Gayndah gardener hooked
Fishy gardening system attracts growing interest
The plants will now do alright in extreme heat with this system because their roots will always be in the water.
— Michael Higginson
GAYNDAH resident Michael Higginson has, with the help of local perma-culture buff Isaaq Smith turned to new methods for growing garden vegetables.
Mr Higginson had been considering aquaponics for a number of years but only now has found the time to dive into it.
“I’ve had the material here for two years so it’s about time we made something of it,” Mr Higginson said.
“I went down to Brisbane a few years ago and did a workshop on aquaponics and figured I had to put what I learned from that expensive workshop into action.”
Aquaponics is described as the combination of both aquaculture and hydroponics.
Mr Higginson’s system will feature plants growing in beds of stones. It will use recirculated water along with faeces from fish housed in a tank to add nutrients to the plants.
“The plants will now do alright in extreme heat with this system because their roots will always be in the water,” Mr Higginson said.
“We have to cover the water tank though, to make sure the water doesn’t get too warm for the fish.”
A silver tarp will cover the tank, not only preventing the water from overheating but also stopping algae build-up in the tanks.
“The fish like darker areas so it will keep them happy,” Mr Higginson said.
The water is then distributed around the sides of the garden bed before being drained down the middle to start the whole cycle again. When the water reaches a certain level it starts to siphon which then drains the tank automatically. The system is non-mechanical.
Another method being employed to prevent overheating of the plants is to lay white rock over the top of the other rocks. So long as the rocks remain wet the plants are able to get their nutrients from them.
“The white rocks won’t retain as much heat,” Mr Higginson said.
“There are better mediums to use but heaps of people do use rock.”
He said plants can be grown in floating foam rafts that sit on the water surface.
Mr Higginson had intentions on starting this project after first finishing the aquaponics course.
“I then had someone come up and do a soil biology study here but then the floods came and things went haywire,” he said.
The first plants to go into the new self-sustaining system were tomato seedlings and mint.
Mr Smith said a lot of variables come into play with growing plants in a closed system.
“You don’t need to water them if the system is doing its job,” Mr Smith said.
“But the growth varies on how well tuned the system is, if it is perfectly tuned it seems to grow a bit faster than in ground but that does vary because it’s a biological system.”
Mr Higginson said many varieties of fish can be cultivated in an aquaponic system with species selection based on factors such as local government regulations.
“The plants will get nourished by the fish poo and the water will be cleaned for the fish by the system,” he said.
One of the major benefits of an aquaponic system is there is no weeding, no fertilisers and will only employ the same power as it takes to run two light bulbs in your own home.
Michael Higginson and Isaac Smith set up the aquaponic growing system.
GROWING INTEREST: Michael Higginson installs his new aquaponic garden bed with the help of some keen volunteers. PHOTOS: ADAM MCCLEERY