to know how we could have improved it. We will look to offer another conference in fall. Spring-Fall is the busiest time for all who were involved.

Eating local

This harvest was grown with no chemicals, no man made fertilizers and cost little to nothing to produce. 100% organic, and traveled just feet from my door. How far did your food travel today? What was used on it? Do you know where you food has been? How much are organic apples, tomatoes or organically raised meat, running in the stores these days?

apples

This is from just 1 hour harvesting from some of our apple trees. We have two 55-gal drums full of apples and only started to make a dent in the harvest.  More picking this weekend. Each bin weighs about 150 lbs.

Tomatoes

two plants one harvest. All this came from only two plants in our aquaponics greenhouse in one day. This will go great into the home made v-8. using almost entirely things from our gardens.

Barter meat

So we are not currently producing our own meat, other than eggs. But I was able to barter some meat for apples. Some really nice brats, and package of chicken from a local farmer (Simpson Family Farm). I literally helped raise some of these. I knew exactly how they were raised and where processed. I know the farmer. I have been “interning” learning the ways or organic meat production in return for labor.

So our meal tonight, home made pasta, brats, salad, and baked apples, I know where 90% came from. As I either grew it or had a hand in producing it. The exception is the flour for the pasta, and oils in the dressing. Majority of ingredients in the salad came from our back yard. The cheese, the local farmers market. Hopefully we will be making our own cheese in the near future. Croutons, I made from home made bread. 5 years ago I wouldn’t have thought all this possible. Today, I am thinking what can I produce next?

Suburban Farm Tour 9-21-13 10am

If you are local to the Indianapolis area we are hosting a group tour to see in person and ask questions some of the things we have used on our micro farm in the city. See the three aquaponic systems in action, back yard chickens, medicinal herbs, water harvesting, edible landscapes just to name a few. Ask questions, tips, techniques and see some of the items we have for sale. This will be scheduled through Meetup Alternative Gardening group. If you are not already a member of Meetup there is a link below. We are having it on Saturday September 21st 10am.

Group Tour info

Lessons learned in aquaponics

I don’t believe in failure. What others call a failure I call them lessons on what didn’t work, opportunities for improvement, and in some cases, the “failure” was an improvement. In each “failure” I learned something new or proved my hypothesis was wrong, and I needed to analyze what happened and why. Make it better then next time around.

I learned that you MUST make sure your system and all components are clean despite what people tell you. When I first started, I used 55 gal drums that previously contained vinegar. I bought them, and because the seller said they were cleaned, I started cycling my system. Well there was some residual in the containers and my pH was way off. Thus killing my first batch of fish and lesson two at the same time.

You must cycle your system for a while, and it depends on the size before adding plants and fish. I researched some and my first attempt was just to see if I could do it. Then learning from my mistakes I began to research more and understand the underlying fundamentals. There are three main components to aquaponics and each must work together effectively. If one of the three are out of balance then the other two get out of whack as well. Fish, plants, and bacteria. The bacteria break down the waste products of the fish, so the plants can take up the waste of the bacteria. The plants clean the water and grow off the bacteria waste, and then can feed the fish. At least in my case the duckweed feed the fish.

I say that your cycle time is dependant on the size because not two systems are alike and not one solution fits the situation. You could be using a 30 gallon indoor system, or a 55 gal outdoor system and the cycle time is different for each, as well as how you flow the system, and the media you use, the amount of light, what type of water you use. How you start your ammonia for the bacteria to begin digestion etc. All can vary your system requirements.

You can learn a lot more from doing than theory and reading. From my research several sites, and books said you should only grow leafy plants such as lettuce, herbs etc. and you couldn’t grow fruiting plants. Last year I grew melons, cucumbers tomatoes, beans, peas, chives and water chestnut. I try something and if it works great, if not, I note it, and try it again a few more times to confirm the results. My 1st few attempt at growing peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and beans failed. I was attempting to start them from seeds in the system. I learned you need to get the plants started in some sort of media then transfer. I used coconut coir. I am attempting strawberries in addition to celery, marshmallow root, leaks, and some of my other past accomplishments.

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Start with “disposable” fish. In my area tilapia are about $2 a fish for fingerlings. Catfish $1 for each 4 inch fish. When stocking a 2000 gallon system that is a big investment to have all of them die off. I used feeder goldfish from my local pet store. 100 for $12.49. My 1 inch fish I started with are not about 1-2lbs each. Goldfish are pretty hardy, they will survive through winter water temps below 40 degrees, they eat just about anything, and produce a lot of waste. Can you eat goldfish? Yup, it is of the carp family. But I doubt I would ever eat them. Because of their high waste output a larger bio filter is needed, but means a higher plant food source. We have added bluegill, read ear, and catfish as we catch them while fishing. Some fish are too small to eat, but they are great to add to the aquaponics and allow to grow to a bigger size.

Don’t believe you have to have a commercial system or parts. I wouldn’t ever but the thousand plus dollar kits they sell online. You can make an aquaponic system with just about anything. If it will hold water you can have a system. Rubbermaid plastic totes, 55 gal plastic drums, aquariums, in ground ponds. You also don’t need a commercial biofilter. I made mine out of plastic cat litter containers I found at my recycle center, landscaping lava rock, and seeded it with bacteria from a local pond. All free.

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I attempted to use pipe as my grow area. This would work if you harvested the entire plant. I wanted to be able to pick a few things, and let the plants continue to produce. The roots end up clogging the system. So now I have adopted grow beds.

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There are so many other things I know now that I would have done differently if I had to do it all over. I could have learned much of this from following someone else step and what they did. I could have bought a kit and paid for tech help and support. But I don’t think I would have learned as much about my own system. When something breaks I know how to fix it. I have learned to adapt other materials for my purpose, cat litter boxes, landscaping lava rocks etc. It would have definitely cost mre more. Experiment, learn what works for you and your system.

Want to start your own system? Let me help. I can discuss pitfalls and lessons learned. Help with sourcing materials that won’t break the bank. If you are in the Indianapolis area or are located in Indiana I can provide onsite help and consulting. Check out the consulting and contact us pages.

Aquaponics, Then and now

18 months ago we started with a greenhouse and some barrelponics. Barrelponics uses 55 gal barrels for fish and growing in an aquaponics system. We then moved to a pond liner and the floor being dug out, and used 4″ PVC drain pipe to contain plants. This worked for a while but learned some critical lessons.

1) If you do not harvest the entire plant, the root system will clog the pipes and you will have a reduced flow downstream. Since we use a constant flow system, this created overflow and loss of water, since the linter only covered the pond.

2) we extended the liner to everything under the pipes. This way if there was a leak or a backup, the liner would catch the water and no water loss.

3) the pipes and greenhouse were not heated this year, and as a result large ice masses formed. These masses were too heavy to support and resulted in system failure.

How we fixed the problems. We switched to a grow bed system, which has its own issues and problems but were much more manageable. These problems were grow media, weight issues, and plant support.  The grow media was solved by using lava rock from left over landscaping. No increased cost. The weight was solved by adding additional supports and using shelves father than lashing to the support structures.

This is May 2012

May 2012 Aquaponics

This is July 2012 after putting in the liner

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Here is how things look today. We have actually increased our growing area quite a bit. Still have a few more grow beds to add too.

 

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