DIY aquaponics raised-bed garden uses fish poop to feed plants

If your yard is small, or even just a balcony, Jordan Karambelas has a suggestion for growing organic food: a beautiful aquaponics system that uses recycled water enriched with fish manure to irrigate local vegetables. above.

Karambelas, a 12th grader at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, is a longtime Girl Scout looking for a Gold Award project, the organization’s pinnacle achievement. She founded the Aquaculture Club at her school this year to help her students better understand ways of growing food “in harmony with nature” and chose the aquaponics project as a way to promote information. that message.

The aquaponics vegetable garden uses recycled water from fish ponds.

Jordan Karambelas’ vegetable bed at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Her work is inspired by Mike Garcia, a South Bay landscape contractor and Enviroscape LA “permanent culturist” who has spent decades working on recycling and conservation methods. water reserve.

With Garcia’s help, they completed the project in a weekend, building a beautiful two-story, 4-by-8-foot redwood structure in one of the school’s courtyards that could easily fits in front yard, patio or even balcony.

“Most people don’t have much land to recycle water [using storage tanks]but things like this can be brought together in a relatively short amount of time,” says Garcia.

Karambelas said a lot of the materials were donated, but it would cost her about $1,500 to build the structure at full price. Materials include 26 redwood panels, pond liner, Arqlite Smart Gravel – lightweight nuggets made from food-safe recycled plastic – PVC tubing, 40 mini goldfish and an Oase AquaMax Eco Classic 3600 pump, recommended by Garcia because of its low energy use.

A young woman poses among the growing trees.

Jordan Karambelas poses with her redwood vegetable bed watered by an attached fish pond.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

The bottom box is covered with pond liner, filled with water and small fish. Garcia helped install pumps to push water from the aquarium to the peppers, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes and other vegetables grown in the Smart Gravel above. The recycled water continuously wets the planter boxes, and the water flows back into the aquarium, keeping the water clear.

If the water level in the aquarium gets too low, the pump will automatically draw water from the city, and as an added bonus, the sound of running water is a buzz in the dry courtyard outside a row of classrooms.

Aside from some pranksters throwing Smart Gravels around, student response has been overwhelmingly positive, Karambelas said, and she hopes it will generate enough interest to become a member of her new club. her next year.

A hand reaches into a vegetable garden that uses gray recycled plastic beads as a growing medium.

Jordan Karambelas aquaponics is grown in lightweight recycled plastic beads called Arqlite Smart Gravel.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Vegetables begin to grow in a container filled with Smart Gravel.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Karambelas has big plans to rebuild the broken greenhouses and abandoned raised beds in the yard – left over from the now defunct school clubs – and replant them all with recycled water. regime. This summer will be the test of how much water her aquaponics system needs, but she plans to visit often and expect a good organic crop.

“It is important for students to know about this because a lot of people are landless, and this can be done anywhere,” she said. “A lot of students are ignorant of this, so even starting a conversation is important because then they will be more likely to implement what they learn in their daily lives. .” DIY aquaponics raised-bed garden uses fish poop to feed plants

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