Interview with Geoff Lawton: Can Aquaponics Be Part of Permaculture?

I was recently in Melbourne Australia to do a PDC with Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton. Here is a short interview I did with Geoff Lawton, master permaculturist and founder of the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI), Australia. In the video I ask him three important questions on how aquaponics relates to permaculture and how the two disciplines are related. We also had a special guest, Latifa 🙂

Enjoy the video, and let me know what you think. I’m curious to hear the opinions out there on how aquaponics and permaculture are related. When commenting, specify whether you consider yourself an aquapon or a permaculturist… or both!

(Yeah, the sound isn’t great on this one, so I will be providing a transcript at some point)

https://groweverywhere.com/interview-with-geoff-lawton-can-aquaponics-be-part-of-permaculture/

Interview with Geoff Lawton: Can Aquaponics Be Part of Permaculture?

October 16, 2012

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Welcome to Grow Everywhere

Welcome to Grow Everywhere! Here our mission is to harvest the inspiration of successful home gardeners and inspire people all over the globe so they too can grow their own food at home. Our goal is to show that sustainable gardening can be easy and fun by providing step by step instructions on gardening topics and by showing empowering examples that show how anyone can do it under almost any circumstance! We aim to become the premier gardening blog on the web by attracting a vibrant community of home gardeners, sustainable farmers, and homesteaders. Our vision is that of a nation-wide culture of individuals that excel at growing their own food and in doing so take pleasure in finding the truth, that we are all stewards of the earth.

In this day and age we are constantly watching out for our own health and the health of our families. A simple trip to the grocery store becomes an even more daunting task each time we hear about a new pesticide or pathogen outbreak in a particular food product. More and more people are starting to become aware of the fact that the way our nation produces food is not sustainable, safe, or healthy in the long term. Thus, we are experiencing a strong movement in the area of sustainable gardening and farming practices. It’s a revolution and a rebellion against the status quo of mass produced meat and mono-crop cultured fruits and vegetables.
More and more of us are realizing the importance and the value of using local products and services and eating locally produced food. It is rather ironic that in ancient times everything was local by default. In our modern world, we have become so obsessed with economic specialization and competitive advantage that we don’t even care if our food is produced thousands of miles away, we only care about getting the lowest price possible on that food. It seems that we are coming full circle and slowly moving back to the ways of old and reverting to a locally based economy. In doing so, we are not only finding that it works more efficiently and makes more economic sense, but it is also a healthier choice for ourselves and our planet.
Grow Everywhere is dedicated to promoting sustainability and agricultural self sufficiency for everyone regardless of living situations.

Welcome to Grow Everywhere

March 4, 2012

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Maggots In Compost And How To Easily Get Rid Of Them

When people start composting they sometimes think that it will be a walk in the park… And often times, it can be if you know a few basic principles. One of the common complaints I hear is that they don’t know what to do about maggots in compost. Maggots in your compost bin are not a great thing to have because they breed pesky house flies and can carry disease. Luckily, it is very easy to prevent maggots from entering your compost if you follow these easy steps.

A fly on a flower is way prettier than a maggot with a fly

1. Understand the fly, master the maggot

I often take the approach of understanding the nature of whatever organism I am dealing with whether it is a plant, animal or an insect. With a bit of research you can easily learn the weak points of your pests and how to beat them. So, to get started we need to know a few things. Firstly, maggots are fly babies. Flies lay eggs in rotting matter so their young larvae (maggots) can have an abundant supply of food right when they hatch. Secondly, maggots need a very wet environment to grow and thrive BUT they need a dry environment to hatch into flies. A maggot will leave its rotting food dwelling in order to reach it’s next cycle of life. If the area is too wet, they won’t be able to hatch and flies will no longer lay eggs in that area.

That said, if you are using a worm composter and find maggots in there, just be sure to keep your composter wet because the maggots will not be able to pupate in the wet environment. The worms will then compost the maggots and add a little protein to the mix 😉

Keep the composter ventilated without letting flys in

2. Provide good ventilation NOT an entry way

The way the maggots get into the compost in the first place is from a fly getting in there. So, you have to block them from entry. A screen is all you need to keep flies out and let air in. Many pre-made compost systems (like the one shown here) come equipped with screens. If you are building your own composter, be sure to include a wire mesh screen that is fine enough to keep out flies.

 

Yep, compost gets hot enough to steam in cold temperatures!

3. Bring the heat!
In order to create high quality finished compost it needs to heat up. And I don’t mean warm. I mean HOT. We’re talking between 120 and 140 degrees. Believe it or not, the right balance of leaves, green mater and oxygen can create and sustain this hot environment in no time. The point here is that when it is that hot, no maggot will survive nor will any harmful bacteria or seeds that you don’t want germinating. The only thing that survives is the good stuff, just like nature intended it. Learn more about how to compost here.

If you are able to follow these three easy steps, you won’t have any trouble keeping your composter maggot free and your home clear of house flies.

Any other concerns on maggots in compost bins out there?
If you read this, follow the directions and STILL have maggot issues, please comment or contact us directly and we will help you clear it up.

 

(Public service announcement: DO NOT search for maggots on Google Images unless you want to be sick. + Image credit: Google Images)

Maggots In Compost And How To Easily Get Rid Of Them

September 24, 2011

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TCLynx Aquaponic Homestead

This Aquaponic micro-farm was a really inspiring place to visit. I unfortunately arrived a little bit late to the tour and had to stay late to ask more questions.

Luffa looks like a giant Cucumber and makes a great cleaning tool
Finished Luffa, skinned, cleaned and hung to dry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At TC’s place, I learned a few new things about horticulture including what a luffa is. To my surprise, a luffa is actually a hanging vining plant that grows large pods that look similar to a giant cucumber (see photo). The pod is actually edible, however at TC’s place they are grown for the production of dry luffa which she processes by drying, cleaning, washing and de-seeding. These dry luffas are great for use in the shower and are much more sustainable than your average sea sponge (I admittedly thought that luffa WAS from the sea and thought they were unsustainable) and can also be used to wash dishes or even decoratively. They grow incredibly fast in the aquaponic environment.

Here are a few more interesting things that I noticed at TC’s place:

Firstly, I noticed the common practice of running PVC pipe along the ground to connect multiple Aquaponic systems to eachother without obstructing paths, this is an important factor to consider when designing a mid to large scale Aquaponic system.

This home-made rain water harvesting system supplies extra water for an aquaponic system

I also saw that TC is doing some rain water harvesting. She has configured a system using a refurbished holding tank which has been positioned upright to save space and connected them to two large water harvesting saucers. This system provides extra water for the bluegill aquaponic system (behind the cistern in the photo). In a place like Orlando, rainfall is abundant and it would make no sense NOT to harvest it!

Another thing I liked seeing at this Aquaponic homestead was the soil growing that she was doing. I like when people integrate soil growing with aquaponics, in my opinion, it is not one technology that leads to sustainability but a combination of approaches, this is why I like Sahib’s place so much. NOT ONLY is there soil growing going on, but before you step onto the property you notice that the driveway is of sand. This is impressive considering that TC has been growing sweet potato in the front yard. She seems to be an advocate of wood mulch as a soil building technique and I can see why.

There’s a lot I didn’t cover here, so please ask away if you have questions!

Any thoughts on this Aquaponic homestead?

 

 

 

https://groweverywhere.com/tclynx-aquaponic-homestead-2/

TCLynx Aquaponic Homestead

September 23, 2011

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Aquaponics Conference Day 1: Aquaponic Farm Tour

–This post was written on September 16th but didn’t make it to the blog until today–

WOW! What a day. The day was packed with Aquaponics and isn’t even over yet.
I’m sitting in a great little coffee shop with a conscious mission in Winter Garden  FL which happens to sit under one of the most epic rooftop Aquaponic greenhouses in the country (see below).

Kiddie pools make simple yet effective aquaponic growbeds

Despite a plethora of less than ideal conditions (including: getting up earlier than usual, driving for several hours, paying dollar after dollar on toll roads, getting lost in rural Florida and getting locked inside an elevator for a little while, yes I really did get locked in an elevator) the things I saw and learned today were worth it!

Today I visited 3 Aquaponic farms which I have listed below. There is a lot to say about each one so please click through to the link to read about each one, it’s well worth it.

 

Sahib’s Place: A fully integrated approach to Aquaponics using ALL growing techniques and not just one.

 

 

 

Finished Luffa, skinned, cleaned and hung to dry

 

TC Lynx Aquaponic Homestead: A little farm using multiple aquaponic techniques to grow a variety of plants.

 

 

 

 

Green Sky Growers EPIC Rooftop Operation: A very high tech Aquaponics operation on the roof of a downtown building.

 

 

 

Each one of these farms has it’s own flare and again, I highly recommend you read about each one and leave your comments on this post about which one you liked most. Anyone else out there have an aquaponics system that you want to share on this blog? Please do contact us if you do.

Much fish-poo love,

James~

Aquaponics Conference Day 1: Aquaponic Farm Tour

September 21, 2011

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Planning A Garden Layout

Whether it’s Spring and little plants are just beginning to poke their heads out or if it’s the dead of Winter and you feel there’s nothing to do with the garden, think again. Any time in the season is a great time for planning a garden layout. It doesn’t really matter whether you have a small garden space to work with or several acres. The techniques outlined in this post will help you plan your garden to ensure a fruitful and successful harvest season that will satisfy your inner gardener. Follow these easy steps and have a look at some inspiring examples before you get to planning a garden layout!
1. Size your Space(s).
Step one is to figure out how much space you have available to grow your garden. This will help you determine which plants you can grow and the yield that can be produced. When you’re planning a garden layout, it’s not that important to take exact measurements, instead you can estimate just by looking at it. Really we are just trying to determine what growing methods should be used.
Many beginning green thumbs worry that having a small space like an apartment balcony or tiny side yard will impede them from getting a high yield and unfortunately, many people who would like to garden don’t even venture a try for this very reason. As you might know, our goal is to empower people to grow their own food no matter where they live! (Check out this article on Bill Mulleson talks about how to create a garden to supply 50% of the food for two people on a small balcony.)
What about my small space?  Grow upward!
One great way to maximize the productivity of your garden is to use garden trellises and train your plants to grow upwards. That’s right, you can actual train a plant much like any other pet and guide it on it’s growing journey.
Take a look at this garden layout example.
(community garden pic)
As you can see this very small space has been maximized to it’s full potential by allowing these beautiful butternut squash to grow vertically. Hard to believe that a vegetable that heavy will stay that high up!
If you have limited growing space and will be using trellises, keep in mind that this will shape the types of plants you will be able to grow. In general, trellises are used for climbing plants like cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, but can also be used for ground covering plants like melons, squash (as seen above) and even peppers.
What if I don’t even have a yard? Bring soil in!
x% of people in cities live in apartments which usually means that they don’t have any land to grow a garden on, however, this is not a problem if you have a balcony or window sill. By using container gardening methods you can turn a slab of concrete into an abundant garden space. All it takes is some containers, potting soil, water, and seeds. Often times you can find used buckets or other types of containers at used hardware supply areas or just sitting on the corners in alley ways. Get creative with it!
What if I have too much space? Get focused!
Some of you might have the lucky problem of having too much space. While most will be jealous of you, we acknowledge that this can be a great challenge depending on your level of experience and commitment to your garden. We recommend that beginning gardeners with a ton of space focus on one specific area to make a manageable garden that will be productive. Often times, three 5 by 7 foot raised beds is more than enough to produce a satisfying harvest for two people and doesn’t take much effort.
2. Sample your soil
When you start your garden you might have poor soil or quality soil. Either way, before you get to planning a garden layout, you will need to determine what’s lacking and what’s abundant in your soil. Why, you might ask? Because healthy soil leads to healthy fruitful plants. The four key elements to pay attention to in your soil are Potassium, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and pH (acidity and alkalinity). As you learn, you will find that some plants like more or less of each nutrient or pH level. Depending on what you want to grow it will be important to amend or enhance the soil to be up to par with the needs of the plant. Get the soil sample to know where you’re starting and what you’re working with and we’ll go from there.
3. How Will You Water?
Plants, like all beings on earth, need water to survive and to thrive. When you’re planning your garden layout it will be important to also plan your watering schedule or even irrigation layout.
Availability
What kind of climate do you live in? If you live somewhere where it rains everyday, you won’t need as much as a hose to water your garden. You will be able to literally set it and forget it when it comes to watering. If you live in an arid climate then watering woes will take some thought to figure out. Try these two ways listed below to get started.
-Irrigation
If you are thinking about busting out the hose everyday to water your garden, forget about it. I have tried it and eventually it will get tiring, or you will forget and your garden will suffer. Besides, it is much better to water the plants more than once a day depending on what you are growing. You want flexibility. That is what irrigation is for.
Installing an irrigation system can be done with under 100 dollars including an irrigation timer, tubing, and fittings. You can schedule most timers to water up to 6 times per day, which is more than enough.
-Rain Water Harvesting
We highly recommend rain water harvesting no matter which area you live in. Most states have regulations that prohibit rain water catchment systems. In my opinion, everyone should be catching water at their home, using it and letting it flow back to aquifers after it seeps through the soil, rather than being transported via storm drains to a central processing facility. If you are going to harvest rain, please be sure to check your local regulations and be aware of the consequences.
4. Sun or Shade?
An important piece of planning a garden layout that is frequently overlooked is assessing how much sunlight exposure the garden receives. Unfortunately, lack of sunlight is another false barrier that aspiring gardeners face. Even if your garden space is fully shaded by trees or buildings, don’t hesitate to cultivate! There are many varieties of plants that enjoy fully or partially shady areas. Such plants like lettuce (and most leafy greens), collard greens, some types of beans, and fruiting bushes like rasberries and blueberries are made for the shade.
On the flip side, if your garden has a southern exposure and receives full sunlight, consider planting heavily fruiting plants like squash, tomatoes, and peppers, these plants love the heat. Also, keep in mind that the classic favorite, basil, also loves hot patches.
5. Pick your Plants
Now for the moment of truth. The garden planning phase we all love (or dread) a little bit too much. Which plants should I grow? There are several criteria that need to be considered when choosing plants. Check it out…
Chose your fancy.
I always tell people, don’t grow anything you don’t like. So, grow what you love to eat, because once you harvest it, there is one thing to do. Eat it. Personally I really dislike green beans (I find them flavorless), thus you will never find them in my garden.
Location
This is perhaps the most complicated piece of planning a garden layout. The location you live in will determine what crops you plant, when you plant them and when you harvest them. Soon we will be posting a full map and list of which crops you should grow and when based on location.
Edible or Not
Up until now we have assumed that you will be planting edible crops in your garden, however, we don’t want to ignore the gardener who wants to plant flowers. After all what will your bees from your beehive feast on to produce all that honey you want to harvest? Ok, so maybe we are biased, but we think that if you’re going to water a plant, take care of it, weed the garden, then you might as well eat it! You’d be surprised how easy it is to grow fruiting crops. It’s just as much effort as growing flowers.
Challenging Crops VS Easy Crops
If you’re a beginner we recommend starting with the following crops due to their easy to grow factor. Lettuce, Spinach, Kale and Squash of any variety. If you plant these crops, you are likely to be happy with your first garden.
If you’re a seasoned gardener or maybe going for a challenge on your second season, try growing tomatoes, carrots, beets, or other root vegetables. You can also try growing fruiting bushes or trees which don’t fruit the first few years and take a great deal of patience and extra care to reach harvest. These challenging crops can be extremely rewarding in the long run and you’ll find that they tend to give back to you 10 fold what you put in to get them established.
6. Planting
Leave enough room for growth.
When it’s time to plant many beginners ignore the seed package and jump directly into the planting. It’s important to note the spacing distance indicated on the seed package. Imagine a giant squash plant. The plant might cover 20 square feet of space if it does well and all it took was one seed to get that monster going. It’s always best to consult the package when it comes to planting distance and depth.
Wrap up
This post is meant to be a resource for the beginning gardener getting started or the seasoned gardener looking for more garden layout ideas (shown above). If you have any friends struggling with planning a garden layout or someone who is pondering getting a garden going, push them over the edge and send them this step by step easy to follow guide to inspire them!
If you have anything that we should have included here, please do comment and let us know what you have experienced with different garden layouts.

https://groweverywhere.com/?p=104

Planning A Garden Layout

September 15, 2011

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How To Harvest Worm Castings… The Hard Way

It has been about a month since we started our worm composting system (aka vermiculture system) and we were really itching to see how much black gold I could extract from the composter. For those who aren’t familiar, worm castings (worm poo) is extremely rich in all the elements that plants love! Worm castings are about 5 times higher in nitrogen than typical soil, 5 times higher in potassium and 10 times higher in potash. This stuff is one of the best soil amendments you can find out there. Essentially, it’s the gooood sh*t 😉

James Holding Worm Castings

Step 1: Get ready to dig in fecal matter.

Ok, so it’s not that bad. Worm poop is really just dirt. It’s pretty amazing, they take fresh green matter (nitrogen) like egg shells and old lettuce and eat that along with their bedding which can be made of newsprint or some other type of brown matter (carbon). They munch on that as they squirm around and what comes out the other end is potting soil, like magic!

Step 2: Take out the bottom layer of your worm composter.

This is the lowest layer where all the castings will have fallen to. This layer will probably be the wettest and most decomposed. It is ready to go and be removed from the system. The only problem is that it’s full of worms, and you will need them to continue your black gold manufacturing operation.

Step 3: Grab a handful!

A BIG Ball O Worms
”[caption

Time to start separating the worms from the castings. Grab a handful and start to pick the worms out of it. Interestingly, as soon as you hold a bunch of worms and castings they will start to congregate and form a worm ball which gradually squeezes out the castings. Technically if you had all the time in the world you could just sit there and wait while the worms come together and push all the castings out the sides.

 

 

Step 4: Watch out for precious worm eggs!

I got the world on a string, and a worm egg on my finger….

As you sort through the castings and worms, you will notice very tiny worms all throughout the castings. Lucky you, your worms are reproducing and multiplying quickly. Worms will double their numbers every 3 months or so. We started with 500 worms about a month ago. In two more months we will have 1,000! Anyway, the worm eggs. The worm eggs (see photo to the right) are tiny and look like little luminous seeds. Take these out and put them back in the composter. They can be hard to see so, you should make little casting patties and crush them down so you can see the eggs. Fun aint it?

Step 5: Separate out your finished product.

Several pounds of finished worm compost AKA black gold

Once you have taken out several handfuls, extracted the worms, the tiny newborn worms and the eggs you will have pure castings all piled up. I was able to harvest about 2 pounds of wet castings in 30 mins. We calculated that one pound of castings is worth about $1.50. Not bad for a first try after only one month of composting. We are sure that as we move forward it will become more efficient and profitable to our sustainable gardening efforts.

Anyone have a quick way to harvest castings or have any questions about vermiculture?

Much love,

James~

How To Harvest Worm Castings… The Hard Way

September 15, 2011

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Welcome

james-fry-permaculturist Hi, I'm James! Here you can find resources and inspiration to help you grow your own REAL food with LESS time, money, and effort than you thought possible.