Aquaponic Gardens Update – End of Summer

This is the continuation of our aquaponic gardens story for 2013. For the most part, we’re down to just okra and sweet basil in the cycle tubs. The 300 gallon tub contains the largest alacasia plant and mini banana plants that I have ever seen.

Frank with Acacia and Banana

Frank with Alacacia (left) and Banana (right)

The tomatoes have all been eaten by either us or vermin or rats.  They eventually stopped but the ones on the left were totally consumed by the vermin.

Hot Weather Tomato

Hot Weather Tomato

The other tomato I started from the branch that rotted off the original plant is pictured below from mid-August.  Today it is twice this size and has been besieged by pesky little caterpillars.

Tomato Restarted from rotten center top

Tomato Restarted from rotten center top

What’s fun about the caterpillars is that the mosquito and blue gill fish love them and fight for them. The two clips below are two different caterpillars. In the first clip, the blue gill consumes the bug and in the second clip, the mosquito fish run with it and one finally consumes it.

Then finally, half way through summer, we got peppers to grow. The tabasco plant has been covered with fruit and is still blooming. The fruit are starting to turn orange and will eventually turn red.

Tabasco Peppers

Tabasco Peppers

The jalapeño pepper took a dive, for some reason for about a week, then it popped out with a batch. Both peppers are great additions in Troy’s great salsa.

Jalapeño Peppers

Jalapeño Peppers

And finally, returning back to the aquaponic garden, the swamp hibiscus is now over 6 feet tall.  I’m 6′ 2″ and it’s about a foot taller than me. This is also the longest it has continued to bloom, primarily because there are more plants and spread out over a longer period and branches, like the one below. It bloomed multiple times as it grew to this height.

Frank and Hibiscus

Frank and Hibiscus

Goddard Aquaponic Garden – Mid-July Report

It’s time again to report on the Goddard garden projects. What’s happened since last time:

  • the tomatoes have filled out and some have maturely fruited
  • the green beans have been fruiting in the aquaponic tubs
  • the terrestrial green beans have grown out and are blossoming
  • the okra has now become critical mass where we have enough same young-aged fruit to eat in a meal
  • the corn has matured to blossom
  • the huge corn stalk turns out to be a different plant than expected

I have not taken photos of all of these topics but instead just the more notable ones. For instance, the tomatoes fare as follows:

  • the heat resistant tomato have immature fruit that are not growing
  • the rotted-out center brach we restarted has filled out nicely with flowers but no fruit
  • the original producer has about fruited out with a couple left to mature

Then on 18 July 2013, a caterpillar ate throughout the young fruit on our heat resistant plant, photo below.

Tomato Fruit Caterpillar Damage

We have not been successful ripening any of the fruit on the vine from the original tomato plant. Perhaps it’s the container being too small and/or the amount of rain we’ve had this year. A person told us yesterday that it has been 30 days since central florida has seen a whole dry day. It’s a blessing and hassle but I appreciate it more than fires and constant watering the yards plants.

As for the aquaponic green beans:

  • the original “volunteer” plant has about fruited out, as well, and leaves are browning
  • the second batch of plants has small fruit and we’re going to seed these
  • the third batch has small fruit that are maturing and we’ll seed these too
  • the final batch, the seeds from the volunteer, have just exposed secondary leaves

The terrestrial green beans have filled out nicely. We have some caterpillar that cuts and curls the leaf over itself to create a shield around it, which I uncurl and throw the worm into the water for the mosquito fish to snatch. The caterpillars love the plant and the fish love the caterpillars. You can see some of the damage in the picture below. In the center left leave, on its left side (facing it), that’s where the caterpillars have cut and curled the leaf.

Green Beans Terrestrial

Okra Fruit

The okra fruit have matured beyond edible on this specimen because it was the first to fruit. Now the others are blossoming and we’ll have enough to eat in a single meal, soon.

The corn plants grew no taller than a meter/yard and the fruit were as small as a lighter: Munchkin plants.

Corn Patch

Corn Cob

And the huge, never touched by bugs, corn plant? It turned out to be a millet seed plant. You can see in the picture below how similar the leaves look to a corn plant leaf. Not sure where that seed came from. Could have been in bird poop or mixed in with our seeds when we planted the corn. I wish the corn had been so successful.

Millet Seed Plant

Goddard Aquaponic Gardens – End of June

This is an update with new pictures of sprouts, blooms, and fish as of 29 June 2013.
Bean Sprouts composite

This picture is of the volunteer green bean plant’s first fruit sprouting next to the parent plant. We started these in an incubator containing only perlite, and only two of the five beans sprouted (This is a composite picture where the top sprout is copied from a different exposure and added to the bottom sprout, which is in focus in the background image).

















The picture below is the summer squash bloom in front of a recently pollenated bloom and now fruit. This is the only plant that survived. The previous fruit on this plant rotted at the end and we discarded it. This was our first attempt at raising squash and may need to make adjustments for future crops.

Summer Squash Bloom cropped

The picture below is our corn “field.” These are all miniature plants, as illustrated by the Sharpie pen in the lower left of the shot. This crop has had a hard year with two cutworms (actually caterpillars) and other small caterpillars. The two front plants took the major hits with the cut worms and their stalks and leaves were badly damaged by the insects. One anomaly is the larger plant in the background where it has exceeded the height of its siblings and still has not extended its male flowers, called tassels. Towards the base of the plant, the female floral organ can be seen. Here is a web page of the corn plant anatomy.

Corn Plants cropped

The picture below is the first bloom of the okra plants this season, with more buds immediate above this bloom. We should have a large quantity of fruit again from this year’s crop.

Okra Bloom cropped

Our tomato plant has not done well with fruit maturation. The picture below shows several that started to ripen but rotted out before they matured. In addition, we had some vermin problems with a few unripened fruit, all of which we had to discard. As reported earlier, we have started the middle section of this plant and it has grown into a nice sized starter plant that we will pot in a larger container. We believe the problem with the plant below is the pot is too small, the roots are root-bound, and the plant cannot support its fruit or leaves due to these deficiencies.

First Tomatoes

And finally, Troy went fishing again five days ago, mainly to remove smaller tilapia that are over-populating the pond. In one attempt, he caught a blue-gill, as pictured below. This one now lives in the shallow end where it can consume baby tilapia and reproduce. Based on a website page, this is probably a female but they say it’s not easy to sex unless they are breeding.

Blue Gill Caught

Goddard Aquaponic Gardens – June 2013

This is the second post about the Goddard Aquaponic gardens story (Click HERE to view Part I) now one month after the previous post in May. Since then, the corn stalks have grown some and are about to bloom after being top eaten by a cut worm and several small caterpillars. The okra has filled out nicely, but several of the squash plants have rotted out on the ends, probably due to major rain storms, and were removed, and the beans have matured and started growing new pods. The tomato plant also got a nasty caterpillar during the rain storms, while we were prevented from inspections, and the center stalk rotted out thus allowing us to restart the stalk as a new plant.  The pictures below attempt to show our progress. Squash last month on left and now on right getting ready to bloom (bud):

Aquaponic Summer Squash Squash Bloom







Okra now on left and in bloom on right:
Okra Squash BasilOkra Blooms

Volunteer green bean plant from January now loaded with beans:

Green Beans OldSecondary green beans blooming on left and with bean starts on right:

Green Bean Flowers zoomGreen Beans Starting zoom And next, our terrestrial Tomato plant with fruit starting to ripen:

Tomato Full

In the picture above, you can see there are some branches missing in the top center where the bamboo poles stick out. That is where the center stalk rotted out. Below is the stalk in soil after it started sending out roots above the rot in a cup of water. We planted it in soil to hasten the root growth and restart it as a new plant. The milk crate is to prevent Ziggy from toppling the plant while playing ball on the back porch. Tomato Restart Below is the evil Hornworm caterpillar that ate the center tops off the Tomato plant above. It was euthanized minutes after Frank took this picture. Tomato Catepillar And finally, a picture of the third Swamp Hibiscus flower of this season. In the background, you can see the second blue Pickerel Weed flower of this season. Swamp Hibicus Later that afternoon, I downed two large Golden Goddess bamboo trunks with dead ends at the top so that I can use them for fence planks.

Bamboo Trunks Downed

Then later that evening, we were hit with another downpour rainstorm. After a long deluge of rain, one of the bamboo trunks bent over, weighed down with 5 dead Acrocomia Palm fonds. Bamboo Trunk Bent Down Then, within minutes, we heard a large SNAP and the trunk broke near the top of the bend. Bamboo Trunk Snapped An exciting end of a busy day in the aquaponic garden.

Goddard Aquaponic Gardens – Summer 2013


26 May 2013 – This blog is an attempt to document the 4525 Goddard pond conversion to Aquaponic farming. The picture below is a bird’s eye view of the whole pond with blue gill, tilapia, flag fish, gold fish, and mosquito fish. The tarp at the top is covering the deep end to reduce the amount of sun that might encourage algae blooms. There are a total of 5 tubs in two sizes:  100 Gallon and 300 Gallon.

Goddard Pond Bird's Eye View

Goddard Pond Bird’s Eye View

The shallow end was fenced off to prevent fish from entering the shallow end but that didn’t work. The tilapia babies were able to invade along with the blue gill and have grown up on that side. Unfortunately, the tilapia have eaten the water lilies that were planted to offer more shade. They’re trying to grow back and so far haven’t been affected by the tilapia this year. At least they eat the Cuban tree frog tadpoles in the shallow end so we’re not propagating invasive species. Also in the shallow end, the tub functions a dual purpose of filtering detritus from water through gravel as well as creating a current to prevent stagnation. In the picture above you can see the 300 Gallon tub at the top of the picture (south side) and below is a full shot of the tub. The banana plant is a miniature variety, the alocasia (right) is a metallic variety, and nestled below that is another alocasia of the velvet variety.

300 Gallon Tub with Banana and Alacasia

300 Gallon Tub with Banana and Alocasia

The 3 tubs below line the north side of the pond and contain 2 types of substrate:  hydroton (bottom) and river gravel (top 2). The top 2 use the same pump to fill the tubs. The hydroton tub disperses water from the pond across the bed in the ladder tube hydration system.  To see how a bell siphon flush system works, watch the video below.

Once the bell flush system exceeds capacity, the water begins to flush out of the tub and back into the pond, as illustrated below.

North Tubs Blaring

North Tubs Blaring Return Water

The day I shot most of these photos, a native lily bloomed in the shallow end amongst the lily pads in the picture above.

Water Lily Flower

The tub below contains the green beans and basil spice. The plant to the far right is a green bean that volunteered itself from last year and sprouted around January 2013. The other green beans from this year’s crop, planted in early April, appear towards the center and right front of the picture. The tall plants in the back are basil.

100 Gallon hydroton substrate with green beans and spices.

West 100 Gallon hydroton substrate with green beans and spices.

Focusing in on the more mature green bean plant, this volunteer has grown compact and tight, as illustrated in the picture below.

Volunteered Green Bean from 2012

Volunteered Green Bean from 2012

Focusing even closer on the volunteer green bean plant, the picture below shows the beans and flowers maturing under the leaves.

Aquaponic Green Beans Closeup

Aquaponic Green Beans and Flowers

The picture below shows the summer yellow squash, also planted in early April. This is the middle tub that also contains okra.

Aquaponic Summer Squash

Middle 100 Gallon Tub with Gravel Substrate – Aquaponic Summer Squash

The picture below is the eastern tub with an okra plant, a row of corn, and an eggplant.

Corn Rows

East 100 Gallon Tub with Gravel Substrate – Aquaponic Corn Rows

Corn Start

2 Week Old Aquaponic Corn Start

In the picture left you can see a closer view of the 4 week old seedling. Due to the amount of nutrients and substrate contents, these aquaponic plants grow slower. In addition, this year has been cooler than normal and we’ve even had to endure a hailstorm in May. And finally, the eggplant. This specimen, pictured below, is about 3 years old and has never produced any fruit. It has bloomed constantly during the summer months but never became fertile. Normal life cycle is typically 1 year, so this is the end of this one and will be removed soon.

Aquaponic Eggplant - Non-producer

Aquaponic Eggplant – Non-producer

The main point of this blog is to log our experiments and learn to grow larger crops for better sustainability and reduced grocery expenses. We are also experimenting with 5 gallon buckets using soil, as pictured below of our tomato plant.

Terrestrial Tomato Plant

Terrestrial Tomato Plant

In the picture above, the first tomato appears just below the middle right side of the plant. There are about 5 more smaller fruit in various places throughout this specimen. Although the tomato is not aquaponic, it is an experiment to expand our backyard to a sustainable farm opportunity. Stay tuned for more