Aquaponic Gardening

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Does anyone have any experience making their own compost?  And using fish remains?

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Is your fabric plant pot the bedding? 

No, it acts as a liner, and allows the tea to drain out, but keeps the worm compost, worms, and scraps in the top bucket.

Here are instructions for making one like ours:

The fabric liner looks like this:

If the holes in the top bucket are small enough, you probably don't need the fabric pot. We did it this way because we copied someone else's design.

J Shocklie said:

Is your fabric plant pot the bedding? 

thank you!!!  I am on it!  I'm going to send you a pic when I'm done in a week or so.  I already have some ideas as to where I can get some materials (I actually have those square bins that I use for my kids toys and I have two of them I'm not using and they stack well.)  I don't know which direction I'm going to go, buckets or bins, but it's happening.  Guess I gotta find worms, too, huh?  Thanks again! 

I may have to pick your brain again when my tilapia begin their breeding behavior.  It'll be my first time with them.  They're only 30-40 g, if that, so I have awhile.  I did see your post on timothy hay.  I have run into the same problem here trying to find feed at feed stores with NO LUCK.  I'm going to go the rabbit route and see how it works out. 

Good luck on your adventures! I'll be very interested in seeing your worm bins/buckets. Have fun!

I have a little experience with making compost.  I run a garden club at school and we have a compost barrel that we use to make compost.  One thing I have always been told about compost is to avoid using meat or dairy products in the pile.  I think it has more to do with pest and animal control then anything else. I have used a fish emulsion product in the garden for fertilizer before.  I am not sure how they make it, however, I can tell you it stunk to high heaven when applied.  I had more cats in my garden then you could shake a stick at. Native Americans used to put fish straight in the garden and my father was telling me the other day they used to catch herring by the thousands back east when he was a kid to put directly in the ground. Just my two cents.


Oh you must make compost at least once just to appreciate it and the beautiful cycle of nature.  Then make compost tea for all your potted plants and they will LOVE YOU for it!

After that just go buy it. You have to love saying I made my own compost and grew this garden in it for it to be worth the effort.  I only do it because we have so much plant material that it would be more work to bring it to the dump.  I hate turning my compost pile.  It's hard work, but I'll tell you it does make stuff grow!

Cyclical. That's the key. For our family, all scraps go to the chickens first, along with kitchen scraps from a local diner where my wife works. What the chickens don't eat (and the chicken poo, feathers, whatever) gets shoveled to the BSFL bins. What the BSFL don't eat eventually goes to the composting worms. Then the castings get brewed into tea to foliar spray for bug control and fertilizer. Nothing left after that, except chicken, eggs, fish, and produce, and rabbits too. BSFL bin is very easy to make, don't be daunted. They self harvest, which is the best thing in the world. At any given time there is a school of bluegill huddled by the drop tube of the BSFL. When a grub drops, it barely hits the water before being sucked down. Same story in the chicken coop.

@Jon Parr.

Can you post pictures of the BSFL setup that you've got.   I'd love to see it. I've done a lot of reading about them.  It would make a worthy addition to my new AP system.  Thanks.

@Randy, that's the same discussion I had here with my dad and fiance last weekend.  All my compost research says no animal meat but my fiance mentioned that Native Amer used it for farming. I told my dad I had two small dead fish and he just said "yeah, just throw it in there and bury it good" but I think if I had a ton of leftover fish or emulsion then that might be overdoing it.  I think the occasional dead tilapia is okay, especially because ours are still not even 2 inches long.

@Jon Parr, a pic would be great if you have one.  The drop tube with your BSFL is very interesting.  

Putting the meat into the compost attracts flies and scavengers, but it will compost. It's better to bury it somewhere, because the soil will keep the odor down. Animal scraps do make good fertilizer. We do that with dead things. We even saved all the entrails from our poultry processing class and froze them. When we have our soldier fly setup done, we have plenty to feed the larva.

I like Jon's cycle. Nothing goes to waste.

This is a very interesting discussion.  Hopefully  my 2 cents will be welcomed here. I am not the end all be all in vermiculture experts, but I do have a lot of practical experience and study under my belt.

    Yes, you can use meat and dairy in composting, AND in vermicomposting  Vermicomposting is infact one of the legal ways for farms (including dairy operations) to handle farm mortality.  Yes, it can be done.    It has to be done properly.  As has already been mentioned, adding meats to a compost pile can attract pests.  If you are going to put it in a thermophyllic compost pile, add it directly in the center, the hottest part, of the pile.  No this is not convenient, and this can be down right dangerous, when consideriing how hot the center of a thermophyllic pile should be.  When adding to a vermicomposting pile you will need to be sure to put if deeper than you would normal food.  And I am sure none of you are adding "food matter" to a vermicomposting pile  on the top.  That would a certain recipe for flies and such to be a problem.  Do not add meats to a small vermicomposting situation, as in a bin or barrel or stacking system.    We live out in the woods.  Of those that could be interested in the contents of a vermicomposting pile, our nosey neighbors are bears, raccoons, opposoms, skunks and coyotes.  They do not bother our vermicomposting beds. And yes, I have one vermicomposting bed that I reserve for all the 'odds and ends" you don't want to include in compost used in a vegetable garden. I have added 'scarry' meat from our frig., that did not qualify for a research grant, in the pile and also guts and bones and skin from our fishing forrays.  Never been bothered by pests, but I did learn never to bury anything in this pile with the family dog 'supervising' the burying. We do not have our worm beds fenced...Thanks to the local herd of elk, whose moto is, "why jump a fence, when you can knock it down?"

  All that being said, my vote is along with Jon Parr.  Cyclical. Chickens and pigs get scraps.  Worms get the poo ( we also feed barley and veg./fruit scraps). And also  the best way to handle meat  quickly and efficiently  and anything else that didn't go the the other critters is to feed it to BSFL.  Yes, you can compost meats. If this is what you have to handle it, then go ahead, and compost it, or vermicompost it. But a better and quick solution that avoids a lot of the negative issues associated wth composting meat, is to feed it to the BSFL.


  On to vermicomposting buckets....

    Redworms create worm castings, which is the polite and professional term for worm poop.  Worm castings look like fine coffee grounds.  They do not pee as you would think. ( Redworms will exude a coleomic liquid if dsturbed - it is to ward of would-be predators)  The stuff that drains from any vermicomposting set-up is the result of excess fluid in the matter that cannot be held by the bedding.  It can be due to too much water added to the bin, or  from the type of food matter that is added.  Pulp from juicing, a load of scraps from canning fruits or wet fruits/veggies, all create a lot of moisture in the vermicomposting system.  When a vermicomposting system is first set up there is often quite a bit of drainaige too as the mositure levels that can be held in properly by the bedding is reached, and as beginner vermicompsters learn how to manage the moisture content of thier systems properly.  There should not be constant drianage from a system. If it is that wet, there is a huge danger of there being anaerobic pockets in your system, or the whole thing going anaerobic. Only for emphasis (not yelling): THE LIQUID THAT DRAINS FROM A WORM COMPOSTING SYSTEM IS NOT WORM TEA.  IT IS LEACHATE, AND SHOULD NOT BE USED ON YOUR VEGETATION, AND CERTAINLY NOT IN CONJUNCTION WITH YOUR A..P SYSTEMS..    There are a few other threads on this forum that deal with the reasoning behind this, and I won't go into that here.  Worm tea, properly called worm casting tea, is made from the worm castings that are separated from the rest of the matter in the vermicomposting bin.

     When stacking two buckets (or bins)  together to give the advanage of being able to catch any draininage, there seems to be a common problem of inadvertently creating an anaerobic environment.  This is due to the fact that most people are unsure about how big to make the holes in their buckets or bins and how many or where to place them.  Here is  a good rule of thumb.  The holes can be about the size of a regular pencil eraser head.  If they are much smaller, you will retard air circulation.  Holes should be all over the top sides and bottom of the inner bucket (bin), and all over the sides of the outter bucket /bin. One word of caution about sitting buckets or bins inside each other.  If the sides of the bin or bucket are not absolutely rigid, they will bulge when they get more full of your  vermicomposting project.  This means theat the sides of the inner bucket or bin will tend to rest on the sides of the outter bucket of bin, retarding or completely stopping air circulation that is vital.  The more circulation available, the better your redworms will work.  They will not escape out the holes of a properly mananged vermicompositng bucket or  bin. You may find that your redworms might wander out of the inner nested buckets/bins, due to the fact that there is a dark and somewhat moist environment between the two.  A single bucket or bin will not see this probelm.  You want the redworms inside the bucket with the food matter you want them to consume. Instead of having to invest in two buckets or two bins for a single set-up, here is a solution that is less expensive, and  will help with proper air circulation.  Go to the Dollar Store and by a foil cookie baking sheet ($1 for a set of 2), or for buckets the foil pizza tins found there are perfectly sized.  Set wooden blocks or rocks in the four corners of the cookie sheet and set the bin over the top of that. The foil pan will catch the leachate.  If you have more drainage than can be handled in this, you are mis-managing your worm bin, and creating an environment your redworms will not work as efficiently in.


  The best thing about redwrom composting is that redwroms are very adaptable, and somewhat forgiving.  Really, if you keep the place they are in somewhat moist, and bury food in it for them occassionally, you should  have success.


  As far as putting fish in the ground goes...When I was a little tyke, I remember going 'smelting' with my family.  We caught a LOT.  Then I remember in my kindergaten class around Thanksgiving we learned about the native americans planting corn  and pumpkins with a fish added to the planting...I remember at an early age thinking this was the best use for all those yucky smelt in our freezer.



Thanks Converse.  It's a treat having experienced folks like yourself chime in with real life practice. Appreciated.

Here's a temporary tank I threw together as a fingerling stocking tank was on it's way to my place.  Long story, but I had an offer for some bluegill at a fair price, quite last minute.  The blue barrels are laying flat with the tops cut open, and filled with granite drain rock, on hand to fix my driveway. The large black plastic nursery pot on the right is my BSFL bin, constructed last fall one night in just a few minutes after discovering this magnificent creature online. It's been working great ever since. The larva exit the bin by way of a spiral of garden hose tacked to the side with sheet metal screws, and connected to an outer drop tube through of old pool hose by, you guessed it, sheet metal screws.  The lid is a piece of plywood with a 1" PVC "T" pressed in a snug hole. It isn't pretty, but is works. There are nicer designs around, but I'm restless when I want to get a project going, and these supplies were all in arm's length when the mood was right.


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