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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 88
August 14th,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

In Today's Newsletter:

Today's "Nugget" is about weeds and aquaponics. Many of you won't have any weeds in your aquaponics systems. However, if you have almost 7,000 square feet of aquaponics trough and sprouting table area as we do, then you will realize that there's a lot of area there that is not aquaponics, in which weeds can grow. And believe me (I'm also the guy who runs the weedwacker when it's necessary!), if there's a way for a weed to grow, it will.

Today we'll cover how to keep weeds out of your aquaponics, so you can spend your valuable time growing plants instead of trying to keep plants from growing!

For Hawaii Residents ONLY:

Special offer on all three of our live August trainings is ONLY for Hawaii residents! We support the revitalization of our State's economy, and feel we can help by offering our usual $995 trainings for only $195 to Hawaii residents.

So, if you are a Hawaii resident, you can attend any one of: the 3-day Aquaponics Technology Training for $195; the 2-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training for $195; or the 1-day Commercial Aquaponics Training for $195; each of these is only $195 instead of the usual $995 we receive. Or, you can attend all three for only $395 (instead of $2,485!).

If you want to register for any of these "Hawaii Resident Specials", just click on the links above, they will take you directly to the signup page for the training(s) you're interested in. You must be able to prove you are a Hawaii resident to get this special discount. If you have any questions before you register, just email us. See you there, brah (and seestah too!).

If you want to earn a living from aquaponics (or just learn the best aquaponics technology available) , we have three trainings scheduled in the balance of 2012:

Training 1: In Hawaii, August 26th to September 1st. Our Aquaponics Technology Training, plus the Solar Greenhouse Training, plus the Commercial Aquaponics Training. Attend one or more trainings to suit your needs. More information on those trainings on our webpage here.  See special offer for Hawaii residents for this training (above).

Training 2: In Tennesee, the same six days of training from September 16th to the 22nd at Randy and Katy Campbell's farm, Ellibell Farm, in Elora, Tennesee. You can sign up now for these trainings on our webpage here. You can also call Randy directly at 256-679-9488, or email Randy for information.

Training 3:
The same six days of training, October 21st to the 27th in Hawaii.

If you're interested in our Solar Greenhouse technology, please take a look at our Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training (Special Offer in right sidebar of this email), where you will learn more about how to grow affordably using aquaponics in greenhouses than you can anywhere else in the world. The next training is in Hawaii in August 2012 and in Tennessee in September 2012. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Info for 4 Different Sizes of Apartment/Condo Aquaponics Systems $49.95

Our Apartment/Condo System package includes new and easy-to-understand building instructions and complete operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience operating a commercial aquaponics farm. Anyone can build a system out of plastic barrels or IBC totes, but operating one successfully without good and easily-understood information can be frustrating. You simply use the "Daily Operations Checklist" in the manual and follow the step-by-step instructions on your way to success. We also cover how to make aquaponics systems out of weird things like old refrigerators and door frames; this makes aquaponics much more economical to get started in!

We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and built our first commercial aquaponics systems with FAR less information than this manual contains. We included all the information learned from that experience in this manual so you don't need to make any of the same mistakes we did.

Learn about our Apartment/Condo Systems!

Aquaponics Nugget #88, What To Do About Weeds

One of the biggest headaches that plague soil gardeners and farmers (and aquaponic farmers who didn't plan well) is that of weeds. What's a weed? Simply a plant that you don't want growing where it's growing. You may think: I don't plant weed seeds in my aquaponics system pots, so they can't possibly grow there; that's not always true.

If your potting mixture ever sits open for any length of time, there is a large chance that you will get weed seeds into it, and then be growing weeds along with your lettuce, basil, and oregano the next time you plant. Weeds have evolved many ways to propagate themselves: their seeds can float around almost invisibly on wayward breezes. They can also come by more direct methods such as a bird (who recently ate some seeds) flying over a bucket or tray of potting mixture and relieving itself.

Why You WILL Have Weeds, Even On An Aquaponics Farm:

Even if you are scrupulous about protecting your potting mixture from air currents and avian bombers, if your farm has anything but asphalt or concrete under your aquaponics system, you will have to deal with weeds at some point. Even if you do have asphalt or concrete, you will still have some areas on your farm just outside the paving where you need to control weeds.

Here's why: due to the previously described propagation methods (and many more left unmentioned), you can figure that a weed seed, or root will find its way onto some moist dirt. Then, you've got a weed coming up from between your troughs, or under your media-bed system tables, or sprouting out of that strip of bare dirt (well, it used to be bare!) next to your greenhouse. Wait long enough before dealing with it, and it will have a trunk rather than just a stem, and will be difficult or impossible to pull out.

You can spray weeds to kill them. However, even setting the question of "organic" aside for a moment, we consider that the risk of some overspray getting into our aquaponics is too great, and so, we don't use any herbicides whatsoever on our farm, organic or not. A very useful and inexpensive OMRI-approved organic herbicide, citric acid, will cause all your plant's roots to go black and then die, if you get enough overspray into your water.

So, if you're like us, you hate pulling weeds (it really is endless!), and know you can't safely spray them, you will want to know a better way of dealing with them. What is it?

Just Don't Deal With Them:

This not like "don't deal with terrorists", it's more like not getting a sunburn: you don't try to fix the sunburn after you get burnt, you do something about it before; you put on a hat and long-sleeved shirt, use sunscreen, and stay in the shade as much as possible. Dealing with weeds follows the same logic: don't deal with them after they happen, because it's way too late then. Here's how to deal with weeds before they even exist:

When you grade for your aquaponic system, or greenhouse, or whatever it is you are building, after the finished grading is done and you have your pipes in the trenches and stubbed-out to their final locations, but before you build anything, you put down weed mat; a very special combination of weed mat(s), that is. It's not expensive (not compared to pulling weeds forever), and it's simple to install:

The Friendly Weed-Free Method: The first step is to put down one layer of 6-mil black polyethylene construction plastic (10-mil is better and worth the small extra expense if you can find it), and stake it down in a few places with 6-inch long weed mat staples (which you can buy at nursery and farm supply houses). Cover your entire area, using a minimum of 12 inches at overlaps between pieces, and leaving enough extra at the edges to be able to extend your weed-free area sometime in the future if you wish to.

The second step is to put down a covering of what's called geofabric or geotextile. This is a heavy, non-woven synthetic fabric normally used gravel bedding on roadways and parking lots. The one we like is called Mirafi 180N, You can get this in 12-1/2 foot wide to 15-foot wide rolls from places that sell landscaping materials, concrete contractor's materials, and some builder's supply houses. Stretch it really tightly (!) so there's no "slop" in it, and staple it down around the edges with 6-inch weed mat staples every two feet or so. Also overlap this a minimum of 12 inches where you join two pieces together. That's it!

We install our fish tanks and aquaponics troughs right over the geofabric next, then put down a couple inches of sized (all the same size) 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pea gravel or cinder in the areas between the troughs and fish tanks to make a nice surface to walk on and protect the geofabric from UV degradation. Don't get unsized gravel that has "fines" or sand in it, because this will grow weeds on top of the weed mat, then their roots will go down through the geofabric to where there's some really good dirt! Don't use the cheaper unsized gravel, for you'll have these weeds forever if you get cheap here.

This Isn't How We Started, But You Can Do It Right To Begin With

Before finally developing this method, we tried all the following (at the advice of "experts), and none of them worked; short descriptions of why not are included:

1. One layer of cheap woven poly weed mat, installed only between the troughs and fish tanks. Things grew up right next to the troughs and tank, then soon right through the weed mat itself, and it was worthless.

2. One layer of cheap non-woven weed mat, plus one layer of cheap woven weed mat, under everything. This was much better than #1, but after about six months the weeds came up through both layers, even though we weeded; if the weed was allowed to get bigger than a couple of inches long before you yanked it, you pulled a hole through both weed mats when you pulled the weed, and then next time you had a really healthy weed growing in the same hole you just punched in your weed mats.

3. Next, we discovered geofabric, which was really tough, and put down just a single layer of it. This had the same problem as #2, only it took longer for the weeds to get through it.

4. We love our final Friendly method, described above. The only problem with it is that now we have to go back and do it on all the areas of the farm that we didn't originally. That's right; we can't! It means taking up the fish tanks and troughs, putting down the weed mat (correctly this time!~), and reinstalling all the tanks and troughs. A monumental job, and that is why we're still weeding those areas! Don't you make this mistake; you can do it right, right from the start!

The photo below is our Solar Greenhouse. It's cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold (hope that makes sense to you, it's the best greenhouse we've ever seen!).

GrownOut1medium 2

Friendly Aquaponic's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Honoka'a, Hawaii, March 2012, (on a grey rainy day) showing PV panels, and growing plants.

Next week: Something interesting and valuable to know about aquaponics. Thanks for listening!

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Purchase Trough Liner Directly From Manufacturer!

Free Farm Tours
Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free workshop on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month,  focused on growing food with aquaponics and permaculture.  Click here for information. See you there!

If you are a school, a non-profit organization, an organization working with the poor, Native Hawaiians, or ex-inmates, or if you are a church, we will hold a free farm tour for you anytime. You DO need to email us first to schedule, or we might be out on errands!


3-1/2 pound kalo (taro root) grown in a 2" net pot (little bump at bottom)


4-month old prawn (macrobrachium rosenbergii) grown in hydroponics troughs of our aquaponics systems

Special Offers!
For Hawaii Residents ONLY: 3-day Aquaponics Technology Training for $195

For Hawaii Residents ONLY: 2-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training for $195

For Hawaii Residents ONLY: 1-day Commercial Aquaponics Training for $195

For Hawaii Residents ONLY: Attend all three for only $395

Special Offers If You Don't Live In Hawaii (Sorry, we just got lucky!)

Sign up for our HAWAII August 30-31st
Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training
or our
HAWAII August 26-28 Aquaponics Technology Training,
or our
TENNESSEE September 20-21 Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training
or our
TENNESSEE September 16-18th Aquaponics Technology Training,

and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

More Information on  Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Trainings

"The Fish's View"

Today's column is NOT about fish at all! I was searching my memory chips for something that might appeal to readers when I came across this bit:

I have a time-honored connection to Japan. In 1998 I began learning kendo; "The Way Of The Sword". Kendo began as a technology for practicing swordfighting that would allow warriors to experience full-contact combat without killing or injuring each other.

Even wooden swords, when wielded in practice by experts, are as capable of killing or injuring as a steel sword is. When a daimyo's (Medieval Japanese lord) army practiced, the daimyo did not benefit from injured or maimed warriors; they still needed to go up against the other side with as many competent men as possible.

Ergo, kendo, which is practiced with protective armor and bamboo swords. The kendo practitioner is one of the few modern martial artists who can "execute fully" that is, go ALL-OUT in practice without worrying about more than a bruise or two.

My kendo sensei (teacher) was taught by a line of sensei who came from Okinawa to Hawaii in the late 1800's. As a result of his teachers' teachers leaving Japan almost 130 years ago, the style of kendo my sensei taught me was unchanged from that which was taught in Okinawa in the 1860's to 1870's. When I practiced with mainland kenshi before (kendo practitioners), they laughed at me because they didn't recognize my style of kendo. They got a lot more respectful when I explained my sensei's lineage and philosophy of teaching kendo.

My sensei emphasized "The Spirit Of Kendo", which was not about winning tournament matches, but about doing "beautiful kendo". He was very serious about kendo not being a "sport", but a way of life.

When I had been practicing with him for eight years, he said that he was moving to another island to take a better career position (as headmaster of a new private Buddhist high school on the island of Oahu), and that I would be sensei now.

I protested that I was not ready to be sensei, and he just smiled at me. He left for his new position, and I continued teaching the dojo (kendo school), which had from six to twelve high school students as kenshi, for another three years.

We had one or two adult students, but they didn't last very long; their minds were full of nonsense, and they didn't apply themselves or concentrate as well as the teenagers did.

We could only afford to rent a church building to use as the dojo practice room, and because of changes in my financial situation, we had to stop doing that in 2008. I am trying to find funds or a patron so we can build our own dojo and I can begin teaching again. It was one of the most rewarding experiences and periods of my whole life!

Konnichi-Wa, and Aloha, Tim........

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2012

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PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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