Monday, June 18, 2012

The Watered Garden

We have a NAME!
Here's where it comes from. "...if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like A WATERED GARDEN, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. Isaiah 58: 10-12.

Mother Earth Fair
We were just at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, and heard Will Allen of Growing Power speak on how he was feeding the world around him through aquaponics and composting - starting gardens for the poor and hiring inner city kids and the like - very inspirational! Will Allen's website was the first place we ever heard about aquaponics and were inspired to start our own, so it was so cool to see him! The whole fair was totally amazing! If you're agrarians like us, put it on your calendar for next year, you won't be disappointed! Every aspect of a sustainable lifestyle was covered, but we were most encouraged by the speakers on aquaponics, including Sylvia Bernstein, whose book is our Aquaponic Bible, and by meeting locals like Don Stark of Sound Aquaponics and Raymond Lam of Silk Road Environmental. We're buying a solar water heating system from him to heat our water.

What's New at The Watered Garden
The media portion of our system is up and running. Jeff has been working very hard. We have a 5 zone indexing valve that chooses one row of growbeds at a time for flooding. The media beds are divided into 4 zones, and the strawberry towers will be the fifth zone. (The future deep water culture beds will be their own system.) Each zone floods for 4 minutes. So zone one will begin, and flood for 4 minutes, filling one row of growbeds. Each grow bed has a siphon, which is basically a tube inside a tube inside the growbed. When the water gets to the top of the inner tube, it spills over the top, creating a siphon which empties the growbed, leaving one inch in the bottom of the bed to develop an ecosystem to provide nutrients for fruit bearing plants. The water flows from the bottom of the grow bed into a pipe below the bed. The pipe dumps into one of three sumps. Then there is 11 minutes before the pump starts again and the indexing valve chooses the next zone.. Each row of growbeds has water in them for approximately 15 minutes out of every hour. When the sumps reach a designated level, the float switch turns on a return pump and the water is pumped from the sump back to the fish tanks, completing the cycle. We are presently waiting for a float level switch for the return pump so we can begin cycling automatically instead of manually.

Indexing valve in foreground. Fish tanks are behind you.
Water coming back to fish tank
We have to cover our tanks to prevent algae growth from the sun. Any ideas for  an attractive covering? We're not too excited about our present solution of landscape fabric.
When that happens, we're thinking about having a sleep-over in the greenhouse to be sure nothing goes wrong in the first 24 hour period. Some fine tuning needs to be done to the water heating system before we add ammonia and bacteria. Our present water temperature is 70 degrees, which is fine for the tilapia and plants, but we are trying to grow bacteria during the first few weeks, and bacteria grow the fastest at 77 to 86 degrees F. When we've achieved that temperature, we will add ammonia and start keeping daily records. The cycling process will have its own blog.

Today I tested the pH in every fish tank and also the sump. Weirdly, they are different from each other, but I expect they will even out when we start cycling 24/7. However, three of the tanks have a pH of 7.6 which is too high, so we're a little concerned  that our gravel may have some limestone in it. We did test it prior, but of course you can't test every piece. So we'll have to wait and see on that one.

Meanwhile, out in the dirt garden. Here is beautiful Olympia showing off the first strawberries of the year. We've been covering the berries with row cover to keep the birds off.


  1. can't wait to get home and help! Lookin' good 'rents.

  2. I hope that solar systems will become much more affordable for everyone.
    Solar Water Heater