Category Archives: Garden 2017

Garden 2017 Aquaponics

Another Garden Project:

While we were building the garden beds for the 2017 garden season, we also got our aquaponics system up and running.   We currently have a small system that consists of one barrel cut into two parts, with a bell siphon, an outlet pipe, an inlet pipe, and a pump.  This simple aquaponics set up is called “barelponics”.

Setting up the barrel-ponics for 2017 growing season. Picture taken before all of the grow bed stone was added.

We have had this system for several years now and it has done a great job of producing salads and greens for us.   This small system can produce quite a bit of lettuce because lettuce is ready to harvest about every three weeks or so. It recirculates water that both nourishes the plants and raises fish.  The plants clean the water for the fish and the fish provide the nutrients for the plants.

Barrel-ponics set up a few years ago when it was new.

It used to looks a lot nicer when it was new. A few years in the sunshine has taken a toll on it.

I wasn’t able to set up the barrel last summer because the pump broke at the end of the growing season the summer before and we did not replace it when we moved.  However I did set it out on my back porch and it filled with rain water and we had the most fun growing tadpoles and watching them mature into frogs last summer.

For my birthday this year, my husband got me a new pump.  So as soon as the weather stayed above freezing during the day,  we got it up and running. We also had some stone leftover from when we gardened with it before to fill the growing bed on top, so the only thing we had to do was install the new pump.  My son built a stand to hold the growing tub above the barrel and this will make accessing the pump much easier than before when we had the growing bed sitting on the barrel.

I loved using this barrel in the past.  It was so easy to grow delicious greens for most of the year.  I had so much lettuce, celery, green onions, and sweet potato greens from this one barrel that it was unbelievable.

Summer 2015

We put fish in the bottom barrel of water and the pump sends the water to the plants in the top.  Then the water returns back down to the fish and the process repeats.  The nutrients feed the plants and the plants help clean the water.

I am excited to have the aquaponics up and running again.  I plan to raise romaine lettuce, sweet potato vines, and other leafy greens as well as fish for the table.

Lettuce growing in my window February 2017

The lettuce in this picture is from my kitchen window in February 2017.  I re-grow lettuce after making a salad by placing the base of the head of lettuce in some water and set it in the window.  Within a week or so, new roots shoot out from the base and new leaves grow and within a couple of weeks they are ready to harvest.  You can repeat this process several times.

I have used different containers to regrow lettuce from leftover lids, leftover water bottles, to basic dishes.  As long as the base of the head has access to water, it will regrow roots and as long as those roots have access to water the plant will provide harvest after harvest of fresh lettuce leaves.  It grows even better in an aquapoinics setup.

But to make a simple system for your window, just cut the top off a used water or soda bottle.  Turn the top upside down in the bottom and fill the bottom with water.  Set you plant in the top with the base of the plant touching the water. Set it in the window or under a grow lamp.  It will soon show signs of new growth and send out new roots and new leaves.

So after harvesting the new leaves off the plants from my window sill, I put the rest of the lettuce heads and the plants I had already grown to the seed stage into the top of the barrel garden bed and will grow them outside now that the weather is warming up. Besides lettuce leaves, I hope to harvest some seeds once they have gone to seed heads too.

First lettuce harvest of the year!  March 2017

The first harvest for 2017 of lettuce from the window sill provided enough greens for 4 delicious fresh salads.  This is a wonderful way to increase nutrition and because you are re-using the lettuce heads you would have otherwise thrown away, it is basically for free.  It is amazing how much additional lettuce it will still grow!  The harvest just keeps going and going!

Do You Love Me?

Someday I would love to have a bigger aquaponics set up and grow more food to give away.  For a small investment, you can grow hundreds to even thousands of pounds of food including fish in your aquaponics gardens and recoup your initial investment the first growing season.    Churches, coops, clubs, etc could set these up too, and if easily accessible to the public like at food pantries, parks, libraries and other places around town,  simple food gardens, food forests, and aquaponics would be great way to increase nutrition for the homeless, the needy, and an entire community of people too.

When we stand before the Lord on judgement day, he is going to look at a couple of things.  He doesn’t care about your house, car, job, education, income, vacations, clothes, etc.   But there is something he deeply cares about.

The first question that will be answered is do we love Jesus as our savior and believe he is the son of God who died for us and his blood cleanses us from our sins.  If we are his, then he will separate us who love him (his sheep) from those who are not his  and did not believe (the goats).

The second question he has for us is “did we obey him and give him food when he was  hungry?”.  This may sound confusing, but he is in the midst of us and he said what we do for others we do for him.  So he will ask us: “Did you feed me when I was hungry?  Did you give me drink when I was thirsty? Did you visit me when I was lonely?  etc.”

“ When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.”  

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

“ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:31-40

What will be your answer to his question?  What will be my answer?

Will he find us faithful stewards who fed him when he was hungry?

I hope each person reading this note today will someday soon hear him say “Well done good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of the Lord”.

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Garden 2017 A New Beginning

Garden Season 2017 Has Begun!

We moved last year just before planting season and didn’t put in a garden in our new location.  Moving is a big job, and it takes a while to get resettled.  It was a quiet summer, and we missed our big garden and fruit trees that kept us busy and well fed.  We didn’t want to go through another summer without a garden and thinking about all those delicious fresh fruits and veggies got us excited! We couldn’t hardly wait to get started for 2017!

Garden 2015

Growing a garden helps families in many ways.  It gives you ample opportunity to move and get some exercise, and it can improve your nutrition depending on what you grow.  If you enjoy watching plants grow, and spice up the garden with some flowers to attract butterflies and bees, and birds, then there is a good chance a garden will improve your mental health and outlook too.

Orchard 2015

With our large family, growing a garden helps reduce the costs of the weekly grocery trips. Though the initial cost of planting a garden can be expensive, you see a return when you are able to harvest during the summer and fall.

Berry Harvest 2015

Starting Over

The homestead we moved to is a quiet lovely location, with tall trees and rolling hills.  But it is a much different environment from where we lived before where we had mature fruit trees and rich soil for a huge garden.   Where we live now, it is hard for grass to grow and it goes dormant very early in the growing season.

We are basically starting over.  One of the biggest needs in this yard is to rebuild the soil.  That can take a while and requires a lot of input of compost. Our current home is surrounded by pine trees, the soil is dry and hard and there is less rainfall here, and it also has has a high clay content .  The soil is quite acidic and there is not much top soil to grow in.  The previous residents had built a few raised beds to overcome these disadvantages, but it has been many years since they were used and the wood has rotted and fallen down and the beds were full of weeds, moss, and small volunteer trees.

Old garden beds

Old garden beds in disrepair

As soon as the weather cooperated in March we got busy mending and expanding a couple of the old broken down raised beds and made them into our new garden.   The one advantage these beds do have is some depth of soil piled on top of the clay that will give room for the roots of plants.  With a few new longer boards put around the sides, and some nutrients added, we will be ready to grow.

I’m going to be honest.  I was discouraged at first.  It was hard to wrap my mind around relying on the broken raised beds when I was used to gardening in a large tilled garden with 100+ foot long rows in rich soils, abundant rain, and fertile crop land.  That garden and orchard was quite large and produced a lot of great fruits and vegetables for our family for several years.  Last summer it was hard for me to wrap my mind around how I was going to grow a garden here in this poor clay soil and in a small space. But now I am excited now that I have some new inspiration with these raised beds to help address these issues.

We put in some new longer boards expanding the size of the beds from 10 x 10  to about 12 x 16 feet.  We will make a second bed not far from this one.   Due to the small size of these beds, we plan to grow more intensively.  In the past we used long long rows with walking paths, but in the raised beds there is not enough room for that method.  Instead we are going to plant the garden with the “square foot” gardening method and not have well defined rows.  We will use as much space as we can in a square foot.  This method allows you to plant a lot of produce in a small amount of space. 

It was a big job to pull off the rotted boards, pull out metal rods and nails, and the heavy shredded matting.  These beds were neglected for many years and in poor condition.  We started off with a shovel to break open the dirt across the entire bed.  We also bucketed many many loads of dirt to the garden. We didn’t have a wheel barrow for this project so my son used my mop bucket and our dolly.  It worked very well, but took him about 100 trips over a few days to get enough dirt to the bed.  We plan to get a wheel barrel soon!

My son took the lead in this garden re-building project, and his younger siblings helped out a lot too.  He is interested in landscaping and loves working outdoors.  He added in some bagged compost to enrich the soil.  He also added ashes from our campfire pit, and dead leaves and mixed this all into the soil very well with a shovel, a rake, and a tiller.  Then he marked off each square foot and divided the entire garden with cord so we can plant with the square foot gardening method.

The garden sits on a small hill, so we only put boards on three sides for now to hold the soil in.  We may add a row of boards to the top side at a later date.  For now, we are trying to keep the expenses of putting in a raised bed garden down as much as we can.

One advantage to leaving off the boards on the top side, is to collect more rain water runoff from the hill when it does rain.  If it had boards across the top side, it would divert the rain runnoff away from the garden.  By leaving this open to the upside of the hill, we hope to maximise the opportunity for more water to run down the hill and end up in the garden.

The soil is prepped!  This garden is ready!

We are ready for our new beginning!

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