I had a break from my regularly busy weekend schedule, and took up an invitation to visit Shoestring Gardening in Wyndamvale, Victoria. My friend Jabir asked if I was interested in having a look at the new aquaponics system that the group had installed at their regular meeting place, the Eco Living Centre.
The location was about 40 km (~25 miles) from where I live, so around 1.15 pm, Ben and I travelled to the site.
When I arrived the festivities had already begun, so we joined in. Bronwyn thanked everyone for attending, and then the local MP added the fish to the tank in their bags so they could acclimatise. After 20 minutes or so, the 35 rainbow trout were released into the system.
When they constructed the tanks, they added a perspex window in the side so you could keep an eye on the fish and how they were growing.
So that is where the fish live out their lives until they are harvested in about six months time. The three grow beds were already planted out, and the vegetables were growing well.
The Shoestring Gardening group had already planted out the grow beds with all sorts of leafy veg. They told me that the plants had doubled in size in just two weeks, and that was without any fish. Bronwyn (in the centre of the picture above) had to add nutrients every couple of days so the plants would grow, like any normal hydroponics system. Now that the fish are in their tank, their waste will feed the plants.
The water flows from the fish tank, through the grow beds, then into these sumps. Within the sumps will grow freshwater crayfish, who will filter the water further, and the water then gets pumped back into the fish tank, all nice and clean. It is a brilliant system. The full aquaponics system was installed by Western Aquaponics & Backyard Farming (WABF), who funnily enough, just live up the road from me. Only a few minutes walk.
Anyway, I talked to Craig Mathews, the owner of Western Aquaponics, who explained how the entire system worked. You can make these on a much smaller scale, so I might need to investigate it further. There are many great resources out there about how aquaponics system work, so I will not attempt to explain it here. However, there are some great photos of the construction of the entire system on the WABF website.
Ben and I then chatted to just about everyone, who wanted to share their gardening knowledge, and I even caught up with our friend Lynda, who writes at Living in the Land of OZ. She showed me around the garden, which is beautifully tended by the group.
They even had a chook-house on the premises, and take turns in feeding and collecting the eggs. These girls were ex-battery hens who were rescued by the group. They looked like very happy chookies, and well-loved.
We also had a quick lesson on how to espalier an apple tree, and how to prune it in a way that it produces flowers instead of spurs. That lesson was from Craig Castree who runs the Werribee Park Heritage Orchard. A very knowledgeable man indeed.
Upon leaving, my friend Jabir gave me a gift of a bag of tomatoes and basil, which we have put to good use. Cheers mate. Thanks for inviting me to a wonderful day out.
Both Ben and I learnt so much. I think we just may visit this lovely community again!