Balcony Aquaponics

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The system is assembled on the south-facing balcony. It has sun light for the whole day and being on a raised level it is the perfect location for my grow boxes.

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The contraption is actually a water circulating system for the grow box and the fish tank. Using a close loop ensures the water pressure is evenly distributed to both the fish tank and the grow boxes.

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The sprinkler is for aeration of the water in the fish tank to enhance oxygen level in the water for the fish.

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The grow boxes are assemble and ready to be filled.

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Stage 4 testing – with plants transplanted from the hydroponic growing system.

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Water being flushed into the sump from the grow boxes and fish tank.

It’s working!

Water Water Cried the Lettuce

Remember the last complain about high humidity and fog? They are no more. In the past week, it has been 70% and temperature of 18-22C. Perfect weather for growing, and no doubt the lettuces and beans etc are all enjoying it. Instead of taking up about a liter of water per week the plants have been demanding about 2 liter of water every other day for a tray of twenty pots (lettuces).

I am happy that they are happy! I am also expending my plantings with eggplant and fire bean haricot transplanted. If the weather holds up I expect to be harvesting the haricot beans in 2-3 weeks time. Keep the water coming says the bean.

Sunshine, Oh So Brief!

I have not blogged for a couple of weeks, because, it was such horrible weather – rainy patches and cloudy sky for almost everyday – since my last post. Was it that the weather that made the plants so depressed or the people so unenergetic? Anyway, yesterday was full of sunshine and warmth, the whole day was sunny with temperature in mid-twenties and humidity 70%, perfect weather for growing, which is when Fiona decreed the spring has finally transfer power to summer.

Well not so quickly, today it’s turned damp and foggy again and the weather forecast is for the week to have more rain patches and humidity of 90%-100%. How can we have 100% humidity, I ask myself? No wonder many of the flowers died, including the borage that was blooming with purple flowers before the dampness set in. Now I am pondering the same fate for the next batch of squash flowers.

The lettuces are doing fine despite all of this. We have harvested one full tray of endive leaves and made a beautiful salad tossed with red leaves lettuce, spring onion, tarragon and sage. A little balsamic vinegar and olive oil together with Canadian Angus beef and sausage, it’s a typical farmer’s dinner.

Dampness or not more seedlings are sprouting – garden lettuce, Taiwanese Kuai Cai, apple cucumber, chili and others. Fennel is growing into a young adult and rosemary continues to spread her wings. The fig trees are sending out new leaves so that in the summer it can dance with the sunshine. miraculously the deemed-to-be-dead basil seed bed came back to live with more first leaves emerging. So we just have to brace of the last days of the spring-mother-nature and cheers the summer to arrive.

Launch of New Site

Today is the launch of this new site for the slow food and slow farming experience. I call this my “Really Slow Cottage” experience.

In the recent issue of Sai Kung Magazine a reader was fretting that there isn’t much written material available in Hong Kong for growing and gardening that takes into consideration of the local climate.

Well, you would have read from my post couple of weeks ago that the weather was really in extreme in Hong Kong and how can one plan for sewing the seeds and growing by reading books and magazine that were written for European or American climate.

Plus, where do you go to find seeds that you are looking for and what soil or medium is best to grow what kind of vegetable. Where can you get your own bag of horse manure? What and how to compost in an urban environment without upsetting you neighbours.

I hope you will find answers to your question here, however, if I haven’t cover what you are looking for yet please feel free to drop me an email. Happy reading!

Frost Bite Basil Plant

The weather has finally let up today. In the last few days it had been raining, fog covered and with temperature in the mid-teen, which I hardly think was frosty conditions. I did not get out and check the seedlings for three days, particularly I was travelling to Macau for Thursday and Friday, and yesterday it was so foggy it was almost like from the scenes of “The Fog” (by Joe Caepenter, 1980, and then remake by Rupert Waiwright, 2005), so I stayed inside all day.

I went out on my balcony this morning, to check on the troops and especially to change and clean the boxes. It was then that I realized about a third of the basil seedling had turned brown and died. That was strange, because they were growing very healthily and some second leaves were coming out, but when I inspected the compost I found a layer of ice on top and that, I suppose, was what had killed my seedlings.

Today, the weather offers the plants a brief reprieve to stretch their leaves and roots. I cleaned the boxes of the nutirent solution and left them empty, for one or two day until the substrate become dry, so that the roots can take up some air. I covered the lid for the basil seedlings, hoping that it will keep the compost warm as the daylight is providing some sort of radiation to heat up the chamber. I will re-inspect them again later this evening to determine if any further actions might be required.

The weather forecast is for raining patches and 85%-90% humidity to continue for next week until Thursday. The temperature is dropping to low-teens again, so I need to be more vigilant with protecting the seedlings.

The brighter side is a report of good health with the endive and red leaves lettuce. Leading the race, though, continues to be by those plants raised in perlite, with eggplants on perlite delivering a few nice speciments. The squash flowers had a hard time with the rain and some flowers had broken off the stem so no luck for any pollination. I will need to germinate more seedling for the summer crop. May be tomorrow, I can do that.

Cruelty to Caterpillars

This morning, when I was getting ready to go to Macau I went around my garden and say good-bye to the troops. Despite the humid weather and constant rain the green off springs of the butterflies were at work. “Were,” is the correct word to use as when I have spotted them I had to do the right thing for my plants, which is to spray soap-water on them.

I use a Carson soap bar, shave the soap with a potatoe peeler and mix them with water in a water spraying bottle, and spray away with impunity. The green worms curled up and shivered and then lied motionless. I can’t watch as it’s becoming on the edge of cruelty. I simply export them to oblivion. 

Having read Nye’s post today about the organic insecticide she mixed with sadao, I am inclined to try it on my garden. But, where can Ifind sadao in Hong Kong? Besides insecticides for organic growing, I would also suggest growing alternative plants in the patch. For example, I have found that by growing basil among the vegetables butterflies are less likely to visit the patch. May be it because of the strong aroma, I am not sure but it’s worth trying.

 

Backyard Garden Against Nature

As I was writing about the weather in my last post, the extreme wet humidity in the last week, and then the wetness went away with humidity dropped to 70%, but temperature also dropped from 19C to 12C. What can I do? Nothing! One has to live with nature, that may be why our ancestors consult the Almanac to have an equalization force with nature.

Unfortunately, my zucchini flower died without a chance to be fertilized. Therefore no zucchini fruit from that flower. But, I am not totally discouraged as there are many more on their way. In general, that is why we need to have the weather on our side, preferably with sustained low twenty and mild humidity for the plants to flower and for the worker bees to cross-pollinate the flowers.

Zucchini is a summer squash and is in the Cucurbitaceae family (genre) and their flowers can be cross pollinated. To get a pure breed for future planting one must be very careful not to have other species of the same genre to pollinate the flower, however, pollinating the flower for fruiting purpose it’s alright. I have in my garden now different squash, gourd and pumpkin plants and their flowers can be use for pollination with each other. All I need is a good spell of upper teens temperature and sunshine to enable the bees to work.

Having said that, the other morning I’ve found a bunch of illegal vegetable harvesters on my cauliflower and choi shum. How they got into my cauliflower i have no idea because the pot was fenced off with chicken wire. I will have to investigate that later. In the mean time, they were having a whale of good time at my expense, gorging on my fruits of hard work. So I called in the spade patrol, and the green fellows are promptly catapulted to the nearest domain.

Don’t think that I am not fond of the off springs of the butterflies, as they are beautiful to look at when they are grown up, and they are useful to spinner of silk, but they just eat so much and deprived of my family the fruits of my labour. So if it is between them and my familyof couse I will have to choose my own family.