Going Vertical with Aquaponics
If you decide to get into Aquaponics, sooner or later you are going to realize that your grow beds that you originally thought were too big to go into that tiny confined courtyard space have now made a liar of you. The plants are taking over the place and you are slowly running out of valuable space!
They call it “the madness” in Aquaponics – when you suddenly realize that your need more and more space to grow more and more fish and plants because Aquaponics by its nature is Rampant! Plants go berserk once they they experience how good this stuff is.
But don’t take my word on it – look at the pictures.
This is our system at Ecofilms just outside our office and what a welcome break it is to go outside and feed the fish and admire the growth of the plants.
If you spend some time feeding your fish you’ll tend keep an eye in the tank and forget about the vertical space above your head. A while back I had a number of cucumber seedlings that I knew would only grow one way and that was – up!
Today I suddenly looked up at the roof guttering and noticed a couple of dangling cucumbers. How did they get up there? Well the plant is a vine and it snuck up the trellis that I put in for some tomatoes but it didn’t stop there – it snaked up the line and ran along some roof guttering and is still flowering – leaving a trail of cucumbers bobbing in the wind like Christmas ornaments.
With Aquaponics – if you get it right – stuff like this will happen.
A good tip is to use your grow bed space wisely and plant your climbing plants in the corner of your grow beds – fully expecting them to either climb up – or trail over the sides and go straight down. You did want a garden of Eden in your back yard didn’t you? Well take advantage of the space above your grow-bed and the space below and you will get it delivered in spades so watch out!
The big photo above shows you a clump of courgettes or zucchinis as they are known in Australia. Rather than have them spill inside the grow-bed and take up valuable space for other plants, we decided to plant them in the corner so the whole plant will tumble over the edge. Thats a great way to use space that would normally be never used. We’ve used this same principal when growing a number of vegetables like eggplant and cherry tomatoes.
You will need to be careful when growing plants in vertical space. There’s a good example on Murray Hallam’s Aquaponics Secrets DVD where he had constructed a timber scaffold above his system to accommodate all his tomato vines. The problem he discovered later was that the timber scaffold when heavily planted with tomatoes would effectively shade other plants in his greenhouse and stunt their growth. So do take a careful note of where the sun travels over your system and plan any vertical growth to take advantage of as much sunshine. Plants love at least 6 hours of sun so design any vertical trellis or timber supports away from the light and allow the shade to fall away from other plants. We’re lucky because our system faces North East it captures a lot of sun and any shade tends to fall onto our house or window, shading the office in the hot summer.