User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27484
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Pondering how to stay organic with innovative techniques

Now that we're into the fall weather, I have more time to think and dream about my gardening techniques and approaches, and make grand (and sometimes unrealistic) plans.

So I've been looking at aquaponics as a possible next NEW EXPERIMENT!
It's somewhat linked to my low priority back burner project to dig a small pond and build a living wall and somehow tie them together with one of my rainbarrels in a grandiose system.

Since I can't do any outdoor water projects now with winter coming, I decided to play on a smaller scale using a currently unused hex tank. It needs a thorough cleaning out, and I can't move it, so I thought I might actually hook it up with a trial ebb and flow system and try phytoremediation Hydroponics with some throwaway dynamic accumulator plants until the water quality improves, THEN toss a few sacrificial goldfish in there....

I started thinking about what I would need... And tripped/ stumbled over how so much of the supplies are plastic. I need to think about how to differentiate them into what is truly considered food safe... And what is just a matter of perception. -- i.e. Is it safe if I bought tubing from home brewing and fermenting supply sources rather than garden pond supply? Potable plumbing supplies vs. drain plumbing?

What about the containers?

...to be continued...
Last edited by applestar on Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:00 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27484
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Another issue I'm struggling with --

I've already decided I want to move away from peat moss and haven't bought straight peat moss in ages, but I still end up get potting mixes that contain peat.

I know coir is the often touted alternative, but it seems to me that coconut fibre shipped and trucked from way far away is little better in terms of staying green/carbon footprint, no matter how renewable they are,... And there is some question about the WAY those coconut plantations are planted and run.

I would so much like most everything to be home grown or home made from sustainably renewable sources. So that kind of leaves limited choices.

But home made compost *should* be a viable alternative when it comes to providing humus.

DoubleDogFarm
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 6113
Joined: Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:43 am

applestar wrote:Another issue I'm struggling with --

I've already decided I want to move away from peat moss and haven't bought straight peat moss in ages, but I still end up get potting mixes that contain peat.

I know coir is the often touted alternative, but it seems to me that coconut fibre shipped and trucked from way far away is little better in terms of staying green/carbon footprint, no matter how renewable they are,... And there is some question about the WAY those coconut plantations are planted and run.

I would so much like most everything to be home grown or home made from sustainably renewable sources. So that kind of leaves limited choices.

But home made compost *should* be a viable alternative when it comes to providing humus.
Take a look at this video. I know it is not a very good experiment. Not done by a "University". I found it to be interesting and materials local.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkKvlgyPoRc

Large seed are very easy to start. Would it work for small seed, probably.

Eric

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Wonderful projects and I think it is great that you think through all these sustainability issues. I can't say much about the aquaponics part, but do keep us posted. I do have outdoor small pond, indoor fish aquarium, and rainbarrels, so would love to hear more if you start doing that project.

I've been thinking about the potting soil issue too. Commercial bagged potting soil is one of the few things I import in to my garden and I would love not to do it. I do think coconut coir is "better" than peat moss, because peat moss is mined and totally not renewable (in any time scale relevant to humans). But I hear you that it isn't perfect.

Almost all the homemade potting soil recipes you find call for peat moss OR coconut coir and perlite OR vermiculite. There's similar sustainability issues re the perlite/ vermiculite. My compost comes out pretty dense and rough. I could use it in potting soil if I did a lot of work sifting it. I'm thinking a possible homemade potting soil might include very sifted compost, worm castings (I need to get the worm bin started again!), some sand, some green sand and other rock based fertilizers, maybe a small amount of sifted garden soil. With a lot of fluffing it might be light enough for starting seeds. ...

What do you think?
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Although you've named this thread "Problems with staying organic....," your posts seem to reveal more of a concern with sustainability, carbon footprint, and related topics.

Peat moss is organic, it's just not great for plants! it hates to get wet. It's also not great for the environment, harvesting peat on such huge scales as we do for the bags of compressed peat moss. Traditional turf-cutters were cutting peat by hand into blocks so they could warm their small homes. What happens today is much more like "strip-mining" of the peat. So, yeah, an organic soil amendment, but so much negativity surrounding its harvest and, ironically, its actual use in esp. potted plants but also small raised beds.

Coconut coir...this is a material that had very few uses before its "discovery" as a gardening supply. A few reptile keepers used it, some coco mats were made from it, but by and large the stuff was a waste product in countries where coconuts grow, and disposal was awkward, to say the least. At least the stuff rotted, but very slowly. A coconut fresh off the tree (I saw a few in Panama, but really, mangoes were much more plentiful) is absolutely covered in the stuff. Why not use it? The container ships are already plying their wares across the ocean; why not make use of this additional product of the coconut tree? It's definitely organic (assuming no pesticide use in culturing the coconut trees), and almost too renewable.

The carbon footprint, though, of those container ships is pretty BIG. The developed world would need to reduce/minimize its use of

--coconut milk (think of all the South and Southeastern Asian emigrants worldwide who use this basic ingredient in cooking),
--shredded coconut, whether bought as such or used in commercial baking or prepared foods (don't forget those coconut-containing candy bars), and
--coconut coir (I can't remember ATM what the shells are used for)

to affect this tiny fraction of intercontinental trade, but it would probably have a huge negative financial effect on those countries which export coconuts and related products.

I suppose there are non-polymer substitutes for flexible hose, but personally I wouldn't want to take my chances with, say, animal intestines to carry large volumes of fluid under pressure. Animal intestines come to mind as being fairly long, of a sufficient diameter (depending on the animal, from maybe pig to cow) to transport the needed fluid, and some of them are commercially available as sausage casings. They're renewable, and they're not petroleum-based. But other complications set in immediately, like their bursting strength....

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27484
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Interesting ways to look at these issues Cynthia.

...and that's the problem, isn't it? Saying something is "organic" doesn't always mean that it's good for you or that you are doing something good by choosing it over another choice either. Maybe I need another word....

You raise a conundrum with the coir issue -- so if everybody used coir, it would help reduce waste and would help support the economy of the countries where coconuts are grown (I was given a pamphlet at the zoo last week urging consumers to become aware of agricultural practices that damage endangered species' habitats) and keep the shipping industry alive (what ARE we going to do with the freight industry that is totally dependent on petroleum fuel... that as a matter of operational norm, constantly dribble and spew pollutants as they traverse the globe....).

SOB
Green Thumb
Posts: 311
Joined: Mon May 31, 2010 6:44 pm
Location: Radnor, OH

cynthia_h wrote: --coconut coir (I can't remember ATM what the shells are used for)
In the Philippines (and I'm sure many other Asian nations) they use the coconut shells for many things. They dry them in the sun then extract the oils or they just use it as a source of fire. Dried coconut shells burn hot and slow - just like charcoal. A lot of locals make decent money drying and selling coconut shells.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27484
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Another item that I'm running up against -- for the aquaponics grow bed, I came across something called "expanded shale". Still trying to find out exactly where they come from and how they are made (I believe it's heat processed shale rock) but it appears to be made in Texas. Very sparse distribution in this area -- maybe Connecticut is nearest.

...I seem to live in the wrong part of the country... :?

Hm... Just remembered I once came across something called tumbled crushed concrete and brick as recycled products.... Off to surf the web some more.... 8)

DoubleDogFarm
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 6113
Joined: Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:43 am

Look into charcoal also. It's used as a anti-fungal agent. Damping Off.

Eric

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27484
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

I liked that corncob experiment video. If don't mind GMO-conventional corn, could even use corncob bedding which should be available in large bulk sizes. If you have corncobs from your own garden harvest, even better.

What did you do with yours, Eric?

Aside from making your own, where would be a good source for charcoal?

DoubleDogFarm
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 6113
Joined: Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:43 am

Apple,

You brought this topic up to late. :wink: Most of the dry Painted Mountain cobs have been consumed.

I been making cob mush for the ducks. Fill a blender about a third full with worm water. Add a few broken cobs and blend. The dry cobs absorb most of the water. The finished product is similar in size to Layer Mash. I have not looked up the nutritional value. Another research.

Charcoal. lump chunk
Probably at your local big box store or barbecue supply.

Eric

Sequoia
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:09 am
Location: santa cruz, CA

I've been into aquaponics for a while. I do a small indoor system that grows lettuce, spinach, jalapenos, carrots, basil, chives, and other plants that catch my fancy. I use a 55 gallon fish tank filled with goldfish. My growing bed is filled with rive gravel, which is about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. I have red wiggler worms in my grow bed, which eat dead roots, fish sludge, and the occasional banana peel I feed them. Their castings add a lot of nutrients to the water, and I sometimes supplement with seaweed extract, only because I really want my plants to grow. I have 4 t5 lights and 4 t8 fluorescent lights on it.

Aquaponics is a great way to grow organic crops, and produces excellent growth. There are some excellent forums out there with a wealth of information.

StevenFarms
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:40 pm
Location: Miami

I've been doing worm composting for months now as honestly watching these worms turn kitchen waste, grass clippings, random leaves etc into the richest most delicious looking soil I have ever seen is amazing. These red wriggler worms are like my pets now in a weird way. I take care of them and they give me the finest soil amendment I can ask for. I just added some to my red peppers and they grew before my eyes. For anyone who hasn't tried it, best way to recycle your kitchen scraps into rich worm doodoo.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Yup, I have a worm bin again this winter. I don't bother with it in summer, just put everything in the compost pile. But in winter it saves some trips out to the compost pile in the cold just to feed some of the scraps to the worms. And they give out worm leachate liquid which will be very nice to add to the water for my seedlings when I start them soon.

I'm really impressed with how much food and leaves the worms have been chewing through!
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Return to “Organic Gardening Forum”