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.)