Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Moving Plants

Since I harvested the Tatsoi, I removed the overhead fluorescent light ballast. Now all my plants are receiving only indirect natural light through the window and really bending toward the light. There's only a few plants in the system left.
Spearmint front Left, Sorrel middle Left, Rosemary far Left, Apple Mint far Right
I transplanted this wild spearmint a couple of weeks ago into my Aquaponics system. It has kept its color and its roots have quickly grown. I moved it closer to the window and put it into a corner of the growbed.
I thought I'd face it pointing away from the window to see how long it would take to turn itself around.
When a plant grows toward the light, the observable effect is called phototropism. Positive phototropism is what happens when it grows toward the light. Negative phototropism is when it grows away from the light. I haven't seen negative phototropism with any of my other indoor plants.

Here it is the next day.

Here it is two days later. Pretty cool, huh?
 Like the other low-light herbs I'm growing, it looks like Spearmint is acclimating just fine.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Aquaponics at Compass School

Big news! I'm rehoming my T Barrel Aquaponics system this fall as I'm leaving Vermont this winter.
Eric Rhomberg at Compass School in Bellows Falls will set it up in his science classroom.
Eric teaching Science
Since Brattleponics has had an educational bent since its start in January 2013, I'm excited that the system is going to a local school where the students can keep it alive while they learn and experiment with Aquaponics.

Eric plans to incorporate Aquaponics into his Ecology classes. He'll give students the opportunity to explore Aquaponics in their own studies as well, as Compass has an independent studies component in its curriculum. A team of students will share in taking care of the fish and plants. It sounds like a win-win to me.

To my knowledge, no other high school in Windham County is incorporating Aquaponics into the curriculum, so kudos to Eric's pioneering spirit.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Like a Tank over Troubled Water

On a more somber note, let's take a moment to thank one of the hardest working goldfish living in the dark who passed away last month. R.I.P., my little buddy. My plants and I thank you for all the poop over the years. Sorry my overfeeding and neglect probably led to your demise. This was the solid orange one below on the far right...I think.

This summer, I had troubles with cycling enough water into the system. This caused a spike in the pH and created high ammonia levels. The outflow pipes were clogged up with algae and food. Now another fish is suffering from ammonia poisoning. His gills are crimson red. He has balance problems and stays at the surface. He doesn't seem to get enough air. His energy seems good, but he doesn't eat much. Anyway, I'm down to three fish.

Typically, I don't have to do any water changes with this system. I just top off the water a couple of gallons a week from water evaporation and plant transpiration. But this time it really needed more fresh water, so I changed 10 gallons, gave the pump and lines a good cleaning, and now the system is back to normal. The auto siphon runs every 15 minutes and pH is down. Water is clear again, so things are looking up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tatsoi? Yeah Boi!

Yo, check it! Das aight, dat's Flava Flav in da house! Water be a-flowin' and the greens be a-growin'!

Amping up da flava this summah is Tatsoi, taking the place of Wild Mustard in the system. Tatsoi hails from Asia, but grows easily in Vermont. It is a versatile green in the kitchen.

This indoor Aquaponic Tatsoi is a couple weeks old.

Unfortunately, the outermost leaves of the baby starters were eaten by bugs before I transplanted them indoors. The new growth from the middle looks good so far. I planted them densely, about 4 inches away from each other.

Tatsoi tastes similar to Bok Choi. It's highly nutritious and flavorful and can be eaten raw or cooked. It's often used in stir-fry dishes, salads and soups. Once picked, Tatsoi has a fairly short shelf life, so it should be refrigerated if not quickly eaten.

Here's some Tatsoi growing outside. It's a bit larger than the ones indoors, but still prone to insects.

Garden Tatsoi surrounded by Purslane

If you haven't tried it yet, you should. Ch-ch-ch-check it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How Low Can You Go?

T-Barrel Aquaponic System
Since I transplanted my Aquaponic Strawberries outdoors, I also removed one of the overhead fluorescent lighting ballasts indoors. This cut lighting energy use from 128 to 64 watts. The lights are still powered for 16 hours each day. Since I'm not trying to make anything bloom or fruit, I'd see how low I could go.

How are they doing? The plants' growth is slower, and color is generally more faded, as expected. Still, most seem to be growing without getting too leggy.

Single fluorescent 4' ballast with two 32 watt bulbs

Cilantro under the window

Tatsoi (a.k.a. Spinach Mustard) pale but growing well under the window

Rosemary always doing fine

Sheep Sorrel hanging on

Apple Mint going crazy

Spring Onion cutting grew back and ready to cut again

Wild Dill pulled from garden & doing well

Sorrel showing mad growth
(Front) Cilantro under lights is faded; (Back) Wild Mustard under window is faded but growing well

Wild Mustard transplants under overhead lights are growing slowly
Although you can't beat Aquaponics for reusing water in gardening, there's just no substitute for the color and flavor of growing plants in full sun. Check out this Wild Mustard growing next to the house on the South side.
Massive Outdoor Wild Mustard 
Maybe it's time to move my system outside?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

May Strawberries in Vermont?!

Yup, it's true. Some of my little Everbloom Aquaponic indoor strawberries fully ripened by Mother's Day. Unfortunately, they didn't have much flavor at all but were pulpy and tasted like water. There was no sweetness to them. Wife Susie said, "It tastes like it hasn't been kissed by the sun." She's right. I'm still amazed that they even turned red and fully ripend.
Small, red and hairy...
with lotsa seeds.
I transplanted most of them into a vertical pallet planter I made, and added a few Sparkle from the outside strawberry bed. 
All doing OK but 2nd one down on Left
The back side
Flower sill hanging on after a cold night
After a week, they are surviving, so the rest of the indoor strawberries will go outside. Stay tuned! 

June 17 Update:
Most plants are doing fine, but it's been too wet. The ones on the top and bottom rows are growing the best and making sweet berries again. This one ripened today, but the ants ate it first.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Aquaponic Sorrel Trout

I transplanted Sorrel indoors into my Aquaponics system last November in Aquaponics Saves Lives

Sorrel November 2014
Sorrel April 2015
It's been thriving, consistently producing salad sized leaves every week. It's impressive how many long leaves this tangy plant makes. They can be torn off by hand. Sorrel doesn't mind; it will just make new ones. It has stayed about the same size. Here's the side view, where you can also see some of my Indoor Aquaponic Strawberries.

Sorrel and Strawberries
Here's a mouth-watering gourmet recipe for Poached Rainbow Trout with Sorrel and Lemon Butter Sauce.

Pretty fancy, eh?

The Europeans like to make a creamy buttery sauce with Sorrel and then cook trout in white wine. Here's a German recipe for Trout in Sorrel sauce.
Germans call Trout in Sorrel sauce "Forelle mit Sauerampfersosse"
Here's a French recipe for Sorrel Trout, which sounds equally tasty. It's finally trout season. The next time I catch a nice trout, I'll try one of these recipes.

May 19 Update

Last night, I caught a decent rainbow trout, and decided to cook it in a simpler, less caloric way. After stuffing it with fresh whole Aquaponic Sorrel, I squeezed fresh lime juice on it, then marinated it overnight in the fridge.

For lunch, I added chopped garlic to the inside, covered it in olive oil, added a dab of Dijon mustard, and finished it off with salt and pepper.
Fresh Rainbow trout stuffed with Sorrel
I wrapped it in foil/parchment paper and grilled it on medium heat, flipping it after 10 minutes. It was so juicy that it tasted like it had been poached. Yum!
Ready to eat

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Indoor Aquaponic Strawberries

My Everbloom strawberry plants didn't do well last summer - too many weeds and not enough hot weather produced few berries. I pulled the strawberry plants from the garden after a few hard frosts in late fall, and let them thaw out for a couple of days indoors.

I separated the 3 plants into 9 smaller plants, removed the dead growth, washed off the dirt and transplanted them into my Aquaponics system. Now, they don't have any weeds to battle and receive regular hours of light...and a constant water source, of course.

Here are some pictures from November.

After only a few days indoors, these tiny plants showed new growth and vibrant color. Incredibly, one of the baby plants even started a flower.
Other Aquaponic gardeners have success growing strawberries vertically in towers and media beds. But, my strawberries are living inside a cool room, under low wattage fluorescent lights. There are challenges ahead. Time will tell...

Fast forward to early April. Obviously, the plants have grown a lot. There are constantly over a dozen flowers in bloom, which I pollinate with a Q-tip.

The Q-tip works! Check out a couple of baby strawberries below.

The baby green strawberries show some hope, but will the temperature and lighting be sufficient for them to ripen? For now, they're alive and doing well, and will have a nice head start on my outdoor strawberry bed when I put them back outdoors next month.