bcotton

Bcotton's EPIC backyard conversion , Aquaponic Cowboy!

51 posts in this topic

my backyard is an 80'x50' suburban yard on a .25 acre lot. I have a plan to convert the entire backyard to food and fermentables growth. The centerpiece and engine of the food production will be  3 fish tanks totaling ~4000 gallons. But it will not be just aquapincs. Over the winter i have already added some raised soil beds. This past month i planted 15 wine grapes plus12 additional fruit trees to add my the 6 existing trees (apples, peaches, plums, pears, jujubes) and I have plans to add hugelcultures and  whicking beds later this year.  My goal is really to see just how much food a person can grow in a modest sized suburban lot. I have no short term plans for quail or rabbits but they are not off the table so to speak. 

 

Anyway, I have been a busy bee and while  i check the forum frequently i think anyone will understand why i have not been the biggest post contributor recently. We are expecting a week of rain starting tomorrow so I will probably have time to sketch out and post my plans for constructive criticism. However, keep in mind this has been 2+ years planning in the making. I have thought a  lot  about how to use the my space most  effectively  and create synergy between the different systems. I hope to have the additional fish tanks and DWC grow beds coupled  and running with my existing  700 gallon ferrocement aquaponic system by the first week of april.

 

Anyway, here's some pictures of my current project... a tiny bit of teaser

 

. I am the aquapoinics cowboy and I shoot from the hip!

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Edited by bcotton (see edit history)
ande, neighbor and kellenw like this

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Hi Brian,

 

Ambitious (but very worthwhile) project.  The DWC troughs look like a robust piece of kit.

 

I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the plan.

 

Gary

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Jax is awesome, but i was a bit worried he would run on the durascrim and puncture it but he doesnt like water enough that i dont think it will be a problem... I have a dog friendly workplace/office and he is pretty much always with me dawn til dusk til dawn.

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So pardon the ugly, this is not to scale. I started with my survey from when i bought he house and just kind of drew things in windows paint. They arent to scale but roughly depict the size of each object.

 

The back yard faces NORTH

The back yard has a slight grade from my patio all the way down through the easement. It is actually very steep in the area of the hugelkulture beds roughly 30-40 degrees there.

 

a) when you exit my patio on the right, this is my soil beds. right now i have onions garlic, peas and a lot of cold hardy crops planted but the long term plan is to put perennials here. Stuff like sunchokes and alpine strawberries that will come back year after year. Hoping my only maintenance is a water timer and harvesting stuff. I cant grow winter stuff in this area of the yard anyway. In most of these beds because of the winter shade the house provides

b) along the east fence is wine grapes.. cabernet sauvignon  and a few cabernet franc that my dog didnt destroy from last year

c) i didnt depict it but the east side of the house is well shaded and will work well for acclimating plant starts from indoors  to sun and heat. I will also be placing some young potted trees here this summer for protection. I have not really started to plan the front yard but these potted trees are paw paws, loquats, olive and figs. I like the idea of the evergreeen loquats, olives and figs if i am going top put edibles in the front yard.... that will be a 2017+ project. These trees are maybe iffy here in zone 8 but the front yard is south facing, so there's that

d) i have a large patio. I am sure i will at least container grow there but it's still very much undecided.

e) the lime green areas i am still planning, but I NEED 1 more soil grow bed for sweet potatoes and the rest of the space will most likely be whicking beds. My goal is to attach the whicking beds to the aquaponics (not flow through) i want to put in a 1 way check valve and let the reservoir stay full with aquaponic water but if there is heavy rains the wicking water should not be able to flow back to the aquapoincs system.

f) DWC.. the 2 x 4'x20' is what i show in the picture in first post.... I plan to do mostly greens like cabbage, bok choy and herbs like cilantro basil, etc.I have the 2'x4' beaver plastics rafts they will be placed width-wise

g) the other two DWC are 2'x20'. I plan to place the rafts in lengthwise. They will be trellised for growing tomatoes , peppers and pole beans. Only 1 row on each side which is why narrow is desirable.

h) the ferrocement system is my current system. I hope to have 1 pump down near the new 1500 gallon tanks that feeds the 1500 gallon fish tanks, the MBBR filters, the ferro system and the dwc. The  water flows back down to the sumps using gravity.

i) the wicking barrels i am planning to do blue barrel halves that get fed by aquaponics but water cant back feed back into the system. These will each have a large pepper plant and maybe some garlic, onions and/or flowers companion planted

j) all the solid green stars are deciduous fruit trees. peaches, apples, pears, plums and jujube. I plan to heavily prune them to keep the smallish/bushlike. as per dave wilson nursery youtube channel.  The idea with the fruit trees is that in time, they will provide shade for those fish tanks during the 100 degree+ summers.. but in the winter they will lose their leaves and the fish tanks will get full sun for warmth.

k) My whole backyard has a grade towards the back but in one spot it is very steep. so steep it would be ridiculous to try to level it for some sort of grow bed. So i decided to try a method of agriculture meant to be done on steep grades.. Hugelkulture beds!

L) a dallas area buddy on another forum gave me a bunch of free food grade ibcs. I will use 2 for an aerated mineralization tank and the rest will be used as a sump for the system

m) not pictures here, each fish tank will drain to 1 RFF, 1 MESH style filter and 3 MBBR  (all 55 gallon barrels)

n) i have found a local tree pruning service that will let me get infinite free mulch. You have to work around their schedule which is a bit of a challenge sometimes (especially this time of year) but.. All grape areas, trees and walkways will be covered in mulch 6" thick.

o) lasagna style compost piles of mulch and table scraps will be in isles as needed

p) generator was bought when a series of storms came through. It already saved the 200 garage tilapia from an inconvenient demise when comcast cable took a backhoe through the power feed to my neighborhood. I  believe it is necessary if you have any sort of fish density in your fish tanks. It's a cheapo harbor freight but i do plan to wire it into the breaker panel on the side of the house there.

 

after the system matures, the soil matures, the trees and grapes mature.. eta 3 years? how much food do you think i can grow in this back yard per year? 2 tons? 3 tons? it's only a quarter acre.

 

 

brian

 

 

 

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Sounds like we can grow a lot of similar plants (grapes, jujubes, olives & figs) and that some of my yet-to-be-designed-designs will incorporate some of the things you have (exception of hugelkultur which might not be ideal for our hot & dry 6 month summer, or so I've heard). I'll be interested to follow your progress!

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From what i have heard hugelkultur works well in our hot dry summers. I have not personally tried it but i have heard that the wood as it breaks down acts like a sponge to hold water.

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I guess we're just in need of enough people to try it out - I was given to believe that the Holzer model (with big chunks of wood) really relies on continuous moisture, beyond what we typically get & that has a hard time decomposing at anything near the speed it does in the moist temperate climates of Austria/Germany, etc. 

 

Maybe coastal Northern Cal is a different story, especially if you've got marine fog and trees dripping it to the ground. Where I am, rainfall might not be enough to cut it for the few months its available to the degree needed to saturate large chunks of wood. Maybe pre-soaking before burying. ? Adding water enough to saturate the wood seems counterproductive to aims to conserve water.

 

Also, the mound structure would tend to dry out more quickly here - maybe a sunken version?

 

Anyway. I am, yet again, dabbling in theory without experience to back it up. I'll stop now. :)

Edited by neighbor (see edit history)

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june to august is pretty intense hot and dry here. 100+ degrees most days and raihn is infrequent.  The goal is the carbon base will trap moisture better than normal raised beds. The initial soaking will come from rain water and the goal is that i will have to water them less frequently to maintain adequate moisture for plant growth.  I wont be building the hugelcultures the same way i read you are supposed to based on the materials  i am able to source for free . Also, our dirt is actually a black clay. It  has nutrients but the drainage and aeration is non-existent. It is also epic-ly difficult to dig by hand so i will not be digging a trench first, i will just be laying the wood and mulch on top of the ground. if i have leftover cardboard after my other mulching and grow beds i may put that down to inhibit grass and weeds. . 

 

the local tree trimming place that gives me free mulch also seems to have piles of old and rotting stumps that they have no use for.. So i plan to just make a row of stumps and then cover them with mulch. The mulch has both wood and leaves so it should break down well. But i doubt i will be able to grow anything on them the first year. Maybe i can try to grow some nitrogen fixing peas or cover crops in the fall , but since they are one of the lowest priority projects right now theres really no hope to get it going this year. The only cost for these will be my time and gas to drive the truck 3 miles. round trip a dozen times or so, heh. The goal of the back yard isnt necessary to be frugal but i cut costs where i can. 

 

The tree trimmers said be careful of the metal rods they use to take down trees , i guess they are stuck in the stumps. but i figure i can sort through them and get enough for my base beds. 

Edited by bcotton (see edit history)
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Nice layout . I was lucky and live on a great deal of private land. Mostly forest with some ponds (5) a river runs through it and countless natural springs that I've used to help benifit my aquaponics systems in great ways. One is I don't need to buy anything to start up . Literally 75 percent of the main microlivestock live natural on my land and gives me a chance to study and learn more about their natural behaviors and apply it to whatever I'm researching in aquaponics and microponics at that time.

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As predicted it rained most of last week. I worked mostly on the garage aquaculture system remodel , which is related to this build but is still too incomplete imho for me to post pictures right now because i dont think people will be able to easily follow what they are looking at.

 

I filled the grow beds with rain waiter. The one closes to the patio is full and holding water. You can see from the pictures there is about a 1" grade from end to end. I am completely ecstatic that i managed to hand level something 20+ feet long and it only be 1" off.

 

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The other bed has a dime sized puncture about halfway up the wall in one of the corners. I have ordered some http://www.tapplastics.com/product/repair_products/plastic_adhesives/tap_poly_weld_adhesive/435 based on kellens recommendation in thread 

 

I also ordered my 1.5" bulkheads so ic an daisy chain the grow beds together. Once i get the other two grow beds finished, the hole patched, I will be ready to add the bulkheads and go ahead and fold in the corners and fasten down the ends of the grow beds.

 

 

 

Today was an awesome 80 degree breezy spring day. I took the day off to try to get the other two grow beds done but i did not get very far. I only got the frame up, hopefully i can finish that one after work tomorrow and I guess i will have to push the other one into the weekend.

 

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I was hoping to get all the plumbing done this weekend so i can order the air and water pumps but I am no longer optimistic i will get that far.

 

 

I have a policy now that I only buy components... especially major and expensive components, when i am ready to implement them. In the past, i have bought materials based on my plans and in some cases the materials sat around for almost a year before i used them.. in other cases my plans changed and it wasnt exactly the best materials for the new plan so anyway... i wont buy the air or water pump until i am basically ready to plug it in.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by bcotton (see edit history)
TheDictator, GaryD and ande like this

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Bcotton, is that a durascrim lldpe liner? I ordered one and it came in very wrinkled. Just wanted to ask you if you had the same problem with your liner? My bed is 40' and it's a pain to get the wrinkles out. Your liner looks a lot smoother in those pictures than mine. Thanks

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There's plenty of wrinkles in my liner but it didnt come that way. It purely my bad ability to lay the liner flat and square to the bed.

 

post-3383-0-51175400-1458310105_thumb.jp

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So I take it yours didn't look like mine then.. I did order a 12' wide but the wrinkles are near impossible to get out. Where did you get yours from?

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Mathias - It could just be the picture or my eyes, but it sure appears like your liner is significantly thinner material than the usual duraskrim stuff I've encountered.  The duraskrim I'm accustomed to seeing looks much more like bcotton's than what appears in your picture.  Is this not actually duraskrim?

 

Take Care,

Kellen

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Mathias - It could just be the picture or my eyes, but it sure appears like your liner is significantly thinner material than the usual duraskrim stuff I've encountered.  The duraskrim I'm accustomed to seeing looks much more like bcotton's than what appears in your picture.  Is this not actually duraskrim?

 

Take Care,

Kellen

Yeah it is durascrim.. I can assure you it's thick, that's why getting all those wrinkles out is going to be near impossible.

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Figures.  My eyes may be going, but hopefully my mind doesn't follow suit.  hehe...

 

Hey, have you tried letting it sit on a dark surface in the sun for several hours?  A lot of times that will help, but if it's really wrinkled, you might try a hair dryer or a heat gun (carefully!) and then work the wrinkles out by hand. 

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I let it sit in the sun for quite some time. Not on a black surface.

I did not use a heat gun prior to installing it.. In hind site I realize that I should have done that. Spread it out flat and worked out wrinkles.

Now it's in and has some water in it. I will have to stretch it out with the weight of the water as I fill it.

Its just a pain. Wasn't expecting to work this much on a @*x% liner.. But it is What it is. As soon as I get good weather I will get it stapled in, one way or another

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I was out of town last week for work.  So no progress to speak. I sourced my duraskrim from a local contact here in dallas , I am not certain if he was a 2nd middle man or sourced it from the supplier. Since i bought a whole roll, It was still in the packaging it shipped to him though.. 

 

 

 

I guess it was wednesday night. A serious hail storm came through the DFW metroplex and beat up the plants i had started in outdoor raised soil beds.

 

Again, i was out of town but heres some pictures a friend sent me. it also damaged cars and roofs.. MY nextdoor neighbor has started the process of getting his roof replace.. I just replaced mine 3 weeks ago, i havent had anyone look at it yet, hoping i dont have to replace it again.

 

 

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Hi Brian,

 

We get one or two of those in our region most years.  Fortunately, Macleay Island is just out of the path of most storms so we don't usually suffer damage (knock on wood).  Dimpled cars and house damage is often widespread in other parts though.

 

Gary

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I feel like a slacker with no upates, but work is hiring more than double the current headcount to catch up to the needs of the new contracts we signed and until we get good poeple hired and on board its gonna just be a lot of work and time. It sucks that it comes during spring time when the weather is still cool and it's time to plant but there could be worse problems at work....

 

 

And then, of course last night.;.. we got another hail storm.. this one much more disastrous than the last. My house and neighborhood was wrecked. Apparently the national weather service considers 4.5" hail to be "softball size" and ours was only 4.25" so i feel slighted a little bit. My mom, stepdad, brother in law and the roofer that put my new roof on just 6 weeks ago came over helped me clean the water, glass and board up the 8 broken windows.. And honestly i was not to worst hit. I guess having the brand new roof helped because most of the houses in the area had severe leaking and some apparently had hail go all the way through and was hailing in their house.. Its supposed to rain tonight., a couple days off then more rain this weekend. 

 

I still have a ton of cleaning to do in the house and back yard, i have no doubt i am behind a very long line with the insurance adjusters and when they finally come out i can start repairs. My project is set back a bit....

 

for your entertainment only, here are some pictures and videos of the damage.

 

-efit- my pictures are right side up on my computer, not sure why the forum rotated them, if you know how to rotate them back please let me know

 

outdoor https://youtu.be/siS_R4IkEN8

 

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Edited by bcotton (see edit history)
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BCotton,

Wow, what a storm! Were you guys under the bed? I bet that hail sounded like bombs were hitting the house.

Hope you get back together soon!

(Btw, I liked your post.......only 'cause I feel for you man...)

Take care.....mh.

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