Joel’s Garden update and the wonders of chemistry

I haven’t posted anything out from my actual gardens in quite a while, so I wanted to remedy that.  🙂

I just got my first chard delivered to Judy – YAY.

I’m finding chard to be moderately hard to germinate so far indoors, but once I get it established, it functions well in my larger setup that has plenty of upward space.  I have a few chard in different stages growing in my larger Eb and Flow Hydroponics setup at the moment, as well as quite a few other things that I’m putzing with.

It might only be easy to identify some of these things if you double click on the picture to see a larger version of it, but I have (Left to Right) my Basil Patch (an experiment in itself), Kohlrabi (both purple and winter), Chard, Lots of Lettuce – (Optima, I think), more Chard (smaller, younger plants), and then my Scallion patch experiment.

The Basil Patch I’m calling an experiment due to a few things.  Firstly, I WAAAY overseeded the patch on purpose to see if I could prune it heavy and cycle it through lots of re-growth since I can control the nutrient load well in the system.  Also in the experiment is breaking the cardinal rule in Hydroponics… I have them planted in a soil surface over perlite over hydroton.  I am curious if I can hybridize hydroponics with soil, which is supposed to be wrong in so many ways, due to higher bacteria loads and grit issues in the soil, but so far it seems to be working well.

I did the same thing with my scallions, which seems to be working out less well with the over-seeding portion of the show.  They don’t seem to be taking off so well – lots of stringy growth, but no real plants that are heading up, per se.  We’ll see on those…

The odd looking stumpy things in some of the pots are my lettuce re-growths.  When I go to harvest my lettuce, I always leave it in the system for a bit, because more often than not, due to the root structure already there, they actually will start a new head from the stump of the old growth.  It is a slightly more bitter second growth, but it is still really good lettuce (usually), so I find it works out for me.

In the two “Emily Gardens” that are hooked up to my Aquaponics system, I have only lettuce stumps and new growth Kohlrabi.  The Kohlrabi is growing slower than the ones in the larger system, but that is somewhat expected, as the lights from the High Intensity Compact Fluorescent tubes really can’t compete when it comes to “good” light.  However, the lettuce is performing fairly well in re-growth, and though the growth quality isn’t as good as the Hydroponics (yet), I’m still really excited that it is working as well as it is with as many mistakes as I’ve been making with the Aquaponics.  (Please pardon my mess behind the plants… I do tend to live in chaos, sad to say.)

The chemistry part of the show comes from the fact that I finally took the plunge and got some water testing kits for my fish, and some really (to me) extraordinary information.  First off, (again, sorry PETA) the Tilapia are frigging AMAZING!  I knew I wasn’t really doing “well” with my water quality yet, but I was shocked to find that I was doing fatally bad.  The Ammonia and Nitrites in my tank were off the charts that I have for readings.  More than 8ppm of Ammonia and more than 5ppm Nitrites.  REALLY not cool, since the closer to absolute zero you can stay the better, and the worry points that we have for Victus Farm hover in the 1ppm range for those numbers.  And, on the other side of the equation, my plant water has Zero Ammonia, Zero Nitites, and Zero Nitrates.  I’m not really sure what they were growing on, but I’m assuming that they had some nutrient, and just processed through it all.  So… much water exchanging later, I got them re-balanced, (still more levels with the fish than I would like, but still working on it), and the plants again have nutrients.

So, this was all yesterday, and I went back on a curiosity level to check one of my plant numbers, and they have already started processing the ammonia down to almost zero, and have started turning it into nitrites (those levels climbed even higher – which makes biological sense).   Wild to see the biological process at work in such a real way.  There was even a small increase in the Nitrates, the good side of that nutrient, which will start feeding the plants as well.  🙂

For anyone who understands how Aquaponics is supposed to work, you might be slightly confused as to what the heck I’m doing, as the above problems are only happening because I’m really screwing  with the “traditional” way of doing this.  My first tank system was designed to work on a continuous water loop, but I couldn’t get that functional (for reasons left for another post), but needless to say, because of my limited space and my landlords assumed preference for me to be able to guarantee no leaks in the system, it is only semi-automatic at this point, so the water changes were happening as I guessedthey were needed.  With the water testing information, I think this will improve quite a bit – we’ll see – still a radical learning curve.

So – that catches up pretty much everything for the moment… I did build the cover screen for the fish, as well as attempted a sand filter for them – both with mixed and crazy results, but that is another post…  they continue to grow, much more to my amazement now that I know how less than ideal their water is, and I’ll have another growth picture out sometime soon.  I’m hoping at some point I can get this skill down so that the little guys aren’t in such constant peril.

Categories: Aquaponics, Gardening
One Comment
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