Well, whadya know? The grow beds are built and up and running! Just like the bottom tanks, the grow beds are constructed from 2x4s and 4x4s. The insides are lined with pond liners, and the central tube for the bell syphons are 2″ pvc. The input pipe into the grow bed is 3/4″ pvc with valves attached so we can control the water flow and timing of the ebb and flow cycle.
It would be best to fill these entirely with the expanded clay pellets (we’re using Viastone brand), but that get’s pretty expensive. So to help fill in the space and allow for adequate space for root growth, we filled the bottom half with lava rock. Lava rock is light weight and porous, but because of the sharp edges, it’s not the best thing to use for the whole grow bed. So on top of that, we filled it in with the expanded clay pellets and turned it on!
Initially, the bell syphons weren’t kicking in. So to fix this, I made sure the top of the bell pipe was airtight, I shortened it slightly so there would be less of a space between the bell and the top of the drain pipe, and then added an elbow bend on a reduction joint at the outlet point of the drain pipe (2″ to 1″). All that together, and it started working like a charm. I think the biggest thing was the elbow bend (which I didn’t need in the smaller mockup), because this allowed the water to pool somewhat and thus create the syphon effect. When it was just straight down, it was allowing too much air back up in the pipe to create the necessary seal. With the valve, I’m now able to adjust the flow of water into the grow bed and now have it cycling around once every 20 minutes.
As this is all about experimentation to see what will grow best, we’re putting in various kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, many kinds of peppers, strawberries, okra, apple mint, lettuce, and cantaloupe. Soon we’ll add carrots and a sweet potato to see how well root plants can do. Most of the articles I’ve read about aquaponics say that root vegies don’t work, but I came across one video of a guy that was successfully growing carrots, so we’ll see.
Under the grow bed we have some decorative fish as well. The largest is an albino koi that Br. Jamie aptly named “Falkor the luck fish.” He is accompanied by two smaller koi and a handful of $0.37 gold fish.
All in all, the system is working great and looks wonderful!
Eventually I’ll add the waterfall setup for the raft system grow beds in the center, but for now, I think we’ll enjoy what we’ve got and get back outside with Br. Addison and Josh and help with their exciting projects!
Tune in next time for “Zum Zums” or “Sweet Jesus, we’ve got honey bees!!!”