Posted by: permamonk | April 27, 2012

“It’s a jungle in there!” or “Orchids Adorning Aquaponics”

I know I said we’d have an update on Br. Addison’s work, but as he’s swamped with end of term homework and finals, we’ll wait another week for him to resurface from school so he can tell us all about some of the new plants he’s tracked down.

In the meantime, thanks to our own local Atlanta Botanical Gardens, we’ve acquired some of the gently used orchids that they were selling after their Orchid Daze season. If ever there was a hint of Divine providence, one of the orchids that they offered is actually called “St. Anthony of Egypt!”

Orchids

All the pretty flowers!

This bunch of orchids included St. Anthony (odontocidium), dendrobium nobile, pansy orchid, beallara tahoma glacier, cymbidium, and the pitcher plant nepenthes.  These will fill in around the aquaponics system and grow beds nicely, adding wonderful color and scent to the solarium.

Orchids

Orchids arrayed

In addition to the orchids, we’ve put in a small test grow bed to be sure the automatic bell syphon works, as well as fountain pot in order to grow bog plants such as cattails (which are edible) and more pitcher plants to help with any errant flies.

Grow bed, lava rocks and strawberries

The basic makeup of the test bed is a small window box with lava rocks (though we’ll used expanded clay pellets in the full size grow beds) with PVC piping for the syphon.  For me, the syphon has got to be the coolest part of this whole system.  It simply consists of a center tube that runs through the bottom of the bed into the water tank bellow, a larger tube around it that is sealed at the top with holes at the bottom, and a third larger tube around that which is perforated to let water in and keep rocks out.  As the water level rises in the grow bed, it will reach the top of the innermost tube and create a syphon that will then drain the entire bed.  Once the water drains to the bottom of the second tube, air will come up through the holes and break the syphon, thus allowing the bed to refill.  It takes a little tweaking, but in the end, it’s remarkably simple.  You can see a basic video of this kind of syphon at work HERE.

As for the fountain pot, all this required was an expensive ceramic pot with a hole in the bottom.  We piped an irrigation tube up through it and filled it with river pebbles.  Tada!

Our fountain pot

For those that want to produce edible water plants, you can make a submerged grow bed the same way.  Right now, this just has some reeds and flowering bog plants, but soon I’ll add some cattails and see how well they turn out.  Can’t wait to try some!

Tune in next time for “Goliath Grow Beds: The end is in sight!”

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