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How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters

 
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 04:15 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
What the deal with Romain lettuce, does that adapt well?
 Quoting: CMcC

I grew some in my high tunnel aquaponics system during my first year, back when I ran it cooler. After the first year I converted it to accommodate tilapia breeding, which happens best a little over 80F, so I can't grow greens well in there anymore. I still grow a lot of buttercrunch lettuce in there during the winter when it's slightly cooler, but it's not as good as it would be if grown at the proper temps, so I mainly do it just to feed the fish. (I toss 3-5 big heads in there each day and they annihilate them.)

I haven't tried growing Romaine lettuce in my semi-pit tunnel greenhouse yet, but now that you bring it up, I think I'll do that next winter. During the winter it's perfect for growing cool weather crops. Spinach and buttercrunch lettuce do extremely well in there, so I think Romaine will too.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 04:19 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
I have tried 2 greenhouses, one we built ourselves in a quanset style, greenhouse plastic, with a plywood frame inside to give strength, for the lights and to staple the inside plastic wall to. It was pretty crude, but very effective.
 Quoting: Lil Sis

Congrats on your success with your homemade Quonset!

That's how I feel about my systems, too: crude but effective. I kind of like the charm that comes from only caring about functionality rather than fanciness.
Tangy

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07/07/2014 04:23 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
tgbump07
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 04:30 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
I was wondering, though - we have a real problem with mildews and mold here. Do you need a dry location for this to work? Fans?
 Quoting: JRip

My greenhouses are ridiculously humid (cross between a sauna and a shower), but I've only had problems with mold once, and that was on the wooden door. I sprayed/wiped it with bleach, and the problem pretty much went away.

I think I avoid mold problems by using very little wood (pvc instead) and by painting all the wood with a couple of layers of white paint.

Early on when I was trying to figure out what to grow, my tomatoes and other temperate crops did poorly in the extreme humidity, getting some type of wilt (a fungus?). But when I switched to growing tropical crops I stopped seeing such problems. Tropical plants are really good at shedding water from their leaves and dealing with extreme humidity. Plus they do better in the filtered light environment, since that's what they naturally deal with in their rainforest habitats.
Anonymous Coward
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07/07/2014 04:32 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Very interesting especially the bananas.
Anonymous Coward
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07/07/2014 04:36 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
I was wondering, though - we have a real problem with mildews and mold here. Do you need a dry location for this to work? Fans?
 Quoting: JRip

My greenhouses are ridiculously humid (cross between a sauna and a shower), but I've only had problems with mold once, and that was on the wooden door. I sprayed/wiped it with bleach, and the problem pretty much went away.

I think I avoid mold problems by using very little wood (pvc instead) and by painting all the wood with a couple of layers of white paint.

Early on when I was trying to figure out what to grow, my tomatoes and other temperate crops did poorly in the extreme humidity, getting some type of wilt (a fungus?). But when I switched to growing tropical crops I stopped seeing such problems. Tropical plants are really good at shedding water from their leaves and dealing with extreme humidity. Plus they do better in the filtered light environment, since that's what they naturally deal with in their rainforest habitats.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


When you go to harvest a fish do you take out a rod and reel or scoop it up with a net? 8-)
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 04:39 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
can you contact "mother earth news"?
i would like them to put this story in their magazine
the whole world needs to see this
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 56144605

That's a good idea, I should submit something to see if they'd be interested.

BTW, I don't mind if anybody wants to share this with any publication or forum. The more people who get inspired to do something similar for themselves and their neighbors/communities, the better for us all. So feel free to share it however you think is best.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 04:45 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
go to a crowd funding site
tell them your vision
and then ask for volunteers
who are knowlegable in these techniques
when you create a prototype
you can be crowdfunded to create and sell it
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 56144605

That's a good idea.

Maybe I could do a Kickstarter project to get funding to help set up my first large-scale facility.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 04:53 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Was thinking of catfish and another others with them, and even crayfish and shrimp in the bottom.
 Quoting: Sungaze_At_Dawn

I was wanting to grow shrimp and freshwater lobster, too.

When I tried it a few years ago starting with just crawdads, I was immediately overrun by psychotic racoons. The racoons never went after any of my fish setups, but they came like guided missiles to my crawdads. They destroyed anything and everything to get at them, it was not a happy time. When I got rid of the crawdads, the racoons stopped coming.

Here's my theory: racoons are used to smelling fish and not being able to get them (since fish can easily swim away to deeper water in the wild), but since crawdads generally live near the shore, the racoons know they can get them. So when they smell fish, they don't care, but when they smell crawdads, they think "dinnertime!" and go bonkers.

Someday I'll return to trying to grow shrimp/prawns and freshwater lobster, but not until I can secure the setup behind major fencing and steel walls.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 04:58 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
what if you had a cistern
and let the fish live in it?
and then use the fish droppings
to fertilize plants growing above ground?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 56144605

You're thinking along a good line. I have another setup where I do almost exactly what you describe, and it works pretty well. I water most of my crops from it, and the remainder get their water from my garden pond.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 05:08 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
i'm in mass and the winds from the storm the day BEFORE arthur destroyed my neighbor's green house. (his was plastic)

i've seen so many destroyed green houses in mass.

especially glass ones.

but i don't see why kansas wouldn't be just as stormy or stormier.

not much you can do about a micro burst, i think one came through here.
 Quoting: queenbee 1562977


What I learned from working with plastic structures is that you must prevent them from billowing or flapping in the wind. I restrain the movement of our greenhouses by lashing them with cord crisscrossed over the top from side to side. We get some fairly high winds here, 30-45 gusts now and then, and they hold firm. You have to anchor your ropes well tho. I don't think this would be effective for glass.
 Quoting: Lil Sis

You're exactly right about needing to prevent billowing/flapping.

My strategy is to use 2 layers of greenhouse plastic and little "squirrel cage fans" to inflate the space in between them to make it like a rigid balloon. It's kind of amazing how well that works, the inflated tunnels just seem to laugh at 70-80 MPH winds that have shattered our windows and toppled our neighbors trees.

If I only used 1 layer of greenhouse plastic, the straps would be an absolute necessity, or my tunnel would get shredded within weeks here on the open plains.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/07/2014 06:12 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
does the green house get sun all day long ?
 Quoting: Azadok61

Yes, for the most part. They get a little bit of shade in the afternoon, but not much.

The long sides run east/west so that they have a big southern exposure to capture as much sunlight as possible in the winter.
Lil Sis

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07/07/2014 11:33 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
i'm in mass and the winds from the storm the day BEFORE arthur destroyed my neighbor's green house. (his was plastic)

i've seen so many destroyed green houses in mass.

especially glass ones.

but i don't see why kansas wouldn't be just as stormy or stormier.

not much you can do about a micro burst, i think one came through here.
 Quoting: queenbee 1562977


What I learned from working with plastic structures is that you must prevent them from billowing or flapping in the wind. I restrain the movement of our greenhouses by lashing them with cord crisscrossed over the top from side to side. We get some fairly high winds here, 30-45 gusts now and then, and they hold firm. You have to anchor your ropes well tho. I don't think this would be effective for glass.
 Quoting: Lil Sis

You're exactly right about needing to prevent billowing/flapping.

My strategy is to use 2 layers of greenhouse plastic and little "squirrel cage fans" to inflate the space in between them to make it like a rigid balloon. It's kind of amazing how well that works, the inflated tunnels just seem to laugh at 70-80 MPH winds that have shattered our windows and toppled our neighbors trees.

If I only used 1 layer of greenhouse plastic, the straps would be an absolute necessity, or my tunnel would get shredded within weeks here on the open plains.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


Are your squirrel cage fans powered by the wind blowing through them, or are they electric, That is such a good idea!!

You could not keep a greenhouse here, or a canvas garage, without straps or ropes. Wind comes up the canyon and straight over the hill to my house. I have been out in a wind with 50mph gusts trying to restrain one of those canvas garages, ended up running ropes out through the side and over the ridgepole and down through sides again and through a car parked inside to keep the darned thing from taking off.
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Lil Sis

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07/07/2014 11:41 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Very informative...a wealth of info here, thank you for sharing this.

What the deal with Romain lettuce, does that adapt well?
 Quoting: CMcC


Romain lettuce is the most efficient lettuce to grow. It gives more lettuce bulk wise than other lettuces, per sq inch of row space. It is less prone to bolting/wilting and produces better per sq inch than leaf lettuce. It is ready to eat sooner than head lettuce, and less prone to slugs and the like. You can pick the outer leaves only for your salad, leaving the rest. By not having to cut the whole head, you prolong your harvest. It is pretty cold hardy. It tastes good.
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Corruptisima re publica plurimae leges. ~ Terence
Anonymous Coward
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07/08/2014 12:29 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
My high tunnel aquaponic garden was previously featured on C2C back in 2011 shortly after I had built it: [link to www.coasttocoastam.com]

I'm writing to share an update because my project has expanded to such a degree--and in such strange directions--that I think a lot of you will be fascinated by what I'm doing and will hopefully be inspired to create your own systems.

I now not only grow huge amounts of blue tilapia (more than enough to feed my family), I successfully grow lots of edible bananas, figs, and other tropical crops here in Kansas...using almost no electricity or complex technology.

My main goal has been to figure out how to grow healthy 'real' food year-round in a state with harsh winters. My first system, the one featured on C2C, accomplished this via what I call high tunnel aquaponics. Here is a brief pictorial tour showing how that system progressed from 'boring' vegetables into a rainforest burgeoning with bananas and papayas: [link to www.greenfingardens.com] . That system satisfied my goal fairly well and was fairly inexpensive ($2,500 to build myself), but it was more complicated than most folks would want to manage, so I tried to come up with a better system that more people could adopt.

My second year-round food production system is far simpler and even more productive: a well insulated semi-pit tunnel greenhouse that is very cheap ($1,500 to build myself), extremely robust (withstanding winds in the 70-80 mph range on a half-dozen occasions), easy to manage, and, most important, amazingly productive. Even without heating, the lowest the temperature got in there this past winter was 39F...despite three separate polar vortexes that plunged our outdoor air temps to -10F. That allows me to not only grow enough vegetables over the winter to feed a small army (especially stuff like lettuce, spinach, beets, and even sweet potatoes), but to also grow fun tropical and semi-tropical crops like bananas and figs. Sure the bananas stop growing for a few months and die back a bit in the dead of winter, but they come roaring back in the spring because it just doesn't get cold enough to do substantial damage to them. What's more, this makes for a perfect environment for safely raising native fish like catfish year-round. The only power this system really needs is a measly 40 watts to power a small inflation fan that inflates the space between the two layers of greenhouse plastic. This inflation not only creates an extremely effective layer of insulation, it provides rigidity to the plastic, causing wind to slide over it rather than whip and shred it. Here's a pictorial tour that shows the construction and the various crops I've grown in there: [link to www.greenfingardens.com]

These are just simple test systems, but they have been amazingly productive. Hopefully they'll inspire other folks to create their own such systems...or even better systems!

My Dad is Type 2 diabetic, and I started this project primarily as a means to help keep him healthy if he were unable to get his meds for an extended period. It then quickly expanded into a search for a good answer to the question, "How can we keep everyone well-fed regardless of circumstances, whether it's war, pandemics, economic collapse, power grid failure, EMP's, shipping breakdowns, solar flares, peak oil, radical climate change, nuclear meltdowns, etc?" I don't know when or if most of those things will occur, but I sincerely believe that there are simple--and easily scalable--methods for safeguarding ourselves against them, at least from a food-production standpoint. If people lose access to food, society will disintegrate; but if we can all remain well-fed in a calamity, that gives us a good chance at not just surviving it, but thriving in spite of it.

That's why my big-picture goal is to create arrays of decent sized (~10 acre) highly intensive off-grid greenhouse food production facilities, arranged in satellite fashion around communities, that can provide a complete and exceptionally healthy diet that is entirely produced within a few miles of where it is eaten. Virtually anything can be grown in this manner by tailoring the design of each greenhouse to naturally provide the specific environmental needs of whatever is being grown in it. This style of hyperlocalized food production would not only allow folks to have direct and constant access to healthier food (no need for GMO's in our pampered greenhouse environments, for example), we'd get far tastier food, since we'd grow the best tasting varieties rather than the best shipping varieties, and we'd pick them when they're ripe rather than when they'd ship the best.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope it can be helpful to some of you.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


How does it gravity feed back into the system exactly?, and why do use reflectix on one side?
Anonymous Coward
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07/08/2014 12:31 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
My high tunnel aquaponic garden was previously featured on C2C back in 2011 shortly after I had built it: [link to www.coasttocoastam.com]

I'm writing to share an update because my project has expanded to such a degree--and in such strange directions--that I think a lot of you will be fascinated by what I'm doing and will hopefully be inspired to create your own systems.

I now not only grow huge amounts of blue tilapia (more than enough to feed my family), I successfully grow lots of edible bananas, figs, and other tropical crops here in Kansas...using almost no electricity or complex technology.

My main goal has been to figure out how to grow healthy 'real' food year-round in a state with harsh winters. My first system, the one featured on C2C, accomplished this via what I call high tunnel aquaponics. Here is a brief pictorial tour showing how that system progressed from 'boring' vegetables into a rainforest burgeoning with bananas and papayas: [link to www.greenfingardens.com] . That system satisfied my goal fairly well and was fairly inexpensive ($2,500 to build myself), but it was more complicated than most folks would want to manage, so I tried to come up with a better system that more people could adopt.

My second year-round food production system is far simpler and even more productive: a well insulated semi-pit tunnel greenhouse that is very cheap ($1,500 to build myself), extremely robust (withstanding winds in the 70-80 mph range on a half-dozen occasions), easy to manage, and, most important, amazingly productive. Even without heating, the lowest the temperature got in there this past winter was 39F...despite three separate polar vortexes that plunged our outdoor air temps to -10F. That allows me to not only grow enough vegetables over the winter to feed a small army (especially stuff like lettuce, spinach, beets, and even sweet potatoes), but to also grow fun tropical and semi-tropical crops like bananas and figs. Sure the bananas stop growing for a few months and die back a bit in the dead of winter, but they come roaring back in the spring because it just doesn't get cold enough to do substantial damage to them. What's more, this makes for a perfect environment for safely raising native fish like catfish year-round. The only power this system really needs is a measly 40 watts to power a small inflation fan that inflates the space between the two layers of greenhouse plastic. This inflation not only creates an extremely effective layer of insulation, it provides rigidity to the plastic, causing wind to slide over it rather than whip and shred it. Here's a pictorial tour that shows the construction and the various crops I've grown in there: [link to www.greenfingardens.com]

These are just simple test systems, but they have been amazingly productive. Hopefully they'll inspire other folks to create their own such systems...or even better systems!

My Dad is Type 2 diabetic, and I started this project primarily as a means to help keep him healthy if he were unable to get his meds for an extended period. It then quickly expanded into a search for a good answer to the question, "How can we keep everyone well-fed regardless of circumstances, whether it's war, pandemics, economic collapse, power grid failure, EMP's, shipping breakdowns, solar flares, peak oil, radical climate change, nuclear meltdowns, etc?" I don't know when or if most of those things will occur, but I sincerely believe that there are simple--and easily scalable--methods for safeguarding ourselves against them, at least from a food-production standpoint. If people lose access to food, society will disintegrate; but if we can all remain well-fed in a calamity, that gives us a good chance at not just surviving it, but thriving in spite of it.

That's why my big-picture goal is to create arrays of decent sized (~10 acre) highly intensive off-grid greenhouse food production facilities, arranged in satellite fashion around communities, that can provide a complete and exceptionally healthy diet that is entirely produced within a few miles of where it is eaten. Virtually anything can be grown in this manner by tailoring the design of each greenhouse to naturally provide the specific environmental needs of whatever is being grown in it. This style of hyperlocalized food production would not only allow folks to have direct and constant access to healthier food (no need for GMO's in our pampered greenhouse environments, for example), we'd get far tastier food, since we'd grow the best tasting varieties rather than the best shipping varieties, and we'd pick them when they're ripe rather than when they'd ship the best.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope it can be helpful to some of you.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


Fantastic job bro!! I work in a hydroponic lettuce half tunnel. I have a permaculture background and got inspired to create one more self- sustaining, and you nailed it!!! So happy to see you photos, it looks amazing.

Question- how do you collect the water that filters down thru the river gravel? Is there a liner or something not pictured? And, do you just let it gravity drain out of the fish tank strait into the gravel bed?
rockon
KillerB

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07/08/2014 12:46 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
My high tunnel aquaponic garden was previously featured on C2C back in 2011 shortly after I had built it: [link to www.coasttocoastam.com]

I'm writing to share an update because my project has expanded to such a degree--and in such strange directions--that I think a lot of you will be fascinated by what I'm doing and will hopefully be inspired to create your own systems.

I now not only grow huge amounts of blue tilapia (more than enough to feed my family), I successfully grow lots of edible bananas, figs, and other tropical crops here in Kansas...using almost no electricity or complex technology.

My main goal has been to figure out how to grow healthy 'real' food year-round in a state with harsh winters. My first system, the one featured on C2C, accomplished this via what I call high tunnel aquaponics. Here is a brief pictorial tour showing how that system progressed from 'boring' vegetables into a rainforest burgeoning with bananas and papayas: [link to www.greenfingardens.com] . That system satisfied my goal fairly well and was fairly inexpensive ($2,500 to build myself), but it was more complicated than most folks would want to manage, so I tried to come up with a better system that more people could adopt.

My second year-round food production system is far simpler and even more productive: a well insulated semi-pit tunnel greenhouse that is very cheap ($1,500 to build myself), extremely robust (withstanding winds in the 70-80 mph range on a half-dozen occasions), easy to manage, and, most important, amazingly productive. Even without heating, the lowest the temperature got in there this past winter was 39F...despite three separate polar vortexes that plunged our outdoor air temps to -10F. That allows me to not only grow enough vegetables over the winter to feed a small army (especially stuff like lettuce, spinach, beets, and even sweet potatoes), but to also grow fun tropical and semi-tropical crops like bananas and figs. Sure the bananas stop growing for a few months and die back a bit in the dead of winter, but they come roaring back in the spring because it just doesn't get cold enough to do substantial damage to them. What's more, this makes for a perfect environment for safely raising native fish like catfish year-round. The only power this system really needs is a measly 40 watts to power a small inflation fan that inflates the space between the two layers of greenhouse plastic. This inflation not only creates an extremely effective layer of insulation, it provides rigidity to the plastic, causing wind to slide over it rather than whip and shred it. Here's a pictorial tour that shows the construction and the various crops I've grown in there: [link to www.greenfingardens.com]

These are just simple test systems, but they have been amazingly productive. Hopefully they'll inspire other folks to create their own such systems...or even better systems!

My Dad is Type 2 diabetic, and I started this project primarily as a means to help keep him healthy if he were unable to get his meds for an extended period. It then quickly expanded into a search for a good answer to the question, "How can we keep everyone well-fed regardless of circumstances, whether it's war, pandemics, economic collapse, power grid failure, EMP's, shipping breakdowns, solar flares, peak oil, radical climate change, nuclear meltdowns, etc?" I don't know when or if most of those things will occur, but I sincerely believe that there are simple--and easily scalable--methods for safeguarding ourselves against them, at least from a food-production standpoint. If people lose access to food, society will disintegrate; but if we can all remain well-fed in a calamity, that gives us a good chance at not just surviving it, but thriving in spite of it.

That's why my big-picture goal is to create arrays of decent sized (~10 acre) highly intensive off-grid greenhouse food production facilities, arranged in satellite fashion around communities, that can provide a complete and exceptionally healthy diet that is entirely produced within a few miles of where it is eaten. Virtually anything can be grown in this manner by tailoring the design of each greenhouse to naturally provide the specific environmental needs of whatever is being grown in it. This style of hyperlocalized food production would not only allow folks to have direct and constant access to healthier food (no need for GMO's in our pampered greenhouse environments, for example), we'd get far tastier food, since we'd grow the best tasting varieties rather than the best shipping varieties, and we'd pick them when they're ripe rather than when they'd ship the best.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope it can be helpful to some of you.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


Op I hope your thread gets super pinned and stays up for some time. We are wanting to do what you have done. Your photos are amazing. We are spending almost if not over most weeks 500.00 on food. Organic fresh produce is expensive and each time I shop it's up more in price. You are a blessing to your family.
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Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 09:10 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Are your squirrel cage fans powered by the wind blowing through them, or are they electric, That is such a good idea!!
 Quoting: Lil Sis

My first attempt at inflation was with pure wind-powered inflation (I once saw a pic of an Amish fellow's contraption of that type), but it didn't work well enough, so now I use electric squirrel cage fans. The fan kits are ~$140 and use around 10 cents of electricity per day.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Very informative...a wealth of info here, thank you for sharing this.

What the deal with Romain lettuce, does that adapt well?
 Quoting: CMcC


Romain lettuce is the most efficient lettuce to grow. It gives more lettuce bulk wise than other lettuces, per sq inch of row space. It is less prone to bolting/wilting and produces better per sq inch than leaf lettuce. It is ready to eat sooner than head lettuce, and less prone to slugs and the like. You can pick the outer leaves only for your salad, leaving the rest. By not having to cut the whole head, you prolong your harvest. It is pretty cold hardy. It tastes good.
 Quoting: Lil Sis

Now I'm definitely going to grow it :)
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 09:23 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
How does it gravity feed back into the system exactly?, and why do use reflectix on one side?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 583787

The growbed is higher than the water level in the fish tank, and I have a hole in the side of the fish tank wall so that water from the grow bed can flow downhill through that hole and back into the fish tank, making a small waterfall.

I use the reflective material primarily to bounce light down into the water/gravel in front of it, which allows me to capture and hold more heat. It's for helping to keep the system's temp up as high as possible in the winters, but I leave it up in the summer because it's a hassle to take down and put back up. In the summer, the sun is high enough overhead that the light comes mostly straight down, so the reflectors don't do much reflecting in the summer. That let's me get away with leaving it in place without causing the system to overheat. But in the winters when the sun stays much lower, it catches and reflects the light.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 09:30 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Fantastic job bro!! I work in a hydroponic lettuce half tunnel. I have a permaculture background and got inspired to create one more self- sustaining, and you nailed it!!! So happy to see you photos, it looks amazing.

Question- how do you collect the water that filters down thru the river gravel? Is there a liner or something not pictured? And, do you just let it gravity drain out of the fish tank strait into the gravel bed?
rockon
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 60026679

Thanks for the kind words :)

Yes, I use a thick pond liner under the gravel to hold everything in.

When I originally built the system, I pumped out of the grow bed into the fish tank, and allowed the fish tank to gravity drain back into the growbed.

This past winter the system got a leak, and to make a long story about complications short, the easiest engineering solution was to drop the fish tank water level by about a foot and reverse the flows, so now the grow bed is higher and I pump out of the fish tank and allow the water to gravity drain from the grow bed back into the fish tank.
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Op I hope your thread gets super pinned and stays up for some time. We are wanting to do what you have done. Your photos are amazing. We are spending almost if not over most weeks 500.00 on food. Organic fresh produce is expensive and each time I shop it's up more in price. You are a blessing to your family.
 Quoting: KillerB

That's very nice of you to say. Thank you :)

Last summer and fall I ate virtually all of my breakfasts and lunches directly out of the garden without even bringing the food inside! I really like cucumbers and absolutely love sweet corn, so I would just go pick them fresh and eat my meals as I walked around out there. Then for dinner I'd often have corn-on-the-cob, fried or baked zucchini, and fried or baked fish.

In the winters I have GIANT salads every day, sometimes twice a day. I love spinach, and I grow more than we can possibly eat, but I certainly try to eat as much as I can! And all the leftover greens get thrown into the fish tank and turn into clean white meat. It's awesome how blue tilapia convert algae and extra garden greens/vegetables into tasty filets. And their feed-conversion ratio is unbelievable, since they just float around all day without having to expend energy fighting gravity like land animals do.

My grocery bill has dropped drastically from all this...as has my waist line! And I feel so much healthier, too. I definitely highly recommend it.

Now I'm hungry :)
Anonymous Coward
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07/08/2014 10:04 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
How do you keep the fish poop from clogging up the gravel?
Anonymous Coward
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07/08/2014 10:55 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Op, this is so Awesome! Thank you for sharing it with us:):):)
Where did you get the banana tress?
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 11:02 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
How do you keep the fish poop from clogging up the gravel?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 52952693

I stocked the gravel grow bed with red wiggler composting worms. I originally stocked it with one pound of worms; now they maintain a population that is probably over 100,000.

The composting worms survive underwater in this environment because the water is so well aerated that they can absorb adequate oxygen from the water right through their skin. They spend their days below the gravel feasting on fish poop, then come up at night and hang out on the surface.

Composting worms do several important things:

1) eat copious amounts of fish poop, thereby preventing clogs;

2) eat little pathways through the gravel, thereby constantly creating new little waterways through any area that does happen to get clogged;

3) after the worms get done digesting the fish poop, the nutrients are something like 6 times more readily absorbed by the plants (or so I've read);

4) they supply a food source for the adolescent fish that I keep in the side pool that I excavated out of the gravel. When a worm pokes his head into the fish area, the fish notice, and if they're hungry, the worm gets eaten. With so many worms in the gravel, there's a seemingly never-ending source of food for those fish. That also helps cut down on how much I have to feed the fish.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 11:12 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Op, this is so Awesome! Thank you for sharing it with us:):):)
Where did you get the banana tress?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 59928500

I ordered most of them from online specialty nurseries.

The one that I would feel most comfortable recommending is Going Bananas. They sell good-sized pups. (pups are the new plants growing off of the base of an established plant)

Another one I would recommend is Wellspring Gardens. They sell very small starter plants that were produced via tissue culture in a lab. Such plants are much more dainty and delicate starting off, and are therefore much easier to lose to the elements. So if you're wanting a sturdier plant, you should order pups instead.

Those 2 companies have never sent me a mislabeled plant. Other companies that I have ordered from have done an atrocious job of sending me the correct varieties (some are outright shysters), but those 2 mentioned above have consistently been accurate for me and the other collectors who order from them.

I have no affiliation whatsoever with either of those companies, I recommend them solely because they've proven to be the best and most reliable.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 11:16 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Here's a link to Going Bananas, it's a fun site to look through: [link to www.going-bananas.com]
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 11:53 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Some of you have contacted me through my GreenFin Gardens website and asked about getting some fish via FedEx to grow. I can do that, just give me a couple of days to set up some online purchase buttons. I've got a lot of work I need to do outside after the severe storm we had last night.

BTW, I'm also in the process of building out some other sites that are meant to be more focused on particular side-aspects of what I'm doing. Here's how it's supposed to be (and will be as I build them out over time):

www.GreenFinGardens.com - mainly a diary blog about my attempts at year-round food production to feed my Dad

www.KansasTilapia.com - all things tilapia, but geared toward us Kansans (so kind of farming oriented)

www.TilapiaBroodstock.com - focused on adult broodstock that people can use to start breeding their own food supply right away

www.TilapiaPondStocking.com - focused on blue tilapia as a natural way to clear ponds and lakes of unwanted algae/vegetation while also supercharging game fish growth (the tilapia eat the algae/vegetation, and then the bass/crappie/catfish/etc gorge on the tilapia, especially in the fall when water temps get too cold for the tilapia)

www.TilapiaFryAndFingerlings.com - focused on the little fellas


Like I said, you can't get anything through those websites right now (they're just educational), but I'll go ahead and set things up over the next couple of days so that you can if you want.


In case any of you are curious, the reason why I specialize in Blue Tilapia is because they're substantially more cold hardy than other types of tilapia (surviving down to around 47F, whereas other types of tilapia die off in the mid to upper 50's) and because they're better at filter feeding (algae/bacteria in the water column sticks to mucus in the back of their throats, which they then swallow and digest).
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 11:59 AM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Well, clearly I'm no expert at sharing live links, lol. Let me try that again:

[link to www.greenfingardens.com]

[link to www.kansastilapia.com]

[link to www.tilapiabroodstock.com]

[link to www.tilapiapondstocking.com]

[link to www.tilapiafryandfingerlingsforsale.com]
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/08/2014 12:36 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
If any of you are interested, my local newspaper did a story on my tilapia/banana setup recently: [link to themercury.com] (unfortunately, they only give a blip and a pic for free, and charge $1.99 to read the whole thing)

I wish I hadn't been a sweaty mess when they stopped by, but it's not like I look all that much better when I clean up pimp so I shouldn't complain.





GLP