Cheap desktop aquaponics system

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I wanted to create a fun project with my daughter and a proof of concept for an aquaponics setup to have running in my grow box.  For those of you new to this concept this is growing plants in a soilless environment (much like hydroponics) but instead of paying for expensive nutrients you use naturally occurring bacteria and fish poop to grow plants.

Now there are fish farm kits out there but given most of the parts for this build I had sitting idle in my garage I decided to construct my own.

First after a trip to IKEA I found some plastic tubs just the right size for my grow box.  I got two of the bins and one lid.

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This is the basic idea of how this goes together, fish in the bottom plants on top.

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Next I took a 1/4 inch drill and made several holes on both the bottom of the top tub and also through the lid.  I also added a few extra hole in the lid to ensure water can drain faster from the lid than the water coming in from above.  I also drilled a big enough to fit some 1/2 in plastic tubing from an old fountain pump I had lying around.

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It is a bit hard to see from this picture but I cut the top of a 2 liter bottle off and drilled a hole in the cap just big enough to fit the top of the plastic tubing through.  I then drilled six 1/4 holes and pushed a 6 small pieces of irragaction tubing (pieces of straws could probably work here as well) and positioned them right under the plants roots.

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I then filled the top tub 1/3 with aquarium gravel (washed pea gravel would work as well) that I had sitting the the garage and topped the rest with some clay pellets.

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Next add some plants and pour water from the top until the tub below is full, start the pump and add a few goldfish and the process begins.

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As the fish breath, poop, and pee they will produce ammonia (NH4) this is pretty worthless to the plants but after a few weeks Nitrosomas bacteria will begin converting the ammonia (NH4) to Nitrates (NO2) which plants can absorb some of the nitrogen from but not very efficiently.  Finally Nitrospira bacteria will convert the Nitrates (NO2) to Nitrates (NO3) which is easily converted by the plants producing some nice vibrant greens with fish poop.

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You can even do this whole process without even having fish by simply adding pure ammonia to you water which will create the same natural bacterial processes without having to remember to feed your fish and a small bottle of the stuff only costs a couple dollars on Amazon.

        

New logo for CheapVegetableGardener.com

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When I first created this blog 6 years ago I through together a simple logo with my very limited graphic design ability (or lack there of).  I had always intended on improving this in the future but had never gotten the opportunity to do this.

Fortunately our Danish friends at AxisCepromup were great enough to put a logo together to replace our existing one.  What do you think?

Groundhog Day: Is spring coming early?

Sorry, Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow so six more weeks of winter.  Though for those of you with a blanket of snow on the ground and more coming this is probably not hard to believe.

Just for the record Punxsutawney Phil is only right 39 percent of the time so probably best to not put too much of your seed planning on his prediction. Keeping fingers crossed…

Merry Christmas from The Cheap Vegetable Gardener

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Hope you have a happy holiday and for those looking to get started with your garden don’t fret there are seeds you can start indoors soon.  If you wondering what you can start planting in Dec/Jan in your area check out our seed starting calculator.

Pumpkin pancakes with pumpkin spice whipping cream

 

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My seed collection from my Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin I purchased a few years back finally paid off and I was able to produce a couple of decent sized pumpkins which should provide me enough pumpkin goo (canned pumpkin) to make plenty of baked goods this fall.  For those who have not made their own pumpkin goo the process is very easy…even easier this year with my new food processor (no need to add bit of water to help my struggling magic bullet I have used in the past)

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So with about a gallon of pumpkin puree on hand I froze about 3/4 of it by spooning some into silicon muffin cups, freezing for a couple hours, adding to freezer bag and repeat.

With what I had left seemed like a good idea would be pumpkin pancakes which I made this morning with the following recipe.
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Pumpkin pancakes with pumpkin spice whipping cream
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2.5 teaspoons pumpkin spice (1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ginger)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Mix milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar in bowl.
  2. In separate bowl combine flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt and stir until well combined.
  3. Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and mix just enough to combine (over mixing can lead to chewy pancakes)
  4. Heat a griddle or frying/cast iron pan on medium-high heat and pour ¼-1/3 cup of batter into pan and flip when brown and serve.
Notes
For whipping cream simply add ¼ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to purchased whipping cream. Or make it yourself with 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 teaspoon powdered sugar, and ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and whip until you have medium peaks.

 

 

No room for a garden at home? Start one on top of a bus

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Interesting approach to get gardens in some very interesting places.  The system uses the waste from the air conditioning to water the plants and can provide some much needed photosynthesis in very congested areas in the world scrubbing air as they go.  So sure you prized tomatoes would not survive going 50 MPH down the freeway but a very interesting approach to make use of some otherwise dead space.

Via Gizmodo