If you’re visiting here for the first time be sure check out my first posting in this series that started it all. Since the completion of the miniponics build I’ve had a few months to play around with it and learn some things about small scale gardening.
To start out I divided the grow bed into thirds for variety and sample size. From there I started planting and ran into my first improvement. Lava rock is great for aquaponics but it’s troublesome to plant into. Moving the rocks will cause others to fall and despite that you will end up with empty areas towards the bottom of the bed that could have more rock to filter and host bacteria. Using clay pebbles is an easy fix to this problem but can be costly. Alternatively using a second layer of smaller rock (expanded shale was suggested) above the lava rock creates an easy layer to plant into. Simply only fill with lava rock to just below the water line then layer the smaller rocks or clay pebbles over the lava rock until you reach your desired height.
The second thing that I learned is that water pumps don’t always perform consistently (shocking I know). At first the system would cycle flawlessly but from time to time water would flow too slow or too fast preventing the siphon from fully engaging or preventing it from breaking respectively. To fix this I would adjust the flow rate directly on the pump but this became a hassle. Instead I intend to add a valve at the grow bed so that I can make easy adjustments with having to reach into the tank.
Lastly if you decide to add the foam discs, I suggest that you use some sort of net pots. Not only do the fish seem to enjoy hiding under the disc while there they will likely nibble the roots of anything you put there. I lost a batch of both mint and cilantro cuttings because of that.
So what have I been growing? So far I’ve started out small by transplanting a mint variety known as mojito mint. It’s mildly fragrant and goes well as a garnish and for making infused waters. I’ve also had success with regrown green onions. I’ll cut them about an inch or so above the roots and using the top half to cook and planting the bottom section. I can usually get two more cuttings from it before it gives out. I planted micro greens in the last section and had great results with them using them as garnish and in salads. At this size I could devote the entire grow area to micro greens but I would miss the variety.
I ran the first setup for about a month then swapped out the micro greens for small radishes and ginger root while fitting the green onions into the available spaces. Radish was a choice inspired by the cut and come again nature of green onions. The radish root is a one-time use but radish greens can be trimmed and grown again for a while. The greens can used in salads as well as stir-fry similar to spinach. The ginger root was as successful. After a month the root had added some hairs but had a clear gelatinous coating on the bottom. After some research it appears that I had the root too close to close to the water line. I may try it again in the future with a different setup.
I intend on making this a regular topic as I rotate different plants into garden and share my results. I’d also like to see your comments on what you think I should grow next or your success/failure stories with garden and aquaponics.