It’s late March, and it’s snowing! That means it’s not possible to begin installing the backyard aquaponics system. We’re still looking for the proper growing medium (the stuff that goes into the barrels for the plant roots to grow into). That has turned into quite a project.
The instructions call for “pea gravel”. Of course, there are few standards for pea gravel. We found it at Home Depot, where it looked more like filings from granite… sharp edges and dust.
We’ve also seen some stuff at Walmart. We may need as much as 24 bags, and that’s a lot of money.
Cindy found a product called “Hydrotron” which is perfect. Only we’d have to drive to Las Vegas, and the cost is prohibitive.
I want to check a local company in Cedar City. They may have it in bulk, and that would be much cheaper, even if we do have to shovel it out of the truck. Perhaps we could pay as little as $30 a yard. I think we’ll need about a cubic yard if we buy bulk.
Of course, we’re also still waiting on parts to complete the greenhouse remodel, so in all… let it snow!
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Step two was to bring the framework upstairs and get it coated with a protective stain. That framework won’t have any contact with either the water or the plants, so we’re still inside the organic regulations. The blue barrels will sit on this framework.
The barrels have been cut and Cindy is now working on the plumbing. There’s a ton of connections to be made and many pieces of PVC to be cut and glued. Once these have been “test fitted”, the barrels and plumbing will be brought to the greenhouse for installation.
Cindy also connected with the right Department of Natural Resources person , who cleared our confusion regarding any need for an aquaculture permit. As long as the fish are either turned into fertilizer at the end of their life, of in the case of trout, for our use only, we have no permitting requirements.
To start, we’ll use common goldfish as we’re moving into warmer weather. According to all the experts, many of these fish will also sacrifice themselves as learn to balance the system. By next fall, we will locate a company within Utah that raises sterile trout for winter use.
Stay tuned as we will begin hooking everything up in a week or two. Part of the delay will be the arrival of the greenhouse covers. Also finding the right morning (no wind, and well above freezing) and gathering a crew from amongst our neighbors determines the installation date.
With the passing of the latest snow storm, and temps back into the high 40′s it’s time to begin this backyard aquaponics system buliding project.
Last week, we carried the barrels, lumber, plastic piping supplies, and all our tools to the basement.
Today is go!
With the help of a “work-mate”, Bev and Cindy are measuring, and measuring again before cutting, then screwing things together. No room for error as we’re way too far from town to just run in and get more stuff.
Ok, just ran back in from a quick meeting to determine EXACTLY how this thing will fit in our 12×20 greenhouse. By removing the west box, we will be able to put this system in it’s place. The very top of the system is 6’4″ and we have 8′ of height. We have room for 4 complete backyard aquaponics systems.
Initially, we will have 27 square feet of grow bed. When we add the flood tank, we will have enough room for 11 lettuce plants floating in building foam. Remember, we will be growing our veggies very close together.
Once the test system has been used for a while, we will make adjustment and move on to the additional systems.
At this point, we very sure it will take a big effort to move the parts of the stand upstairs. Thankfully, we have a tractor to assist with the removal of one raised planting box. That box will be relocated to the front of the greenhouse.
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Backyard aquaponics is a descriptive term for the process of raising produce in containers and using fish to provide the necessary nutrients. There is little to no dirt involved in this process, making it ideal in areas where the soil is not suited to growing produce in the ground.
You feed the fish, and the fish feed the plants with their poop.
Hydroponics is the process of raising produce using chemical-based nutrient laden water to plants in containers. Again there is no soil required.
The most basic system requires at least one container for your fish, and one container (about equal size) for your produce. Anywhere you can place a water bed is supported well enough to support the weight of a small aquaponics system.
Why would you want to have a backyard aquaponics system?
- You can grow veggies and fruit that you couldn’t normally grow in your outdoor climate.
You can grow veggies without any dirt.
You can extend your growing season by placing your system in a controlled environment.
You can grow your veggies “organically” if you feed your fish certified organic fish food.
You can grow your crops year around.
You conserve water by recycling the water from the fish to the plants and back to the fish.
A backyard organics system uses about 10% of the water that a comparative conventional garden would use.
You may be able to eat the fish you raise.
What can you raise in your backyard aquaponics system?
You can raise most leafy green plants. You can raise tomatoes, and other plants which develop their fruit above ground. Some folks have raised beets, but not potatoes. You may be able to raise rice in a larger system.
You can raise fish for your own consumption. For example, if your state allows, you could raise tilapia or trout.
How much does a system cost?
You can build a system for very little money (perhaps under $100), or you can build one that is more elaborate. Purchasing a ready-made system is more expensive.
Backyard aquaponics systems are already in service around the world, and are just beginning to be us in the USA. Do yourself a favor and start building your own system.
If you have questions for us, please post them in the comments and we will answer them in future articles.