Sharon Johnson of Columbia, S.C., is a passionate gardener, a point that is made obvious by the fact that she lives on a small lot, full of concrete pads, yet she has found a way to have a beautiful garden full of flowers, fruits, vegetable and herbs. Some are in containers, some are not. Her blog will document the adventures of gardening in pots, fending off deer and small animals and the trials of organic gardening.
 

 

Aquaponics Update
by Sharon Johnson - posted 01/05/13

Well, I apologize for disappearing for so long.  Truth is, aquaponics is not as simple as it first sounds…the bell siphon takes awhile to adjust…then the water cycle itself took another six weeks…which seems like a long time to me, when its outdoors and mid-summer and my plants are still in tiny starter pots, languishing. Then the first batch of catfish proceeded to die on us.  Who knew the same fish my dad kept in coolers forever on long summer nights did not tolerate heat well, but they don’t.  Fortunately, we also had bream and they did fairly well.  We did find we spent a lot more time outdoors, sitting in front of our fish tank, feeding the fish, tending the plants…the sound of the water pleasantly filters the sounds of the neighborhood. Here's a view from the bench, the screen keeps the sun from overheating the fish tank and keeps debris from blowing in as well.

We put worms into the system grow beds in September.  We wondered if red worms could survive in a semi-aquatic habitat, but two weeks after putting them in there, we saw lots of tiny baby red worms around the roots of plants we harvested.  For treats, we pull a few worms from my worm bins and feed the fish.  At Thanksgiving, we started a new tradition, a true farming tradition: the whole family (nephews included) took the vegetable trimmings to the worms before we ate our own dinner.  Then we harvested some worms and fed the fish…and I’m sure we all hoped next year we would be eating fish!

Fish food creates another issue…nowhere have I found it practical to buy organic fish food and because our little fishies are for the most part carnivores, we are not getting the benefit of “grass fed fish”, but my vegetables are beautiful.  Even though I planted in July, we harvested lots of okra and a gallon of peppers off of one plant.  Pretty incredible.  Now I have gorgeous greens: bok choi, collards, mustard, chard, lettuce and cabbage.  I have been disappointed in their growth rate though.  I’m sure they are shading one another out.  I also forgot to take into account how much lower the sun tracks in the winter time, so we get minimal sunlight but it’s still a work in progress, as with any garden.  What are your plans for the new year in your garden?

Here's the fall garden and the summer garden.  You can see the seaweed extract in the milk jug.  I used this to add nutrients this summer, while we waited for our fish to produce enough waste for the plants to use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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COMMENTS

Christopher (Louisiana - Zone 8a) - 04/09/2013

I've kept aquarium display fish for a long time, but I've been wanting to try raising fish for food. There's some drainage ditch water that flows along the back of the property that I would like to redirect/dam into a small area for fish. However, that water is no doubt subject to runoff from any number of neighboring yards, so I don't know how safe the fish would be for consumption. I might have to leave it as merely an landscaping element.
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Sharon Johnson - 04/11/2013

First of all, thank you so much for reading my blog. Please be aware that permits are usually required to divert a streambed, even ditches these days, and you are correct on the runoff issues as well. I researched many different containers for my aquaponics systems before I purchased the rubbermaid stock tanks. You should try an outdoor container of fish for yourself. We are using a pond pump from a big box store. The entire system is fairly low-cost, certainly no more expensive than putting in a nice koi pond. Just research your fish well. We found out AFTER we had them, that bream do not survive well in temps below about 41 degrees. So then we had to quickly find a heater (we are still using plastic, so melting the tank becomes an issue) for the winter, which worked well in our area this past winter. Best of luck. Please keep us all posted on your progress!
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