Paul Nickerson

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

System With GroTech Gutters!

In Alternative Agriculture, Aquaponics, Gardening on March 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm

The 300 Gallon system is currently located at Messiah College, Grantham PA. We recently plumbed in a 180 plant, GroTech gutter system into the main sump tank. After having worked through a number of the problems with integrating different style systems, it seems to be producing well. There have been some Iron deficiencies, but nothing that a bit of Chelated Iron couldn’t fix.

The fish gave birth again! The fry seem to be doing well.

We will be working to integrate SOMAT waste from the cafeteria, as well as poultry waste as an alternative diet. Research in that area should start at the end of this week! I’ll keep you all posted!

Cultivating Ginger: Zingiber officinale

In Gardening, Potting, Propagation on March 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Plant Credit to Kristen Listor

There are a few of us out there who seem to believe that if it can grow, it should grow. I was walking through the grocery store with a friend of mine when we started talking about cultivation of ginger. She remembered a talk she once heard about how simple it is to propagate ginger from its root. Needless to say, we bought some.

As we were not sure exactly how to go about propagating the root, we figured we would try a couple different methods. The best method was also the easiest. We buried the root just a couple inches deep in pots filled with moist potting mix. The pots were placed in warm locations, and kept lightly moist. After a couple of weeks, we started to see shoots arising from the rhizomes.

ImageHarvesting the ginger is easy. As needed, simply brush back the soil from the rhizome and cut a piece away. The plant will continue to grow healthily.

Tomatoe Roots: All Tangled Up

In Aquaponics, Gardening on March 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

I always tell people that one of the most enjoyable things about aquaponics is how modular and dynamic it is. Every system is different, and each presents its own unique challenges. The twelve tomato plants rafted in the sump tank have brought about one of these situations.

As the roots on the tomatoes developed, we have worked diligently to prune them to keep them from becoming entangled in the pumps. Last week was spring break. Being away, I was not able to keep an eye on the system. When we returned, the roots had grown to the point that they were drawn into the inline pump, and had wrapped themselves around the blades, almost seizing it. Water flow to the gutters was decrease.

After shutting down the system and cleaning out the pump, the discussion began as to how to avoid this problem in the future. After much deliberation, and dozens of sketch diagrams of how to move the pump, rearrange the plants, add a second sump tank, etc., we realized all we had to do was move the inlet of the pump. Instead of trying to plumb the pump into the other side of the sump tank, we simply needed to find a way to draw water from the opposite end of the tank from the tomatoes. (The simplest solutions can be so hard to find)

This was accomplished by attaching a hose to the inlet of the pump just inside the sump tank. It was easy as the inside of the bulkhead was threaded for a hose fitting. The length of hose was connected to the bulkhead, and run across the system into the bucket-cage with the other pump. From there the hose can supply water to the gutter system, and we can keep a sizable barrier between the roots and the pumps.

Some Recent Learning Experiences…

In Aquaponics, Gardening on March 25, 2012 at 11:08 pm

So recently we have been having some interesting “learning experiences.” I think it sounds better than “problems” or “complications.”

ImageA couple weeks back, the fish gave birth. With the addition of an extra pump in the system, this led to concerns about how best to manage the new arrivals. What I thought was a quick alteration brought countless hours of headache. The main concern was that the small fry would be drawn out of the main tank through the overflow, into the sump tank, where the pumps draw from. To avoid this, I put a screen in the overflow. The system was running fine until we began adding food scraps (SOMAT) to the tilapia’s diet.

The uneaten pieces of food became trapped in the screen, limiting water flow from the main tank. As a result, I showed up to work to find an empty sump tank, pumps drawing air, and a fish tank overflowing with a hundred gallons on the floor. To fix this, I cut the screen, draining the water back into the sump tank. After topping the system off, and priming the pumps again, we were faced again with the problem of keeping the fry from becoming chum.

ImageRound two. I decided to leave the overflow open to the fry. Before the GroTech system was added, the earlier hatch of fry moved freely into the sump tank, where they lived happily until I retrieved them. To keep the fry safe from the pumps, I enclosed the pumps in a cage built from the bottom of a bucket. I took the bottom nine inches of a bucket, and littered it with small holes.

The top of the bucket sits just about level with the water. This allows water to get to the pumps, while allowing the fish to live safely in the sump tank. In the picture, you can see the submerged pump, as well as a black hose in the bucket. The hose is attached to the inline pump supplying the gutters. I’ll be sure to explain the need for the hose in my next post. For now, the system seems to be running fine, and the fry should be safe.

Aquaponics Compared to Potting Medias

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on March 22, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Whenever there are more than one research projects going on in the same space, competition arises. Currently, along side my aquaponic system, a friend of mine is working on a study comparing the development of tomato plants in different medias. The study compares: 3-B potting mix, Worm Castings, Compost.

The tomato plants in the study were planted the same time as those in the aquaponic system. Furthermore, they are the from the same seeds. As you can see in the pictures, whatever the fish are putting in the water seems to be working! The aquaponic tomatoes are about twice as tall as those in soil, and are currently all in flower. Hoping for a good harvest!

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