Tag Archives: garden

Spring work at the suburban homestead

We  had a small streak of nice days: 60 degrees + with little rain. It gave me a good chance to get out and start taking care of the spring cleanup and get ready for planting.

I have had a huge truckload of wood chips sitting in my backyard since fall, so I was very happy to start moving it around to the different areas that I use it for each year. A friend of mine that owns a tree service is happy to donate his chips to me whenever I want them-free of charge.

So I started around the raised beds in the garden. Making good places to walk which will keep the weed growth down in between the boxes.

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Once the garden paths were complete, it was on to the permaculture in our front yard, as well as surrounding all of our fruit trees.

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Everything is really starting to take shape, Unfortunately, some cold weather has returned and other projects have gotten my attention. We are supposed to be back in the 60’s next week, so I will probably return to planning/prepping outside then.


Aquaponics-EPIC FAIL!

Our second full year in the greenhouse with the aquaponics systems has been wrought with a few mishaps and mistakes. Nothing major-lines burst, junctions break, heater burnt out, air pump stopped-but today I woke up to an entire tank of dead tilapia fish!

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It happened in my constant height tank, which was the first of the type that I had built. I had cleaned out the 3 stage filter last week during our warm weather snap because the water was starting to turn a little too brown. I checked the ammonia level, which was high but thought it would go down after I cleaned the filter.

I never cleaned out the grow bed. Honestly it never really dawned on me as I had the 3-stage filter and the gutter garden circulating water for filtration in this tank, but I did not grow anything in this grow bed over the winter.

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This morning, after removing the fish, I took off my 3-stage filter and it was already full of sediment. So I looked under my grow platform and it was 1-2″ deep in solid fish waste! The ammonia level was through the roof, so no doubt why all the fish died.

Needless to say I am pumping all the water out of the tank and cleaning the grow bed so I can start the system fresh with new fish. We had been talking about changing this particular tank to a cold water fish, so we would have 1 tank that did not need heated. I guess that decision is now made.

Unfortunately, I was planning a neighborhood fish fry next weekend to utilize the fish from this tank. Most were 14-18″ long and 5-6#-perfect for a big fish fry! I guess the fish fry will be postponed for a while!

As with everything, there is a learning curve, one just hopes for no sharp turns like this! But with this epic fail, I have a chance to start fresh and utilize my new found knowledge to become even better with my aquaponic gardening.




Measure to Manage-Aquaponics Nutrient Analysis Report #3

Every 6-8 weeks, I post my photometer readings for the aquaponics system water. The biggest change I’ve made this term is using rainwater exclusively. I should also add that I lost a bunch of…

Source: Measure to Manage-Aquaponics Nutrient Analysis Report #3

Being creative on our 1/5 acre suburban homestead

Having only a 1/5 acre lot in the middle of suburbia always tests our ability to be more creative to utilize the ground the best way possible. Doing that we are going to try growing espalier fruit trees next to our greenhouse.

I have always wanted some Asian Pear Trees, but they don’t do really well in the Mid-Atlantic region. The “hot” season is not really hot enough or long enough to grow the fruit to its full capacity.  Fully grown Asian pears should be about the size of a grapefruit, but in this area they are usually about the size of an average apple.

Through my research, thinking I was going to add a dwarf tree in my greenhouse, I found the idea of growing them espalier. Espalier growing according to the dictionary is:

  1. a fruit tree or ornamental shrub whose branches are trained to grow flat against a wall, supported on a lattice or a framework of stakes.
    • a lattice or framework for an espaliered tree or shrub.
verb: espalier; 3rd person present: espaliers; past tense: espaliered; past participle: espaliered; gerund or present participle: espaliering
  1. train (a tree or shrub) to grow flat against a wall.

Since I have a 6′ base wall on the south side of my greenhouse, I thought this would be the perfect place to try and espalier 2 AP Trees.

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First I planted 4-8′ landscape timbers at 6-7′ apart, buried 2 feet in the ground with concrete (leaving 6′ above ground). Everything I read stated that this spread and height seemed to be the optimal for what I was hoping to accomplish.

First I attached eye hooks into the posts at 12″ increments starting0305 202 about 2″ down from the top of each post. This allowed me four lines since I did not want to go any closer than 2′ to the ground.0305 212

I purchased 3/16″ cable wire for the structure and sewed in through the top two sets of eye hooks, making my top two rows for growth.

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At this point it was a matter of how to attach the cable to the eye hooks. I needed something that0305 206 was going to be sturdy enough to keep the line tight, but also allowed for me to tighten the lines further if it became necessary.I came up with cable end clamp set and turnbuckle. Attaching these would allow for everything I needed, hopefully. They were not that hard to attach below is a graphic depiction of process.

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Before attaching the other end of the line make sure the turnbuckle is completely open so that you can use it to adjust tightness of the line. This will leave you plenty of room for future adjustments if/when necessary.

Finishing all the lines and planting the trees was all that was left. I think it turned out pretty good, I am really hoping for some great fruit off of these trees in a couple of years!

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Growing well

A home ed life

Well, I had a major panic over the weekend when my ammonia levels reached a ridiculous high, so I rushed out and got Interpet Ammonia Remover. I had to use two lots, according to the instructions, over a 4 hour period, to bring my ammonia down, and then wait 24 hours before re-seeding with Tetra SafeStart. I couldn’t find a scrap of information on the internet about how the ammonia remover worked, because unlike AmmoLock and others I found mentioned a lot, it stops the ammonia showing up on tests, so it doesn’t just change it into a less toxic form, it seems to actually remove it. However, this could therefore damage my nice bacteria, so I needed to replace them, just in case. So fingers crossed this has worked!

My plants are doing great!


They’re growing really well! I also put in the seeds that had been germinating…

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Wishing for a greener 2016!


As we have just stepped into 2016, here is a quick review of how things went for our little roof top farm (greens.farm) in 2015 and what is in the pipeline for 2016.

We entered into 2015 with the objective of starting two or three small organic farming projects, that will reduce our dependency on commercially farmed vegetables, and to share our experiments through social media in an effort to encourage those around us to practice a greener lifestyle.

When I look back into 2015, I think we achieved only 25% or less of what we hoped for, but we are very very happy that we never lost our passion and kept moving through some of the tougher times and busy schedule. Even more importantly, we stay resolved to continue this journey through 2016 with bigger but practical goals.

In 2015, we experimented quite a bit on aquaponics and now…

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Aquaponics – New hybrid system experiment


One of the challenges in having longer term plants, that lives more than 4-6 months, in aquaponic growbed is that they fill up the grow media with roots over time and it increases water level in the growbed. Also removing older plants from the growbed becomes very hard.

A new experiment is in progress to reduce the intensity of this problem. I am removing media (gravel) from a growbed so the growbed will have just water in it, and then to place pots filled with grow media in the water. It will look like a vegetable plant in a pot but the pot itself is placed in water with top two inches above water. I am using pots with holes around it for easy waterflow and for roots to extend into water. This way we can easily lift each pot/plant out of water or move around in the growbed.


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Cutting Back for winter

My last few posts have demonstrated how chaotic this last year has been, but especially since harvest season. (Two months… , Beginning Winter Aquaponics) I tend to also do pruning of my fruit trees and arbor in late fall, early winter, but with the weather maintaining in the 60’s and 70’s through Christmas, I had to wait a little longer.

There are many that say to prune in the spring, others in the winter, but I am a fall pruner. It seems to work out well for me and my timeline, but usually show good results the next grow season.

We have apples, pears, peaches, persimmons, and a huge grape arbor, so there is a lot to be pruned and prepped for next season. I have now been able to get most of it done but still need to cut back on my arbor a lot more. I should have time in the next few days to finish it up. Probably not tomorrow, with a high predicted of 26, but it is suppose to be back around 40 by Thursday.

Forgot to mention the loofa’s also. We got almost 3 dozen from 1 plant. This was a first for us, but I think we will do them again.

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Beginning winter aquaponics

If you caught my post a few days ago, you know how increasingly hectic things have been around the little suburban homestead. I am really trying to carve out the time to catch up a few posts, but it has still been difficult. I can start to share some of the posts and projects that have occupied so much time.

The greenhouse and aquaponics setups have been pretty good. I cleaned the grow beds out, cleaned out all the filters and lines and prepared the beds for winter planting.

I started planting with the usuals for our winter feeding of the chickens: lettuce, spinach etc. Then I added a few tomato plants and some peppers, along with some bush bean plants that were volunteers that I transplanted from outside.

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Also, you may notice the onions. This was a first for us. I threw them in just to see what would happen and surprisingly, they took off. They seem very happy in the rocky, water-laden media.

Along with getting the grow beds together, I did some basic maintenance on the greenhouse; sealing air gaps and insuring fewer heat leaks this winter. Of course I also test fired the rocket mass heater to check the flue for any obstruction. All went well and I think the greenhouse is ready to produce great things this winter.

Two Months….

It has been two months since I have shared anything. I thought it was only a few weeks, but regardless, not good for anyone blogging. These last two months have been so eventful and packed full of activities that it is hard to determine where to start.

Of course, trying to get ready for winter has been a priority. Cleaning the little homestead, pulling up the garden beds, pruning trees and arbor, laying new wood chips around the garden paths, mulching trees to protect roots from winter, cleaning out aquaponics tanks, setting up greenhouse, readying the animals (rabbits, chickens, bees) etc, etc, etc. I have pictures and will post more later….

Fortunately so far this year it has been very mild for us. We have stayed pretty consistently in the 50’s and 60’s-a good 15-20 degrees above normal for the Mid-Atlantic Region. They are even calling for 72 degrees on Christmas Eve, with Christmas Day in the 60’s! It has given me some extra time at least to get our gardens and yard together.

We have had a few health scares as well, both myself and my wife. My Melanoma keeps spreading, so keeping on top of it with my doctor has to be a priority. I was also diagnosed with C.O.P.D. not bad enough yet for oxygen, but fatigue and shortness of breath set in quickly.

My wife ended up with the hospital with what they determined a cardiac “episode” I guess they determine an episode when they cannot truly find anything, but all symptoms seemed like a heart attack to me. AT least enough to transport by ambulance instead of taking a chance driving her. She is back to normal, just have to be sure to see a heart specialist after Christmas to, if nothing else, get baseline readings.

We moved into our little homestead in 2005, with a plan to remodel the bathrooms and kitchen within a short time. We did do our guest bathroom about 4 years ago when my brother-in-law became disabled and moved in with us, but have not made progress on the other bath or kitchen. The beginning of November came and we made the determined decision to gut our primary bathroom. This is currently a work in progress, which was hoping to have done by Christmas, but things happen. We should be done early in the new year and I will do a post on the rehab as well as having a lot of pictures. Stay tuned…

Well, for now, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I will start posting more regularly again very soon!