Saturday, October 1, 2016

Walipini with Aquaponics Growing Season

I'm sure most of you wonder "How long is the growing season in a Walipini?" Well, that depends on a number of things. For example: the winter conditions you had that season, the cover you have on the top, the depth of the walipini are just to name a few. I can grow all year round in mine, HOWEVER....I do have to make some modifications to do so. We live in Northern Colorado so our climate is cold here in the winter. If I chose not to make the modifications then my growing season would be around 9 to 10 months. Still not bad. I thought I would post some photos of what I have growing as of today right now Oct. 1st. It has been chilly here at nights and my outside plants have all died and most of the trees have lost their leaves.
Beautiful Cantaloupe and yes this is in my aquaponics system!

Flowering Jalapeno
Early this year I had an unplanned back surgery and wasn't able to really get in and get a good start like normal to my growing season. That being said, I was able to go down and just throw seeds at will and said what grows will grow. Normally this is not how I start my plants. It is harder to get them to start for sure. The way this system is set up the water just doesn't reach the top of the media to reach the smaller seeds to germinate them (unless you hand water the media). To my surprise, I actually had quite a few plants grow and the little seeded ones too. Yes!!! I normally start them in dirt just like everyone else. Just when they have a root system about an 1" to 2" I will take them out of the dirt and move them to the system. I will then put a clear plastic party cup over each plant to help insulate the plant and give it a little more warmth and humidity. They usually have no problem and take off from there. This way its nice because I'm able to put my plants where I want them. As far as this year was a jungle down there at times!
We currently are still producing tomatoes. Even have some red ones that were just picked. However, these tomato plants are starting to get the winter blues. It won't be long and I will start to pluck these plants and turn the media. Since I have 15 grow beds I usually shut down 10 of them for the winter and keep 5 of them running. This helps with the heating bill. I do have to heat that area. Its too cold...and not to mention if you are trying to keep the optimum nitrification levels in  your water, then you will need to keep your water above 55 degrees F as well. Otherwise you will be starting the whole start up process over of cycling your tank and system. Fun, Fun! Over the 5 grow beds I usually just make a simple little makeshift room out of Styrofoam, add some grow lights over the beds (these provide enough heat for the plants) and your done. I also put a layer of  Styrofoam over the pond (from edge to edge) with a fish tank heater inside the pond. The reason I cover the pond is the condensation. (I will cover this in another blog post) Plus this also helps hold in the heat to the pond and not the Walipini. 

With all the stuff I have gone through with mine its so nice still and I still love it. During the weather its really been a blessing to have had such a stable thing to protect my plants. We had a huge hail storm in early august here and lots of people lost a lot of crops. My walipini weathered the storm like a champ and the top of my walipini had no damage. I have also been enjoying all the people contacting me about their New Walipini's and Aquaponics Systems that they are setting up. It's so cool to see that everyone has something to offer. I look forward to hearing from all of you! Thanks for reading! 

New Seedlings started
The Start of the Walipini back in the day!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Walipini Design Alterations Sugestions

Now that I have had the Walipini for going on 3 years I would change a few things if I were to do it over. I still love mine, but my mind is a fixer and somethings just need fixing. :)

My first area would be to move it further from my home and chicken yard. I thought putting it where it is would be good for me as it was close to our home and near the water faucet. I did put up a fence around it to keep my chickens, horses and other critters out of there. Don't get me wrong its not terrible where it is at but I would move it further out in a more open area and then fence it off with a wider area between the fence and the Walipini.
Reason #1 when it rains this Walipini needs (in my opinion) some kind of gutter system for the rain. Without one the rain runs off the top and then depending on the slop of the ground it either stays there or finds it way in or around the Walipini. We dug a trench around ours but in a big gully washer....will the gully washer washes out the trench.
Reason #2 with our since its close to our home and the chicken coop, the fencing had to be close to it. This created a problem with weeds growing along and under the lid of the Walipini. I have had a couple of not so big cave-ins in ours due to this and some of the rain. In one area in ours I have a wall that seems always wet. This is the wall that I figure that sooner or later I will have to put something there to stabilize that area.

My Second change would be to the size of the roof over the whole in the ground. I put it 2' over but I think I would go 3' now.
Reason #1 Lets face it you will eventually have some sort of a wall break off here and there. No biggie...but I'm sure like me you don't know what is down further than 3 feet. We seem to have more of a sandy layer that is not as stable as I would like. If expanded over a bit further it would just give you a bit of a cushion that you might need. Also, I spray weed killer just under the lid on the original ground area. These areas are a bug, fly, bee, spider magnet. I just make sure that there is nothing in that area for hiding.

My Third change, and this one is still a toss up, is the ramp into the Walipini itself. I like that is big and if I need to get a bobcat down there to do some work it's great. Problem is when it rains that's a big ramp rain catcher and all that rain runs down into the Walipini. Also, when it snows that ramp fills up with snow and same issue when it melts. I did add a smaller ramp on the other side for an escape if I needed one but that one fills up with tumbleweeds, rain and snow as well. This isn't a huge issue. It just adds some mud where I want to wear my flip-flops.

My fourth change would be to add a couple of vents on the roof. In the summer this thing get smoking hot...even with a shade cloth, windows and doors open. I eventually had to put a swamp cooler in mine to help in the hot afternoons.  Depending what you use as a roof cover might make a difference in the changing seasons.

Everything else has been great...until our last storm that was a blizzard and brought several of feet of snow with it. We did shovel off the top but some of the 2x4's inside didn't make it. Also, on one side we did have a large cave in from the weight on the top. Currently thinking of mending methods but as you can see from the photos this was a big storm for us. As for the top tarp it held EVERYTHING in place and did not tear or add to the cave-in. That's a plus. We reinforced the inside 2x4's for now fixing the boards that didn't make it for now.

Minus this setback I still love my Walipini and Aquaponics system. Here is a photo of still happy fish after all the damage. (I changed my fish to KOI, reasons will be in another blog post.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Walipini growing season

This year has been amazing! I can for sure say that I LOVE MY WALIPINI and my Aquaponic system. This has been the first year out here in the sticks that I have been able to provide homegrown veggies. I was able to start the plants much earlier in the Walipini and so far have had multiple growing seasons.
Strawberries took off!

Cucumbers and Watermelons are on the right

Baby Watermelon

My first crop from the Walipini veggies

Watermelon started from seed in system

Since I planed so early at night I covered the little ones with cups. Like a mini greenhouse. Worked great!

Above is my full system at the start of the year. Seems a little empty in this photo when I look at it now....because its a jungle in there now! LOL

Thanks for looking!

Monday, April 14, 2014

PVC Strawberries growing system

Growing in PVC is not a new concept.  I have seen other people do this so I followed "some" of their ideas and put it into a working system with my Aquaponics.  I decided to grow some strawberries in mine. However, this could grow all kinds of things.

What you'll need...
3 - 4" PVC 10'
1 - 1" PVC 4'
1 - 3/4" PVC 3'
6 - 4" PVC Caps
4 - 1" PVC Elbows
1 - 3/4" PVC 45 Elbow
1 - 1"x10' Vinyl Braided Tubing
4 - 1" Uni-seals
2 - 3/4" Uni-seals
1 1/4" Hole Saw bit
1 3/4" Hole Saw bit
3" Hole Saw bit
1/4" Dripline hose
3 - 3/8"x1/4" Brass Barb x MIP Adapter
Hose Clamps
Galvanized Steel Hanger Strap
A few screws to attach Hangers
3" Net Pots
Fish Tank Pump*

Let's chat about the Fish Tank Pump for a minute.  I put a star buy this as not any old pump will work. Depending on your system and the height that the pump is going to have to "push" the water up will determine what kind of pump that you will need. I have a RIO 2500 submersible pump in this system. I needed a pump that had a "max head" of 10'. This pump also has a flow adjustment which is helpful for this.

When I first put this together I attached the ends with 4" Elbows and attached all the pipes together and started it right up. I did run into a problem of the water just skimming on the bottom of the 4" tubes and not reaching my net pots. I finally found an guy on the internet who just glued in a sour cream lid in his to create a dam. Then through the growing season he removes them. That seemed like to much work for me so I changed out our ends and attached the 4" caps instead. I must say the whole system works great. No over flows and the net pots are getting water. By adding the caps and the holes in the middle of the caps this allows the 4" tubes to fill 1/2 way up and then drain. This ensures that your net pots will get wet.

1. Drill your 3" holes in your 4" pipes. Depending on what your going to add you can have different spacing. I would recommend running a chalk line down the 4" tube (makes it easier to drill straight).  I spaced ours 8" on center. I have 14 holes in each pipe.

2. Drill your end caps. 2 of the end caps will need drilled in the middle of the cap with the 1 1/4" hole saw bit.  This is for the 3/4" Uni-seal and the pvc pipe which will attach to the pump and at the very end. The other 4 caps will have the 1 3/4" hold saw bit, 1" Uni-seal and the pvc pipe. Also, on these 4 ends you will need to drill a 3/8 hole to fit the 3/8"x1/4" Brass Barb x MIP Adapter under the middle hole on the lower end of the end cap. This is to help drain the whole tube. (On a side note...Uni-seals are the bomb! I will never use anything different! They hold, don't leak and are so easy to install. I highly recommend them.)
3. Put in the 1" Uni-seals and the 3/8"x1/4" Brass Barb x MIP Adapter in the 4 end caps. You will need a wrench to tighten the brass adapter. At this time cut 4 - 3" long 1" pvc pipe and put in the Uni-seal now. They are tough to put in...a little window cleaner will make it go in easier.

4. Attach the end caps to the 4" pipe. Mine are not glued. They do have a drip leak every now and then but I want to be able to fix or clean out in the future. Hang your 4" pipe. You will need a helper for this. They need to be level and attached with the hanger straps.

5. Now you just need to measure the distance between your 4" pipes to attach the 1" pvc pipe with the 1" elbows. Cut to length.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Aqua....what? Yes Aquaponics. Funny word = amazing results! I'm not really sure when I found this amazing idea online but once I did it was full steam ahead! Of course, I did my research and daydreamed about how this would all come together. Now that my walipini was under construction I was positive that I did not want to plant in the dirt. I need something bigger, better and of course ORGANIC!

Aquaponics is aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. More info for Aquaponics

During my online searches I was surprised that there was not a lot of information on the what and how to build these systems or even buy them for that matter.  Sure there is a company here and there that want your arm and leg as payment for these systems but that's not my style. I wanted a larger system so that I could provide not only for my family but also sell fresh organic produce to my friends. 

I finally ran upon a site that made an aquaponics system out of 55 gal barrels! This system is know better as a Barrel-Ponics system. I thought what a cool idea! Not only can I get these for a little expense but I'm also recycling. After MORE research I finally located my Food-Grade 55 gal plastic barrels in Longmont, CO.

Cut them in 1/2 with a jig saw.
Now on the Barrel-Ponics site you can download a copy of this guys instructions on how to make a 2 bed system out of barrels. This was a great start for me but later found that I just had to improvise and use some solutions from my problem solver brain. We cut the barrels in 1/2 and really scrubbed them out well. Next added a frame to the barrels and finally all the plumbing. (Thanks to the horse barn my plumbing skills are above average)

10 grow beds with pea gravel

After I got the system up and running and all the fine tuning was done I was ready to plant.  In the barrel-ponics manual he said you could use pea gravel as a planting media. BIG mistake! The plants did start to grow in the gravel. However, I tried everything under the sun to lower my constant PH problem. After about 2 months my plants started to suffer from the effects of high PH. I first though this was my well water and finally determined that it was the pea gravel its self that what the issue.
Barrel-Ponics in a walipini

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Into new territory

After meeting a good friend for lunch today and telling her all about my latest and greatest events in my life she has insisted that I start a blog and log my journey with everyone else on the planet as a witness. What she seems so interested in was our new greenhouse and growing system that we put in.
What I have come up with was a combination of a Walipini (underground greenhouse) and an Aquaponic system. The walipini was a no brainier for us as we live out on the prairie. Wind and hail are a norm for us. All the normal greenhouses that you can buy from box stores and such are just no match for what mother nature has in store for us out here. Sure I could buy one, but a day later someone in Kansas would be happy with my new purchase! Therefore after lots of searching and research we decided that a walipini was right for us.

Our Walipini has an inner dimention of 20'x36' and is 6' deep. We also added a ramp big enough for a bobcat in case we ever needed to get something big down there. Yes, we live on acreage in case you were wondering. :)
Post holes down the middle
Set the 12' 4x4 posts. 3' in the ground 9' above