Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Greetings all!

  Our group meets for the sharing of information, networking, discussion of aquaponics, permaculture techniques and practices, and greenhouse growing here in Washington.  The emphasis is on methods and techniques for producing foods for personal consumption. Those interested can contact me.  We will be meeting on the 3rd to last Sunday of each month.  We will be rotating locations to see others systems and for everyone's convenience. 

We are now in the process of creating an NPO for the outreach, education, and research in the cultivation of nutritionally dense produce for the family.  Our focus is on home production of food essentially, designing systems for food security, and a network of like-minded people that support each other in this goal.  We are just beginning to gain momentum.  We are still recruiting our board of directors and board of advisers.  We will be offering internships to those that would like to get involved.  We have about a dozen people on board from a diverse talent pool.  You are welcome to come out and see our project and discuss your involvement.

Some of the projects we are working on now: 

1)Research project through Evergreen State College in the cultivation of nutritionally dense produce in two different systems. One greenhouse is a completely passive solar system, the other a heated greenhouse, in each we are testing vegetable varieties and their production in the maritime climate of the Northwest.  We are using a variety of growing methods to include permaculture practices, aquaponics, vermiculture, composting, etc.


2) Software for the organization, and mapping of the urban and rural homestead.  This program will assist the homesteader in their planting, rotation of crops, and harvesting estimates for various times of the year.  For use on a several acre farmstead to the urban gardener.

3) Design and fabrication of a rolling permaculture/aquaponics lab, for the outreach and education in personal food production.  This unit will be visiting schools, colleges, fairs, anywhere information might be useful in inspiring people and communities to begin producing food in their local area.

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BillZ said:

I missed this. Wish there was a way to subscribe and get email to all posts in a group forum like this (so let me know if there is and I just missed it). I'd like to go on the 22nd. I live in the Covington area and can break away early afternoon. 

I'm new to all of this but have been doing a lot of reading. I'm ready to get started with an outside hobby system about 300 gal FT and one 8x4 flood and drain grow bed (even if it is later in the season than I would have liked). It would be great to talk in person and learn some lessons from those of you who have been doing it for a while.

The meeting will be at my place, 803 317th St Ct E Roy WA 98580.  Message me for directions.

 It was my first meeting. I was impressed by the diversity of the group and the varied interests in all the participants. Some were planning, some were exploring and some were actually doing. I found it very interesting and very informative.

 I came away with several serious topics to think about. One that hit me hard was the fact that WA has the most stringent rules about air standards, and failure to observe them could cost the owner fees to check their output and possibly a $10,000 fine. Ouch! I am rethinking how I will heat the GH this winter. There is an EPA approved heater that is not dependent on power to run, cost to run is not too bad.

 Another was a presentation of software - open source - that will help the grower know when to plant, how much to expect in produce per plant, and calculate the needs of a family so that the calculated number of plants will achieve the dietary needs of the family. Very Impressive! Not yet complete, but what I saw was very well organized. Produce yield was based on 10 years of field conditions here in the Tacoma region, not on some optimized site in Iowa. No one has regional AP produce yields that I can find, so that will be a 10 year recording process (to even out sun, temps, etc.) for each of us.

 Another was the way Rick had made a spot below the growbeds for his fish and sump tanks, that allows him to move about and locate his heater at the same level as his tanks. Not really a basement, too shallow, but very well thought out. and, too late for me to implement. But if I was doing it again, might imitate. The depth was just low enough to hold the top of his IBCs completely level with the wooden floors, less than 4 feet. But with the floor boards lifted (designed to do that) he could walk around his tanks with his chest above the floor, making it easy to kneel down and plumb and upgrade or swap out his tanks. Very well thought out.

 There were discussions on using wind power and sun power to power the pumps and aerators without definite conclusions, but real possibilities for success, even with the general cloudiness that is the hallmark of WA weather.

 Permaculture was discussed, as was mixed use (aquaponics with dirt grown produce). There will be some experimentation to develop a successful grow medium for root crops like beets and carrots, using pots and water from the fish tanks. This will likely use some form of drip irrigation, so small amounts, and little, but some, water return to the fish tank. The issue will be to find a media mix that is small or soft enough to grow root crops, that he can return the water to the fish tank and does not hurt the fish or other parts of the AP System. He has one plan, I will try another. Both will likely work.

 Lighting was discussed, generally agreed that LEDs could be the best light source, but high initial cost with low daily use costs. HID and florescent were also discussed. No conclusions yet as there were no installed systems. But at least 2 green houses will have lights this year to extend the growing season to 12 months.

 I left with my head buzzing with possibilities and new options for my GH.  I will be a regular attender, and at least once as a 'visit site' for the group. Not August, but this year probably.

Yesterday was the August Meeting of the NW Aquaponics Group. This is a very casual group, most were in jeans or shorts and t-shirts. Also held outdoors, for now, making it easy to meet people and greet friends. Some new faces, some returned from the last meeting. Those that were new to the NW AP group got a personalized tour of Rick's Greenhouse while the others chatted and reconnected.

>>  Then one member began a discussion of food nutrition and food density. It was apparent that from at least the 1930's, in the US, that people were concerned with the loss of food nutrition as more and more crops were focused on shipping, holding, in-warehouse ripening but with a equal loss of flavor and real nutrition. Yet studies, from around the world, showed that farming one variety (mono-cropping) led to poor soils and crop failures. Slowly the idea of re-building the soils began to emerge about the time that sales of fertilizers and soil-supplements designed to get good crops out of poor or failing soils. The fertilizers usually contained the big 3 supplements [N-nitrogen; P- phosphorus, K-potassium] in various ratios, but without any of the micro-nutrients that all people need in trace amounts, boron, chromium, etc. What is NOT in the soil CAN NOT be in the produce, and nutrition is reduced by the lack of micro-nutrients.

>>  Additionally, food loses nutrition from the moment it is removed from the plant, and delays from harvest to consumption are adversely reflected in lower nutrition values at the time of consumption. Optimum use, is pick and eat, or pick, cook, and eat. Also the last few days the produce is connected to the roots or vine are when the bulk of nutrition is brought into the produce or fruit. Picking it at ripeness and consuming it quickly, gets the most nutrients into the body.

>>  Can Aquaponics solve these problems? Yes, the food can be picked at ultimate ripeness and eaten quickly, because it is right there in or near the house. Does AP food have the micro-nutrients? Probably. Why? Most fish food that is fed to our fish will have the trace-elements we need because the fish need them also. And it will likely be in some excess in their waste, which goes to the growbeds where it can be picked up by our vegetables, for our consumption. Can we supplement the water or growbeds with trace elements? Yes, a product called Azomite is available to supplement with trace elements. [Google this yourself.] Azomite has been approved as organic by the US Government, but not as a food supplement.

>>  What happens to the extra food that ripens but I can't consume in a reasonable rate? [Or, "I planted too many tomatoes, or zucchini!"] After you've given away as much as you can, that's when you begin to store your harvest, by freezing, canning, drying, root cellars or as sauces, jams and jellies etc. You will likely recognize that your food tastes better than the food you used to buy. And serious food-saving will begin.

>>  How can I plan more successfully to grow what I need rather than a super abundance of tomatoes, etc. Check-out the Square Foot Gardening books and videos. They'll help you plan enough, and teach about succession planting, and by growing many varieties of vegetables you get fully supplied with what you need, as each plant supplies a different balance of nutrients.

>>  Can I just grow salad greens? Yes, of course. and with succession planting you can have it ready just as you need it. Remember that a good salad has several types of greens, not just lettuce. Go to the grocery store, look at what is in the mixed salad bags (read contents to identify unfamiliar items) and seek out those seeds. By planting according to the succession plan, you'll have the most delicious salads in your neighborhood and feed your family royally very cheaply. You could do this in a plastic tub linked with your [freshwater] aquarium as an Aquaponics starter garden.

>>  Other discussions were about how to start an AP system. Start small and get some experience (see immediately above).

>>  How do I get AP going, when I can't add to the built footprint on my lot [local ordinance defining how much of a lot can be built on and how much left to 'yard']. Hang the garden on a South facing wall, and put the fish tank inside the garage or home. There were other ideas as well.

>>  Does this work in other countries? Yes, all over the world, tropical, sub-tropical, Maritime Climate, desert climate, sub-arctic climate. Different things are grown in different parts of the world. Different fish are grown by different people. However, principles of AP work all over the world just using different fish and different plants. That Means: ta-dah, that your system will probably work for you. We are all here to help with issues; that is what community means in Aquaponics Community.

>>  Further discussion about heating using self-loading pellet stove with the new water heater design [two sides of the burn chamber have flat tubes to suck off some heat and apply it to the water] allowing us to set-up a sump tank / fish tank heater system. Now, it is approved by UL Laboratories, the US EPA, and the WA EPA including usable during 'burn bans' as it produces so little waste in the exhaust! Yay!

>>  Again, I drove home with my head buzzing with ideas.

Sundays meeting ay Don's place was great!  We got to meet several new people and connect with others that have attended in the past. 

The next meeting will be at my place (Rick Stillwagon) on Sunday ,October 21st.  We will be discussing indoor growing environments, fungus and pest control, heating, lighting, varieties that do not require pollination, pollination methods, and our low natural light conditions and the varieties that are best suited. 

Our next meeting is Sunday October 21st.  It should be very interesting.  Jeb is preparing a few bits to share concerning Fall and Winter growing in our climate and in regards to greenhouse growing.  I hope you can make it!

Our meeting is this Sunday at 3pm! I hope you can make it.

Remember our meetings are free and very informative.  Anyone that can make it out is invited.


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