Greenhorn Gardening GreenhouseThis has been a trying year in the Greenhorn Garden. An unusually wet winter and spring made for a very late garden. In fact only about one third of the garden is in production, and that's about where it will stay for this season.


Over time I've noticed that the bigger your garden gets, the more physical labor it takes to work the soils, compost and etc. This seems obvious but often gardeners are driven by passion more than good sense, thus the term greenhorn in Greenhorn Gardening.


There's another thing. As time goes on many of us simply don't have the physical strength to work the soils as we used to. Add a bad back or a hip to the mix and over time gardening becomes nearly impossible for many of us. In looking for long-term systems and solutions to such woes, I stumbled onto something called aquaponics gardening. This is an ecological symbiotic system that raises fish and plants together.


The fish eat and poop producing fertilizer for the vegetables, and the vegetables filter and make fresh water for the fish. It works. Farmers, gardeners and enthusiasts around the world are testing, refining methods for backyard and homescale use. I'm just starting to read Syliva Bernstien's  "Aquaponic Gardening" as a primer. (Hopefully I'll have a review in a few weeks.) She mentions how soil gardening can be tough on the back, citing how aquaponics allows you to make growing beds waist high, and because the fish fertilize the water, the whole thing makes for a far more convenient form of gardening.


Well, given all that I have several questions for you experienced aquapons:

  1. How does aquaponics compare to drip irrigation in terms of water conservation?
  2. Many aquaponic systems use a greenhouse. Can a coldframe be used for smaller units as well?
  3. Have any of you raised fish for bait, e.g., goldfish, minnows, toughies and etc?
  4. In the hot summers how do you keep the unit cool enough in a greenhouse which easily over heats in this hot Alabama sun?


If you don't mind please comment below. Thanks!


Grow'em big!


3 Responses to “Four Questions for Aquaponics Farmers, Gardeners and Enthusiasts”

  1. Jacque Thiele Says:

    Just an editorial comment:  Paragraph 4:  "make growing beds waste high…"  should be WAIST high – otherwise we're just throwing it all away?? (joke)

    This is great info – thanks for sharing it.  Something to definitely look into.


  2. Damon Says:

    Oh, yeah. Thanks!

  3. Carolyn Loveland Says:

    Hi Damon.

    I'm a beginner aquapon.. so I'll answer as many questions as I can.

    1. We utilize raft systems. They use only 5% of the water normally used in traditional agriculture with the final amount of product being produced anywhere from 2 to 10 times traditional gardening. We are growing greens, and the planting density is much closer.

    2. Greenhouse usage or coldframe usuage would be entirely dependent on how well you can keep the temperatures optimal for product growth, fish growth, and the bacteriological growth necessary for the system to work properly. PH fluctuations, alkalinity fluctuations, and a host of other items (nitrites, nitrates, ammonia) and "good bacteria" all have to be kept in certain ranges to create the biological diversity you need for optimal production.

    3. We use Yellow Perch , as they are indigineous to our area with a low stocking density. We do not plan on harvesting them for resale. If we harvested for resale or utilizing them in another way we would convert to a high density system.

    4. I have no experience in this area.

    For more information get on the University Of Virgin Island Facebook page. They have a plethora of information they freely share or google Paul Van Der Werf (Australia).He  is an aquaculturist that has absolutely awesome videos on how to build filtration systems (free !) on home style aquaponic systems. There are a ton of resources and websites out there with aquaponic information. We've been experimenting for about 8 months now and are finding that  this is an ever evolving field and there are no "right" answers, only answers for your specific needs. Sylvia is an excellent starting point. She has some great ideas. We are gearing up more towards commercial production so not so sure I can help with the home scale systems.

    And Sylvia was absolutely right. This is totally addictive!



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