Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Behind the Seeds Tour

After spending the night at the Gaylord Palms, Kevin and I made reservations to take the tour called "Behind the Seeds" at Epcot's area known as The Land.  This is both a ride and display of the work that is being done in the area of hydroponics and aquaponics to enhance current growing methods and pioneer new techniques.  We have gone on the ride through this display of technology many times and have talked about taking the tour that shows the technology in an up close and personal way often.  So since we were already in the area for our anniversary we made plans to finally do this.

The boat ride we've taken ourselves as it winds through the various growing areas.

 We loved it!!  In our California home I had gardened for years and in the past few years we had ventured into small scale hydroponics and prepared for an aquaponics system that we hoped to eventually include raising tilapia in.  We moved before we really got this up and running, but our initial trials taught us a lot about the benefits and challenges of these systems.  Since we really hope to make these a part of our gardening here on our new property we have been doing research in preparation for setting these up.  So this tour seemed a good one to take a look at to see what they have found through their trials and errors with a much larger budget to really experiment with.  It was quite informative and really inspiring to see their results and the possibilities for us. Here are some pictures and descriptions of the things we saw and learned.

Our guide explaining these systems with the clay pellets (leca) in the top bin and the floating lettuce on foam in the lower in this hydroponic system that many home users can and do use.
These lettuce "twirls" as I called them have rock wool inserts in the tubes to hold the lettuce as the solution passes through the root systems. A good space saver and produces well.

Cucumbers growing in solution fed pots and trellised up for space saving and optimal growth/production.  We were given samples of these cucumbers and unlike so many in stores today these were sweet and flavorful instead of the bitter ones I've found in my shopping and even the ones I grew in the greenhouse in California.

This is a high tech mister system that holds the plants completely up, sprays them as they go around, then catches the liquid that comes off the roots to be collected and reused.

Tower systems, using buckets and pumps at base with solution fed through drip tube to each level of the planters are real space savers and can grow lots of a similar plants or multiple plant types. Your choices should have compatible growth patterns and plant needs to make these work well.

At the beginning of our tour the use of beneficial bugs was discussed then tubes of ladybugs kept in the refrigerator were handed to a few of us to warm up to be released on the plants as part of our tour.  Here are the ones I had just starting to warm up and move.

Time to release them.  Some of mine didn't want to get out of the tube, and it took a little coaxing of a few hard thumps to the bottom of the tube to encourage them : )
These are large gutter system style hydroponic growers that they use for their lettuce beds.  The large fans are to keep this area cooler since lettuce will bolt if the temperature gets too warm.  We also saw that the water they fed to these has a cooling system attached to it.  Much of what is produced is served at the restaurants located in The Land area.

Kale growing on space saving pyramid shaped mister system
In addition to the hydroponic systems they incorporate planting boxes, climate control and space saving ideas like really large trellises to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetable.  These are all on drip irrigation.  The coffee plant on the left was beautiful with all it's red berries ready for harvesting.  The center picture is pomegranate and on the trellis are these enormous winter melons.

Gourds in sand and using a trellis system with support

Large nets used to support the pumpkins on the trellis
Fun Mickey gourd growing mold

On each side of this collage are plants in pots of perlite with water and feeding solution flowing through the tubes. The center picture is a "tomato tree".  They've attached the vines up in the trellis above to allow it to expand and really produce while letting even air flow and light reach all parts of the plant.

The large tanks of tilapia, sturgeon, catfish, bass, shrimp, eels and several others were impressive. The challenges and successes they've had with these to produce food used in their restaurants were interesting. The Mickey basket to the right has a single prawn as they are very territorial according to our guide. Tilapia are pictured in the center.
 Growing in sand.  They have achieved this using drip systems that add nutrient rich water at the roots: 
Pineapples on left, bananas center, and fig trees along with peppers and wheat in picture on right.

Cotton growing on left, Papayas center, and large leaf taro with cannas on right.
Neem growing along with other plants in the sand

These are REALLY large pummelo's  growing in the sand. We saw trees with lemons that weighed 9lbs each!!
For ideas that serve the home based system, we will incorporate the towers, a simple dark tub (this inhibits algae growth) with foam to float the plants, and while ours won't be as sophisticated as their aquaculture system of tilapia and lettuce it will work on the same principle as that pictured below:
This is their very fancy system showing the tilapia and planting combo in their aqua culture system.  This is the basic concept that can be simplified for home production and something we plan to do.

A closer look at these lightweight foam boxes filled with perlite, used for these tower systems

The simple dark bucket with foam and rock wool floating on aerated solution with plants

This fish tank shows the root system of plants in the hydroponic grower. The problem with the clear glass is it must be covered to prevent fast algae growth.  This was something we found ourselves in California in growing our duckweed for
our chickens in an old fish tank. We had a terrible problem with algae.

So, after our tour came to an end we decided to head to Ghiradelli's at Downtown Disney for coffee and to split a hot fudge sundae and mull over all we'd seen and learned.  Nice way to finish our day before heading home.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Decor at the Gaylord Palms

Now that Fall is officially in the air here in Florida, I'll share the many photos of the beautiful displays they had scattered around the incredible landscapes at the Gaylord Palms Hotel. I made a point to add these to the collection of pictures I took while we stayed there.

One of 3 really large pumpkins in a contest.  This one came in 2cd.

Even the fake gator in the "everglades" is decked out for fall : )

Once home we enjoyed our own Fall artwork courtesy of the girls creative talents and the efforts of Patrick and Jennifer to make their time with them special and bless us with these gifts. I love that the girls had so much fun with their aunt and uncle while we were able to get away to celebrate our anniversary!!

I'm also loving the cooler temperatures we've been enjoying now that Fall has truly arrived. I can actually start working outside again to get my planting beds ready and the plants I've been collecting in the ground so I can begin to create the landscape we desire to have around our home. Time at the Gaylord served to really inspire my love of beautiful landscapes!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

30th Anniversary

Today is the 30th Anniversary for Kevin and I.  As I mentioned in my last post we would be staying at the Gaylord Palms Hotel.  It's a Hotel with an enormous atrium roof to house 3 areas that represent various places in Florida, with all their exhibits and rich plant life.  The Hotel and grounds are on 4 and a half acres and it is beautiful and so pleasant to stay, or walk about and listen to the sounds of the many waterfalls, see the incredible plants and trees there or visit the animal exhibits.  It's easier to let the pictures speak for themselves.  Suffice it to say Kevin and I had a wonderful time and would really love to go and stay here again.

Our room

The balcony for our room

Part of the Atrium Ceiling
View of our balcony and the area just off it

Water down below our room and rock sculpture bridge

The Villa restaurant

Courtyards and fountains

"Key West" area with sailboat restaurant

Kevin and I and a plaque we saw and agree with

Walkway heading from the St Augustine area to the Everglades area
"Everglades" area and the Hickory Steak Restaurant

Gator area with the smiling gator on the rock - at least that's what he looked like he was doing

Walkways and views

Waterfall near gator area

Part of the fort to look like the one in St. Augustine

Waterfalls and features