Growing Massive Fruit Trees in Aquaponics

We’ve all heard of growing vegetables in Aquaponics but what about Fruit Trees? How well will they grow?

Murray Hallam with his Red Papaya Tree grown in Aquaponics

The evidence seems to be – exceptionally well! The main criteria as Murray Hallam from Practical Aquaponics suggests that you grow them in deep grow bed troughs at least one foot deep. Even deeper containers will work well. Mature systems of at least two to three years of age seem to work best. It may be because of the miniature eco-system that needs time to develop. It may very well be the assorted constellation of bacteria and micro-organisms that expand in complexity as the system ages. What ever the answer – the choice of gravel media is very important too. Sand or pea gravel just will not work. It will clog the system – ending in rapid failure.

Small Papaya Seedling

Murray Hallam recommends 20mm gravel or three quarter inch stones as the ideal medium. The larger the better. The crevices are important for a number of reasons. The reason is root support. Round smooth clay pebbles or Hydroton will not support the plants root system. Those smooth round red clay balls look and feel great to work with but they tend to roll around in the grow beds like marbles. Even corn will lean over in a slight breeze.
The interlocking structure of irregular stones offers better plant support and additional crevices for the compost worms to have access to the plant root system.

Composting worms will thrive in a well oxygenated system that is flood and drained continuously. Here at Ecofilms we often refer the the flood and drain cycle as the lungs of the system and success in growing massive fruit trees is possible if fresh oxygen is “pulled” down to the root system as water drains out through the siphons and back to the fish tank.
The worms love the fish waste. Their interactions and ability to thrive in gravel systems means they grow quite fast and are able to navigate through the gravel quite speedily should you disturb them.

Murray describes them as his Secret Weapon. He talks about his fruit trees and demonstrates the success he’s had with his two enormous Papaya Trees that were purchased as seedlings and grew and grew beyond all expectations. Experienced growers told him that his Papaya will not grow because they don’t like “wet feet.”

Papaya being weighed

Well Murray was waiting to be proven wrong. But somehow no one told his plants. They were thriving in a Aquaponics System. They just kept growing up into the sky towering under the canopy of his shade house! It was tough business for Murray. He had to resort to using a step ladder to reach into his enormous trees and harvest massive fruit reaching well over 2 to 3 kg in weight.

Red pawpaw tastes delicious

The plant was growing beyond the capacity of his 1 foot deep grow bed. Murray had to use timber support beams to keep the tree upright. There must be a reason for such spectacular growth? Murray thinks it may be the age of his system. Well over three years – and never been cleaned! Many other Aquaponicists were dismissive of his results.

The consensus was that Aquaponics Grow beds will eventually “clog up.” Murray waited for the system to fail. But it never did.

Murray insists that the solution is well aged grow beds.

“My Papaya were grown in 4 year old 300mm deep grow beds filled with 20mm drainage gravel and being powered by a 2300 litre fish tank populated with 100 plus Jade Perch (plate size) and some others namely, cat fish, barramundi, yellobelly, bass.” he said.

Maybe the mixture of fish species had something to do with the nutrients produced?

“Nutrient and mineral release by beneficial bacteria and a few thousand compost worms.” he smiled.

Eventually Murray says he harvested well over 70 Kilos of fruit off the one papaya tree. Eventually the weight of the hanging fruit tore down the branches. The plant itself could not support the weight of the fruit. Murray was devastated.

Broken tree branch

“I think I would rather have lost 50 fish than lose my red pawpaw tree.” he said. “It was really upsetting because I had been working in the garden pulling out tomato bushes and generally cleaning up in preparation for the winter plantings. I noticed a couple of times what I thought was an increasing bend in the tree trunk, but put it down to my imagination. By the time I realized it was actually getting worse by the minute, I rushed off, got some rope from the shed, found the step ladder and had just climbed the ladder to put a rope around when – crack – the tree broke right in front of me.”

Murray cleaned up the broken branches and collected the fruit. He had 43 Kilos of fruit. No wonder the branch broke.

Encourage by these results Murray Hallam is now researching other fruit trees like Orange and Citrus. If the trials conducted prove to be a success then Aquaponics may have a future beyond salads and vegetables. Murray’s Papaya tree and other fruit tree secrets is revealed in his latest DVD “Aquaponics Secrets” which is available from this website.