Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi All,

I live on an island in the pacific region, materials are costly to ship and resources are few here.

I've searched the site on discussions about using coconut husk for a growing medium. The only discussions I've found were the use of coir (grounded husk). I'm unable to find any mention of husking the coconut, removing the fiber (inner husk) and cutting the outer/thicker portion of the husk into maybe 3/4 to 1/2 inch cubes or pieces. Rather than fill the grow bed with the husk. I was planning on placing the husked cubes into planter pots lined in the grow bed to minimize the breakdown of the material.

I have seen the use of moss that grows in our limestone jungles after being boiled and dried, but I'm looking for an alternative to hydroton of which we do not have and costly to ship. Our gravel / rock is limestone and have read would not work.

Any information would help. Thanks.

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Replies to This Discussion

Where are you from? One of my friends from Tahiti is working on this project, same idea of using coconut husk for a growing medium.

Hi Keith,

Have you tried drying the husk fibers out and then placing in a water solution to see if they break down or become real soft?  I also am interested in hearing the results.

Craig Shevlin

You might look into turning the husk into biochar. This might be a place to start:http://www.dyarrow.org/

It is a strange website and will come up as error but there are tabs at the top that do work so don't give up. Some great info.

Greetings Keith,  

I wish you the best in looking into using coconut husk as a growing medium. Using what is less expensive, local and easily accessed always seems to make sense.  One of the reservations I have always had in using coconut fiber in AP is that it does seems to have a reputation for being an anti-microbial source, and it also is somewhat high in salts.  Because AP is a closed system, this is a concern for me.  Even if challenges do not show up right away, the issues mentioned above can become a problem. By using cubes though one of the issues I have seen (the suspended solids issues) might be avoided (as opposed to using the coco coir). The anti-microbial challenge could be an issue, since in AP we are trying to establish a microbial population in the media to accomplish, among other processes, the nitrification process. In other words, even if an AP system is 'functional', using coconut fiber might create an environment that is working against itself. In other words you might wind up with a functioning AP system, but it would be possible that it could be marginal in comparision to a system that you could install not using coconut husk.  There would also be a bit of a difference in noticing these affects if using  only small amounts of coconut fiber (or chucks) as opposed to making a bed completely of coconut fiber.(or chunks)...keeping in mind this is a closed subsystem and things do build up over time. 

  Here are a few links that I came up with after reading your initial post.  These are just "food for thought" for you to use as you consider how to proceed:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3730797/   study showing antimicrobial effects

http://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/Hort/Environmental/Media_Nutrition/COIR%2...     I realize this article is about peat VS coir, but it has a lot of info in it about the qualities of coconut fiber that are pertinent

 

These were just two sources of info that I readily found doing a Google search upon reading your post.  I am not supplying you this information to rain on your parade.  I am giving you food for thought so you can best research your idea.  There is a lot of time invested in an AP system and elbow grease and sometime a lot of $$.  Just wanted you to have more info to evaluate, against the investment of your time, $$ and effort. 

    I'd love to hear of a long standing AP system using coconut fiber medium that is flourishing to the "my-cup-runneth-over" level, and see photos.  This is really of interest to me since I am working with an orphanage in Honduras with a large AP system.  If I knew we could use the cubes you are considering, for medium, it would be a huge blessing.  Since these kiddos are depending on the AP system for their survival, it is not wise for me to proceed with an experiment along the lines of coconut husk cubes....but they do have coconut husk available at the children's village.  And unfortunately we had to pay to have gravel medium hauled in. And we are looking at future expansion. So this prospect is of interest to me as well.

Hopefully others can add their experience for you to weigh in as well.

My best to you.

 

- Converse

Just use cinder. It is cheap, readily available and wicks well without getting soggy.

Keith-

  Wow, a lot to overcome in one place for aquaponics.  Can you get your hands on some polyester batting, the kind used to stuff pillows and for quilts?  I have used this material last year in an experiment for my NFT system and now have it in my media beds set up in my diningroom (the batting is in some homemade net pots stuck in the rocks inside my growbeds).  I have NOT noticed any change in pH AT ALL.  The material is extreamly light weight, wicks water very well and, in my opinion may be a one shot use unless I can figure how to remove all the roots from the material when the plants are spent.  Sorry, I don't know much about the coconut husks, we don't have many of these growing in central Wisconsin :).

White Bear

I would think that so long as it is able to drain freely there should be no problem with using it. If the cubes hold the water, then that could be problematic. It may promote root rot from over watering, not to mention mold and mold flies. Maybe a mixture of ground coconut husk and sand to help provide the grow bed with structure to support the plants? Or placing the mix in pots in an ebb and flow table with holes in them so the water can get into and drain again.

Thanks for the replies!

I live on the island of Rota, the next island up from Guam. I purchased most of the materials on Guam (though still too costly to cargo.) I've read about the concerns regarding the microbial process in using coconut husk. I appreciate the activity in this forum and the interest to avoid reinventing the wheel or losing time and money.

I'll continue to scouring for information, as I am waiting for other parts to arrive.

My municipal council has an AP system started. They are using the moss from the jungle in net cups on the NFT system. They placed a couple of the net pots with moss inside the net pots in the grow bed and the plant appears to be doing fine. But, it could be the rocks in the grow bed assisting in the microbial process (their rock bed is being borrowed from the local golf course, and would be returned when hydroton is acquired sometime around March next year (rough seas cause shipping issues/delays around this time of year).

I'm willing to test out the coconut cubes or moss in pots and report to the group with pics in a few months.

Leo White Bear said:

Keith-

  Wow, a lot to overcome in one place for aquaponics.  Can you get your hands on some polyester batting, the kind used to stuff pillows and for quilts?  I have used this material last year in an experiment for my NFT system and now have it in my media beds set up in my diningroom (the batting is in some homemade net pots stuck in the rocks inside my growbeds).  I have NOT noticed any change in pH AT ALL.  The material is extreamly light weight, wicks water very well and, in my opinion may be a one shot use unless I can figure how to remove all the roots from the material when the plants are spent.  Sorry, I don't know much about the coconut husks, we don't have many of these growing in central Wisconsin :).

White Bear

Thanks Chris, I'm willing to try anything that would bring costs down and use what is readily available. My goal is to encourage other residents here in Rota,that AP is a viable system in minimizing costs for growing our vegetables.

Chris Duke said:

I would think that so long as it is able to drain freely there should be no problem with using it. If the cubes hold the water, then that could be problematic. It may promote root rot from over watering, not to mention mold and mold flies. Maybe a mixture of ground coconut husk and sand to help provide the grow bed with structure to support the plants? Or placing the mix in pots in an ebb and flow table with holes in them so the water can get into and drain again.

Hi, Keith,

What is your email address so that I can send the draft drawing to you for your reference?

Wow, Rota island. I lived on Guam when I was a kid for a few years. I loved that place and wished I could have stayed. Last year I was even considering moving to Colonia or even Palau island south west of where you are.

Yeah, this time of year would be tough on shipping since you don't really have a reef. I was going to suggest using a private plane to make a few trips up to Pegan island since it has been having some volcanic activity, but after looking at it just now on the satellite, the old runway is now covered in a fresh lava flow. You may be able to find lava rock for sale on Guam? It's sterile, and makes for a good grow medium. If you can find some, you may want to put it in a tumbler to knock off the sharp edges so they don't cut any roots. Good luck. Hope you did well with the storm that just passed threw your way last week.

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