Summer of 2013 Garden and Aquaponics update

It has been a long time since there has been a blog post but there has been a lot of activity.  After another successful winter it was time to come outside again and to get to work. There were several things to work on, 1) To have another successful roof garden with some improvements. 2) To improve the outdoor aquaponics systems filters.  3) to improve the vertical aqua piping 3) To develop an Ebb and Flow system 4) To create an Aeroponic system on the 3rd floor.

Container Garden

Lets start with the container garden.  It is going great so far and this season has yielded quarts and quarts of Strawberries, pints of Blueberries, lots of lettuce, carrots, radishes and herbs as well as collards and beans.  We are moving into tomato and pepper time and that makes me very excited!









Im very happy to say that I put the abundance of Fruit to good use and made Strawberry, Blueberry and Mango (not from the garden) Sorbet, so I will be able to enjoy all summer.

Im also happy to report that there are 3 new ladies at the Urban Lab.

2013 Aquaponics system


Another year and more improvements to the outdoor Aquaponics system. This year I added a whole new level and some new ways of growing. As you will see the fish are still in a 275 gallon IBC tank under the stairs. That water now pumps up to the roof of the second level where it goes through a 2 stage filtering system (through a 30 and 20 gallon adapted garbage cans) at that point Half the water come out and flows into the system that runs along the side of the house. This continous flow of water also filters the water and helps re-oxygenate the water for  the fish before it goes back into the tank. In the second stage of the filter is a pump and every 7 minutes that pump comes on for 30 seconds and pumps water up to the 3rd floor deck where you can see I have built a new system. That system is an aeroponic system that is basically gutters with small pipes inside with sprayers, so it sprays the roots of the plants. That water all drains into one pipe which them comes down to a tub that you see next to the filters. That is an ebb and flow system. So essentially every 7 minutes that tub fills half way with water and waters the plants in there before draining back into the Fish tank. Last year I had about 50 grow holes or units, this year I have over 200! And these different types of growing are better for different types of plants. it is a lot of fun. In addition I have about 50 Tilapia that are over a pound now and will be 2 pounds each and perfect for eating in the next month. Come on down!!!



Harvest Meals and Caterpillars

Even though it was hot and dry at times, it has been a lovely summer, .  The Gardens and Aquaponics have all yielded much of their bounty at this point and have made their contribution to the great summer. As the temperatures drop it is time to think about pulling up and turning over the garden, as well as planting a few winter crops like garlic, onions and potatoes.  It is also time to close down the outdoor Aquaponics system and focus on the indoor system.  Much of those activities will be discussed in future posts but there is still plenty to talk about now.  This post is a long one so Im going to break it into three parts.



The rooftop garden at this point is an unruly beast but it continues to produce some items like grape tomatoes and lots and lots of cayenne peppers.  These pictures were taken during the first week of September 2012.  You can also see that the Outdoor Aquaponics system is going along quite well. Lots of Basil, Chives and Cilantro in the vertical section.  One pic also shows the amazing root growth the plants have in the vertical section.  In the horizontal section you can also see the abundance of Tomatoes, Eggplants (on top) as well as all sorts of lettuce





Someone like myself can be a bit simple minded at times.  So when I had some young visitors who wanted to see the garden, I mistakenly apologized and said there was very little to see as the growing season was over and the harvest had taken place. Within moments I was proven wrong when those that looked not through a narrow view but through wide eyes, found garden inhabitants that were just as exciting (if not more so) than any Tomato, Caterpillars!







Harvest Meals:

Finally I wanted to share a few summer harvest meals.  Im not sure if there is something that is better than a simple and fresh meal like we are able to produce ourselves. An appetizer of fresh carrots and celery; a lovely simple compound salad; a main course of grilled Fish, roasted peppers, onions, tomatoes.  Desert of Raspberry sorbet.  Good stuff.




Another favorite of mine once the peppers are ready is a simple meal of Fajitas, made with fresh herbs, bell and hot peppers, tomatoes and onions from the garden.



And as the weather changes and the cravings for heavier foods enter into my cravings I like to take advantage of the garden and make a large pot of Chili, filled with Tomatoes, and Peppers (bell, cayenne, habanero) from the garden.



Finally I love pizza and therefore I grow San Marzano tomatoes as well as basil, oregano, and garlic. When the tomatoes are ripe, I pick and prepare them (blanch, peel, core and chop) and freeze them in individual packages.  I simply thaw add fresh garlic, salt and pepper and my sauce is complete.


A Quick Plant Growth Update

A couple people requested that I share an update on the outdoor aquaponics plant growth, as well as the rooftop garden plant growth. These first pics show the plant growth of the outdoor aquaponics. You can see that the vertical pipes have worked very well and are chock full of Basil, Cilantro, Parsley and Chives. The rest of the system has an abundance of different types of lettuce as well as a top row of Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplants which are beginning to flower now and should have ripened fruit as the in ground plants die off for the summer. You will also see that I have continued to stagger the age of the plants (especially lettuce) so that there is always both ready to eat lettuce as well as an adequate amount of root mass in the system to continue to filter the water for the fish



















Here are a few pics of what I call a “Compound Salad” It is a simple salad made up of Lettuce (Black Seed, Speckled, Summertime, and Esmeralda) Carrots, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and some herbs, all from the Rooftop and Aquaponic Gardens. A perfect everyday treat.



Garlic and Bean Picking








Today the seeds were showing on the garlic plants which meant it was time to pick the pick the purple garlic.  These were planted last november and have been growing for nearly 8 months now.  I will place them in the basement to dry for a couple of years, some will be eaten and some will be the seeds for next year as these were.









To maximize space Beans were planted around the garlic this spring.  While picking the garlic it was clear that the beans were ready to be picked as well.  Sweet and ripe and delicious.




Little Visitors


Today we had the best type of visitor to the Rooftop Garden, a little visitor.  While I truly enjoy being out in gardens, I can forget that for little ones, it is not simply a garden but it is almost like a giant edible forest.  If I get down low, I am reminded of just how magical this space can be for children.  The tomato plants towering above their heads, the collards as wide as they can spread their arms.  The lovely visitor got to feed the chickens (a bit scary), and collect eggs.  We wandered and picked beans and ate them, and they were crisp and sweet and ripe. We picked and ate sweet and juicy strawberries and blueberries and we even fed the Tilapia.  It was an ideal visit to the garden.


Picking some goodies from the Rooftop Garden

Today was a picking a planting day in the rooftop garden.  Last fall I planted several types of garlic, I already picked the elephant garlic and today I picked the Early White. Still growing is the Purple.  As you can see I am maximizing the limited space by planting beans and cucumbers in the same space as the Garlic. After pulling the garlic I also planted another batch of Beans and Cucumbers




I also picked a whole bunch of Radishes and Arugula.  I planted more lettuce, more arugula, more carrots, more spinach, herbs and more radishes.  This early in the system you can plant multiple times allowing for a fresh batch of veggies to be ripening as you are pick the previous set.