April 6, 2014

Mature Plants in Aquaponics

It's day 755 for the aquaponics system. Even though it's been raining off and on all day, I've found time to do some house cleaning in the greenhouse and the garden. Maybe the system figured out its fate, because everything started looking pretty good.

Most of the plants in the system were planted back in November when I had to start the system over. Some of the stalks are over an inch thick and going to seed. The swiss chard leaves are over a foot long! It was long over due for the mature plants to come out. 

I've come to the conclusion that it is just not a good idea to let plants mature too much in the system. Maybe it's because I'm still new to aquaponics, but this could be a one of the reasons I failed the first time.

Mature roots can clog. Because the roots system is so big with mature plants, it can quickly clog whatever plumbing it's closest to. I've also observed large root systems causing uneven draining and standing water. Algae and bugs love that type of environment, which is YUCK for me!

Mature roots are Messy. The mature root system is not easy to separate from the grow media when you are ready to remove the plant. It's just impossible to get all of the roots. Then the roots left in the grow bed are too much for the worms to eat, and they just can't keep up. This seems to cause the system to be imbalanced. 

Mature plants don't taste as good. I've generally found that mature plants usually aren't the best tasting. Most plants seem to taste the best when they are young. (I'm referring to greens and annual veggies which is what I grow in the system.)

In the future, I will be leaving the plants to mature in the system for only a few months instead of 6 months! I think I might be removing plants, so I can down size the system. Tote system, you're out of here!

credits: just my photos

March 29, 2014

Hardy Kiwi Trellis Build

I'm 87 days into the edible forest garden project. I'm getting rid of the grass in my backyard to create an edible forest garden made of perennial edibles that's as beautiful as it is productive. You can see all of the planning here, and the latest of the edible forest gardening here.

Apparently, everyone received the memo to mow today but me. I spent the afternoon with my Dad building the Hardy Kiwi Trellis that has been on my to-do list since February. If I had all of the parts this would have been completed in no time. You can see where it's located in the garden from the plan here

It looks like a clothes line, right? From what I researched, these are some serious vines that can produce as much as 100lbs of kiwis per season, so the trellis must be able to handle all of the weight. I used this video to help me with the construction. I purchased (1) male and (1) female vine online from Farmer Seed and Nursery in January. 

Please excuse the mess. The garden feels a bit trashy these days. I think adding mulch will really spruce up the place. I'm STILL waiting on mulch. The new scheduled date is next week... Here's the general list of items it took to build the trellis.

(3) 4x4 x 8' posts
(1) 2 x 4 x 15'
(2) bags of concrete
150' of 12 gauge wire
(10) eye bolts
(2) 3/8"x 8" eyes bolts
(4) 3/8"x 6" bolts
lots of washers and nuts
(5) *turn things with an eyebolt/hook

*I can't remember what the turn things are called. They are in the same section as the bolts. I added them, so I can tighten the wire.

The 4x4 posts are spaced 15' apart and 24" in the ground. I will plant each vine between the posts so they will be about 16' apart. I had the 2x4 precut into 5' sections at the store. They were then bolted to the post with two bolts, one being an eye bolt. The center post just has holes to feed the wire through. The two posts on each end have (5) eye bolts, corresponding with the number of wire lines.

The video uses wire vises that I did not use. They aren't easy to find and just seemed like an unnecessary expense. I hope I don't regret it. I also didn't anchor the two end posts to the grounds. I will add the anchors closer to when/if it's necessary. I also found the 9 gauge wire is not easy to work with, so I went down to 12.

It's not a 100% complete, yet. I need to install the wire after the concrete sets and hopefully get my plants soon. They haven't come in yet either.

credits & resources: Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier // youtube.com/user/OklahomaGardening  // isons.com

March 23, 2014

Garden Inspiration 3

I'm a fanatic about researching anything I do, so I find lots of gardens. This is a series of posts of the gardens worth sharing that have inspired me with creating my garden. Inspiration is random, just like these posts.

Today's inspiration is not a new garden to me. This is Holyoke created by Eric Toensmeier and Johnathon Bates. I've read Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables and just can't get enough. By a random search of I'm-not-sure, I came across this condensed story of the garden.

This garden is also featured on Geoff Lawton where you can watch a video of the whole garden. They have over 200 perennial species of plants on a tenth of an acre. Impressive... yes.

Hopefully, my garden's story turns out just as successful. This website has many more photos and tells a better story.

credits & resources:  apiosinstitute.org // Ediblelandscaping.com // perennialsolutions.org // GeoffLawton.com

March 15, 2014

Swale Test 1

It's day 73 of the edible forest garden, and we finally got about an inch of rain today. It was good enough to test out the swale that I've been waiting so long for. This swale is part of my passive irrigation plan I explained here

The point of the swale is to slow down or catch the water long enough for it to soak in the ground. This is not a pond for long term storage.

I think it's safe to say it was a success. It took longer than I thought to fill it up, but it didn't reached full capacity. I noticed the runoff from the sidewalk leading from the back door, as well as the runoff from between my house and the neighbor filled it up.

The front yard was a different story. I wish I could say the picture above is from the swale, but it's not. This is my driveway. One clogged drain will cause this much standing water. yuck.

Before the next good rain, I have a few things to fix besides the drain.
Back yard: There's just a few places I need to tweak in the swale to make it more level. I also need to plant out the low side of the swale. The last step is to fill up the swale with mulch. I've seen swales that were filled and some that weren't. I plan on filling it up to help with erosion and to make it a pathway.  Gutters are also a must-have in the future for even more catchment. I also need to consider the sill location with a possible second swale because it's not if it fills up, it's when.
Front yard: I need to connect the two drains to the swale. I think this will really improve the drainage in the front and increase my catchment capacity. There is also some tweaking with the ground between the two house to catch even more water.

The 2nd most stated comment about the garden: How are you going to water everything? Y'all- nature gives it to us. We just have to harvest it to be able to use it when we need it! This video has really got me brainstorming how I can harvest even more.

credits & resources: just my photos // geofflawton.com // thesurvivalpodcast.com // Brad Lancaster 

March 14, 2014

Weapons of Mass Plant Production

This year, I finally feel like a real gardener with all of this seed planting and transplanting going on in the dining room.  This photo is a little outdated. In the past, I've been horrible with seed starting. Some how I always ended up killing everything and ended up buying plant starts at the nursery.

This year is different. First, I have invested in some pretty cool and rare seeds that you can't find at the nursery. Second, my imaginary budget is shrinking, so I don't have much to spend at the nursery for plant starts.

I randomly decided to watch some of Martha's dvd's on Netflix which I think is just her network show series. Watching a few episodes boosted my confidence to help me master seed starting. Here are a few tools I'm using to help me.

1 - Water Bottle. I picked up a new spray bottle just for water at the discount store for pretty cheap down the street. I don't know about you, but this is a good way to prevent drowning the seedlings or blowing them over. This was life changing for me in my seed starting career.

2 - Recycled Garden Pots. For once, my hoarding came in handy. I've been keeping the small pots thinking I might need them later, and I'm glad I did. I even kept the trays to set them in. Do people really buy these? I'm sure I would have used anything lying around the house before I purchased small pots.

3 - Tongue Depressors. Not only am I horrible at seed starting, I'm also horrible at labeling my starts that I attempted to start. I picked up a pack of these at a hobby store for a few dollars. They are worth every penny. I ended up cutting them in half.

4 - Heating Pad. This isn't in the photo, but I found this very useful. This is just your standard heating pad. I've used mine in the past for making yogurt. Since spring seeds need warm weather to germinate, I thought I'd give this a try. It wasn't an official study, but I think it worked great to kick start.

I may not be an expert quite yet, but I'm feeling pretty good about starting seeds now. In the future, a grow-light would be a great addition to the system.

credits & resources: my photo // marthastewart.com // amazon.com // ecoyards.com

March 4, 2014

Garden Report: February 2014

Well, February went by fast?! Let's see how I did with the progress of the Edible Forest Garden. Last month's garden report can be found here.

Just when we thought spring was officially here, winter was back with a blast of cold air and snow. IN. TEXAS. It's so weird...

There was quite a bit of progress in the garden with my work party I hosted this past weekend. The party was on March 1st, but I'm counting it for February. I'm glad my family was not questioning my methods, because I sure was the whole time.

The 'Leaf' is more visible now. It will be even more visible when I complete the other three beds. I hope the people flying overhead are seeing it. Your welcome southwest!

Honestly, with a closer eye, the garden looks brown, and messy. I want to scream: IT'S NOT DONE YET! It's better than the month before and that's all I need to continue.

 1. Complete Swale
75% complete. I'm still waiting for a good rain to test it out. It's as done as it's going to get until then. I may have to tweak the level and will fill it up with mulch.

 2. Complete tree trimming 
Done! My dad, his wife, and neighbor Alex helped me with the big elm tree. It was mostly my dad. There were some scary moments when my dad was almost hit by a falling limb. I'm thankful neighbor Alex saved the day.

 3. Build the Kiwi Trellis
25% complete. The holes are dug and most of the pieces are purchased. It needs to be built, but since the kiwi's aren't here, I'm not too worried. We decided to leave out the wire vises because they seem to be an unnecessary expense. 

4. Complete mulched pathways
0% complete. Since we ran out of cardboard at my work party and don't have the mulch, I couldn't even entertain starting this. I only thought I had a mulch source...

 5. Complete Plant purchases
Done! Everything is pretty much ordered except for the comfrey. I'll just buy that at the nursery. 

 6. Construct Annual Beds

 7. Start seeds for annual bed
Done! I have a lot going on in the seedling department.

 8. Get beds ready for the Banana circle
10% complete. I have the holes for the bananas started and have a good start on the big compost hole. 

 9. Prune Grapes
Done! Everyone needs an easy task to cross off the list.

10. Construct the linear Herb bed
0% complete. I'll need to restock the cardboard and order more compost.

11. Mulch tree trimmings for beds or swale
15% complete. The trimmings are in two nice piles waiting me for.

12. Start potatoes. 
20% complete. The potatoes are purchased. I'm waiting for them to grow some good eyes before planting them. 


As you might expect, I didn't harvest anything except for these gems above. I was working on the pathways when I found a few them. I almost counted them as part of the harvest, but decided against it since I don't plan to eat them. Spot the green potato? It's poisonous.

February's harvest = none
Yearly harvest Total  = just a few handfuls of herbs and surviving trees collard leaves.

I worked medium-hard this month. I should pick up pace a little. I'm hoping I get excited to work out there when the weather is more consistent. This hours for this month don't include any help. 

February's work = 17 hours
Yearly work Total = 30 hours

Let's see what March can bring us. I suspect lots of planting is going to happen. If you are wondering what the garden is planning to look like, you can go here to see the planning.

credits: just my photos this time

March 3, 2014

Garden Work Party

Some where along the way of ordering 7 yards of compost (2 yards were my neighbor's) I figured I needed help with the garden. I'm not really sure where I got the idea to host a work party, but I knew two things: I had to send out an evite and provide lunch. I invited some family members and a co-worker and started work at 8am.

Day 59 of the Edible Forest Garden turned out to be a fun day. We finished all of the beds I wanted to complete except for three in less than four hours. Then we finished with enchiladas and birthday cake.

I should have purchased more compost and collected more cardboard. I was surprised to have plenty of leaves, though. The work continues...

Thanks for helping out Mom, Steve (on your birthday), Brandi, Tracie, Matt, and Nana!

credits: me, for barely making it in the photo I took.