Godney Aquaponics

Godney Aquaponics
In the village of Godney, with the beautiful back drop of the Glastonbury Tor, Melv and Sal are embarking on a new venture. Fed up with the poor quality of veg in the shops, they have the ambition to set up an aquaponics system to provide fresh vegetables and salad crops for the village, and with a little help from their hens a supply of fresh free range eggs too.

What is Aquaponics??

What is Aquaponics??
Aquaponics is a sustainable method of producing quality food with minimal external inputs. It is a system that combines conventional aquaculture (e.g. fish in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. Water from the aquaculture system is fed to the hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down and are utilised by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then re-circulated back to the aquaculture system.

Monday 23 September 2019

Autumn is in the air...

As the leaves start to fall from the withies there is a definite chill in the air some mornings and it is noticeable that the daylight hours are gradually reducing and the darker evenings are falling upon us - the hens are now going to bed at 7pm rather than 9pm which is snooze time during the peak of the summer.

This change in the season obviously effects how things grow, and this is particularly relevant to our daily production of baby leaf salad and watercress. Both grown in trays the two have slightly different requirements which becomes more apparent at this time of year. The watercress happy to be a little cooler, still grows well in our shade tunnel.

Whereas the salad leaves, whilst happy and need to be in the shade during the hot summer months, now need more light than that area offers and enjoy the warm rays of the sun that the polytunnel converts into a welcome heat at this time of year.

The flow beds in the polytunnel, originally built for the aquaponics side of the business, (that we are yet to find time for) provide the perfect housing for the trays, off the floor and a good height for watering and the perfect dimension to take a large tray which carries 4 smaller trays.

Alongside adapting our growing to the change in the daylight hours we learnt last year that we also need to deal with the change in temperature. This is particularly in relation to the cooler nights which cause condensation on the polythene of the polytunnel, which proceeds to drip off as the air warms up during the day. At its worse if can feel like it is raining in the tunnel, which does not cause a major problem for many of our winter crops, but for small delicate and soft baby leaf salad this can be devastating, causing a lot of damage to the trays. Not only do these droplets cause damage to the leaves, the constant dripping can cause mould to form on the compost. This is exacerbated by the length of time the leaves take to grow meaning there is more time for such mould to become established.

So how do we deal with this, well recently Melv has made a large 'hat' above the flow bed- 

He has built a roof out of Perspex which sits just below the tunnel polythene to catch the drops, on a slight gradient. This works perfectly as the temperature around the Perspex stays the same and so condensation never forms on the sheets.

Growing particularly well at the moment, both the bright and spicy mustards...

together with the broadleaves...

Are really enjoying life in their protected new polytunnel home.

Friday 20 September 2019

Turning up the heat in the tunnel

We like a bit of heat and spice in our food and chillies play a significant part in our diet. This year we have grown two in particular:

Apache is reported to be an extra-hot variety with fiery pods, chocked full of spice, it is claimed to rival the likes of extra-hot Thai peppers, with a touch of sweetness behind the heat – perfect for use in salsas and spicy Asian cuisine. More like an extra-hot culinary chilli pepper that shows well, with better flavour than most ornamentals.

Well they certainly are fiery and behind the heat, the taste of these peppers is flavourful, but not overly unique. It has a bell pepper like fresh flavour with a sweetness that apparently grows the longer the apache pepper stays on the vine, so red apaches will be sweeter than green. certainly one to heat up a curry and it’s big spiciness is delicious for sauces!!

However, the best find has to be the hot lemon sweet chilli pepper which has an amazing taste. As a variety it is claimed to be a mildly hot, sweet citrus-like, lemon-flavoured pepper which is a popular seasoning pepper in Peru, where it is known as qillu uchu.

It has a taste that has a gentle heat, (but fiery with the seeds left in) but is so sweet it is a pleasure to bite into. The hint of citrus comes through once cooked and the warmth is a little 'softer' and not as intense as that offered by many of the smaller red chillies.

The hot lemon is a cone chilli pepper that is around 60mm long with some crinkling. In some ways it is quite unique in that behind the heat there is a lemon grass like flavour which makes it very fresh tasting yet quite pungent!

It is now chilli harvesting time and already we have 5kg in the freezer, ready for jams, jellies, curries, salsas and wine - lovely!!

Sunday 15 September 2019

Ebony and Ivory

Aubergines not only have special fruits, but also have rather unusual flowers, although they are an attractive pastel lilac in colour, they are not particularly delicate as such, but rather look a little like they are made from a material such as cotton which has been pleated.

However, regarding the fruits themselves there is no denying that they are very splendid indeed - their rich deep purple shines, so smooth and in most cases unblemished. This year we have grown a variety known as 'Moneymaker'. It was a variety which was reported to produce traditional glossy black elongated oval fruits, mild tasting which are great grilled, roasted, fried, barbequed, or stuffed and they certainly did, which were enjoyed by local people and the customers of our local businesses.

But this year we have found and grown an aubergine, even more special, with once again perfect fruits, but the difference is that they are unusual creamy white fruits, evenly oval in shape.

Known as 'Ivory' they only grow to the size of an egg, which makes them rather special indeed and very popular for a dish which is that little bit different and offers the customer something that is not your traditional fare in appearance, but has a reassuringly familiar taste and texture. We sampled such a dish at The Sheppey Inn, when we were treated to a main course of ratatouille (made from our own courgettes and beans) with Ivory aubergines cooked in tempura batter, the aubergines were cooked perfectly and melted in your mouth - delicious.

A very special little fruit indeed and one we have certainly earmarked to grow in the future.

Wednesday 4 September 2019

Growing on goodness

The young family are doing well and their varied diet is certainly filling their crops.

Salad trays are certainly a hit, with limited greenery in their pen, it offers a range of different dietary benefits. The soft baby leaves are both a perfect texture and height for our youngsters and eating a tray a day certainly seems to be helping with their development.

So too does corn on the cob, which are now over ripe of our consumption, but for the family they are perfect, full of natural sugars and high in many vitamins and minerals, the youngsters and Carpet gather round eagerly.

At 3 weeks old today the youngsters are developing both distinctive plumages, with heavily patterned wings and a dominant white strip down their tummies, together with distinctive characters. Gaining in confidence the sight of a salad tray is greeted with greatest excitement, the two more dominant chicks immediately gain best advantage from the top of the tray, two of the more reserved youngsters approach from the outside, whilst the quietest of the five, stays with Carpet for encouragement. 

Identifying these traits at this early stage, just serves to illustrate how privileged we are to watch and observe these youngsters grow and develop from day to day and we eagerly wait and see how they grow and establish their place alongside our other birds.

Home grown

Now normally with our horticultural hats on when we talk about home grown we are refering to vegetables. But for the first time since we hav...