Monday, June 22, 2015

Yard Long Beans

Yard Long Bean Seeds

It's that time of year again, when the yard long beans begin to produce in abundance in the garden.  We built two new planting beds at the end of March and the girls helped with the seeds and covering our newly planted beds with leaves.

We laid sticks out to separate our planting areas

The girls gathered leaves to cover the seeds after they planted each section

Hannah and Lauren planting their seeds

We watched as things sprouted and have been watching as our crops come up and then began our initial harvest of salad greens, lemon balm, cilantro, radishes and now as the heat turns up it's time for the yard long beans to be picked and enjoyed.

Kevin added a trellis for the beans to grow up, we were a bit overwhelmed last year with the vigorous growth of this type of bean, so we decided to be prepared this year. He used our old shade covers from the towers that had shaded them last year, but with the hoop house this year (I'll show this in the next post), we don't need these pieces of pvc pipe.  He made sure he pounded old stakes in the ground first and slipped the pvc over the top of these to be sure they stay put when the wind kicks in.  This has already been tested in a couple of good storms and they held up fine.

First bed this year planted, marked and covered with leaves

My little helpers in front of one of last years garden beds that still has papayas, nasturtium, lemon grass, a volunteer tomato and a jalapeno pepper that all survived from last years plantings - even with the freeze.

Positioning the second new bed

Laying out several layers of newspaper before adding dirt

Kevin putting together the trellis

Second new bed planted

Newest beds with trellis

Garden area in March
Four beds now, two from last year and two new ones - this is from the end of March

The beans have done beautifully growing up and are beginning to grow over the top of the trellis.  The air flow and accessibility has been helpful in controlling fungal issues, aphids and has eased harvesting the beans.

The girls with today's bean harvest

Yard Long Beans on trellis now in June

Pretty bean flower

Trellis still has a lot more beans that need to get a bit bigger to pick

Beans and flower

We still find the size and abundance of these amazing!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sahib Aquaponics Tour

Today Kevin and I met with two other couples at the Winter Garden facility where Sahib Aquaponics
is located.  Our tour was guided by owner Sahib Punjabi, (not his real name, but what he goes by for this business).  He began his journey into aquaponics when a lack of garden space at his home and rough gardening conditions for container planting forced him to consider alternatives in order to pursue his passion for growing plants, some tropicals he missed having and a need to create garden space.  Owning some industrial buildings that had useless side yards gave him the opportunity to experiment with this.  After considering his options he decided to try and use aquaculture to help him grow his gardens and the systems we saw today on our tour were the results of his experimenting to find what worked best for him.

The original system is in the parking lot area where it's got a few goldfish and the plants it provides nutrients for are in the beds he's created along the fence line.  This microculture in a once desolate parking strip allows bananas, papayas, mexican sunflower, and a variety of other edible plants to grow and are available to anyone who happens to want to eat from them. His original system is called Zero Lot Backyard Gardener and you can click on the name to check out his post from his blog.

We next toured the area with the majority of his growing beds.  These vary in types and styles and are supplied with the nutrient rich fish water from his 1000 gallon tub that holds both koi and tilapia.

Fish in his large tank

Feeding the fish

Growing beds on sides of fish tank that also help filter water as it returns to tank

Deep water culture beds on left, along with tower systems behind them.  Then on the right side of this picture are riverbed wicking systems.

An elevated growing bed makes great use of this space

Sahib showing a plant starter floating raft on his deep water system

Happy healthy plants that produced a lot of fruits and veggies for this small space

Looking down the shaded area, with the fish tank located in the very back

At the opposite end of this area from the fish tank and grow beds is his Aquavermiponics and the vigorous plant growth that are in the beds above the compost tea barrels.  This looks like a really interesting system to add to our "to do" list.

Using worm castings in the barrels to brew compost tea, Sahib feeds the plants in the grow bed on top of the barrels. The lush growth and rich colors of the plants let you know they truly appreciate the nutrient rich mixture in this Aquavermiponics system he's made.

Wasting no space a smaller tank by the fence behind the papaya tree and Aquavermiponics holds a few goldfish to feed another set of his grow beds.

Finally, on the other side of the parking lot is another side yard space that has IBC Totes and his hanging plant systems attached.  There are the larger wicking beds that his tomatoes and beans grow in and can climb up on.

Wicking bed system for his taller plants

A couple big buckets of chives

Clever low tech bucket aeration using buckets with holes in them linked together 

Buckets and plants in a wicking bed

Hanging towers with sponge media to hold plants and nutrient water before draining into the catch basin beneath

IBC Totes with fish for this system

Beautiful malabar spinach growing here

Then the final part of the tour is a newer system he is creating in a small back yard between his building and the fence line for the neighboring buildings.  This turns an otherwise useless space into an amazing growing area using these newer aquaponic "riverbed/ wickingbed" method.

Buckets and soil being prepared in this new wicking bed system

Last questions before our tour ended.  You can get another look at his hanging towers on the left

We really enjoyed our tour and I came home with a small papaya plant, a malabar spinach plant, and tall mexican sunflower and a few loofah starters all compliments of Sahib.  If you are near the Orlando area or plan to travel there and are interested in Aquaponics I recommend checking out his place.  You can visit his site  for information, it's Sahib Urban Gardening.

In the meantime we have more to plant and new ideas to consider as we expand our gardening area and the methods we are using.  I'll post my updates in my next blog post on our garden progress.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Surprise Family Addition

Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon

Had a crazy week as we had to take our Basset Hound Bea back to the vet because her glaucoma had flared back up and we were faced with the possibility of having to remove her eye if new meds didn't work.  We had her tested last week and had been treating her prior to her appointment this Tuesday that showed improvement so we will keep on tending to her to save the eye and keep her comfortable.

  In the midst of this we kept hearing a lot of tiny meows coming from the shrubs at the front of the property.  Sadly last Friday I saw a kitten that had been struck and killed in the road, then as I was watering I found an empty can of cat food near the road.  In time we would realize someone had dumped a litter of kittens.

We kept hearing the meows but couldn't find the kitten it was coming from.  Then Friday night a tiny little yellow and white striped kitten appeared peering through the sidelight window by our front door and meowing.  As soon as I opened the door it took off, and I spent a very long time trying to coax it out of the trees and shrubs, but didn't want to move closer and possibly scare it into running towards the street.  It came close a few times only to run off again and meow from the bushes.  In the meantime I was getting eaten up by mosquitoes on that hot humid evening, and I finally headed inside.

I kept hearing it around the house at various times through the night and some in the morning. Then later in the afternoon on Sunday Cameron called on my phone and told me to bring some tuna out the kitten was in a bush near his room.  So I found some wet dog food and brought it out.  After about a half hour of tossing little pieces to this very tiny, hungry little guy he finally got close enough for me to grab him. Immediately after catching him, both girls said "can we keep it?"

We brought him inside and continued to feed him, then once he was settled down we began cleaning him up and dealing with some fleas and a few scrapes he had.  We block him off in our bathroom for the day and he stays in Cameron's room at night in his bathroom as he settles in.   There is another little one who was meowing outside late Monday night and some on Tuesday, but has never come close enough for us to catch.  Sadly we haven't heard it again since Tuesday morning.

Drying off after his bath

Eating a LOT as this is one hungry kitten!!!

Purring and relaxing with Cameron

Cameron has long enjoyed a cartoon called Calvin and Hobbes that Kevin introduced him to as it's one of his favorites.  So Cameron decided we should call this spunky little character Hobbes.  Now that he's named it looks like we have a new addition.  While we weren't planning on another animal, he is sweet and he definitely needed a home.

So meet Hobbes

Our newest family member