Now that I’ve talked at extreme length about the finer points of gardening in soil, I’m going to make a total about-face and bring up information about gardening without soil. What could you grow in other than soil? Both air and water, if suitably treated, can do the job, but hydroponic and aeroponic systems have often gained bad names for themselves in the world of organics, since they’re often very expensive, mechanically complex and chemically intensive. That’s all fine and dandy if you’re working on a 50-billion dollar space capsule, or a biker-funded grow-op, but since most of us aren’t (I hope), there need to be other options.

And there are. Backyard Aquaponics is all about simple, affordable home-scale systems which use an ingenious method of adding nutrition to the water which is being cycled – fish. Like in a natural ecosystem, fish excrete high amounts of useful nutrients (notably nitrogen), which gets taken up and used by the plants like fertilizer. This principal can be used as simply as watering your houseplants from your fish tank (when you change out 1/4 of the water weekly, like ya should), or built into complex systems capable of meeting a very good chunk of your household’s needs in vegetables, fruits and fish. These systems usually use tilapia (the chicken of fish), since they can be ‘farmed’ intensively in containers as small as a garbage can, but there’s a lot of other options as well. Even if you never buy anything from the site, make sure to check out the forum as it’s one of the greatest meetings of minds on the subject I’ve ever witnessed.

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