A new pond for the patch & a Fishy Update.

Posted December 2nd, 2015 by Rob Bob : )»

Has been a very busy month or so for us so my apologies for such a late blog folks.

The patch itself is flying along and I thought I'd include a few update shots of the taro, corn & QLD Arrowroot I posted about last blog.

As you can see from the picture below, the taro has taken right off in the wicking barrels. I was concerned that they might not like the full sun they're getting in this position but so far they look like it's not bothering them at all. I think it helps that these barrels are automatically topped up with water so the soil is always moist.

The mixed glass bead & gem corn plants have also put on a lot of growth over the past 4+ weeks. We had a rather ferocious storm on Sunday & I was concerned they may blow over like a mates did in West Ipswich, but I think the front fence took a lot of sting out of the wind. I think I will have to set up some sort of twine around them like I have with previous crops as they won't be so protected once they reach 2m/6½' tall.

The Queensland arrowroot has totally blown me away. I know our compost was good but didn't think it was this nutritious ;-)
There is also a red Amaranth (grown for its seed by South Americans) flourishing in there that is the most vigorous looking amaranth we've grown to date.

Not only is it the tallest amaranth we've grown (we can see it from the house over the shade house) but the base of the stem is massive. I've decided to leave this plant just to see what comes of it. Will definitely end up with enough seed to add into my date & nut cocoa balls methinks ;-)

A few other plants have done surprisingly well for us so far.
This pumpkin was grown from some seeds shared with me by Ruben, an online friend I met through the Share the Seed Facebook group. It's growing up a small trellis & so far looks to be a great producer with 5 fruits already forming.

They're a smaller fruiting pumpkin that is a hybrid variety (so no seed saving unfortunately) that has proven to be fairly mildew resistant up until this week. Have noticed a few patches of mildew forming so will be removing the worst affected leaves & will use a fungicide spray on the other leaves to try & knock the infection off.

Reuben was also kind enough to share some cucumber seeds with me as well.
They were sown directly into the Root pouch wicking garden at the back stairs in August. 3 month later & the little garden is looking just a tad overgrown ;-)

So far we've picked about a dozen nice sized cucumbers from this patch which we've been enjoying immensely.

I think Maya wants 2 of these left aside so she can make sliced cucumber pickles but she'll have to be quick, as we're eating one of these a day at the moment ;-) A few of the chillies have been picked with loads of mint & a few sweet potato leaves going into meals as well.

A New Pond for the Patch
Just over a month ago a pond was set up in the patch under the Tahitian lime tree to grow a few edible water plants. We are also hoping it will provide a spot for frogs to spawn in & to provide water for beneficial insects to take advantage of.
The pond is made from a 500L grow bed** we purchased with the aquaponic system a while back but can't fit into the system the way it's laid out at the moment. Setting it up was as easy as levelling the ground & installing an overflow port that would run excess water off to irrigate the lime tree in times of heavy downpours. For the time being it's just sitting on the ground but its position may change in the future. Ideally some of the base should be dug into the ground to help keep the water cool during our scorching summer heat.

I decided to try using Root pouches to grow the plants & filled them with a potting mix & compost blend.
These were sat on top of some milk crates & an upside down plant pot. 2 of the pouches were planted out with water chestnuts & the third with arrowhead/duck potatoes. The water chestnuts we've grown a few times now but the arrowhead is a new one for us. I've been told that they have a nutty flavour so will be interesting to see how they go once they're harvested.

One thing we keep in mind when setting up ponds in the yard is to keep the mosquitoes from breeding in them. To make sure that we didn't have an explosion of wrigglers some native fire tailed gudgeons were added.
They will quite happily polish off any mozzie wrigglers but won't eat the eggs or tadpoles of any frogs that decide to spawn in the pond. A water pump was also added to keep the water moving & well oxygenated for the gudgeons. Am looking at replacing the 240V pump with a small solar pump but just haven't found one I'm happy with yet.

On top of the water I added some small floating plants called azolla & duck weed (Thanks Adie & Tina).
These 2 tiny plants are very nutritious & can be fed to the fish in the aquaponics, chooks or compost worms if we want. Have also seen a few folks that eat both plants but I think I'll pass for now. ;-)

On the west facing side of the pond a small garden bed was made to help provide shade from the hot afternoon sun.
It was planted out with some Queensland arrowroot to not only shade the side the pond but to also serve as a ladder for frogs that may want to use it to spawn in.
So far I'm really pleased with how it's going & can't wait to see some tadpoles swimming in there. J

** A stock tank would work just as well if you're after an above ground pond. They can be purchased from rural supply stores & also recycling businesses like Tilkey here in SE Queensland.

Aquaculture update

Fish Farm
A few weeks back the fish farm, which was running next to the aquaponics, had all the fish harvested & was pulled down.
It was always meant to be a bit of an experiment just to see if I could run a straight aquaculture system in the backyard & found that it helped me learn a few things I hadn't yet come across running the aquaponic system.
I am glad that it's all pulled down now as it was a shame to see all the nutrients go to waste instead of growing produce for ourselves.
These were the last of the Jade perch from the fish farm. There was a 9th fish but I was in a hurry & had already dressed it before realising I hadn't taken a picture. The smallest weighed 450g/1lb & the largest 700g/1.5lb which I was very pleased with. They had been in the fish farm for about 18 months & were supposed to come out in 12 months at an average weight of 500g, but due to a few hiccups along the way their feed rations were cut a few times meaning they didn't grow as fast as I would of liked them to.

The tanks & barrels from the system will be heading over to my parents place where it will be recycled into an aquaponic system for them to grow some silver perch in. Once the school holidays start that is.

Aquaponic System
The aquaponics has been pumping out the produce of late, with around 80% of the greens we've been eating coming from the system.

We are having a few issues with a caterpillar on the Okinawan spinach at the moment.
These caterpillars have been devastating the plants in the aquaponics so I think it might be time to give the plants a haircut & spray with some Dipel to knock the infestation on the head.

The fish are feeding really well now that the weather has warmed up. The Jade perch are all ready to come out as we feel like a fish meal. A few of the silver perch around the 500g/1lb mark now & ready to come out but the trick will be to pull them out rather than the smaller fish. The rest will be left in for a while longer until they grow out to harvest size.

There are some big changes coming for the aquaponics now that the fish farm has been pulled down. We are hoping to fit in around 3m²/32feet² of new grow beds were the fish farm once stood, with at least 1 large bed being a floating raft bed for greens only production. Might be a while before we get the new beds sorted out as mum & dads system is the priority at the moment.

Pickings from the patch

The wherokowhai tomatoes have started to wind down but other plants like the green beans & cucumbers have started to produce really well for us. The last of the carrots were harvested from the aquaponics last week. Some more will need to be sown out elsewhere in the patch to make so we can get a continual harvest.

The eggplants have been giving us loads of fruit at the moment. There is another long purple eggplant that's popped up in the garden at the back stairs so I might think about retiring this one soon. I find we only need one bush for our needs as they're so productive & even more so when they're young.

Here's a look at the salad greens & herbs we've been pulling from the aquaponic system This bowl contains Okinawan spinach, its cousin "longevity" spinach, kang kong/water spinach, perennial spinach, lettuce, beetroot leaves, Mushroom plant, green onion leaves & sweet basil. It's been great to be able to pop out the back to pick fresh greens for meals & is nice to have a decent variety as well. Am hoping to try a few more varieties in the new raft bed once it's up & running.

So there's a bit of a look at how things are going in the patch at the moment. Hope everyone's gardens are pumping out the produce now were a few days into summer.
Have a great one all.

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