The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!


White Fly

WhiteFlies

In the last few posts, we’ve been all about the Good; but this post is about the Bad and the Ugly! What’s that, you ask. WHITEFLIES!

Don’t let their White Wings fool you. These pests are far from angelic. In fact, today I’ve decided they are pure evil; and they’re sugar addicts to boot.

WhiteFlies are not really flies at all as they are related to the aphid family. There’s a species that’s called Greenhouse WhiteFly (GHWH) and their favorite plant is eggplant. But in our Greenhouse they have decided our Basil is their plant of choice. They are also attacking our Okra and even our lettuce.

WhiteFly Sticky Tabs #1

This is Grow Bed #5 where a lot of sweet Basil is growing. That’s where the major infestation is occurring.

We totally blew it in relation to this infestation because we were going out to the Greenhouse at night when it was cooler. The WhiteFlies were tucked away in their resting mode under the plant leaves and we missed them until they became a full-blown invasion of our beautiful Greenhouse. From our perspective, we had none and a week later we had thousands. UGH!

WhiteFly Sticky Tabs #3

You can’t tell from these pictures but the Basil and small Okra leaves are full of Sticky Gooey WhiteFly excrement.

When we thought we had none, they were going through the mere 18 days of development time necessary at 86 degrees.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this scourge on Greenhouses: “Developmental time (egg to adult) for the GHWF can take from 123 days at 54° F. to only 18 days at 86° F. GHWF eggs hatch and go through several instars (stages of larval growth) while attached to the undersides of leaves. Shortly after hatching, the GHWF larvae attaches into the leaf tissue and begins feeding on plant fluids. It remains attached until it emerges as an adult. While attached, the larvae is covered with a protective skeleton that makes it difficult to kill with insecticides. Adults can begin laying 4-10 eggs per day within 1-2 days after emergence. As the various stages of the GHWF feeds on the plant, it excretes large amounts of honeydew. A black sooty mold can grow on the honeydew that can interfere with leaf photosynthesis and transpiration.”

We’ve pretty much lost our Basil in the back Grow Bed. It’s all sticky with the sugary excrement  of the WhiteFlies. Good bye Pesto and delicious herbal spice. It’s really amazing how quickly what appears as a few WhiteFlies turns into an endless army of these invaders.

WhiteFly Sticky Tabs #5

Thank goodness they don’t seem to be interested in the Corn because it’s not mature yet. But they love the Greek Basil.

We’ve taken the first step at reclaiming our Greenhouse by putting up Sticky WhiteFly Traps. However, we didn’t use them soon enough obviously. Sticky WhiteFly Traps are about detection more than they are about waging war with WhiteFlies.

Take it from us who are learning the hard way, everyone with a Greenhouse Aquaponics system should be putting up Sticky WhiteFly Traps (especially in warm weather) for monitoring WhiteFly adults as soon as a crop is seeded. We sell them on our website Accessories page. Each adult White Fly caught on a trap may prevent 100 eggs from being laid on your plant.  And believe me when I tell you to wear a face mask if you put up traps after the infestation and then deliberately shake the plants where the WhiteFlies are residing. I didn’t and I’m going to drink a nice big glass full of GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) as soon as I finish this post. Somehow, writing this post has turned into my revenge on WhiteFlies.

WhiteFly Sticky Tabs #2

This is also REVENGE!

But the Sticky WhiteFly Traps are only the beginning of our counter attack. Because in a couple of days we’ll be receiving our Encarsia formosa (WhiteFly Parasites). We’re getting the Nile Delta WhiteFly Parasite because it will go after all major types of WhiteFly including Greenhouse, Silverleaf, Sweetpotato and Banded Wing. These Nile Delta guys are actually wasps. You can get them at Hydro-Gardens.

Nile Delta encarsia formosa

Nile Delta encarsia formosa

WASPS! EGAD! That’s fighting with some real big guns. We’re hoping they’re going to be so full of WhiteFlies, they won’t bother with us. Actually, the instructions regarding how to release them say they will only go after WhiteFlies and not plants or people. That’s good news. Here’s how they operate on the battle field.

Below is a photo of a plant leave invested with WhiteFlies. Whitefly_Infested_LeafWhat these WhiteFly Parasites do is actually lay their eggs into WhiteFly larvae. No wonder they are called parasites. WOW! That’s infiltration of the enemy lines at the deepest level. Once that happens the leaves look like the pictures below depending on which kind of WhiteFly is in your Greenhouse. The instructions do say these guys do a better job if you employ them early in the fray. We hope we’re getting a real serious Black Water bunch that can eradicate the infestation after being hired late in the insurrection.

If things go as planed, the back of the leaves where the larvae is turn into this:Encarsia_Parasitized_Leaf

The photo above is of a leaf that was invested with a species of  WhiteFly called Silverleaf after the Nile Delta Parasite laid its eggs inside the WhiteFly larvae. This is good news.Encarsia_Parasitized_LeafGHWF

Here is a leaf that was invested with Greenhouse WhiteFly after the Nile Delta parasite laid its eggs inside the WhiteFly larvae.  Again, this is the good news.

We’ll keep you posted on the process of eradicating WhiteFlies as it progresses. In the meantime, I feel a whole lot better after hitting the Publish button because I have just aided in the eradication of WhiteFlies all over the world.

We really consider ourselves to be peace loving people. We even take most bugs we find in our desert home outside rather than killing them (except black widows). But those WhiteFlies have turned me into a Warrioress who is defending her Greenhouse and her food.

Thanks for being there. Now for that big glass of GSE!

CORN Galore!


In late July the desert monsoons hit and refreshed everything with a down pour of wonderful wetness from above. This photo is a picture of that event. But wait until you see what is growing inside our rain soaked Greenhouse!

Every now and then wonderful summer monsoons hit the high desert of California. This was one of those days.

Every now and then wonderful summer monsoons hit the high desert of California. This was one of those days.

We have Corn. So much Corn it’s growing right out of the roof vent. Corn that started out as pitiful, wispy weak looking leaves, which you can see in the center Grow Bed in the next photo (which we’ve posted before). We want you to see what has happened in six weeks of time to those little plants.

Focus on the uninteresting middle Grow Beds where the little wisps of corn have

Focus on the uninteresting middle Grow Beds where the little wisps of corn have been planted.

Better yet, watch the progression (someone suggested we do time-lapse photos) so that’s what we’re showing. Here’s a photo that was taken about three weeks after the one above.

Queen Corn and their lady in waiting, Greek Basil.

Queen Corn and their lady in waiting, Greek Basil.

Then comes the most recent pictures that were taken six weeks after the first shot with the wispy Corn. These Corn stalks are so thick, they resemble bamboo; and the Corn is growing all the way up to the top of the Greenhouse roof. It’s an amazing sight to see.

Here's the Corn growing up against the roof of our Greenhouse.

Here’s the Corn growing up against the roof of our Greenhouse.

The Corn Silk is beautiful and long. It's the female part of the flower of the corn

The Corn Silk is beautiful and long. It’s the female part of the flower of the corn plant.

The male part of the Corn flower is sitting above the silk at the top of the picture. You need both the tassel looking male flowers and the silk to get corn. Here’s why.

“Corn is monoecious (mon-ee-shuss) which means that there are both male and female flowers on each corn plant. In some monoecious plants, male and female parts are in the same flower. In corn, male and female flowers are in different locations – the male flowers form a tassel which is at the top of the plant. The female flower is located at the junction of leaves and stem. It consists of a collection of hairs (silks) enclosed in the husks of what will become the ears. These silks are pollen-receiving tubes. Wind-blown pollen from the male flowers (tassel) falls on the silks below. Each silk leads to a kernel, and pollen must land on all silks for the ear to fill out completely with kernels. Kernel “skips” (ears only partly filled out with kernels) often are the result of poor pollination. ” (from Growing Sweet Corn in the Backyard Garden)

Last year we planted corn for the first time but never got actual corn to eat. Actually, we didn’t really plant it. We placed a group of rockwool cubes with corn seeds in them in a back Grow Bed, never separated them from each other and just waited to see what would happen. Corn grew but it didn’t pollinate because the plants were too crowded together; and they were competing with tomatoes. Anytime a plant tries to compete with tomatoes, it loses because tomatoes take every bit of the nutrients from the water in order to put out fruit.

So this year we decided to get serious about planting Corn; and it looks like we’re going to be eating Non GMO Corn on the cob soon. We’ll be blogging all about that joyous occasion. In the meantime, just watching this Corn grow is an event all of its own. Below is a photo of one stalk growing right out of the Greenhouse roof vent.

This stalk is going to prove once and for all if we can actually get cobs of corn as it's not being stopped by the roof. For this stalk, the sky is the limit.

This stalk is going to prove once and for all if we can actually get cobs of corn as it’s not being stopped by the roof. For this stalk, the sky is the limit.

 And we’re seeing the correct pollination formula with tassels over silk. YEAH!
But Corn isn’t the only thing growing in our Greenhouse right now. Next to the Corn in those same uninteresting middle Grow Beds in the 2nd picture above is Okra. This is the first time we’ve planted Okra and it loves growing in a Food Forever™ Aquaponics Growing System. Between the tall Okra Leaves and the massive Corn Stalks, walking into that part of the Greenhouse is like walking through a jungle canopy.

Welcome to our jungle canopy with Okra on one side of the Grow Beds and Corn on the other.

Welcome to our jungle canopy with Okra on one side of the Grow Beds and Corn on the other.

In the background of the above photo is Greek Basil. It’s also loving this environment and is growing into lovely bushes of luscious smelling basil.

When Okra flowers it puts out this lovely yellow expression of joy.

When Okra flowers it puts out this lovely yellow expression of joy.

So that’s what’s going on inside the Aquaponics USA Greenhouse this summer. Not to mention the R&D for our commercial-sized Food Forever™ Farm Systems that we’re designing under our new business, at Aquaponics World.net. We can’t show you that Grow Bed as the new designs are proprietary. But I can tell you it’s getting real exciting around here right about now.

Thanks for visiting. All the effort, wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if we didn’t have you to share it with.

We Have Solar, Finally! Part 2


We lucked out and actually had a place to stack the panels on the roof prior to installing them.

We lucked out and actually had a place to stack the panels on the roof prior to installing them.

This was a small section on the original porch roof where the solar water heating system wasn’t. Our Master Carpenter turned into a Solar Panel Installer (even though he’d never done this before in his life); and we were soon installing our ten rows of three panels deep across our new Fishroom roof.

In the background of this photo, you can see our Greenhouse. The new Fishroom sits under the Solar Panels that are already installed. The existing Growroom we built in late 2010, sits under the solar water heater strips and extends about 30 ft. to the left of the photo.

Our plan is to connect all three of these areas together into a single recirculating aquaponics system we’re calling our Micro Food Forever™ Farm, which will be about 1/10th the size of a full commercial-sized Food Forever™ Farm. To learn more about our Food Forever™ Farm designs, go to our new website at Aquaponics World.net.

We started the installation process by securing that expensive hardware to the Fishroom roof.

We started the installation process by securing that expensive hardware to the Fishroom roof.

Here's an up close view of that expensive hardware we realized we needed to purchase to get our Panels secured to the Fishroom roof.

Here’s an up close view of that expensive hardware we realized we needed to purchase to get our Panels secured to the Fishroom roof.

As you can see from the photo below, it requires quite a lot of that hardware to safely secure the Solar Panels especially when you live in the California desert where wind velocities can reach gusts of up to 40-50 miles per hour.

We started the installation process by securing that expensive hardware to the roof first.

The panels were then secured to the hardware starting at one end.

The above photo also shows the solar water heating system that heats our 32 x 18 ft. pool up to 104 degrees F, at which point we refer to it as a large hot tub.

The photo below shows an important piece of the securing hardware that clamps the solar panels to the rails.

The clamps secure the Solar Panels to the rails.

The clamps secure the Solar Panels to the rails.

Below is a front view of the roof line with the Solar Panels installed.

There's a breezeway between the roof and the panels that is about four inches in height.

There’s a breezeway between the roof and the panels that is about four inches in height.

Installing the Solar Panels was only one part of the job. They then had to be wired up by our electrician. The photo below shows the power boxes that were installed to facilitate this wiring process.

There are ten of these power boxes. Each box contains the wiring for three Solar Panels.

There are ten of these power boxes. Each box contains the wiring and circuit breakers for three Solar Panels.

Wiring both the Fishroom and the Solar Panels has constituted a large portion of the money this project is costing. We hired a Master Electrician who does not believe in cutting corners when it comes to wiring. We’ll be posting a Part 3 of this project in which we show photos and describe the parts of the Solar Panel system that are hidden away in our garage and home including the Inverter-Charger, the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) Solar Chargers, the Generator Control Module and the System Control Panel.

This is an Off-The-Grid System. If the Grid goes down, we stay Up! One of the big problems with signing up for free Solar Panels offered by companies that want to use your roofs (they get the rebates) is these are Grid-tied systems. If the Grid goes down, you don’t have electricity.

We also have a Generator (photos coming in Part 3) that automatically starts and connects when the power has been off too long and there is not enough Solar (night) to keep the system going. It is all very transparent, and we only become aware that anything has happened to the grid supply when we hear the  generator start. This smooth transition is done with the support of 10KWH of AGM batteries that will keep us alive for quite a while if the grow lights in the Growroom are off but only several minutes if the grow lights are on. Grow Lights take quite a lot of power; but once you get the right combination, they work like a charm. Below is a photo of our Fluorescent T5′s growing massive amounts of veggies in this perfectly controlled environment.

Our Fluorescent T5's growing lettuce and basil.

Our Fluorescent T5′s growing lettuce and basil.

 Just as we got the final Solar Panels installed, a massive summer monsoon down pour occurred that chased our Installer off the roof.

The best Solar Panel Installer in the business. A real "Jack" of all trades.

The best Solar Panel Installer in the business. A real “Dan” of all trades.

Here’s a photo of our Greenhouse in the midst of that down pour. Just wait until you see what’s growing inside of it, which we’ll be sharing in our next post.

Every now and then wonderful summer monsoons hit the high desert of California. This was one of those days.

Every now and then wonderful summer monsoons hit the high desert of California. This was one of those days.

Thanks again for following our Blog. It’s so much fun to share the joy of being aquaponics farmers.

We Have Solar! Finally!


We did it!  We got our Solar Panels up on the new Fishroom Roof!

Our Fishroom Roof with Solar Panels!

Our Fishroom Roof with Solar Panels!

What a project this has been. It all started when we discovered Sun Electronics in Miami, Florida was selling Solar Panels for about $1 a Watt. We also knew we could pick them up at a distribution center in Phoenix. This company is now selling panels for 72 cents per Watt. This was late 2011. Next to the Solar Panels, you can see our Solar Water Heating System which took up all of the porch roof we doubled in size when we first moved to the desert in 2006.

The joy of watching fish and plants grow.

The joy of watching fish and plants grow.

We had sold three of our Food Forever™ Growing Systems to three elementary schools in Tucson, Arizona, and we planned to deliver and install them during the 2011 Christmas break. So it would be the perfect time to pick up our Solar Panels with the U-Haul we rented to make the school deliveries. This saved a lot of money on shipping of the Solar Panels. The photo above was taken in early 2012 about three months after we installed one of the three Food Forever™ Growing System in the Davis Bilingual Elementary School Library.

Now, back to the Solar Panels. The following photos show the process of getting our Solar Panels into the now empty U-Haul.

We really thought we'd be able to go home and get these panels up in a month or so. One and a half years later, they're up.

We really thought we’d be able to go home and get these panels up in a month or so. One and a half years later, they’re up.

The Solar Panels are going into the empty U-Haul.

The Solar Panels are going into the empty U-Haul.

Oliver, our System Designer, watches the loading process.

Oliver, our System Designer, watches the loading process.

Done deal; and we're back on the I-10 to Yucca Valley.

Done deal; and we’re back on the I-10 to Yucca Valley.

This purchase cost approximately $6,000. But we unwittingly neglected to purchase the hardware necessary to secure the Solar Panels to the structure that was to hold them. That hardware, which was also purchased from Sun Electronics, cost another $3,000. So far our Solar project has cost $9,000. We paid labor hours for two System Installers who were hired to install the three Tucson school systems so about $150 extra was paid in the hours it took to pick up the Solar Panels.

Then came the big delay in the project, a delay that lasted one and a half years while our beautiful Solar Panels sat useless in the garage waiting to be installed and our electric bill kept going higher and higher. They became a cumbersome fixture in the garage where they were shown to many Tour participants and touted as a project that was to be completed sometime in the near future.

Why the delay? We had no where to put our Solar Panels. Our south facing house roof had already been taken by our solar pool heating system. Those are the black rubber strips right next to the Solar Panels.

Our Solar Panels on the Fishroom Roof next to our Solar Water Heater

Our Solar Panels on the Fishroom Roof next to our Solar Water Heater

So we were going to have to build something to hold the Solar Panels. Our first thought was to build a roof only structure that would extend from our existing growroom addition lengthwise toward the greenhouse. Then came the dellimma about what to make this structure out of–wood or iron. Then came the consideration about making a possible move to Arizona, which we dropped given how far back a move would take us in our business and our Solar Panel project.

Finally, we decided to stay put and build an addition to our existing Growroom in the form of a Fishroom so we could separate the indoor growing area from the fish tanks. The following photos show that Fishroom building process.

Our Master Carpenter, Dan, measures the roof line

Our Master Carpenter, Dan, measures the roof line

The outer wall studs are in place.

The outer wall studs are in place.

We had to give up some of our original deck area to add this room. We put a solid floor over the decking and added two drains.

Here's what the inside wall of the Fishroom looks like after we tore off the siding and wired it for our new system.

Here’s what the inside wall of the Fishroom looks like after we tore off the siding and wired it for our new system.

The wall studs are in place along with several roof beams.

The wall studs are in place along with several roof beams.

The supporting posts were placed in a ribar reinforced box according to code.

The supporting posts were placed in a ribar reinforced box according to code.

In order to hold the 30 Solar Panels, the roof had to extend past the Growroom.

In order to hold the 30 Solar Panels, the roof had to extend past the Growroom.

The farthest support beam on the right side of the photo is the one placed in the ribar reinforced and cemented hole.

Wall studs and roof beams in place.

Wall studs and roof beams in place.

Plywood is going up on the roof to receive the finishing roofing material.

Plywood is going up on the roof to receive the finishing roofing material.

The roof edging is in place. The door is the door to our existing Growroom.

The roof edging is in place. The door is the door to our existing Growroom.

We didn’t get a shot of the completed roof without the Solar Panels. Believe us, it was beautiful. We are still in construction on the Fishroom.

Here's the Fishroom as it sits today. The roof has the Solar Panels in place; and the solid floor is finished.

Here’s the Fishroom as it sits today. The roof has the Solar Panels in place; and the solid floor is finished.

As you can see, the room hasn’t been enclosed yet; and, once again due to funds, we may need to delay the finishing of the interior and exterior walls until late Fall.

That’s not going to stop us from completing the floor and moving the four 120 gallon fish tanks and fish into their new Fishroom. Then we’ll be dismantling the Food Forever™ Growing System we call the FFGS-40 that is presently in the Growroom and building our newly designed aquaponics system we are calling our Micro Food Forever™Farm. If you want to learn more about Food Forever™ Farms, visit our new website at Aquaponics World.net. We’re building a single system that will link the Greenhouse to the Growroom and Fishroom. This new system will be growing leafy greens for our local marketplace to prove that money can be made doing aquaponics. Wish us luck.

We started building the Fishroom in February making the finished roof the top priority of that project so we could place the Solar Panels on it. The roof of this Fishroom was designed to hold the thirty Solar Panels. Once the roof was completed, we had to stop the project until we saved up enough money to pay for the extra $3,000 in hardware costs, mentioned above, the electrician and laborer that would be required to get the Solar Panels installed on the roof. We’ll show you the Solar Panel installation process in our next Blog post as this one is getting to be a book.

Thanks so much for following our Blog.  Sharing our adventures (and expenditures) in Aquaponics somehow makes it much more worthwhile.

There’s been a coup in the Greenhouse!


Things change fast in the Greenhouse. We published a beautiful Greenhouse photo (below) in our June 20th Blog post that featured the two Queens of the Greenhouse. They were huge Zucchini plants that were sitting in the back. Greenhouse Full ShotIn that picture, the middle beds had Okra and Corn that were little spindles of growth we hoped would survive. The original Zucchini Queens have been replaced by new Sovereigns, the Corn. It’s unbelievable how quickly and beautifully they are growing. And this corn is among the small number of corn stalks in all of the US that isn’t GMO! And believe it or not, this all happened in 18 Days.

New Queens in the Greenhouse!

New Queens in the Greenhouse!

Now you will notice that we have one rather challenging problem in our herculean efforts to grow corn in our Greenhouse. It’s obvious that at this incredible rate of growth, it won’t be long before our corn stalks reach the ceiling. We’re going to try to bend them forward and are taking the tomato plants that are standing in front of them out of the bed and planting them outside in order to accommodate the corn. We also have a ceiling window we can open to let two of the stalks grow out of the ceiling.

Queen Corn and their lady in waiting, Greek Basil.

Queen Corn and their lady in waiting, Greek Basil.

Next to the corn is a lovely little maid in waiting to the new Queens. It’s a Greek Basil plant. It seems that Basils of many countries love aquaponics systems. Here’s another shot of the Queen Corn, the Basil and the tomato plants.

Queen Corn, Greek Basil, Tomatoes and Okra.

Queen Corn, Greek Basil, Tomatoes and Okra.

Behind the tomato plants in another bed is Okra. We’ve never planted Okra before but it also seems to thrive in an aquaponics system. Apparently, Okra is a flowering plant that puts out edible green seed pods often called lady’s fingers or gumbo. So far, we haven’t seen any pods growing; but we sure do have the leaves.

Our first grow out of Okra.

Our first grow out of Okra.

In this last photo, you see the Queen Corn and the Okra together in one bed. The corn is spread across the back of two of our 11 sq. ft. Grow Beds. About midway in the shot at the top, you can see the roof window we’ll be opening so a couple of stalks can grow out of it.

Queen Corn and our first grow out of Okra.

Queen Corn and our first grow out of Okra.

So that’s the story of the recent Greenhouse coup. We’re learning gardening in this Food Forever™ Growing System as neither myself, Grace, or my partner, Oliver, had ever gardened before we built this aquaponics system and this Greenhouse. What’s important for you to realize if you don’t already know, we live in the California desert where the temperatures were 105 degrees F last week and there is no real soil, just sand. This is a climate-contolled system that is growing so much better than our outside raised bed plants with soil. This system is a great teacher, which explains why schools are buying our Food Forever™ Growing Systems; and we have them in several edible schoolrooms around the U.S.

Thanks for visiting. We’ll keep you posted on how the Queen Corn does as she runs into her “glass ceiling” (polycarbonate actually).

Out of the Grow Bed, Into the Pan and Onto the Plate


Here’s what’s going on in our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse these days.

Greenhouse Full ShotWe just harvested a ton of lettuce and moved into flowering plants. Notice we still have lettuce in the first Grow Bed, which is about to be harvested. In the back bed we have the Queens of the Greenhouse–a couple of huge Zucchini Plants that are pumping out huge Zucchini. The leaves on these plants look like African Elephant ears. They were planted in early April. We’ve got eggplant, tomatoes, okra, peppers and corn in the middle beds.

We’re giving corn another try this summer as we actually got cobs to grow last year; but they didn’t mature into edible corn. I’m so eager to be able to grow non GMO corn, which is pretty much impossible to get in the U.S. these days thanks to Monsanto and friends. I just broke down and ordered non GMO corn flour so I can make my own corn tortillas as tacos is one of our favorite dishes around here. Bob's Red Mill

We just harvested four Zucchini from the Queens; and I can’t wait to get them into the kitchen so I can cut one up and make Italian Zucchini paddies.Four Zucchini and the Queens #1Four Zucchini and the Queens #2

Below are a couple of photos of an outdoor Zucchini Plant that was planted on the same day the indoor plants were placed into our Food Forever™ Growing System. Every day we have to go out and water this puppy. Once we do that this evening after the hot desert sun goes down, it will perk right up and not have those droopy puppy-dog ears.Zucchini in soil #2Zucchini in soil #3

The difference between these two plants is remarkable to say the least; and we’ve hardly done anything in the way of maintenance on the indoor plants. Trimmed off some of those huge elephant ears the other day and that was about it. No watering and no weeding. Aquaponics systems don’t have weeds, and the watering is done automatically in what is called an ebb and flow schedule designed into the system.  That means about every 15 minutes the Grow Bed is flooded with water and then it drains out. This goes on 24/7 with the aide of the Bell Siphon.

So here they are in the pan, thick slices of zucchini that were dunked into a couple of raw whisked eggs and then dipped into Italian Bread crumbs and quick fried.Fried Zucchini Paddies

And from the pan, they went to the plate. I’m not planning on auditioning for Master Chef any time soon; but I had to add a few leaves of our fresh basil (we’re growing tons of it on our growroom right now) for color and image appeal. Notice shadow of the cook in the foreground.Zucchini on the Plate

Here’s a photo of the ingredients that went into making the zucchini paddies. Fresh, just picked zucchini from our Food Forever™ Grow Bed, 2 eggs, some Italian Bread Crumbs, graded cheese, salt, pepper, oregano and our own aquaponically grown dried basel (in the bottle with the yellow lid). Oh, and some Prego on top.Ingredients for Pan Fried Zucchini

This is making me hungry so if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to send the zucchini on the next leg of its journey–into my stomach.

Thanks for visiting.

We’ve got our own Black Soldier Flies!


Black Soldier Fly #1Here they are, one of the most incredible creatures on the planet–Black Soldier Flies–and they’re flying around in our enclosed growroom. Notice their lovely purple and blue iridescent wings. Because we live in the high desert of Southern California, Black Soldier Flies are not native to our environment so for the first several months of owning and trying to operate our new BioPod™, we failed to produce Black Soldier Fly Grubs. I realize for those of you who are not in the know, I need to start at the beginning so this blog post makes sense. Here goes.

Information spreads in an interesting way; and about a year and a half ago, information about a certain kind of fly–a Black Soldier Fly– was flying (pun intended) around in the lexicon among aquaponics enthusiasts. It was purported that this fly could produce offspring, their larvae, known as grubs, that are very high in protein and that this larvae could be fed to poultry, reptiles and fish (hence the interest among us aquaponics buffs). Now this fly it was said has no mouth and, therefore, does not eat. All it wants to do is mate and make more grubs so it’s not interested in getting into the house or foraging for food in your kitchen. Hopefully, the two below have decided they’re in love or at least ready to talk about doing the wild thing as perhaps indicated by antennae apart vs. antennae together so they can make grubs together.Blk. Soldier Fly #5

If you’re wondering why these beneficial insects are called Black Soldier Flies, the image below may help us figure it out. It appears they have body armor as indicated by the black shield over their backs.Blk. Soldier Fly #6

But this fly needed technology to become the boon to mankind it has the potential of being. So a piece of equipment (that does not require power of any kind) came along that assists this incredible protein producing insect to make more protein using . . . (wait for it) YOUR HOUSEHOLD WASTE!

Egad! That’s almost too good to be true. All you need to do is gather your food waste, place it into the machine and Wha Lah! Soldier flies climb into the bin where the food is placed, not to eat the food because, remember, they have no mouths, but to lay their eggs, which will hatch into larvae called grubs. And guess what these grubs do. These grubs do nothing but eat. They eat your household waste and become chubby morsels of protein for your chickens, reptiles and fish. This machine is designed in such a way as to encourage the grubs to self migrate right into the harvesting bin. This machine is called a BioPod™.A USA BIOPOD

Just click the link to go to our website page that further explains this phenomenon and watch an amazing video of grubs devouring two large fish. You can also purchase a BioPod™ on our page designated especially for it.

As a grub farmer, all you have to do is keep the feeding bin supplied with moisture and food waste, harvest the grubs from the collection bin and make sure several grubs mature into adult black soldier flies so the process remains self sustainable.A World Grubbs on hand If you live in an environment where Black Soldier Flies are a natural insect in the eco system, you can keep your BioPod™ in a cool place outdoors. We need to keep our Black Soldier Flies contained in our growroom as there is no one to mate with outside; and the colony would die out quickly. We’re working on getting our neighbors to start raising Black Soldier Flies in hopes of creating a desert colony; but for now we’re on our own.

We’ll do another blog post on the BioPod™  and all the stages that the grubs go through before becoming adult Black Soldier Flies for those of you who are beginners at this so you don’t make the same mistakes we did. One of the biggest mistakes we made was we cooked our first batch of grubs because we left them outside in the BioPod™ without enough moisture before realizing we needed to bring them indoors. The other mistake we almost made is we saw these black (should have been a clue) crusty looking things where the fat, beige grubs were supposed to be and almost threw them out. This was the stage where the grubs were turning into Black Soldier Flies.

If Black Soldier Flies are not natural to your environment, you need to order a little box of newly hatched grubs from the BioPod™ manufacturer. If you’re interested in doing that, just give us a call at 760-671-3053 and we’ll set you up. Four years ago if someone had told me I’d be selling Black Soldier Fly Grubs, I would have recommended they get psychiatric care.  Funny how the twists and turns take you down unexpected alleys on the pathway of life. On the aquaponics path, there seem to be lots of wonderful surprises. Black Soldier Flies are one of them.

Thanks for following our Blog. Stay tuned. More surprises coming.

The Growroom is really living up to its name now!!!


We’ve been operating a Growroom we built by closing in a typical ranch style home back porch about a year and six months ago. Because we sell our Food Forever™ Growing Systems to people who place them in Greenhouses, basements, garages or spare rooms, we wanted to be able to demonstrate aquaponic food growing technology in an indoor environment as well as in our Greenhouse.

We also wanted to do a comparison between the two growing environments; and we’re coming up with some interesting conclusions. One of those conclusions is that right now, January 19, 2013, our Growroom is putting out more veggies than our Greenhouse. We’re in the high-desert of Southern California, and we’ve been dealing with some bitter cold for the last week. It’s actually gotten down to the mid 20′s at night and stayed in the high 30′s during the day; and for Californians, that’s really cold. Nevertheless, our Growroom has stayed a  balmy 77 degrees F; and our fish tank water is up around 80 degrees F. And here’s what’s happening in that wonderfully controlled environment.

We have walls of Basil growing and beds full of Butter Lettuce.

An 11 sq. ft. Grow Bed full of butter lettuce flanked by Basil.

An 11 sq. ft. Grow Bed full of butter lettuce flanked by Basil.

The Basil is growing so tall, we have to keep moving the lights up higher and higher.

Chinese Cabbage, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and lots of Basil

Chinese Cabbage, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and lots of Basil

We finally figured out the right amount of light needed to grow incredible amounts of veggies. We’re using Fluorescent Fixtures, which are great for growing leafy greens; but they won’t grow flowering vegetables like cucumbers. These T5 Grow Tubes are on only eight hours a day and are really doing the job. We’re selling these lights on our website in two sizes. There are eight Grow Tubes in each light; and it takes two of the larger sized lights (FF-8B) to cover one of our 11 sq. ft. Grow Beds. When we were trying to do this with one of the small lights, FF-8A, we were getting stunted growth and brown spots on our leaves. Now we are getting huge, beautiful leaves, no spots and virtually no pests in this Growroom. To check out these great Grow Lights, go here.

An up close look at some of the most beautiful and delicious Butter Lettuce possible.

An up close look at some of the most beautiful and delicious Butter Lettuce possible.

This is a Grow Bed full of Rex Butter Lettuce. It’s delicious, hardy and prolific. This lettuce went from seedlings to full heads in about one month and it was the coldest month we’ve experienced in California in a long time with outside temperatures around 25 degrees F at night.

This Growroom has two entry doors. Below is the room from the North facing door. There are two fish tanks in this room. The one in the foreground of this photo is our 120 gallon tank; and it’s holding about 25 tilapia. In the foreground is our automatic fish feeder. When someone asked us who was taking care of the fish, both Oliver and I looked at each other and said, “No one’s taking care of the fish.” Then we both thought for a moment and corrected ourselves to say: “The fish feeders are taking care of the fish.” If you think raising fish is difficult, think again. They pretty much take care of themselves and only need to be fed.

Coming in the South facing door, you see our 320 Gallon Fish Tank in the foreground.

Coming in the North facing door, you see our 120 Gallon Fish Tank in the foreground.

Below is a photo of our South facing door. When you enter from this side of the room, you see our 320 gallon fish tank that has around 35 Tilapia in it. Some of these guys we’ve had since we started doing aquaponics and they’re huge. We’re letting them grow to see how large they’ll actually get. Everything’s R&D around here as we started from scratch not knowing anything about aquaponics until we discovered it in 2008. We’ll share some photos of these guys in our next Blog post.

Entering the Growroom from the South facing door. Here is our 320 gallon fish tank

Entering the Growroom from the South facing door. Here is our 320 gallon fish tank

We’ve explained in the past how we keep our Growroom a balmy 77 degrees F in the dead of winter; but for those of you who missed that important tid bit of info here it is again. We use a standard home hot water heater in that room. It’s rigged with a stainless steel pipe that comes out of it and wraps twice around the bottom of the 320 gallon fish tank. The hot water heater heats the water to whatever temperature we want. A couple of days ago, we upped the temperature from 76 degrees to 80 degrees to heat up the room a little bit more because it’s all that hot water that’s keeping the room warm. There’s nothing else in the Growroom except a small air conditioner for summer.

Hope your Holiday Season was joyous and you’re getting off to a great start in 2013. We’re about to start harvesting that Butter Lettuce and will be selling it over at Sue’s Health Food Store in Yucca Valley, CA, our local go to place for everything that’s good for us. Our next Blog post will be about the harvesting, packaging and delivery of the veggies we’ve talked about here.

We’re growing more than we can eat ourselves right now, which is the good news; but we’re not really growing enough to make money on the food sales. We wanted to make that clear so we don’t send out the wrong information here. Right now, selling our veggies is practice for moving into a viable commercial operation down the road. An economically viable commercial aquaponics operation requires a much larger set up than our little R&D set up. Our focus right now is selling systems. We grow food for ourselves and to demonstrate how well our systems work. When we grow more than we can eat, we’ve arranged to take our excess over to our local Health Food Store because that’s the right thing to do; and I get to exercise my marketing brain with packaging, point of sale signs, vendor/owner relationships etc. It’s all practice.

Thanks for visiting our Blog. We really appreciate your participation in this exciting new way to grow food. We love sharing and are so blessed to be able to do that with you here. We’re keeping the same motto for 2013 as 2012.

IT’S TIME TO GET GROWING!

Once you get the bug (pun intended) Gardening becomes a way of life!


Through The Eyes of Grace Photography, Title: Desert Dreaming

I’ve lived in the desert for over six years now; and I’ve yet to get used to what happens when the seasons change from fall to winter as it appears to happen over night and unexpectedly. One weekend we’re in our pool playing pool volleyball and the next weekend is winter. Last year we got caught with our volleyball court still under the pool cover and our swimming suits hanging on the fence. Then, poof, summer was over.

This year we did a little better personally and had voluntarily abandoned the pool ; but we were still trying to hang on to our outdoor garden and failed as four cool days and frosty nights in a row hit us like an arctic winter. We desperately tried to tarp this little outdoor oasis that sits beside our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse; but it wasn’t able to keep the freeze out. We pretty much lost everything although there are some tomato plants still hanging on to life. They are the ones that were closest to the cement blocks that make up the riser we built to raise up the greenhouse. The heat from the blue flame heater inside the greenhouse must have passed through the wall enough to keep these plants alive.

The photos below are what frost bite looks like on cherry tomatoes, squash and corn. It’s a sad sight. 

Still I got a sweet harvest from this outdoor garden today as you can see by the photos below. You wouldn’t believe how incredible these cherry tomatoes taste (although, they’re not quite as sweet as the ones that are growing in our Food Forever™ Growing System).

The squash had a ways to go so they are pretty small; but I’m sure they’ll taste really great. The radishes hadn’t been in the ground long and I was surprised to see how big some of them were as we harvested them prematurely as well. They actually survived the frost better than the squash and didn’t have frost burn at all. It seems that the plants that were closer to the ground did the best. 

You may be wondering how we’re gardening outdoors at all since we do live smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert as you can see from the lead-in photo. The truth is we didn’t think we were going to be able to grow a traditional garden here either. That’s why we built a Greenhouse and started our gardening careers doing Aquaponic Gardening. Neither one of us had ever gardened before so our first foray into gardening was Aquaponic gardening.

Our first season of Aquaponic gardening was in 2009; and our Greenhouse turned into a jungle. We were amazed and we got the gardening bug big time. In fact, now I just don’t feel right if I don’t have food growing in my environment. In 2011, we decided we wanted to use the space alongside our greenhouse for a traditional soil garden. So what we did was we ordered a truck full of “real dirt”, built raised beds and planted our first outdoor garden.

This year our outdoor garden did better than our first year; and by next season, we plan to have a little protective fence around it to keep the critters out. They don’t seem to like tomato plants and corn so they pretty much left the garden alone this past season; but we were feeding them in an area that is close to the house so that may have made a difference.

Through The Eyes of Grace Photography, Title: Lunch Date

So now we basically had to give up on the outdoor garden. But back in the Aquaponics USA Greenhouse, things are still growing and there’s no fear of frost burn.  We have two Grow Beds full of runaway tomato plants. By runaway I mean I haven’t trimmed off the suckers enough and these plants have taken over the Beds. I recently harvested quite a few tomatoes from them, but as the weather has cooled, their production has gone way down. However, they are still working at putting out fruit as you can see from the photos below.

Tomato growing in our Greenhouse in November, 2012.

Below are a couple of photos of lettuce that is growing in our Greenhouse right now.

Lettuce growing in our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse.

Here’s some Chinese Cabbage and Lettuce growing in our Greenhouse.

The Peppers you see in the photo below are also growing in our Greenhouse right now in mid November; but the Pepper Plant that produced this fruit isn’t doing well because it’s being strangled by the huge tomato plant that has taken over that Grow Bed. Nevertheless, this determined Pepper Plant was able to pop out these lovely peppers.

Peppers hanging out of the Grow Bed that has been taken over by Tomatoes.

I planted a bunch of seeds into seedling trays yesterday (Aquaponics gardeners can be planting seeds in November) so we plan to plant a lot of leafy greens into our Grow Beds soon. Leafy greens love cool weather; and we’ll be growing a lot of lettuce, basil,  chinese cabbage and more in both our Greenhouse and Growroom soon.

We’ll share more photos and stories about our adventures as Aquaponics (and soil) Gardeners in the near future. In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and GET GROWING!