Aquaponic Gardening

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Has anyone used 55 gallon drum halves for Deep Water Culture?  I'm thinking of buying 3, cutting them in half, and using 1 inch foamboard.  6 halves would be about the equivalent of a 4 ft x 8 ft grow bed, based on 23 in diameter x 35 in height of 55 gallon drums.  4ft x 8ft foamboard would yield 5 sections of approximately 22in x 34in. Some concerns are: 1) more plumbing involved; 2) more carpentry involved building stands; 3) the shallower sides of the barrel halves could interfere with plant growth; and 4) less water volume than a square bed.  Another potential problem is foamboard sticking to the tapered sides, but that would be mitigated by water level.  Also, the sturdiness of the top edges could be questionable, but I imagine that those can be reinforced quite easily and cheaply if need be.  My thoughts are to design a system that is part parallel and part series with one of the growbeds being ebb and flow for comparison and experimentation purposes.

 

Some of the pluses for using the barrel halves are: 1) less work not moving heavy components around while building; 2) easier and lighter portability; 3) conversion to DWC or E&F would be easy with various combinations of the two; 3) easier reach for planting and harvesting; 4) better segregation of plant types facilitating variety and experimentation; 5) more flexibility with layout and placement thereby utilizing space more efficiently and access to sunlight depending on plant need; 6) about 50% less cost than a typical 4ft x 8ft growbed - $120.00 vs $60.00 (New Orleans); and 7) more flexibility in increasing or decreasing growbed area depending on time, money, resources, and nutrient availability.  Many of these advantages could be applied to bathtubs and other similar smaller containers.

 

Obviously, such a system would not really lend itself to a commercial endeavor, but I feel would be excellent in a back yard situation. 

 

 

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If you build your stands in a fashion similar to the barrel ponics stands or the way I did my long line of barrels, the barrels should be well enough supported to avoid bowing or sagging problems but such stands will cost more.

I do believe a lot of people have done a barrel half or two as raft beds, perhaps not too many people on this site but I've seen plenty of pictures of them out there.
Thanks, TC. I'll do a search to see what I can find. In any event, it would be a lot of fun "re-inventing the wheel".
Gus, I'm not seeing any solids filtration in here. Did I miss that? You must remove the solid waste in a DWC system.
Go to the dump and get every appropriate container you can carry home.....I got a roughneck to bring home 4- 55 gal polyethylene barrels that worked perfectly....i cut em in half with a Dewalt Sawsall ...they retain no odor and clean up well....put em out in my backyard after cutting them in half and now they are growiing algae.....the stands I made out of some used landscape timbers and some 2x12's that my neighbor was throwing away.....if you look around,, your setup wont cost you anything but effort....you've got to buy the pump and some PVC and I had trouble finding a fish tank....I have 8 free barrel halves (200 gal) and a 320 gallon blue polyethylene stock tank that cost me $179.00 at the feed store.....the barrels are supported on a piece of plywood and are seperated with 1x4's that the barrels are screwed to......otherwise the barrels with droop ......the plywood keeps the barrels from bending on their bottom.....I have gravel in them but if you spend the money for clay balls, it would be a lot lighter.....
Run some conduit up to the fish tank and put in a GFI plug and switch for the pump and your air pump......My system is a prototype too........pretty cheap therapy......
Darryl
I appreciate the tips, Darryl. Fortunately, I have a lot of raw materials around including several pieces of 4 x 4 treated lumber, treated plywood, lots of fasteners, and a big assortment of PVC pipe and fittings. I already bought the fish tank, a Rubbermaid 300 gallon stock tank that I got used for $100.00. They sell for around $225.00. I also got a tiny pump and filter with it. Maybe I'll also have an aquarium. I'm going to contact several large laundries and restaurant food and oil suppliers to see if they have any drums or containers available. Unfortunately, the dumps around here do not allow scavenging of any type. And by the way, I really like cheap therapy.
Thanks for the reply, Sylvia. I am going to use the Friendly Aquaponics system which does not require solids filtration. I do have a fair idea why they say I won't need one. I asked Timm Mann specifically about solids removal from the Commercial System, and in an email stated that it does not need solids removal. I surmise that the reason is the low stocking density and the low water turnover, which I estimate around once every 5 hours for the 128 sq ft Micro System. I could be off on this since I don't have the manual in front of me right now. Friendly states that once properly cycled, there are enough nitrifying bacteria all over the system, and water purification and nutrient uptake by the plants, so as not to need solids removal. That's as I understand it.
Aloha Gus
About a year before I ever found this site I buit a small system out of half barrels. I ran it for awhile and then had eye problems and had to quit. I don't even remember where I got the design. I pput the barrels end to end using a through the bulkhead fitting (not an easy job). I put 3 halves together in one line and 3 haves together in another line. My fish tank was a 168 gal rubbermade tub. I put the pump in the tank and piped it to the barrels. It went through the first line down into the ground across the pathway and up to the second line. Then back to the fish tank. Just before the fish tank I put another barrel (standing up() In this I put filter material. Then the water went into the fish. I had a stand pipe in the barrel. This worked very well for a year then solids did build up and my pump was always slowing down. I still have the same system running except no more filter. My WWOOFer volunteer showed me to take a small barrell I had around set it outside the tank next to the barrells, attach it to the tank so it would fill with water. Put the pump into the small barrel add pipes and elbolws and run it into the barrells. It has only water in the barrells and styrofoam on the top. I suggest at least 1 and 1/2 inch stryrofoam because 1 inch breaks too easy. I will put some new pictures up soon I have a couple up there but they are way back at about page 3.
Now for the cheap part. I got the barrells for nothing at a bakery so they are food grade. I found the angle iron racks at the dump( which doesn't allow scavinging but we have an in). The piping I had arround from other fish ventures. The styrofoam I get from my work. I work in a clinical lab and the products are sent in 2 in styrofoam coolers. These just get thrown in the landfill if I do not take them. I paid for the pump. So the total cost would be around $190.00. I had the tank from another time but to be fair I will add its cost in. I believe in using all the used material possible. It is a shame that we can not get things from the dump regularly. What a savings to the landfill. The song from Peter Paul and Mary goes " When will they ever learn" That is another subject that would take years to discussl
Mahalo for listening to me. Raychel
Thanks for your wonderful response, Rachel. What rubs my craneum irritably regarding dumps is the no scavenging rule, in other words, no recycling. Since I own rentals with lots of trees and shruberry and about a swath of 10 by 40 feet of banana trees, I use my pickup and a trailer to haul lots of vegetation to the dump. Sometimes it involves usable furniture that we can't give away. What I have seen at the dump is heartbreaking. I once saw a parish (county) truck dumping usable student desks that needed at most a little paint. I have seen tens of thousands of yards of fabric dumped because of insurance regulations requiring claimed materials to be destroyed. I have seen brand new furniture still in the box being discarded. I asked the foreman to reconsider not destroying the load. He did and he, his buddies, and I helped ourselves to brand new tables, chairs, credenzas, lamp tables, and a few other things. I put them in a couple of my apartments that I rent furnished.I have seen triple insulated windows and door units still in the box in the dumpster-dozens of them. I asked if I could take them and the foreman denied me saying that there were cameras all over the place in the citizens dumping area. There are none in the commercial dumping area. I'm glad you have an in and please forgive my griping.

I like the idea of approaching bakeries for drums and other potential AP materiel. I suspect the styrofoam you receive may be low density similar to those of inexpensive coolers you buy at Wal Mart. Construction grade is sturdier and I'm trying to locate what is called closed cell foam, which will not absorb water, similar to the foam in Great Stuff aerosol cans. I don't plan on starting the system until next year when the weather warms, around March or early April, so I have plenty of time to scrounge up materials. Like you I believe in doing things with used or recycled materials as much as possible. Not counting time, my AP system so far is costing me around $160.00. I still have to buy a pump, aerating pumps, air stones, and a few other things. I'm hoping to come in around $600.00 including fish.

Please put pictures soon. I would dearly love to see your system. And mahalo nui loa for listening to me. Regards, Gus
Mahalo Gus for the wonderful reply. As I said the subject would burn up the airways. Why is it the citizens have the answer and no one will listen. We once found $100.00 in Kennedy 1/2 dollars in the dump. I sell plants out of my farm and I used to buy the pots. it cost me loads. One day we went to the dump and this truck in front of me was throwing away pots. I jumped out and yelled don't thow those away I will take them. He said you want some pots Come to my house. We did and his dad used to run a nursery. I never have bought another pot in 4 years. My cry is "DUMPSTER DIVERS UNITE. Do you think we could run for office to empty the land fills? Just a thought Raychel
We could run for office, but would probably lose. The majority of the citizenry believes in recycling, but do not practice it. My feeling is their attitude is "That's for somebody else to do". The real recyclers in this country are the folks who are involved in salvaging various materials for profit, such as copper wire, iron, rubber, plastic, paper, and so on. Maybe that will be he answer, teaching people how to put additional bucks in their pockets or keep more of it. Coming from a poor Latin American country, trust me when I say that the vast majority of goods disposed of and destroyed in this country, would be welcome treasure for those folks down there. Here we replace and discard. Down there, things are repaired many times until they have no more life. Witness the number of old cars in Cuba and that will give you an idea how resourceful people can be when the need is there. The amount of usable lumber that is destroyed in this country could literally help build hundreds of thousands of homes. There are many people in Mexico and other poor countries who make their living off the dumps. In this country those folks would become wealthy.
Everyone.....it's not what you make....it's what you save that counts..................and it's fun to be a recycle rebel......
Darryl
I drove around today in a neighborhood near me and picked up a refrigerator on the curb.....it was a throwaway.....I cut the insides out and bought some black "mastic" ( a waterproffing material in a gallin bucket that can be painted on...)
Anyway, it will protest the outside from rusting....the inside I lined with a Firestone liner....for $60.00....now I have a great deep grow bed........I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer...but if you make a game out of it....finding stuff for free...it can be fun....for the home gardener.......
Redneck in Louisiana
Darryl

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