Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011/06/25 - Some new plants

The garden continues to grow well.   Water tests today were very good, except for a bit too much ammonia and nitrates.  I'm going to quit feeding the fish quite so generously, and that should bring everything to perfect levels.

Earwigs are still trying to eat all the leafy stuff.  I have promised myself to take the time tomorrow to make an oil trap.  They just need to go before they destroy everything.

Here are some broad views of the garden:

I picked lettuce and tomatoes to share with my book club last week (and a couple of radish for myself):

The ladies loved them!

The tomatoes are absolutely frightening with their abundance.  As you can see, I have a bunch of them turning golden all at once.  I think the plants (and I) are much happier now that I thinned out the foliage.  And OMG have I learned my lesson!  I will never own more than 3 plants again, and I will accept that wherever I plant them is going to be their permanent home so don't expect to give them more room later.  You broke it, you bought it, lady.

You can also see in the upper tomato picture (if you know what you're looking for) where the cucumber vine is coming back down across the front, now that it's run out of room to grow upward.  It isn't setting fruit yet that I can see, but it certainly has blooms!
Old growth on the strawberries isn't happy, and one of my 3 remaining plants died, but the other two have good looking new growth.  I'm hoping to get them into towers in the next month or two.  Hopefully that will help.
I picked some Wrinkle Crinkle Cress and some radish this morning.  The cress is WAY too peppery.  My friend at Rolling Hills Herbs & Annuals tells me I probably let them get too mature.  So I'm going to make a point of picking things more frequently, rather than just gloating over their growth.  Heck, I need the growbed space anyway!

Speaking of Rolling Hills, they had an end-of-season sale on their heirloom plants today.  I couldn't resist (not that I tried all that hard) so we have some new additions to the garden.  And since all of her plants are certified organic, I can finally plant something other than seeds without worrying about killing off my fish!
I bought some cilantro to put with the coriander I'm growing.  (Yes, I know it's the same plant.  But in the leggy, all-seed condition my plants are in, they are definitely coriander.  And this new plant, all lovely leaves, is definitely cilantro.)
I moved the beets further back a bit (they're growing so slowly) to make room for fennel:
Since I had picked all those radishes, I now had room for dill:
In the constant-flow bed where I removed the two tomato plants, I planted 3 types of basil.  Sweet, lemon, and anise:

And behind them I put a golden bell pepper and a purple bell pepper:

I have high hopes for getting the second barrel frame completed this weekend.  If I do, I'll move these barrels into it, and put raft barrels in their place.  The rafts will then hold my lettuce and probably my basil.

I also got a great tip from my co-addicts at the Aquaponics HQ forum about using bunk feeders as growbeds (in my case, I'll make a raft bed out of it).  OMG they're so inexpensive compared to everything else!  So I've currently got one of my local feed stores checking their supplier to see if they can get me one of the 10 foot jobs at a decent price.  And delivered to my house, of course.  There's no way I can get one home in my hatchback.  Lowe's Home Improvement actually sells them, and at a decent price.  But not in California.  But if I can't support my local business without destroying my wallet, I'll see if Lowe's will ship it.  Once I get this it will take up the last of my comfortably useable space in the greenhouse.  Then, just maybe, I can quit tweaking the system and just watch it grow.  :-)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011/06/12 - A bit of rearranging

I got a little work done this weekend.

I discovered that the drain holes of my standpipe had gotten pretty restricted and the growbed was barely draining at all between flood cycles. So everything has been living in 8-10" of water all the time for I-don't-know how long. That certainly explains why the tomatoes were splitting. I twisted the media guard to break off some roots, and I scrubbed inside the standpipe with an old toothbrush, and that seems to have done the trick. The better long-term solution will probably be to convert to sub-surface constant-flow. But I don't think my new half-barrel beds are as healthy as my main bed, and they're constant flow. So perhaps there's a problem I need to resolve, or perhaps constant-flow just isn't as effective. I'll do more research.

I built the legs for the new frame, but haven't attached them yet. No pics of that at this time.

I picked (and ate) another radish.  Boy when they're ready they practically pop out of the media to tell you so.

I pulled out all the chard, put the biggest leaves and most damaged plants into the composter, and replanted 4 or 5 tender hearts in an East-West line so they wouldn't shade anything but each other.

They had really compacted root balls.  Here's the one I pulled out of the corner:

I moved the carrots into the space where the chard used to be and planted some more seeds of that., and I planted some spinach seeds.

Beets are growing slowly. Cress looks so happy and healthy. Cabbage is starting to get eaten by bugs, but is otherwise growing well. Cucumber vine has grown all the way to the top of the stake and I don't know what it's going to do next.  Lettuce is getting bigger.
Tomatoes are still producing tons of fruit.
But the plants in the new bed just don't have either the growth or the color.

The earwigs are really attacking that end of the growbed. I just looked up organic earwig control and found out that the earwigs help control the aphids. Sigh... But the earwigs are also eating up all the greens over there. That's not acceptable. There's a suggestion for a trap using a straight-sided container (like cottage cheese container) half-filled with vegetable oil and buried level with the surface. I think I'll try this one.
The fish are active and eating well.  I nearly killed them again, but I learned something important in the process.  For the last few weeks, I've been adding about 1/4 cup of muriatic acid to the front sump in an attempt to slowly lower the pH.  I usually test the next day and don't see any change.  I decided that I wasn't adding enough to make a difference, so this time I put in 3/4 cup.  I tested soon after and the pH had plummetted to dangerously low levels.  Like too low for the test to properly measure.  Ack!  Not again!  So I immediately started draining water from one end while pumping in hose water from the other end.  I got it back up to high low 7's and stopped.  4 hours later it was back to high 7's (and the fish were eating again).  I have concluded that something in my system is buffering it and I just shouldn't try to fix it again.  I suspect the 1/4 cup acid I'd added before was moving the pH, but by the time I tested 24 hours later it was back to normal again - so I never realized it was doing anything.  So the pH is just going to stay where it is.  Meanwhile, I added about a quart of Maxicrop seaweed.  Since I keep running an acid bath through there, I'm sure I've killed off the bacteria again.  So at least the plants will get fed while everything reestablishes itself.
I also received a shipment of tilapia food.  They've been getting koi food up until now.  I'll finish this open bag of koi food and put the closed bags into the freezer as emergency rations, and start them on tilapia food.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

2011/06/04 - Everything's coming up... tomatoes

The new fish are settled in and eating like crazy.  I had planned to move the barrel-tomatoes to a new stand and put rafts on the existing stand since fiance was here for a week... but we found so much other stuff to do that we didn't get any construction done.  On the other hand, we did discuss the wicking beds we'll put in to the dirt garden when he moves in.

Radishes will evidently grow just fine in AP, despite being root veggies.  This gives me great hope for the carrots, as they are supposed to be golf-ball size and shape.

Strawberries were shaded so completely by the chard and tomatoes, I decided to move a couple of plants to the barrels with the tomatoes.  They seem to be happy over there.  I might move the others this weekend.

Cilantro bolted, but is now making lots of seeds, which fiance reminded me are corriander (one of our favorite spices) so I'll be harvesting those.  He rigged a nice support for them meanwhile.

Chard has been attacked.  I think by earwigs since that's what I'm seeing on them.  I will probably pull up the plants this weekend, compost the less hardy, pull the outer leaves off the strongest, and replant the hearts.

Tomatoes are starting to produce a LOT.  I knew I was going to be in trouble, but I'd forgotten how MUCH trouble.  I fully expect to be pulling a grocery bag of tomatoes each week for a while.  Fiance has promised to ask SIL about best ways to freeze/can/something tomatoes.

Savoy cabbage grows so quickly it doesn't even look like the same plant from one week to the next.  Leeks are looking less floppy, but that's all I'm seeing so far.  Lettuce looks good but is a ways from harvest.  Cress and Arugula are growing slowly but look healthy.  Brussels sprouts are growing a lot but I don't really know what they're supposed to look like at this stage except that they seem healthy and happy.

The cucumber vine is getting pretty tall. I had intended to run it up the center stake, but fiance didn't realize that and has it coming to the front stake. I think it'll be okay. Though I had hoped to have all those tomatoes moved by now. But that didn't happen and they're so huge I think I can no longer safely move them. I'll just have to wait until they're done producing, and learn from the experience.
I bought a 50L bag of K1 media and dumped it into my rear sump tank.  I also hooked up a heavy duty air filter to blow through there.  This tank is now officially a moving bed bio filter.