Greetings! Sarah here, the new Unity Gardens Program Director. We’ve been going strong this semester at Unity – getting the aquaponics system up and running and learning about the processes that make it work.
After Carey left us to do some great work in Seattle’s farmers markets, we learned about nitrification, seed structure and growth, and how to put together the different pieces of our aquaponics system.
For those of you who don’t know, nitrification is the process that turns unusable ammonia into usable nitrates – plants’ favorite food. Nitrification is a normal step in the nitrogen cycle, which takes place among the soil, air, and earth’s inhabitants (plants, animals, bacteria, fungi). In an outside garden, it happens naturally.
The Nitrogen Cycle
Nitrogen is actually so important that it’s one of the main components in chemical fertilizers, which is commonly used to grow plants both in home gardens and on a large scale, but which we know is actually bad for the soil – hence why sustainable and organic farming uses natural inputs like compost, worm castings, and emulsified fish.
In an aquaponics system, we use fish waste, and like in a natural system, it happens… well, sort of naturally: The fish poop, and we use a biofilter to get it to the plants. Rather than dump a bunch of synthetically created nitrogen, we mimic nature, and just help the nitrogen along. In this way, one of our products (the fish) feeds another (the plants).
Seed Structure and Growth
Growing plants, of course, is a key part of our system. So, a few weeks ago we learned how the growing of plants begins. We looked at seed structure, learning that like humans, plants start off as embryos surrounded by a food source (endosperm) encased in something protective (seed coat or testa). We learned that once optimum conditions of moistness, temperature, and oxygen levels are reached, the seed coat can break and the seed can germinate. We learned that roots are the first growth, followed by the emergence of green – the cotyledons, or first leaves. We even learned why the seeds we started back in January didn’t make it: they need water and attention.
Curtis wondering about the plants and checking out the water finally getting to them
This week, we started new seeds in hydroton and brought in some transplants to get our system going.
TJ and Kirk transplanting
Speaking of the system… it’s all done! We put the fish in it this week, along with the plants and seeds, and will be harvesting salsa ingredients soon enough. As we grow our entrepreneurial skills, we’ll make, can, and sell the salsa, helping both ourselves and the health of our community!
Don’t take my word for it, though – check out the blog posts written and photos taken by students in the Marketing group.
Hello to all my blog lovers! Have you ever grown and tasted fish? Well if you haven’t our school is helping the environment by planting plants and growing fish all in one. You’re probably saying “OMG really?” or “WTF.” These are the same words I said when I found out. But you can help the environment and you because by you buying the things we sell it can help you too. So if you want to know where to buy these delicious foods you can come to 2500 Fremont Ave N.
One of our work rooms - you can see the hyroton before it went into the system
Hi my name is Khyaecia ______ and we are doing a project on how to make the community better. How we are going to do that is we are growing plants and fishes. Also we are making a biofilter so that the fish and animals will grow. Our biofilter is basically designed like the fish and the plants grow in the same way.
Getting the fish tank in place
Hello!! To blog lovers!! Welcome to our school. We are building aquaponics, we are here to show you how we work as peers and classmates and a community.
Along with all we’ve been doing at Unity Gardens, YEA Corps is expanding and working with more students! We’ll be starting a new program at Humboldt Academy within the next few weeks, and even more next year. We’re also redesigning our office, and can’t wait to have you all there. Stay tuned!