Saturday, April 23, 2011

Progress Report on Sand System

Thought I'd post a little update on the sand system before I add in 15 tilapia to the mix. So, the growth that you see is the product of 2 good-sized goldfish - that's it. I've seen good growth in the tomatoes, and all of my seeds have germinated. I will say, though, that it seems like the seeds may have taken longer to germinate than they did in my hydroton system. Could be that the weather is the major factor in that, though, as it's been exceptionally cool and rainy this spring.

Veggies include tomatoes, green beans, edamame, cucumber, yellow squash, sweet pepper, and some basil starting to come up.

Top shot shows the grow bed when the water starts collecting. Bottom shows what it looks like after I poke a few holes in the sand with 1/2" PVC pipe. Many claim that I won't be able to keep this up for long - that the sand will compact and clog and eventually stop draining well. Maybe... but for now, things are fine with the occasional hole poking.

All in all, I'm happy so far with the sand system. Having to poke some holes into the sand to help with drainage isn't that big of a deal work-wise, but the fact that it requires any extra effort puts it at a disadvantage to my hydroton system. It will be interesting to see how the drainage fairs  over time. I think most people think it will get clogged and basically crap out. I sure hope that doesn't happen!

Friday, April 22, 2011


So, some of the pests that I see frequently in my pond/hydroton system are ants. For the most part, they aren't a problem, though they do enjoy some of the sweeter fruits that you might grow, like tomatoes and strawberries. Well, since I have quite a few strawberries growing right now, I'd really like to limit the losses I take from the ants. By ants, I'm talking about sugar ants (or at least that's what people call them down here). They don't bite, and they can live just about anywhere - under leaves, rocks, inside toys, etc.

Well, turns out that hydroton makes a nice ant home, too, especially if you have a couple of inches of hydroton that don't get too wet from your inflow.

So, the question is how to get rid of them? I don't want them eating all my food!!

Yesterday, I tried to flood them out. I basically just turned up the volume of the inflow so that it was faster than it could drain. The problem is that I have overflow holes just drilled into the grow beds, so when the water got that high, it all overflowed. A terrible waste of water!

But, it worked. The ants got the heck out of there. I met their escape with my garden hose, which at least served to scatter them temporarily. I'd wager that they'll be back soon enough, though. There were some other critters in there that ran from the flood, too. Interesting...

My plan is to install some bulkhead fittings into my drain holes so that I can at least prevent the water from spilling out onto the ground. I don't really have any better ideas, though, do you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Early Season Update

First, an update on my sand-based system. I noticed today that the water was collecting on the surface of the sand more than usual. Turns out that an algal mat is forming, and as a result, the water was having a hard time permeating into the sand. This is to be expected, and it's not a big deal. In fact, I think the algae will play an important role in the nutrient cycle for the plants I'm trying to grow. Problem was easily remedied by poking a few holes in the sand using a piece of 1/2" PVC pipe.  I imagine I'll have to do that regularly. Luckily, I planned ahead for something like this, and created channels in the sand around the outside of the grow beds for the water to move through. Since I don't plan on planting anything in these channels, I'm not interfering at all with any of my plants by poking holes into the sand.

My pond-based system is cranking along nicely. I'm in full swing in terms of spring veggies. See photos below. I'm particularly excited about the strawberries. They look fantastic, and there look to be a record number of berries on the way. I thought of a new term today for my system: "aquapondics". You heard it here first!

Cilantro in rear (left), arugula in rear (right), spinach in middle, and broccolini on left/right front

Strawberry grow bed. This grow bed is devoted entirely to strawberries, and they survive year-round (even when the entire grow bed froze solid with ice this past year)

Two tomato seedlings just planted on left, spinach in the middle, broccoli on right (with some leftover cilantro growing up in the spinach)

Pond with grow beds in the background