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:


And here’s a parsley clipping I harvested not long ago:

2011-04-17 18.09.50

I’ve found that aquaponics, though really cool and easy to maintain once it’s started, does have some drawbacks.  Some plants just can’t handle that much water, and perennials still need to be replaced or cut way back after a year or two (not because they die, but because the old growth gets out of hand and they start looking really gnarly).  Maybe I could have extended their life by pruning them better, but at some point they really need to be cut back and forced to start over.

Mint and parsley have been the most successful plants in the system, both giving me a steady crop for cooking and Mojitos.  The sweet basil and oregano did alright, but never seemed to thrive.  I couldn’t get cilantro, green onions or chives going, and strawberry transplants promptly died.  A jalapeño plant grew like crazy and seemed healthy, but never fruited (possibly due to the lack of wind indoors not pollinating it properly).

Now that we’re in a house that we plan to stay in for a while, I’m trying to do more outdoor gardening including an herb garden for those plants which don’t do well in the aquaponic bed, but plan to keep using it for those which do thrive as well as for starting plants for transplanting outdoors, like tomatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Another experiment I may try is putting the water pump on a timer and having it turn on and off on a schedule (hourly?).  The idea behind this is to let the water level fluctuate and give the plant roots more air.  Some aquaponics systems are designed this way, and it might help some of the less healthy plants do better.

On a related note, I am finding that I really enjoy gardening, and plan to begin posting more about that in the future, so keep an eye out for that.  You can follow those posts here.

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