Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Adventures in Aquaponics

Hill and Bourne (comet goldfish) and the
Solids Lifting Overflow (SLO) pipe

About 12 years ago, I became very interested in hydroponics. I bought all sorts of books on the subject, studied how it works and how I could get started. I made dozens of soda bottle wicking planters, and had a lot of fun. But the whole waste problem really bothered me. When the nutrients are out of whack, just throw the lot and make new solution?
   So I had an idea. I thought I would grow fish in a tank and use that water to fertilize plants. To me, it was an original idea. Just to see if anyone else had the same idea, I Yahoo!d it (yes, back before Google conquered the internet). I found out that: 1. No, it was not my idea. And that 2. It works. So I subscribed to the Aquaponics Journal e-edition from 2003-4. 
 I wasn't able to really do much in the area and mainly forgot about it for the next ten years or so until my blog guru Anna of the Walden Effect reviewed an aquaponics book on her blog. While Anna is not so keen on it, it re-kindled my interest and I bought the book, Aquaponic Gardening, by Sylvia Bernstein
  Her book really got me interested in it again, and I read it cover to cover in a weekend. My mind was full of possibilities, and I googled the idea and found Japan Aquaponics. They had a course on May 11th, and I loaded up the family and we drove down to take it. 
  I thought I already knew the basics, but it really helped to hear Aragon St. Charles describe and actually show us how it works. What is the easiest setup and why. What a SLO pipe is and how it works, etc... 
Aquaponics Mark I- Flood and Drain
  So the result is- my new aquaponics system. It is small. It takes a total of 2.16Kw per day (I'll get into that later) and it has two little tiny fish I named Hill and Bourne. The system has evolved a little since then, and will probably continue to change over time. 

Lettuce sprouting after 12 hours... not bad, eh?

The next aquaponics post will go into more detail about the system.  Until then- Happy Gardening!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Every Gardener Needs a Helper
What he lacks in size, he makes up for in effort. This little dude spent 30 minutes raking up grass to mulch daddy's garden. And you know, 30 minutes in kid time is like two hours in big people time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


What is 1089?
How many muscles in my back ache?
How many rice plants can fit in 100 square meters at 33cm spacing?
How many times I had to bend over to stick a seedling into the terrible soil of my "paddy"?

I am glad it is done. I figure about 1000 plants will survive to harvest. At least I hope so. The paddy is 4x the size of last year, and has some serious water holding issues. My neighbor told me "Eric, you have to take out all the sand and put in 15cm of black or red topsoil or you'll never get a decent crop."
I tend to agree with him, but I am pretty stubborn (and the thought of finding 15 cubic meters of quality soil is a bit daunting).
Meh, we'll see how it goes. If it doesn't go well, I guess I have a wheat field next year.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Borage flowers

What to do with a spouse who doesn't understand my need to grow a garden?
I love her, but she views my garden as her rival. Which in my opinion isn't fair.

  1. I spend a lot more time with her than I do in the garden (as anyone who sees the weed-choked paradise that is my garden can attest). 
  2. I talk to her more than I do to my garden. 
  3. I don't cut parts of her off, cook them and eat her like I do to plants in my garden. 
  4. I don't cover her with straw to smother her like I do to my garden.
  5. I don't shovel manure over her like I do to my garden.
  6. I don't pound pointy bamboo stakes into her with a wooden club like I do to my garden.
  7. I would be much angrier if a wild boar damaged her than I am when they damage my garden.
I have tried getting her interested in gardening with me, but she is too clever to fall for that. My father told me to marry a woman cleverer than myself. Apparently it backfired in this respect.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Insect ID Help

So today I saw some insects in the garden. I am pretty sure they are not all harmful. Click to view them larger.
Here are the four contestants on "NAME THAT BUG!"

1. On a black raspberry leaf

2. Also on a black raspberry leaf

3. You guessed it, on a black raspberry leaf

4. On my fava beans

If you have any information about these insects, please comment below!