Aquaponic Gardening

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Some people have a hard time wrapping their head around what a NYC backyard might look like. So I figured I'd cover mine.  


The most common backyard is made of concrete for three main reasons: (1) many have driveways leading to a backyard garage, (2) to have a place to put one's picnic table and barbecue, (3) to minimize lawn care.  I would have loved to use our flat rooftop, which has the best sun exposure but building structure and rooftop access were too much of a concern. So we turned to the backyard.  


We started with an area of usable space of about 8.5 ft wide by 15 ft deep to fit a greenhouse.  We had to get rid of our above-ground jacuzzi, which of course everyone decided they coulda woulda shoulda enjoyed AFTER we got rid of it. Either way, I'm not broken up about it - we definitely got our money's worth.  While it would have been nice to reuse the tank as a water source, we wanted to grow year-round and couldn't easily grow or navigate around that 72 sqft. behemoth.


The first thing I did prior to building the greenhouse was to check local DOB laws to see what we could get away with.  I would have liked to use the full space between the garage and my neighbor's fence, but the wall of the greenhouse had to be 3 ft from the lot line.  It's anchored to the ground and 4-6" to the garage.  All joists are attached with hurricane ties and the building is allowed to sway a little, since we're increasingly "graced" with mini-tornadoes and tropical storms.


For practical purposes, the structure is 8ft tall and 12ft long (meaning we could use standard-sized building materials).  I was lucky enough to reclaim a bunch of materials to save as much money as possible.  The back privacy fence was removed to increase sun exposure and reclaimed as double doors.  I was lucky enough to get all the wood needed to build the tank and grow-bed from a movie shoot, and most of the plywood are pallet tops reclaimed at work.  I got a great deal on the poly by ordering scraps from a greenhouse supplier.  In a stroke of luck, they shipped the wrong size and didn't require me to ship that package back.  So I used the extras to cover the fiberglass and provide even better insulation.  The side "windows" are screened in and may be covered with poly in the winter.


There are currently two problems with the greenhouse:

(1) Air circulation: I'll definitely have to add a fan because the max temperature in there regularly reaches up to 120F when it's 80+ degrees outside.  I focused on insulating the greenhouse for winter use, and didn't take into account the spring/summer heat.  Adding a screen to the sides has helped reduce the temps a little, but I still want to increase cross-ventilation.  I could of course uncover the poly but I want to minimize exposure to rain, squirrels, birds and mosquitoes (still fishless cycling). 

(2) Fish-safe EPDM liner: If I could do it over, I would opt for a light-colored liner.  The black material absorbs too much of the sunlight, boosting the water temp.  This might be great in the winter time, but at 90-95F and the raft in place to reflect much of the light, the water temperature still reached 78F yesterday. 


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Comment by Amy Allis on June 20, 2012 at 2:21pm

Hello out in NYC -- 

I like it -- looks like a great use of limited space... and I like the movie-shoot leftovers for materials. Curious what kind of fish you are considering with your wide swing of temps out there? Looking fwd to more updates...


Comment by Little NYC on May 29, 2012 at 8:34pm
Thanks! Creativity makes this process all the more fun!
Comment by Japan Aquaponics - アクアポニックス 日本 on May 29, 2012 at 6:08pm

That looks like a really nice way to cover such a small area.  Really good work!

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