Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Update

It's been awhile since I've posted any updates about the greenhouse. We're now in the blistering cold of winter. This is the first year I've heated the may be a costly mistake. Here's a little scientific data to ponder:

From Misc

1) 2:30pm: Sun starts to set (yellow) and the greenhouse has no solar gain and the temperature starts to drop (Orange & green lines)

2) 3:45pm: Temperature goes below 40F (4.5C). Heater is able to turn on/off as it maintains the temp at 40F. Ceiling temp (light green) jumps a bit as the heat rises....

3) 9:15pm: Outside temperature (Red) goes below 20F (-6/7C) and the heater no longer can keep up with the demamd. Temperature slowly declines to around 38F (3.3C). The outside temp is 13.3F (-10.4C)

4) 9:15am: Heater turns off once the sun comes out the next morning. Total run time is roughly 17 hours.

There are 2 electric heaters totaling 2400 watts. After all the fees and taxes, we pay $0.20 per kilowatt:
2400watts & 17 hours = 40.8 kilowatts
40.8kW * 20 cents = $8.16 to keep it heated for the night!

Since we are getting so little sun and it's cold, the lettuce is growing very slowly. There's one tomato plant that I started in the fall still doing OK but needs a lot more light. I had a few cukes growing, but the consistent cold has killed them. I am not generating $8 worth of veggies/day. Perhaps it's time to invest in a propane heater to lessen the heating costs....or just shut it down for the winter..... Jan & Feb will be even colder!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Greenhouse update

Just a couple of update pictures of the greenhouse aquaponics....

Found this giant walking stick on the pepper plants last night:

This is one cucumber plant! I don't have an official count, but I've picked at least 20 cukes from it. My dirt garden produces no more than a half dozen per plant. On this plant, the spots where I've already picked, it's now sending out TWO new cukes. It's awesome!

This is one cherry tomato plant. We've been keeping an official tally sheet on it. So far, we've picked 185 and there are 100's more on there. Sorry about the "burnt" look of the leaves. After I killed all my fish with the seaweed meal, I think they got a bit nutrient deprived, but all the new growth looks good. My garden cherries are doing terribly since most of them have the "potato famine" blight....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Time-Lapse plants

Here's a time-lapsed video of my greenhouse aquaponics transformation. Sorry about the changes in the camera angles and the lighting variations - it's a really crappy webcam. The last frame does have less plants in it since I just ripped out all the beans and started a new batch. I think I may get three growing "seasons" of beans this year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

greenhouse tour

threw together a little video of my greenhouse setup. For a HQ video, click on the link to go directly to youtube

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Strawberry Towers

Here's a couple of pictures of phase 2 of my greenhouse aquaponics system. I'll give credit to Synaptoman for his strawberry tower design....and I've made a few tweaks to the design.

Here's the entire system. I don't have a open pit for the drain, so there are caps on the bottom of each tower with a 3/4" tapped fitting thats drain to the discharge pipe. I was afraid to have each tower hang since this greenhouse isn't really designed to hang that much weight in it. So I took a piece of 3" PVC pipe and made little stands to carry the weight, then strapped each tower to the cross brace to keep them balanced. Each tower has it's own ball valve to regulate the supply water flow.

Last week I chiseled out a few strawberry plants out of the frozen ground and planted them. They're already sending out new growth...early berries this year!!! This setup will hold a total of 48 plants which takes up about 5 square feet.

I had some problems with the water escaping at some of the 'pockets'. The surface tension was just enough where the water would flip off the curve. I took some scrap pipe and cemented a lip to each opening. If this drained into an open pit, it wouldn't have mattered, but I wanted to keep my floor somewhat dry.

This is how the drain from each tower is connected to the discharge pipe. I just cut a bunch of holes in each stand and ran a 1" pipe through it. Also, you can see part of an oval piece on the floor. This goes into the bottom 'pocket' to help prevent the stone from getting stuck in the drain fitting.

After a few weeks, there are now new leaves and they are starting to blossom!

I'm really hoping this setup will work. Strawberries are a lot of work in a regular garden. Plus, just when the berries are ripe, the chipmunks steal them. I'll keep you posted on the progress....

Friday, April 10, 2009

I'll admit it...I love automation. So it takes a day to build something where it normally would take 10 seconds to manually feed the's well worth it! My latest creation is a fish feeder.

I took a small gear motor and slightly modified an old auger bit that was laying around. Then welded a couple of pieces of black pipe together and stuck a cam and switch on the end. A 7-up or mountain dew bottle makes a great feed holder. I probably could have made it independent and put it on it's own timer, but I have it running off of my computerized controller that runs the rest of the system. The only think I paid for was the gear motor, which was around $ I lost my $0.05 deposit for ripping the label off the bottle. It works great! NOTHING gets stuck in there and it could easily take off a finger if you stuck in in the feed tube. After all, the bit is made of hardened steel and is designed to drill through wood!

Here it is all up and running. Right now my goldies are small and are still on flakes...and there's some pellets mixed in there.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Building an Aquaponics/hydroponics system

I finally got a chance to post some info about my system. I was given a bunch of 8" ABS piping. At first I was going to just split them in half, but I didn't think I would have enough root depth. Here's what I did:

First of all, I bought some 1/4" and 3/4" taps. I use them throughout the project and they pay for themselves by not needing to buy bulkhead fittings! They work great in ABS or PVC!

I cut each pipe into 5' sections, and then cut out 2 slots in the top about 4" wide for the plants. I then drilled and tapped a 3/4" fitting in the bottom for filling/draining. Once I put in the barbed fitting, I cut off the top on the inside to "maximize" the drainage. Plus, if there is any debris, it will get sucked out though this area.

In the background, you can see I cemeted and a ring around the inside of the pipe. This will act as a shelf to help support the end cap that I welded into place. This is the first time I've done plastic welding....LOVE IT!

I had a bunch of 1/2" black pipe so I welded a rack together and also dug a hole in the floor of my greenhouse for a sump. It was heartbreaking to dig out the floor in my nice little greenhouse. I'm sure I'll get over it once I see all these yummy veggies The sump pumps the water back into the 650 gallon tank.

I split a piece of 2" pipe and half and laid it in the bottom of each tray. This keeps the rocks out of the drain pipe....but I'm still concerned about the roots getting in there and I don't have a good way to clean them out...

I wanted to have an external bell siphon. I don't have a lot space of play with the water/gravel height in these trays, so by having the external siphon, I can fine-tune the height of the entire siphon. I'm really glad I did this now....It's has been working perfectly and I can make really fine adjustments to it without having to dismantle it.

Here area all the parts to it. Just a couple of odd things about it: A) I tapped two 3/4" fittings in the bottom-side. At first I tried to use just one fitting, but the 1/2" stand-pipe can suck the water out faster than a single tray can drain into the siphon chamber. B) I have a homemade bulkhead fitting in the bottom...I didn't have an o-rink or rubber laying around for the seal, but a dab of plummer's putty worked really well! C) The ball valve is for the water supply and the little tube is used to direct the water down into the chamber....I had a little spray problem and it would shoot out the top of the chamber! As a bonus, since I just sort of stuck the tube on the threads, while it's filling, it sucks air in through it and it act like a little bubbler.

Here it is all assembled. Just by dumb luck, I was able to sneak the supply tube under the vacuum break tube. It holds it all together nicely and helps to keep the bell from moving around.

Here it is with It's lid on and the 2 fill lines in the bottom-side.

Here's a couple of shots of the entire setup in operation!

From Aquaponics

Last week I planted lettuce, broccoli, peas, radish, beets, peppers, carrots and green beans. The peppers I planted indoors about a month ago. Everything else has sprouted. It will be interesting to see what the carrots, radish, and beets do in this sharp gravel.

The ground is still frozen outside (you can see the snow in the background). Even though this setup much smaller than my outdoor garden, I usually don't get to start planting until the first weekend in May! A 2 month head start rocks! The mass of the floor and tank can keep the night temps in the greenhouse about 12 degrees F warmer at night...just enough to keep everything safe!

I hope you all enjoy my setup...I have more expansions I'm working on......

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New doors on the greenhouse

"That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"
After wrestling with the terrible sliding doors for the last year, I've and enough! The other day there was enough ice buildup in the track where it just forced the entire door off...Trying to put it back on in the freezing temps, I managed to pop off the little WHITE wheels into the WHITE snow. Needless to say, that was the end of the door.

I built a frame around the opening with treated 2x3's and built a nice new set or doors....on hinges!!! I was able to salvage the existing glazing and cut each panel down just a little (since my new doors are slightly smaller than the old ones because of the door jamb. The existing door opening was slightly skewed so I loosened all the bolts on that wall and gave the structure a little push with my tractor bucket. Squared it right up! ;-) round the entire perimeter of the doors, I installed foam weather stripping and it sealed it up quite nicely.

This is what harbor freight should have done with their original design!