Who’s keeping track of how many iterations the quackuaponics system has gone through this year? Not even me. This little (ha) project took up a TON of my time this spring/summer, and is partially to blame for my neglect of the actual garden. Let’s see… first I set it up back in early June. It was super fun to learn how to build a bell siphon and fiddle around with all the parts–let’s be honest, I’m a major nerd, and this sort of stuff is completely my jam. It started out going incredibly well, with the duck poop contributing to pretty much the happiest plants I’ve ever seen.
But, I was very soon running into some major filtration issues. Although they were temporarily resolved by various modifications, nothing really worked well for longer than a few days. Typically I’d notice that the siphon was not initiating, because the inflow was clogged up and running too slowly, which would leave the plant roots completely submerged. Cleaning out the disgusting filter and draining the disgusting pool every few days got old… really fast. So back in August I reworked everything from a circulation system to a flow-through system, taking advantage of the fact that we have a pond uphill of the duck run. For about a month we had water siphoning from the pond into the grow bed, and then out into the duck pool, and then running back out to the stream. Except for the occasional arthropod hose blockage problem, this worked great for keeping the water clean. Unfortunately, though, the plants were not happy–the pond water was not rich enough in nutrients to keep the plants rolling along the way they had been with the magic duck poop water.
So a couple weeks ago I hit my limit with (literally) mucking around with all of this. I decided to shut down the quackuaponics, and use the (former) grow bed as a flow-through water trough. Cleaning out the system was… well, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
There was a truly impressive amount of root mass throughout the grow bed, with an equally impressive quantity of STINKY GROSS SLUDGE.
So, to make an already long story short(er), I cleaned out all of the rocks and sludge (on a really hot day, just to max out my ultimate level of disgustingness) and also pulled out the round duck pool and filled in the hole where it used to be. I made a trip to Home Depot, and constructed what I like to call the Duck Deck.
As you can see, I rotated the trough 90 degrees from how it used to be. Now the siphon runs from the pond into the trough, and the water flows out the other end back to the stream. I first envisioned keeping the bell siphon in action, so it would be continually cycling between filling and draining. I thought this might help keep the water cleaner. But, it turned out just leaving the stand pipe in place works well enough, and then the water level is constant all the time for the ducks.
It didn’t take them long to figure it out! I think it was actually still filling when I took these photos…
It’s been running this way for two weeks now, and hasn’t needed any maintenance beyond a new plug when a previously caulked hole in the bottom gave out. The ducks often spend a bunch of time in here in the morning before we let them out into the paddock. The water will get pretty grody, but after a few hours of fresh water flowing in it’s back to looking lovely and clear. It basically completely cleans itself out overnight.
One thing I’ll be interested to see is how long we can keep this going through the winter. The pond does freeze, but typically the outflow and stream are still flowing even in very cold weather. I wonder how cold it would have to get for my siphon hose to freeze up… as long as it is running, we could even drop a heater into this trough for use throughout the winter. Ah, the experiments never end… 🙂