Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sand System Update

Green beans starting to take over. Wish I had paid more attention to the seed packet and selected a bush variety!

Cherry tomatoes starting to ripen already.

Same photo, other side. You can see a cherokee purple getting larger.

I'm still happy with the sand system. I'm not sure it really has any advantages over other media, since it does require a fairly regular - every 2 days - brush off of the algal buildup. It's also unfortunate that the spot I chose to do this experiment has gotten pretty shady. It will be hard to judge/compare growth, as my aquapondics grow beds get much more sunshine.

The sand is definitely compacting. I'm planning on adding another bag of sand to top off each of the grow beds. I'm considering getting pea gravel instead of sand to try and minimize some of the algal mat effect - hoping that the increased distance between the gravel will still allow water to percolate through it. The sand gets so covered in algae that the water starts to pond.

All in all, though, things are going quite well!

BTW - these photos are over a week old. I tried for at least a week - maybe longer - to log in to submit this post on Blogger, but it wouldn't let me log in. Something was very wrong system-wide apparently, and it took Google a surprisingly long time to figure it out and fix it (in my opinion).

Quick Pond Update

Broccoli about to start producing. It's been so hot and taken so long, though, that I'm afraid all I'm going to get are broccoli-scented yellow flowers! Tomatoes are doing well, though.

Yellow squash doing well, as usual. Tomatoes and peppers in here not growing quite as fast. Might be more shade here.

Other than that, I put in a new 7" circular aeration stone. It's really cranking the bubbles up now, and I feel like the water clarity has improved ever so slightly.

Tilapia seem to be thriving now that the water temps are up. Eat and be merry, young tilaps!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ant Invasion

So I was cutting my pond plants back today, which I need to do at least twice a summer, when I noticed that the bubbles from the aerator didn't seem as strong as they usually do. After collecting all the cut leaves/branches with my waders on, I picked up the aerator's air diffuser to see if it needed some cleaning, which it did. But that still didn't quite do the trick. So, I clomped over to the sprinkler cover that houses the aerator (Easy Pro Linear Aeration Kit (LA5N)), and the entire inside of the sprinkler housing was thick with ants. I'm talking millions of ants here.

I doused them with some bleach and water, which took care of most of them, though there were way too many survivors, pulled the aerator out of there to clean/dry it off, and that's when I noticed that the ants just seemed to keep coming out of the aerator.

Sure enough, they had made their way INSIDE the aerator's housing - all the way inside. In every orifice of the housing and under the motor, there were ants. Even after completely disassembling the unit and cleaning it, there were still ants popping out of there from time to time. I think they might have even made it inside the motor.

I despise ants. They are everywhere and in everything around here. But, I have to give them credit. They are an amazingly resourceful creature, and they can make a home in the least likely places.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Early May Update

Nothing too exciting to report. Things are growing. It's cold here for spring! Figures that as soon as I get my tilapia, we start going back to low 70's for highs and low to mid 40's for lows! Past 3 years, we'd have already hit 90 several times and be well into summertime temps. Oh well, I'm sure it will get hot before I know it.

In the mean time, we are enjoying lots of strawberries - about 6-10 per day. At least those that aren't too chewed up by the bugs. The mystery bugs are roly-poly's - or at least some close relative of them. They are voracious, and my attempts at drowning them have no effect. They just climb up the leaves and the fruit to higher ground. The drowning method has worked on the ants, though, as they need to rescue their larvae. They get the hell out of there when the water gets high!

Photos below. We also had a banner year for irises in the pond.

Aquatic vegetation getting out of control already! But the irises are nice. Pond in the foreground, waterfall on the right (obscured), and the grow beds with PVC supports in the background.

Tomatoes (2), sweet pepper, and a bunch of broccoli about to start producing heads

The strawberry bin. I'm trying to tie up the berries to keep them up off the surface while I flood to keep the ants out.

yellow squash (2), leftover spinach, sweet peppers (2), tomato - will probably add another 2 tomatoes after the spinach has been harvested.

Some of the strawberries ripening

My enemies the rolly-poly's feasting on my berry!

Close up of some of the irises

Monday, May 2, 2011

Very Quick Update

Had a busy weekend, so I didn't get a chance to get any photos, but I wanted to put out a couple of updates. First, I picked up 40 tilapia on Thursday. I initially put 15 into my sand system. However, Thursday night and Friday night dipped down in the 40's, and I was worried about the cool temperatures and the effects on the fish. So, I moved as many as I could into the pond. I got all but 2 out. The other two remaining were small and too damned fast to catch! I also lost a large one, who jumped out of the tank during the first night. Sad.

The tilapia in the pond seem to be OK. I've seen several feeding, though not all. I transferred 3 large goldfish into the sand system, so that is now holding 3 large goldfish and 2 small tilapia.

I've discovered that I don't need to poke holes in the sand. All I have to do is scrape away the algal mat on the top. I scrape it away in large chunks and then move those chunks to the surface of the sand under the plants (where the water doesn't get to). It should provide a bit of a mulch layer.

In my pond system. I've discovered that some other bugs are the major culprit in eating my strawberries. I don't know what they are, and I'll try to post a picture soon, so that someone who does know can identify them. They're extremely common around here. I've seen them in my compost piles, too.

I put in 3 uniseals in my three grow beds where the open hole overflow drains were, and I put in 2" pipe with elbows. When I flip them up, it serves to prevent water from overflowing out, so that I can flood my plants and get rid of the pests. It seems to be helping quite a bit, and I'm wondering if there are benefits to periodic flooding of the plants that I hadn't thought of before.

It also brings to mind the likelihood of growing rice in my system. I'm definitely going to look into it, as I think it would be quite easy to start off with less hydroton and keep adjusting the flood height and adding hydroton. I think that's how it works! Like I said, I need to read up on it.