Aquaponic Gardening

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Found some interesting recipes and/or info on the various N-P-K values of some common organic compounds. What do you use for inputs for your fish-less systems?

"Instructions for Preparing Organic Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers need not be expensive and can be made on your own. This recipe,
to the best of my knowledge, was created by Steve Solomon, founder of Territorial
Seed Company. All measurements are shown in terms of volume, not weight.
4 parts seed meal
1 part dolomite lime
1/2 part bone meal or 1 part soft rock phosphate
1/2 part kelp meal
1. Seed meal provides N and smaller amounts of P and K. Some states prohibit its use
in certified organic operations (not something a home grower needs to be
concerned about). Other options are afalfa meal, or rape/canola meal. The NPK
value of cottonseed meal is about 6-2-1. Bloodmeal can be substituted in place of
some seed meal, since it acts more quickly. Use three parts seed meal and one part
bloodmeal. Seed meals tend to be acidic, so lime is included to balance that.
Dolomite limestone is roughly half magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) and half calcium
carbonate (CaCO3). Calcitic limestone is pure calcium carbonate. Plants usually
need more Ca than Mg, therefore a mix of 2/3 dolomite lime and 1/3 calcitic lime
is recommended.
2. Bone meal and rock phosphate provide the bulk of the P component. Less bone
meal (NPK 0-10-0) is required since it releases its P more readily. The advantage of
using rock phosphate (NPK 0-3-0) is that it continues to contribute P to the soil over
many years. Bone meal is produced as a byproduct of the beef industry while rock
phosphate is mined.
3. Kelp meal (NPK 0-0-10) contributes K and micronutrients. It tends to be more
expensive than the other components. Another possible K source is Jersey
greensand. It has the same advantages and liabilities as rock phosphate (very slow
release) but does not supply micronutrients. Wood Ash is also a plentiful, viable source of K.
Formulas for Balanced, All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer, Fertilizer Ratio
Fertilizer Ratio (N-P2O5-K2O) Ingredients:


2-3.5-2.5  -1 part bone meal
3 parts alfalfa hay
2 parts greensand


2.5-2.5-4 - 3 parts granite dust
1 part dried blood
1 part bone meal
5 parts seaweed


4-5-4 - 2 parts dried blood
l part phosphate rock
4 parts wood ashes


3.5-5.5-3.5 - 2 parts cotton seed meal
1 part colloidal phosphate
2 parts granite dust


0-5-4 - 1 part phosphate rock
3 parts greensand
2 parts wood ashes


2-8-3 -  3 parts greensand
2 parts seaweed
1 part dried blood
2 parts phosphate rock

Substance Nutrient:       Elements Supplied:


Organic
Blood meal                   15% N, l.3% P, 0.7% K
Dried blood                   12% N, 3.0% P, 0% K
Bone meal                    3.0% N, 20.0% P, 0% K, 24 to 30% Ca
Cottonseed meal           6% N, 2 to 30% P, 2% K
Fish emulsion, fish meal 10% N, 4 to 6% P, 1% K
Hoof and horn meal        14% N, 2% P, 0% K
Leatherdust, leather meal 5.5 to 22% N, 0% P, 0% K
Kelp meal, liquid seaweed 1% N, 0% P, 12% K


Minerals
Calcite, calcitic limestone 95 to 100% calcium carbonate
Colloidal phosphate or soft
omission                             0% N, 18 to 20% P, 27% Ca, 1.7% iron phosphate, silicas, 14 other trace elements
                                      
Dolomite, dolomitic
limestone
51% calcium carbonate, 40% magnesium carbonate
Granite dust, granite meal,
crushed granite minerals      0% N, 0% P, 3 to 5% K, 67% silica, 19 trace

Greensand, glauconite          0% N, 10% P, 5 to 7% K, 50% silica, 18 to 20% iron
oxide, 22 trace minerals
Gypsum (calcium sulfate)      23 to 57% C, 17.7% S
Langbeinite                           0% N, 0% P, 22% K, 22% S, 11% Mg
Rock phosphate                    0% N, 22% P, 0% K, 30% Ca, 2.8% Fe, 10% silica, 10
other trace minerals
Sulfur                                    100% S


Manures
Composted cow manure          2% N, 1% P, 1% K
Guano (bat)                            8% N, 40% P, 29% K average, but varies widely, 24 trace
minerals
Guano (bird)                           13% N, 8% P, 20% K, 11 trace minerals

Rabbit                                    2.4%N, 1.4%P, 0.6%K

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Replies to This Discussion

Yeah I've seen photographs here on this forum where people had mycorrhizal fungi in their grow beds...They certainly would seem to be a fine benefit to any system.

While I was doing some torture testing in my big-ish hybrid system a while back, I noticed some Mg def's starting to develop in some of the more Mg hungry brassica's which were in some of the DWC troughs. The same brassica's in the media bed however were fine. Mycorrhizal fungi were not in play though. It would appear that the media's CEC (cation exchange capacity) was. When I stopped the torture testing and there were enough nutrients in solution to go around, the def's in the DWC ceased. When nutrients are scare (particularly in a new system), I think that CEC is the mechanism responsible for plants doing better in some kind of media, as opposed to when they are in just water like NFT or DWC.

On a side note... This winter when everything was very cold, everything grew bigger, faster in my DWC's than they did in the media beds...I can only attribute this to better rhizosphere temperatures in the DWC's as opposed to the media beds...Probably much more stable than the cold sink media grow beds..(Yeah, I know, I know...but I kept it flood and drain even through the winter...just to see how that'd be like. I bet constant flood would have taken care of that temp issue and I'm guessing next year when I do that, I wont be seeing such a difference in growth rates if at all...

But yeah, beneficial fungi would be great...can't wait for some to show up...Or perhaps I might inoculate..?

Bob, I really don't feel that a well run, properly sized and balanced aquaponic system is going to have very much trouble in the way of nutrient deficiencies. No soil-less culture method can or will ever be as laissez-faire as growing in dirt can potentially be.

(I say potentially, because I know that TC and folks out her way refer to soil growing where they live as somewhat akin to a hydroponic run to waste affair...)

Yea, here it takes years of feeding the soil up and continued constant organic matter contributions to the soil to get the soil to feed the plants well.  After spending 5 years building the soil at my old house, I'm back to year one with the soil at my new place.  The Aquaponic media bed gardens are definitely ahead of my sand garden at this point in the game.

Vlad, You are probably right on the money about the CEC (cation exchange capacity) being the primary reason that my media bed aquaponics has generally always done better even under my less than favorable pH and possible other nutrient deficiency or overabundance/lockout issues.

But with such complex systems I'm definitely not going to claim to have all the answers and the extra diversity of having the fungi involved seems to be a good thing to me.

I've never inoculated for it, well at least not on purpose, but since the environment here is often heavy in wood chips and leaves (the stuff forest duff is made of) I expect on occasion simply having some rotting wood chips find their way into the system can provided the source.  I suppose if you are making some really good balanced compost with a good diversity of fungi as well as bacteria you could inoculate with some good compost tea. 

Interesting that you should say that. I just finished building a large air pump vortex tea brewer, and  I'm currently making my first 55 gallon batch of compost tea with compost, worm castings, molasses, fish flour, humic ore, Azomite, and mycorrhizae fungus.  I'm not going to go overboard with, this but I plan to add a fair amount to my aquaponic and bioponic systems.  Maybe less in the aquaponic system.

I have had trouble with deficiencies even though I try to manage my aquapponic system well.   I should add that the bioponic system has never suffered like the aquaponic system, but I've felt free to add an abundance of pee and nutrients.  Fish only complicate the procedure in my opinion.



TCLynx said:

...

But with such complex systems I'm definitely not going to claim to have all the answers and the extra diversity of having the fungi involved seems to be a good thing to me.

I've never inoculated for it, well at least not on purpose, but since the environment here is often heavy in wood chips and leaves (the stuff forest duff is made of) I expect on occasion simply having some rotting wood chips find their way into the system can provided the source.  I suppose if you are making some really good balanced compost with a good diversity of fungi as well as bacteria you could inoculate with some good compost tea. 

Hey Bob,

Love to see some pics.

Not sure you saw my post above but I hope to have a continuous circulating compost ++ tea thru 2 - 4 ibc gbs with media, soon. Without fish I can go nuts with greensand, etc. Best of all worlds. I intend to use some of my high rate compost which has everything from chicken manure to meat and bones and fish, paper, pretty much anything organic and hits 160F within a day. Average household waste with a little manure added seems to be right on the carbon to nit. balance. Takes 2 weeks from garbage to the most beautiful black finished compost ready for the tea bags. When we made it on sandy Cape Cod it made the best garden my wife had ever planted. (TC take note:-) Been saving orange net bags for months in preparation for the tea.

Did I understand the Portable Farms folks to say that they filled and drained only twice a day? Man those little greens would get mighty thirsty in my Gh at that rate or do they know something I don't. If that is even close I guess I'll go index for the tea system.

Bob Campbell said:

Interesting that you should say that. I just finished building a large air pump vortex tea brewer, and  I'm currently making my first 55 gallon batch of compost tea with compost, worm castings, molasses, fish flour, humic ore, Azomite, and mycorrhizae fungus.  I'm not going to go overboard with, this but I plan to add a fair amount to my aquaponic and bioponic systems.  Maybe less in the aquaponic system.

I have had trouble with deficiencies even though I try to manage my aquapponic system well.   I should add that the bioponic system has never suffered like the aquaponic system, but I've felt free to add an abundance of pee and nutrients.  Fish only complicate the procedure in my opinion.



TCLynx said:

...

But with such complex systems I'm definitely not going to claim to have all the answers and the extra diversity of having the fungi involved seems to be a good thing to me.

I've never inoculated for it, well at least not on purpose, but since the environment here is often heavy in wood chips and leaves (the stuff forest duff is made of) I expect on occasion simply having some rotting wood chips find their way into the system can provided the source.  I suppose if you are making some really good balanced compost with a good diversity of fungi as well as bacteria you could inoculate with some good compost tea. 

I have beds that get flooded only twice a day.  They are kinda add on beds that I don't figure into the filtration calculations for my systems.  Anyway, I essentially put potted plants in them and the bottom inch or two get flooded twice a day to keep the nursery plants watered.  They are potted in peat, coir or sand or a combination thereof.

When trying to keep water quality really nice for fish it can sometimes get tricky to keep nutrients really well balanced for the plants, especially if your source water tends to throw a monkey wrench into the works or maybe I should say throw limestone into the equation.  Then add to that seasonal temperature changes and the fish not eating during cold weather and a compost tea or vermiponics system does become more attractive.

A companion project is certainly in order.

You skirted my PF question with skill. Have you considered a run for Congress?

TCLynx said:

I have beds that get flooded only twice a day.  They are kinda add on beds that I don't figure into the filtration calculations for my systems.  Anyway, I essentially put potted plants in them and the bottom inch or two get flooded twice a day to keep the nursery plants watered.  They are potted in peat, coir or sand or a combination thereof.

When trying to keep water quality really nice for fish it can sometimes get tricky to keep nutrients really well balanced for the plants, especially if your source water tends to throw a monkey wrench into the works or maybe I should say throw limestone into the equation.  Then add to that seasonal temperature changes and the fish not eating during cold weather and a compost tea or vermiponics system does become more attractive.

I know you were adressing TC, and IDK anything about their flooding regimes...but I personally like their 'top-secret' FF (fish friendly) Mineral Rock Dust..."Only" $8.95 for 5 pounds...

Hey does anybody know of any rocks that are not 'mineral' in nature...Good god, at least they didn't say "Organic Rock Dust" like the folks who market 'Organic' EDTA Iron chelate.

Btw...I'm not knocking PF, I know nothing about them...and in all fairness their marketing blurbs are no more, nor less hokey than the myriad of people selling similar wares...Well, OK maybe it's even a bit less hokey...somebody please just shoot me in the fucking head if I ever start rambling about how some overly priced, energy intensive AP system is going to feed some poor backwater village in the middle of the African desert...I mean it's nice for middle class white folks to have a 'feel good' hobby and all, but when folks use the very real and legitimate suffering and misfortune to tug at the heart-strings of Mr. and Mrs. Jones of Lakewood in order to sell them something...it kinda gets my goat. Sorry for the rant...

(See Jim...unlike the 'spamming' example given elsewhere...this little ditty above would be classified as "thread-jacking"...

I now return this thread to the more responsible among you...

Well, I wish I had insight on PF to add to discussion, but I did get to meet PF founder Cole Davis a couple of weeks ago, at the Cal DFG Aquaponics subcommittee. Seems like a nice enough fellow, and we are on the same side of the fence regarding DFG's ludicrous laws. He is a salesman, for sure, and his primary slogan is "we only sell technology". He says they don't sell backyard kits, only big commercial units, and they have a lot out there and running, some multi acre. I'd like to see one, but he said the closest one was in Montana? I think that's what he said. Anyway, I agree that his site smells mighty spammy.

Lord Vader, the threadjacking is strong in this one...

Well I guess I will have to go back there and find where I read that in their blog which really is a fun read. Not something I would be likely to get wrong or forget. I do have a hard time doing the math that jumps off the pages. Huge media GBs and fish in a below ground sump and pump to each of 2 - 4 looong beds twice a day. Obviously in order but still how empty does that FT get during pump cycles? See what I'm say'n?

Seem very nice indeed and by all appearances quite successful but I can tell you that I can build it myself cheaper for sure. But then from what I see out there that would always be the case. They are understandably hush about their details but little things always slip out if you blog long enough.

I too don't know any specific details about portable farms, only the stuff I read on the forums and much of that isn't all that nice so I simply didn't say anything about them.

As to flood cycles and how often it is needed, totally dependent on the media, temperatures, humidity and other factors.  I expect that they can adjust the timers to flood the beds as often as is needed.

Thanks TC.

They do have quite a good blog and would be worth reading by all. (or just sign up for their newsletter) They do seem to stay very independent otherwise which is the norm for most businesses trying to survive in this economy. I do like a more traditional look for my GH and when ours is all done it will be far more attractive and fit in to our country farm look better than theirs. Here we are far better off with a well insulated N side and the traditional Winter solstice perpendicular angle on the S side. Our sexy tarp look is just a first step but it got us thru our first Winter in style. 17F here again last night for the first night of Spring. Stayed about 55F in the GH thanks to the wood stove and water temp is staying at 56F to 60F now. 22F outside still as I write this and 72 in the GH. (love my in house GH temp mon.) New plants are taking off splendidly. Need to set up our automated cooling system soon. I am amazed how hot it can get in there (112F) with just single 4 mil poly on a sunny but otherwise cold day.

Anyhow, I was intrigued by their flood timing for my compost tea system that is in planning stages as I don't have to think "fish" and that leads to many alternate methods indeed (how's that for back on topic recovery)

In such a fish-less system your flood timing can be based on how often you need to flood in order for the GB to stay moist and not dry out, (which will depend much upon the stuff TC mentioned) as opposed to how much volume of water per hour you need to move around because of the fish. BOD (biological oxygen demand) of plants and bacteria will be lower than with fish. So you should be able to get away with less pumping of water and air. 

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