How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining Garden

Ornela Freimane
By Ornela Freimane September 9, 2019 06:25

How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining Garden

Editor’s note: This article was written by one of our readers, Ornela Freimane. The title of the article is How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining Garden because it talks about the Aquaponic system and how this is a great way to grow hundreds of pounds of fish and fresh vegetables that your family needs without pesticides, herbicides or antibiotics, no weeds, no water wastage. Feed the fish daily and enjoy harvesting your own food.

Let me introduce you to aquaponic farming where fish and plants live in a combined ecosystem – mutually beneficial cycle, providing fresh local food that is free from pesticides and chemicals all year round.

It can be built in your back yard or indoors, hot or cold climate, even in the desert. Furthermore, with aquaponic farming, you can grow way more food with far less water wastage, less land, and less physical work as all job will be done by your fish.

But the most important thing is that you can build the aquaponics system yourself without spending a fortune as the system is easily replicated with whatever materials you have, and it will work just as well as any other.

First, let’s look around and decide where we can build it:

As I have a garden, I decided to dedicate a larger part of it to the aquaponic system.How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining GardenThe weather is not ideal for crops to grow all year round in London (UK) so I had to build the system inside the greenhouse (8×20 feet) – the most convenient place for the necessary daylight and perfect place to control the temperature. You won’t need it if you live in Florida or you want to shut down the system for the winter in a cold climate area.How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining GardenThe system set up requires very careful planning so it could be for the long-term purpose. Choose the style you want but remember – the beds are heavy due to water and gravel.How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining GardenMake sure they are sturdy and withstands the weight, waterproof and deep enough for the roots (30 cm in depth is enough).How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining GardenThere are many types of aquaponic systems, but I chose to build two: flood and drain; and deep-water system.How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining Garden

Related: How to Supplement Your Potable Water Supplies by Cheaply Harvesting Rainwater

It’s enough to have only those two systems to feed a family of 4 all year round.  For this I needed:

  • Fish tank – I used a 1000 liter IBC container as it’s cheap and easy to maintain (it cost approx. $20 on eBay)How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining Garden
  • Swirl filter and mineralization tanks. 200-liter barrels are ideal for it. ($10 each on eBay)
  • Raft bed – for the deep-water culture. This is probably the easiest bed to plant and harvest as it consists of polystyrene with holes cut into it. How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining GardenThis bed requires additional aeration for plant roots. (We used timber to build the beds as we had so many leftovers from the previous projects)How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining Garden

How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining Garden

  • Flood and Drain bed also called Media bed. It’s a perfect place for bacteria to convert nitrites to nitrates. This bed requires syphon and limestone free gravels.
  • Pump (it’s always placed in the sump tank); Good pump will cost you approx. $150
  • Sump tanks for the water to drain from the media beds;( IBC containers can be used as sump tanks; just cut them in half)
  • Aeration stones for fish, roots, and mineralization tank; (those are cheap: $2-$5)
  • Air pump. The stronger the pump, the better. (I paid $65)
  • Plumbing to connect all the parts. Just make sure that every part is connected well to prevent any leakage. Various size and shape pipes, tubes, valves, and threads needed for the system (I spent around $200 for all new parts). When connecting parts, remember to create a cycle: fish tank – swirl filter – mineralization tank – sump tank – media and raft beds- fish tank. The US Department of Agriculture has a massive link that covers lots of aspects of aquaponic farming and design ideas. It will help you to understand the whole plumbing if you are new to it.
  • Siphon – can be made using slip caps, PVC pipes, and tubes. Or you can buy on eBay for $20 each
  • Water – The system circulates the same water so there is no wastage. Rainwater is ideal for your aquaponic.
  • Fish – I grow tilapia in summertime and trout in winter. Koi, perch, carp and catfish are also easy to grow in the system. Choose fish native to your area. (We have 30-40 tilapias in a 1000 liter tank)
  • Plants – All crop above ground grow well in the system: salads, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, grapes, strawberries, even tropical fruit trees. Plants grow way faster in aquaponics as they get nutrients from the fish waste.How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining Garden

We chose to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, a different type of lettuce, spring onions, kale, Romanesco broccoli, rocket salads, even the watermelon.How To Make A Year-Round Self-Sustaining GardenAll beds and even the fish tank can be made from concrete, IBC containers, Fiberglass, wood or PVC. All components are common around the World and can be easily found at your local hardware or gardening stores. You can also buy them cheaper on eBay, Gumtree or any second-hand shop.

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Ornela Freimane
By Ornela Freimane September 9, 2019 06:25
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  1. Jose September 9, 15:12

    Thank you. I plan to set-up a human-waste swamp, and while I am doing so, I want to set-up some sort of pond, too.

    Reply to this comment
    • red September 10, 02:19

      Sounds good, but if you look into it, you can turn it into biogas pretty easily. There’s a lot of 3rd world site that teach how using outhouses or tanks, and on YouTube, somewhere, there’s a man in Australia who took water carboys in a series to make the gas. End result is a clean fertilizer for the garden. niio

      Reply to this comment
  2. Auge September 9, 17:07

    Claude, I wish my husband and I were just starting off be-
    cause I have learned a lot from you and I would have built a place for a garden like yours. What a great thing that would have been fun to do. But time is short now and my
    body keeps telling me I am getting older, but I can always dream. thanks for all the memories

    Reply to this comment
    • red September 15, 17:15

      Start reading what Clergylady is doing. You’re never too old to live a dream. Age means less energy, but knowledge and ability. walk in beauty.

      Reply to this comment
  3. red September 10, 02:11

    Thank you and congratulations on a job well done. This is a favorite subject in Arizona. I’d like to hear more how it’s working for you. I live in Zone 9A and still want a greenhouse! niio

    Reply to this comment
    • Clergylady September 11, 20:03

      Lol. Red you need either a lathhouse( wood strips create shade) or cloth shaded area for summer garden. Then a green house perhaps.
      My experiment with transplanted corn has been fine. Didn’t loose a plant and it’s made ears almost ready to pick. Our crazy late planting season this year made normal planting impossible. I’m finally picking green beans and Cherokee wax beans are just starting to set. It may be a very short picking season unless we cover on cold nights. Normal frost is late this month and snow by the end of October. A greenhouse of some sort is imperative. Watermelons are set and some nearing ripe– from transplants. Lots of green tomatoes set. I’ll have to cover things for a while. A simple greenhouse for long season things and early spring transplants would make all the difference in the world.
      I just cleaned up and pack up all the pots, trays, seed et and moved then to a little shed outside. This injured knee has really slowed my down this year.
      Next project is sorting tools by where I’ll put them away. The painting supplies are in a plastic tote. Paint trays and more roller handles stacked on top. They will go on a top shelf in the shed being set up as a woodshop.
      Mechanical tools will go in my empty tool cabinet the stepson left here. Shovels, rakes, et. will be in two places as I now have doubles of much of it. Part by the door of the barn/shop and part where I just put my gardening supplies and canning supplies. Just getting started sorting a lot of things after moving here and working on several buildings. Much is still not unpacked. Setting up office in a bedroom corner with just enough sewing stuff in there for simple mending or gift making. The rest is going to a big shed for sewing and crafts together. Ill use the treadle machine in the room here. A smaller shed by the driveway will be set up for sales. Display cases and shelving needs to go there and junk in it needs to get out. No wonder I hate moving. Never again if staying is possible.
      Things were just put here and there as I needed to repair so much before settling in.
      Finally almost ready to move in a full size refrigerator. Friends have been working on an 8’x8′ porch with steps that are done. The 34 foot ramp will be built Saturday if their plans work out. Then the fridge can be set inside.
      The solar array is rebuilt and added to. Power ready to turn back on. Just need the hook up from the frame to a grounding rod completed. The man had a family emergency. So I told him to come back later and finish up. I figure it will get done this week. I’ve lived without power most of the last year. A few more days is no big deal.
      How are you doing since the recent surgery?

      This is an interesting article with links to more. I like that.

      Reply to this comment
      • red September 12, 22:42

        I’m surviving. Caught a nasty cold or pneumonia, but nothing works to kill it. It’s fading, and just in time. I need to take a run to Hatch, then stop at Apple Annie’s on the way back for apples and 2nds on peaches.. Donno from there. Maybe up Cascabel rd and home, or thru Tucson to stock up. The freezer is getting lonely 🙂

        Melons are coming on strong, but dwarf maize mosaic killed the corn. The sorghum has it, but because its a sugar cane, I thought the red streaks on the leaves were from the sugar. Closer look shows pale green streaks, as well. No more cane. I like corn.

        After bragging lizards were eating all the cabbage loopers and so on, the collards look like somebody took a shotgun to them. No more damage and plenty of fat lizards all over. But, hornworms stripped the leaves off some chilis. Right now they’re fertilizer for the chilis.

        The grape arbor will be the lathhouse when its done. grapes on one end, passion fruit on the other. Maybe New Mexico hops in the middle. While I have some shade cloth, right now money is needed elsewhere. The garden is half-planted, thanks to the surgery. Now, when fall seeds and plants should begin to fill spaces between those coming out.

        Got garlic from a bro on Preppers, and ajo rojo from Yong Farms, down toward the border. The potato onions are here, today, and that’s one more experiment to see how they do. Ajo rojo is a Creole garlic and does best in the South. It was bred in Spain for medicinal and is one of the hottest garlics. Creoles should store at room temp for up to a year with no problems. Potato onions are devider onions. We used to see them all over when I was a kid. Old folks always said they have a better flavor, and can be stored for a year or more. each one should divide into up to 6 full-sized onions.

        The multiplier onions are up, but we haven’t had rain for quite a while. We’re 2.25 inches below normal yet. The coast needs more hurricanes so we get some of the left over drool 🙂

        One good thing, the temps are staying below 100, finally, and I can keep the house open. niio!

        Reply to this comment
        • Clergylady September 14, 19:15

          Glad the surgery is heaking. Sorry about getting sick while your healing. That. Akes life tough.
          I envy you the long growing season but yes you need plenty of the female rain to make things grow. We haven’t had much rain so I water with soaker hoses. I try to get them be for the squash wilts. It’s the most sensitive to the water situation.
          Were actually eating ripe tomatoes this year. The extra heat really helped them. Usually the cooler mountain nights keep growth slow. The corn will soon be ready to pick. I’m amazed my experiment with transplanting it worked 100%. Silks are beginning to darken on some ears. I love fresh corn. I could make a whole meal on just fresh pick corn when we get the first ears.
          I’ve been giving away some squash. I plan to can a few pints soon. Not much else to can this year. I may try canning some Thompson seedless grapes. We have lots of them ripening at the same time. I’ll dry some for rasins.just one old grape vine I started from a cutting on a trip to the San Juquin Valley where my in laws lived. That vine is high now.

          Reply to this comment
          • red September 15, 04:22

            Best to you! The doctor had to cancel the appointment yesterday. He had an emergency. While I couldn’t have seen someone else, I can wait. The cold tried to come back, but it’s fading already. Like, if you read the previous post,you’ll see why 😉

            Next year, no sorghum. The flour and sap are good, but easily replaced right now. Aphids carried the virus to the sweet corn. Next year, a lot of corn. I can live on that and watermelon 🙂 I’m trying to find a local variety of peach to plant in October. One of the King varieties, maybe. they like it warm. No answer from Starks on the trees that didn’t make it. I’m most sorry about the crap apple. It was going well, then the leaves browned. Cotton root rot, maybe. I’ll broadcast more sulfur over the patches on Monday.

            My thomson didn’t survive, or the red flame from Starks. Funny thing, the cheap Concord is looking OK. Well, I like them best, anyway, fresh and juiced. Not gonna pick more prickly pears. You want any, come down and I’ll fill your truck. Come summer, than fill bags of napolitos, till I have enough to pickle and can. Next month, have to start the cilantro, beets, and so on in flats. It gets old doing that, but truth be known, I like it, too 🙂 I’m waiting for the potatoes to come up. A lot of volunteer sweet potatoes waited till the rains started, then came up.

            Keep up the good work, keeping us moving. niio

            Reply to this comment
            • Clergylady September 15, 06:11

              I had a white cataba..a white concord. Wonderful scent when they were ripe. It didn’t survive my years away. This Thompson is the only one of all the grapes I had that is still alive. And it has made a bumper crop. We like rains but its more that I want for reasons. A few canned to add to fruit salads and chicken salad would be good. Going to take a few bunches to church in the morning.
              We had rain this afternoon. Maybe 1/2″. More is predicted over the next few days. Its amazing how much life is in the rains.
              I have a refrigerator in the truck. I’ll be glad when we can get it unloaded and brought in the mobile home.
              Albuquerque really got the rain today. Lots of flooded streets. We didn’t get that here.
              I haven’t been real sick but just enough to be pretty miserable. I missed church last week.
              We have 4, 5 week old kittens in the house. Boy are they trouble. They knock things down everywhere.
              Garden is really producing right now. I need to cut herbs to dry. I found a couple of long tarps in the shed so I’m ready to cover the garden for awhile.
              I made a lowball offer on a commercial leather sewing machine with motor. It turns out one in. E-Bay. This should be interesting once its here and set up. I have a big box or garment leather and another box of 1/4″ leathers. Anxious to see what I can do with it all. The machine is also good for denim and upholstery vinyls. I have several boxes of those. Sounds like a good excuse to get the shed for sewing and crafts set up.
              I think Monday they guys will be back to work on the new porch and the ramp for it. That is a blessing. I have a dozen yellow hots. That’s the first picking. Plus 6 others hot peppers. I’ll probably dry them. Throat is a little raw. Didn’t need hot pepper right now.
              Get well.
              Walk in blessings.

              Reply to this comment
              • red September 15, 17:02

                Hot peppers are supposed to be good for the throat. I do not know for certain. I use chew for throat problems. Even a very small piece knocks out the bug and heals.

                I’d like to try a cataba. They were a favorite, behind Concord, back in Penna. But, I think they only produce up to zone 8.

                All we’re getting so far is sprinkles, but the mountains are covered with fog. Even that’s welcome, if it soaks in deep. Morning was cool and damp. We need a lot of rain. Last night while entertaining the mosquitos I soaked down the garden. Because it’s supposed to be cool all week, a lot of things will be pollinated, but a little extra moisture means a heavier nectar flow in the blooms Even with the low pressure, bees are out collecting what ladybugs and other nectar eaters miss.

                It’s good to see more honey bees, but not like a few years ago, when clouds of them made shadows on the land. Too many, and they start to kill animals and people.

                I had a great night, thanks to the low pressure. Even waking up coughing didn’t bother a lot. Right back to sleep griping about the pain 🙂

                The sewing machine sounds cool. I’ve seen them in booteries and tailor shops, but never used one. Poke, push needle, thread fake sinew. Do it over again. It passed long winter nights without a TV (which only puts me to sleep, anyway 🙂

                Be blessed always. niio

                Reply to this comment
  4. JB September 10, 13:44

    Very helpful info….thank you!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Clergylady September 11, 19:18

    High mountain desert here. Normal winter some night easily reach -10 and some years -20 while we can see summers in the neighborhood of 100 + or – a bit.
    I’m hoping to get a Walapini pit greenhouse dug and slowly start working in it. I have old light weight trailer rafters saved to carry a simple plastic sheeting top.
    I have several plastic fish ponds and may watch for a free bathtub or two. I also have a 100 gallon horse tank with a 2″ drain on it. Part of my planned planting will be in raised beds and much may be aquaponics. I have a new sump pump that was given to me. Might as well put it to use. I have enough solar panels to run it all and an inverter and solar charge controler. I have two deep cycle batteries. I’d need more batteries. They are the key to solar power. That’s a good start on setting it up. Probably start with dirt beds and a woodstove to supliment heat. Eventually I planned a rocket stove and metal 55 gallon drums of water for heat collection. That can change. With evolving plans I’ll have to see where it ends up. Fish and garden sound good to me.
    I do want the Walapini and a root cellar dug out near each other. I may or may not decide to connect them. The root cellar will have a solid well sealed roof I can walk on. It will be the floor under the chicken coop. Rabbits could also move into the Walapini with cages across an end wall. They add good body heat and survive very cold weather without heat.
    I just keep adding a tiny bit at a time to this place. Ducks will be separated from the chickens and the ducks will have their own pen next year. An abandoned fiberglas boat will become a duck pond. I’ll use an old sump pump to empty it for cleaning and send that water to the garden or one of the 330 gallon water tanks for the fruit trees. It takes planning and work to make it come together as a fairly self sufficient homestead. Just three acres but a lot can be done here.

    Reply to this comment
  6. ccter September 12, 16:33

    Nice article on the basic setup. Any chance you can do a more detailed article on the IBC tote and Swirl filter set up?

    Reply to this comment
  7. Clergylady September 13, 02:02

    A .ore detailed article would be interesting.

    Reply to this comment
  8. ed September 14, 01:17

    You would sell a lot more books if you would back off on the advertisements we have to read before checking out. You force people to go through all that before checking out and it is the wrong thing to do.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Ginny -in WA September 14, 15:01

    I have tried this on a small scale and while I love the idea I didn’t find it that practical in my situation. The main drawback for me is power and I found our supply to be less than perfect once my system was up and running. Our power goes out with storms or fires and without aeration the fish will die. Also living in a rural area the supply fluctuates enough that small pumps don’t last that long. Maybe if I’d scaled up it would have been better but I couldn’t afford it without knowing it would work here.
    In the end I found it interesting but not suitable for me in the long term if the power went off. YMMV and just my 2 cents…

    Reply to this comment
    • Clergylady September 14, 18:49

      Power supply is always a problem here. Rural co-op. My home is 100% solar. I’m planning to keep gathering parts to make another solar array for the Walapini greenhouse. That will solve a lot of my problem with the electric here. I want to get my second well all solar powered as well.

      Reply to this comment
      • red September 15, 04:11

        You do keep up encouraged! thank you. Your posts are great.

        I didn’t make it to Hatch. too sick yesterday and couldn’t drive. 600 mile round trip, ouch. but, God provided. The chili roasters drove to town and I got 80 lbs of roasted chilis for winter. Hey, they tell us we need to eat more fruit, and chilis are fruit.

        Yeah, gonna get that shade cloth one of these days. 🙂 But, everything is now making fruit that survived the devil winds. Those are a worse problem than the sun. Hot, dry, winds up to 40 mph running down the funnel between two mountain ranges.

        Burpee replaced the Grosso lavender that the wind killed. they sent another everbearing fig, as well, tho I told them the other one was all right, just not growing much. Be blessed. niio!

        Reply to this comment
    • red September 15, 04:00

      Yeah, one sister has that problem. 2 and more times a year, her electric dies. The bro-in-law is going to set up solar and batteries so at least the pipes don’t freeze again.

      But, have you tried wind? I saw a few of those little lawn windmills used to aerate large aquaponics units. One was on a greenhouse, and they ran a steel cable thru a pipe to a small paddle. The ‘mill would turn a wheel, that the cable was attached to, and that moved the paddles ten feet away. I need to get a unit set up in the house and some towers for plants. Be nice to replace part of the roof, as well, with greenhouse panels that reflect most of the sun. our growing season is almost year-long. But, that heat and sun stop a lot of things from producing. Arizona is growing hydroponics. niio

      Reply to this comment
  10. Ash September 14, 16:10

    I tell them that there is no one there or say blood a lot.

    There are reptilians that kill and eat people. I have rarely gone to a store where there wasn’t a reptilian? There should be all humans on Earth, there should be no aliens here.

    Reply to this comment
    • red September 15, 04:03

      Have you read Alien Intrusion? It’s a movie, as well, and teaches what you can do to stop it. niio

      Reply to this comment
  11. Clergylady September 17, 22:02

    My peppers hiding in the main garden are first cousin to firecrackers. Could almost take off the top of your head while making your ears burn. Great with a tiny bit added to the steamed and buttered yellow squash. Bland to temper fire.
    Not doing much this couple of days. Sunday on the way to church in pouring rain, in albuquerque, I hydroplaned into the back of a guys pickup. AZ tags. He walked around and looked his car over. Then looked at my car. You fix your light and were ok. I would have been late but he called it ok. Just a black mark on his bumper. It tore out a screw holding the side set of lights loose. I’ll figure out something and fix it.
    Not sure how much was the nerves or the hard hit but I feel horrible. Head hurts, upper back could use a chiropractor.
    Lol. I’m always planning something. Guess that’s what keeps me going. I guess I’m feeling a bit down. 72 and my first accident. Nothing much came of it luckily. Still its messing with my head a bit. The sore neck isn’t helping. Hope the traveler is still as ok as his truck looked.
    Lol. I’ll be fine. It isn’t my nature to stay down. But I guess a couple of down days isn’t bad. Ill take then and rest up. Then get back to work.

    Reply to this comment
    • red September 17, 22:59

      You live in Indian Country! Yer having too much fun again. Stop it before the cops show up. One more adventure, and thank God you’re mostly all right. Get the neck checked!

      I hear folks down in southern NM say, Expect the worse, you’re in Albuquerque; loonie left in the nutty north. The couple that comes here with the chilis and pepper roaster get ‘way upset when you mention leftists. I told him he’s getting too old to have his face turn purple like that. He laughed but wow, they hate the libs.

      It’s been going down in the 60s, at last, after that great rain we had. The temps are supposed to go no higher then the 90s, too, so what little is planted should start producing provided the winds don’t knock a tree over or something. The neighbors are not happy, 3rd year in a row their olives were blown off the trees. Lisa’s cousin has a small pecan grove, and they’re busy picking up all the pecans that blew down. 5 lbs for 3 bucks, and I want a bushel of them this year. We’re going to go to Apple Annie’s Saturday, I hope, to see if she has seconds on peaches and apples. Living in Penna so long, apples go with most things.

      I’m going to go against a bad feeling and pick another bushel of prickly pear fruit. I’ll see if the neighbors want some. The juice is so concentrated it tastes gross straight, but half a cup to 5 of water and it’s like watermelon juice. Tasty, given I haven’t been able to shop much, and buying a large melon is still out of the question. Too much weight on the chest. Next year, nopalitos and the pickling jars. The remains, the pulp and thorns, are in a bucket turning to vinegar. There’s a few gallons of rice there, as well, next to it, becoming sourdough and rice wine vinegar.

      The chilis are covered with blooms, those that survived with no care. Even those mowed down by hornworms look good. I’ll get plenty from them, and the roasters are due back in November with red hot chilis. I asked them to post in the paper (double page, local events for town) so folks know when they’ll be here.

      All grasses have to go. the aphids spreading dwarf virus have to be feeding on the small grains growing wild (a millet). Last harvest for that and the sorghum both.

      The rain set off the moringa. I can pick some daily. Tastes better than some greens, but I still like the amaranth. the Merlot is close to 5 feet tall, where it’s sheltered from the wind, and ready to bloom. The caudus (love lies bleeding) is slowly coming along. Mebbe too slowly if we get frost in October. Get that ache in the neck checked! niio

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