Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Veggies Coming Along Nicely!

In my established system, things are looking really good. I've already harvested a ton of arugula that we've used in salads and also made a nice pesto out of. There's more arugula on the way, too. Spinach is looking nice and ready for harvest. More salad for me and spinach quesadillas for my son. Some of the cilantro grew up nicely, and that ended up in some of my famous salsa (thank you Giemzales!) The strawberries are looking fantastic, and there are plenty of flowers blooming.

The broccoli seeds have germinated well, as have the broccolini, so things are looking up. With one batch of arugula out of the way, I have some space for tomatoes. I've already purchased 4 seedlings, but the weather's not cooperating. It's been over 80 the past two days, but it's supposed to drop to near 32 tonight and not get above 60 for the next 5 days. So, I'll wait a week to stick them in the grow bed.

Some of the worms that I put in there last year survived the winter. I'm not sure how they managed that, since the grow beds were flooding continuously. Hardy little suckers!

Spinach on the right, broccoli on the left (need to thin it)


Cilantro/broccolini on the left, spinach in the middle, arugula on the right

Pond plants seem to be taking off even earlier this year than normal.

Sand System Refined

The spider valve is too flaky. Sometimes it would switch over to the next channel, sometimes it wouldn't. When you're talking about the difference between routing to a grow bed or just returning back to the fish tank, you're talking about the difference between life and death for both fish and plants. I couldn't depend on it, so I took it out. I will say, though, that the manual says that the spider valve should be the highest point in the connection, i.e. that all the water coming out should flow back down. In order to use the least amount of pipe, I didn't follow that suggestion. So, it could be that the spider valve works great, but because I didn't set it up properly, it didn't work. I can't rule it out, but with this experience, I'm not likely to try it again. Besides, it takes a pretty good flow just to get the damn thing to seal itself and work right. It's not worth the extra $$ expense on electricity, since you get an aerator that pulls only 5W.

Anyway, instead of the spider valve, I used my smaller pump (630 GPH - probably still oversized) and connected it straight to the two growbeds. I bought a Coralife Luft Aquarium air pump and an airstone. I then used a housing that I had for my old digital timer/relay from a couple of years ago to make the air pump weather proof. I had to drill a couple of holes - one to allow air to come in from the bottom into the housing, and one for the power cord to go out of. I used a little piece of old liner and some screen material to ensure that no critters could get in, and I used some pieces of foam to fill in the gaps around the airpump inside the housing to reduce vibration.

Housing for Coralife Luft pump

In full operation, you can see the return line draining in and the bubbles on the bottom of the photo from the air stone.

Both growbeds during a flooding stage. I carved little channels around the outside of the grow beds for the water to move through. Just like at the beach!

The whole system - fish tank on the ground, grow beds up on the deck, with drain pan underneath.

The drain pan is way oversized. I had that 3X3 Botanicare tray, and it seemed a waste just sitting there. It fit nicely width-wise under the 2 grow beds, but it doesn't need to be as large to do the job that it's doing. In fact, it's size means that more water is stored temporarily in the drain pan instead of providing the fish with more gallons to swim in.

All I need to do is to build a box wide enough and deep enough to serve the same function, but I don't want to spend any more money on it right now!

We're supposed to see temps near freezing tonight and early next week. As soon as that passes, I'll start planting.