Monday, July 29, 2013
But first of all, I want to start with the hypothesis I was testing. After all, that is where all good science starts. As I have mentioned before, I am not a big fan of hydroponics. My passion is the understanding of each of the roles that living organisms play in the overall health and functionality of a living system and making sure that those roles are filled by something in my system. Any system that removes all of the life except the plant and requires the operator (and expensive machinery) to do their work is pretty much the opposite of what I want to do.
However, with some great conversations with the very knowledgeable guys at Home Grown Hydroponics in Tempe, AZ, I have come to understand that that is just one version of hydroponics. As I dug farther into this on my way to eventually designing and building my very own aquaculture greenhouse, I settled on some version of aquaponics. For those of you not familiar, this is a system where a fish tank is connected up to some grow beds. The water from the tank is regularly pumped through the grow beds, where the plants filter the fish waste out of the water. It filters the water for the fish and fertilizes the plants all in one ingenious system.
However, being at my core a soils guy, I was just not content to toss the soil out the window. After all, that is where the magic happens. I have said it before and I have said it again: A gardener doesn't take care of his plants. He takes care of his soil. The soil takes care of the plants. So I wanted to see if I could manage an aquaponics system using soil instead of media.
I did some amount of digging and most of what I found used media with aquaponics, not soil. The one book I had not only discouraged its use, but actually said some stunningly inaccurate things about the role soil plays in a plant's health. But aside from saying that the soil essentially is just holding the plant up, the only reason it gave for not using soil is that it will color the water, making it harder to check on your fish. I can tell you from experience that this is true, but that the colored water is in no way harmful to the fish. While it would be neat to watch my fish closely every day, I have other ways of determining how healthy they are.
So here I am, with a fully functional test system that incorporates not only soil into aquaponics, but also hugelkultur. And, boy oh boy am I having fun. Stay tuned, as I will be going into great detail about how I got here. It will probably be way more detail than you wanted, but hey, I find that everyone else leaves out all the details I want, so I may as well be different.