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As I mentioned in my last post, my wife and I have plans for growing a good amount of food in our Austin, TX backyard.  One of the things that bothers me most about new suburban neighborhoods is the general lack of mature trees and the “barren wasteland” look of the backyards.  So one of my first home improvement priorities after moving into my wife’s house was to get some plants started back there.  The builder had planted a single (somewhat gnarly-looking) live oak, but other than that, it was just a lot of boring Bermuda.

I love a nicely landscaped backyard.  I have no interest in sitting on the back patio to look out on some dead grass surrounded by a privacy fence, but an interesting arrangement of plant life can make it far more visually interesting, relaxing, and even cooler in temperature.  This isn’t as important to my wife, but one thing we both agree on is that plants that produce food are both attractive and practical, so that’s a common ground which has been my focus in planning the backyard.

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Over a year ago, while I was still a bachelor living in an apartment, I decided I wanted to have a small garden so I’d have fresh ingredients available for cooking, particularly herbs.  After considering a number of conventional ways of growing herbs in an apartment, I ended up reading about Aquaponics.  Fascinated, I built a small Aquaponics system and planted some herbs.  You can read more about that project here.

One year later, the system has been quite successful.  I’ve made some minor changes, such as adding a grow lamp and black light barriers (Gorilla tape) to prevent algae growth, but aside from that I have had to do nothing but add fish food and water.  I haven’t even had to clean out the grow bed in over a year of operation.

Here’s how it looked a month ago, after lots of harvesting over the past year:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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As you may have seen from other recent blog postings, I’ve recently been checking out epicurious.com.  I happened to check their blog a couple weeks ago when they had a brief posting about aquaponics. Aquaponics refers to the growing of plants in water (hydroponics), together with fish (aquaculture) in a closed system, where the fishes’ waste feeds the plants, which in turn clean the water for the fish.  It struck me as a pretty nifty idea, not to mention a fun project and practical justification for having a fish tank and fountain (both of which I like).

So I began shopping around for kits and such, but eventually realized that it shouldn’t be too difficult just to make my own.  After reading up quite a bit, I finally came up with a design idea, bought the parts, and in a week’s time went from buying the first parts to adding the fish and plants.  The system has been running for a few days now and both plants and fish look healthy, so no disasters yet.  Time will tell if this turns out to be a productive herb garden (moreso than my traditional attempt which was rather unimpressive).

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