Aquaponic Gardening

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I think it must be impossible to grow lettuce and such after spring. The first warm days threw it all into bolt. So I buy heat tolerant slow to bolt kind and even as babies they are bolting.

I know an aquaponic green house would take care of that, but that is funding I don't have. Any ideas as to what to grow? I have  tomatoes, peppers, rainbow swiss chard trying hard, squash. I have a health food store that will buy from me, but I have to have something to sell. sorry this has been a rough day.

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At this time of year it is difficult to get most plants started, learned from experience.  I just planted a round of rattlesnake green beans, supposedly they will do fine.  You also might try plants in the squash family and get plants from a nursery not seeds.  



Scott Bloom said:

At this time of year it is difficult to get most plants started, learned from experience.  I just planted a round of rattlesnake green beans, supposedly they will do fine.  You also might try plants in the squash family and get plants from a nursery not seeds.

That is a good idea Scott. I am to make farmer's market as well, so I would like something that likes it here. I have been told some basil sells really well so am looking in that direction too. 

Last year I got my system together piece by piece and was late in starting. I had hoped to be going strong and selling just about my whole garden to this store. Truthfully I took him several heads of romaines, green and red salad, several and by Monday everything went to bolt. I got one more small batch together. Now my fish are very happy!

Here is a planting guide for Phoenix, hopefully it will attach.

Attachments:

Scott is right, start with the planting calendar.  Aquaponics isn't a magic system to grow plants out of season, we still are limited by length of day and temperatures... and even 'heat tolerant' lettuce is not intended for a Phoenix summer.

The Maricopa Extension Office has planting calendars for veggies, herbs and flowers in a wonderful little book,Desert Gardening for Beginners (Link).  

Their planting calendar (Link)

I tried to attach the herb calendar, too!

Don't think you are having problems with your system if you can't grow lettuce in the summer.  Short of growing it inside in air conditioning, I can't imagine having any luck with it!  The dark leafy greens that we know and love (Kale, Chard and Lettuces) prefer cool weather and will struggle along without really producing if they survive at all the next few months.

You could try some alternative greens the Master Gardeners were trialling a couple years ago, but I'm not sure there would be a big market for them yet even though some were quite tasty.  I would guess herbs would be more profitable...

This is an excerpt from their newsletter (link) regarding some of the trials:

Planted as part of the summer greens project, hybrid winter squash “Kobacha Green” is grown for its leaves not its fruit. It is surviving the onslaught of squash bugs. It blooms but has not pollinated. Purslane, both the indigenous weed and the two seeded varieties have been plentiful, juicy and successful. High in omega 3 fatty acids, a few leaves can be integrated into most summer salads without changing the flavor or texture. The hybrid varieties planted in labeled rows have tolerated being cut back hard a couple times, regrowing succulent new shoots. The Malabar spinach vine was slow to start, but has grown steadily. Leaves are tangy and succulent, almost juicy. It, too, thrives on the current irrigation plan. The seaweed grew to about 8 X 8 inches, resembled baby tumbleweeds, to which it is related, was salty, and wiry, and is dying. The New Zea- land spinach is small and slow to grow. Melokhia Chorchorus olitorius, sometimes known as jute, is a pleasant, tasty fresh green. It hasn’t grown rampantly, but so far it is quite happy in the garden. The jute germinated as a second planting done in late May. The summer amaranth germinated in early June, but was shaded by annuals. The annuals have been removed, and the amaranth is now beginning to grow. Leaves and growing tips of luffa gourds, sweet potatoes and hibiscus sabdariffa, all standards in a summer garden are edible as well. A quick look at the planting calendar reminded me that corn, beans, summer squash, melons, and shallots, can all be planted during monsoon season. 

Attachments:

This is wonderful! I was being guided by someone who obviously doesn't know our desert. Even though it is Tonto Basin, It is most definitely desert! Thank you so much! I didn't even think of the extension office in all this frustration. I was in touch with a professor at the college last year knowledgeable about aquaponics but not Tonto Basin.He thought our weather to be more like Payson. Thank you again! A wonderful group of people here!

Liz & Dan said:

Scott is right, start with the planting calendar.  Aquaponics isn't a magic system to grow plants out of season, we still are limited by length of day and temperatures... and even 'heat tolerant' lettuce is not intended for a Phoenix summer.

The Maricopa Extension Office has planting calendars for veggies, herbs and flowers in a wonderful little book,Desert Gardening for Beginners (Link).  

Their planting calendar (Link)

I tried to attach the herb calendar, too!

Don't think you are having problems with your system if you can't grow lettuce in the summer.  Short of growing it inside in air conditioning, I can't imagine having any luck with it!  The dark leafy greens that we know and love (Kale, Chard and Lettuces) prefer cool weather and will struggle along without really producing if they survive at all the next few months.

You could try some alternative greens the Master Gardeners were trialling a couple years ago, but I'm not sure there would be a big market for them yet even though some were quite tasty.  I would guess herbs would be more profitable...

This is an excerpt from their newsletter (link) regarding some of the trials:

Planted as part of the summer greens project, hybrid winter squash “Kobacha Green” is grown for its leaves not its fruit. It is surviving the onslaught of squash bugs. It blooms but has not pollinated. Purslane, both the indigenous weed and the two seeded varieties have been plentiful, juicy and successful. High in omega 3 fatty acids, a few leaves can be integrated into most summer salads without changing the flavor or texture. The hybrid varieties planted in labeled rows have tolerated being cut back hard a couple times, regrowing succulent new shoots. The Malabar spinach vine was slow to start, but has grown steadily. Leaves are tangy and succulent, almost juicy. It, too, thrives on the current irrigation plan. The seaweed grew to about 8 X 8 inches, resembled baby tumbleweeds, to which it is related, was salty, and wiry, and is dying. The New Zea- land spinach is small and slow to grow. Melokhia Chorchorus olitorius, sometimes known as jute, is a pleasant, tasty fresh green. It hasn’t grown rampantly, but so far it is quite happy in the garden. The jute germinated as a second planting done in late May. The summer amaranth germinated in early June, but was shaded by annuals. The annuals have been removed, and the amaranth is now beginning to grow. Leaves and growing tips of luffa gourds, sweet potatoes and hibiscus sabdariffa, all standards in a summer garden are edible as well. A quick look at the planting calendar reminded me that corn, beans, summer squash, melons, and shallots, can all be planted during monsoon season. 

I am not an expert but I have been looking into this myself so I'll tell you what I've picked up. As others said we need to stick to the planting calendar. However, it is sometimes possible to extend the (traditional soil) gardening season by a few weeks on either end of the growing season. This is by using shade cloth (40% I think) during the summer, or cold frames (or alternatives) during the winter. It's not going to do miracles but it usually helps some. For instance, I still have kale and chard in the shade (I'm in Scottsdale). I didn't plant any in the sun to compare them with but I imagine they would have bolted by now.

So of course these techniques could be applied to AP systems. But again, it just buys you a few weeks at best during the summer. Winter is a different story, a cold frame should extend the season a lot. I've been able to keep tomatoes and peppers alive all winter by covering them at night (not recommended for tomatoes, btw, better to start with new plants each season).

If you haven't read it yet the book Desert Gardening covers gardening in AZ well, much of which still applies to AP gardening (planting calendar, pests/diseases, etc).  It's from 1991 but mostly relevant.  Someone else may have a better recommendation http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Gardening-Brookbank/dp/1555610021/ref=...

You might want to set up a small hydro system indoors. It's really easy, and lettuce is a great candidate for this as it grows fine under very cheap (like $10 flourescent from Home Depot) lighting (or even a bright windowsill) from what I've read). It also grows quickly and doesn't require much space. If you want to do a quick experiment try one of the following methods. (You can literally just set a net cup with seeds into a gallon of water and nutes). Most salad greens can be grown really easily in some pretty basic setups http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/hawaii/downloads/three_non-circulating_... From there you can set up a small DWC or flood and drain system. Of course you could do an indoor AP system also.

Back to season extending: The one advantage we have in AP over soil gardening is that we can control the water temperature. And the water temp is much more important than the air temp, so if you can keep your water cool enough, even (shaded) lettuce (at least according to Rhiba Farms http://www.rhibafarms.com/) can be grown here throughout the summer (somewhere on their facebook page you can see the excavation they did). Unfortunately this requires a massive financial (or labor) investment in underground tanks, of course because digging here is so difficult. I'd have to look it up, but I think you have to go at least 3 feet to take advantage of geothermal cooling.
There are no easy options, but other options I've come across keeping a reservoir inside your house and circulate water through it (obviously not practical in most cases). One guy set up a misting system which works more or less like an evaporative cooler but I'm not sure his design is the most efficient and he didn't follow up so I'm not sure how effective it was. http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/hydro/msg0219170410076.html?18

Lastly you could buy a water chiller but of course the electricity required would be cost prohibitive unless you had solar power. I'm actually considering this option (solar powered chiller), does anyone have any thoughts advice about that?




Thank you Tony, you have given me much to research. I have been researching but obviously in the wrong places. I do keep peppers through the winter, have for several winters. I have been remodeling my fish house which is a 12x14 insulated building with a 300 gal tank with tilapia. Once I get things rearranged I can try some lettuce indoors. I would likely use the flood and drain version. Rhiba farms is huge and has a huge budget unlike a lot of us. I think here it is about 4' to use geothermal as mine is a heat pump setup on my house, It isn't using water underground though that should work. Again a bit expensive. I will research what you have given me and embark on new quests for my garden. Thank you so much for sharing and replying. .

Tony L said:

I am not an expert but I have been looking into this myself so I'll tell you what I've picked up. As others said we need to stick to the planting calendar. However, it is sometimes possible to extend the (traditional soil) gardening season by a few weeks on either end of the growing season. This is by using shade cloth (40% I think) during the summer, or cold frames (or alternatives) during the winter. It's not going to do miracles but it usually helps some. For instance, I still have kale and chard in the shade (I'm in Scottsdale). I didn't plant any in the sun to compare them with but I imagine they would have bolted by now.

So of course these techniques could be applied to AP systems. But again, it just buys you a few weeks at best during the summer. Winter is a different story, a cold frame should extend the season a lot. I've been able to keep tomatoes and peppers alive all winter by covering them at night (not recommended for tomatoes, btw, better to start with new plants each season).

If you haven't read it yet the book Desert Gardening covers gardening in AZ well, much of which still applies to AP gardening (planting calendar, pests/diseases, etc).  It's from 1991 but mostly relevant.  Someone else may have a better recommendation http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Gardening-Brookbank/dp/1555610021/ref=...

You might want to set up a small hydro system indoors. It's really easy, and lettuce is a great candidate for this as it grows fine under very cheap (like $10 flourescent from Home Depot) lighting (or even a bright windowsill) from what I've read). It also grows quickly and doesn't require much space. If you want to do a quick experiment try one of the following methods. (You can literally just set a net cup with seeds into a gallon of water and nutes). Most salad greens can be grown really easily in some pretty basic setups http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/hawaii/downloads/three_non-circulating_... From there you can set up a small DWC or flood and drain system. Of course you could do an indoor AP system also.

Back to season extending: The one advantage we have in AP over soil gardening is that we can control the water temperature. And the water temp is much more important than the air temp, so if you can keep your water cool enough, even (shaded) lettuce (at least according to Rhiba Farms http://www.rhibafarms.com/) can be grown here throughout the summer (somewhere on their facebook page you can see the excavation they did). Unfortunately this requires a massive financial (or labor) investment in underground tanks, of course because digging here is so difficult. I'd have to look it up, but I think you have to go at least 3 feet to take advantage of geothermal cooling.
There are no easy options, but other options I've come across keeping a reservoir inside your house and circulate water through it (obviously not practical in most cases). One guy set up a misting system which works more or less like an evaporative cooler but I'm not sure his design is the most efficient and he didn't follow up so I'm not sure how effective it was. http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/hydro/msg0219170410076.html?18

Lastly you could buy a water chiller but of course the electricity required would be cost prohibitive unless you had solar power. I'm actually considering this option (solar powered chiller), does anyone have any thoughts advice about that?




I seem to have more success in my raft beds, maybe the water is cooling the plants better?

Mine are in rafts beds and under shade, but water temp is still 70 degrees or better.

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