Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Hanging With My Peeps – RIP

Amelia

Last night a fox got into our chicken coop and took all 12 of my chickens. Needless to say, I am heartbroken and feeling guilty that I should have protected them better. Who would have ever thought that chickens could become pets?!? Those lovely Red Star Hens taught me that chickens have their own unique personalities and with tender loving care can become affectionate pets who learn their names, come when you call them and crave attention. In loving memory of Red, Amelia, Wilma, Lucy, Blondie, Henrietta, Miss Adventure, Golden Girl, Blanche, Sophia, Florence and Pebbles; I am reposting my original post of “Hanging With My Peeps”

Part of our goal in having more control over the food we eat is to raise chickens. Those of you who know me are well aware that I’ve always hated chickens with a passion and vowed I would never ever raise chickens. It stems from childhood when my dad decided we should have chickens since we had a chick coop on our farm. All I really remember is my mother sending us kids out the coop to collect eggs and opening the door to have hundreds of chickens (well it seemed like hundreds but it was only a few) fly into our faces. They were mean, nasty, dirty birds that even my mother hated, but she solved that problem, we had them for dinner. So what made me change my mind about raising chickens? Research! I searched for a way to keep insects and weeds under control in my garden. The answer was chickens.

We started with 6 Red Star chicks which are so darn cute, you can’t help but love ’em. Currently they are living in a crate in my living room until they are fully feathered and can go outside into the real world. Next I purchased 6 fully grown Red Star hens that are approximately 1 year old. These girls immediately helped me over come my life long hatred of chickens by being so calm, sweet and friendly. Who knew chickens could be so friendly? They come when I call them and love to follow me around the garden. In just a few days they went from being chickens to being pets. I have even named them (Red, Blondie, Amelia, Henrietta, Wilma and Lucy).

Turn Your Garden On It’s Head

Upside down gardening seems to be the rage, but of course I already knew that as the majority of my tomato plants were grown in buckets hanging upside down. Here’s more on the fad of upside down gardening: Growing Vegetables Upside Down

It’s Aquaponics Baby!

Those of you who frequent my blog, know I have been experimenting with Aquaponics and have posted a couple of videos on the subject. What didn’t make clear in my videos is how I set my Aquaponics system up so I will explain that in further detail now.

First of all, some of you who have never heard of term Aquaponics. What is it? Aquaponics (IPA: /?ækw??p?n?ks/) is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment. In simpler terms, Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaponics combines both systems, and in doing so cancels out the negative aspects of each. Instead of adding toxic chemical solutions to grow plants (hydroponics), Aquaponics uses highly nutritious fish waste which is pumped into the grow beds, past the roots of plants which extract the nutrient from the water. Instead of discharging water, Aquaponics uses the plants and the media in which they grow to clean and purify the water, after which it is returned to the fish tank. This water can be reused indefinitely and will only need to be replaced when it is lost through transpiration and evaporation. Basically it’s a recirculating environment where fish excrete ammonia, bacteria breaks down the ammonia and converts it to nitrites, Nitrobacter bacteria convert the nitrites to nitrates, plants absorb the nitrates and the grow medium filters the water for the fish completing the cycle.

How did I become interested in Aquaponics? I was searching for a viable way to expand my garden without digging up my whole yard. I also wanted a system that would require less weeding and use natural fertilization, which lead me to Aquaponics. In my search I came across Travis Hughey manual for Barrel-Ponics system which was so simple and easy to understand. I decided to build one for myself with a few modification.

My Aquaponics Set Up

My Aquaponic Set Up

With my system I used 2 – 55 gallons plastic barrels (recycled food product barrels); one for the fish tank and the other cut length wise in half for the grow beds. The grow beds are mounted above the fish tank and filled with pea stone. The pea stone is the growing medium for the plants and also act a water filter for the fish tank. Mr Hughey’s system incorporates the use of a flush tank system, where the water from the fish tank is pumped in to a holding tank and when the water reaches the desired level in the holding tank flushes the water into the grow bed. I eliminated this by using a sump pump connected to a floating piggy back switch in my fish tank.

My Aquaponics Set Up

The float switch is attached to perforated metal strip on the side of the fish tank, this way the float switch can easily be moved/adjusted to turn the sump pump on and off at the desired water levels. I also added extra foam to the float switch to give it little more buoyancy. The sump pump rest on the edges of 2 flat rock instead of sitting directly on the bottom of the tank, there is no particular reason for this other than it gives the fish a place to hide out when the pump is not running. So how does this work? When the fish tank is completely full of water the piggy back float switch turns on the sump pump which pump the water in to the grow beds via a hose which is connected to a bottom of a 1/2” PVC Tee. The Tee then diverts the water into both grow beds flooding the beds to the desired level. The float switch then shuts off the pump and the water in the grow beds slowly refills the fish tank via a hole in the bottom of each grow bed that has been fitted with a ½” PVC male adapter. I used a shut-off valve to control the rate the water refills the fish tank this helps keep the water oxygenated forthe fish and also keeps the pump from running constantly. The whole cycle of water circulation from tank to grow bed back to tank takes approximately a half an hour.

sump pump

For fish, I chose Comet Goldfish as they are a hardy breed of fish, that produce lots of ammonia and easy to keep, not to mention inexpensive to purchase. The fish tank is currently home to approximately 40 goldfish who are thriving in this environment with very little care or maintenance other than feeding them twice daily.

If you haven’t already viewed my videos please do so now: