Convert Your Vegetable Garden Into An Aquaponics System

Living a sustainable life isn't just about installing solar panels on your roof, it is about evaluating other areas of your life as well. In particular, it is still quite difficult to get affordable, locally grown produce all year long. Fortunately, some work on your backyard to create a hydroponics system can help solve this problem.

1. Build Raised Beds for Larger Vegetables and Fruits

Raised beds increase the production yield versus tilling up a corner of your yard and make it easier for you to work. In this case, it will make it easier to add the fertilizer gained from your fish each year. Small lettuces, carrots and other hydroponic vegetables will go inside to grow year-round, but a lot of plants will not do well in that environment. This is the space your want to use to grow broccoli, corn, potatoes and the rest of your big favorites.

You can build your bed out of anything you want, but to maximize the green factor, look for recycled materials. This can be anything from old drums sawed in half, to reclaimed wood or recycled plastic. Using a raised bed will help you reduce watering and weeding, but you can add a watering system and plastic covers as well if you want to make your plants even easier to care for. You won't need to buy fertilizer for the beds, since you can use organic household waste, as well as the filtered fish waste to turn the beds each spring.

2. Convert Leafy Vegetables and Smaller Vegetables to Hydroponics

It only takes a bit of research to find plant varieties that have been cultivated to thrive on hydroponic farming. Most are smaller vegetables, but there are a few larger varieties as well. In order to keep the system running year round, you will probably want to put the hydroponic system in a greenhouse. Many aquaponics enthusiasts combine the protection of a greenhouse with a solar heating system to keep the air and water at the optimal temperature, even during cold periods.

There are a few modifications you will need to make from a traditional hydroponics system to convert it to aquaponics. First, you cannot use any chemicals as they would kill the fish. Second, while you should still test the water to ensure the system is working properly, you won't need to use chemicals to regulate the toxins as the fish will do that for you. Finally, you will need to modify the plumbing so that it runs through the fish tanks before it is filtered and returned to the plants.

3. Use the Waste Water From the Hydroponics to Raise Fish

The reason that most hydroponic systems use chemicals to treat the water is that the growing process releases toxins into the water that will kill the plants over time. By using the waste water from your hydroponics you are creating a more natural cycle. The waste from the fish feeds the plants and the waste from the plants is cleaned by the fish. Tilapia are a common choice since they are easy to raise and tasty to eat, but there are plenty of other options, including Koi or goldfish.

If you don't want to do a lot of research on your own, you will need a set of plans to create your water system. At minimum, you will need a water storage tank, a fish tank, and a filter in addition to your hydroponic beds. The size and style of each system will depend on your needs and budget. There are both commercial and home-built plans for each step in the system. Each spring, you can remove the solid waste from your filter and mix it into your raised beds to keep them properly fertilized. Consider talking with a landscaping specialist for more information and tips.

With enough space, this setup can be used to be the primary food source for your entire family. They are commonly found as part of prepper setups, but they make a sustainable food source for any family that is very inexpensive to maintain.