Hungry Hungry Chickens

Two important things to know about chickens: they eat a lot, and they are messy eaters. I don’t think chickens really like to eat something until they’ve dropped it in the dirt, stepped on it, then pooped on it. Store bought feeders work very well in this sense, they are easy to spill and the chickens can drop dirt right into the feeder (or poop in it) if they choose.

There’s a bunch of DIY chicken feeder plans on the internet so I used that as a starting point. A couple of other design goals of mine were to ensure the food stays dry and have enough capacity to where I could ignore them (go on vacation) for four or five days without worrying about them. I take no credit for this design, it just seemed like the right one for my application. The feeder is made from PVC pipe (easy) and is pretty easily adaptable for any coop. I made two feeders so several birds at a time could eat.

The first step is to cut a rounded taper on a four inch PVC tee joint. This was done freehand by marking a pattern with a marker, cut it out with an oscillating tool, then using a file and sandpaper to smooth it out.

PVC tee joint for chicken feeder

Here’s another view of the curve, it doesn’t have to be perfect, this is just to keep the food dry and allow the chicken to stick their head in. The bottom of the PVC tee will be blocked off and the food will drop in from the top.

PVC tee joint prepared for chicken feeder

The plastic plug I made for the bottom was cut from a bucket lid, it will be held in place with a PVC reducer. It’s not shown in this post but I ended up drilling small holes in the bottom cap to allow food dust to fall through. If you don’t do that it can get a little messy over time with food dust buildup.

PVC end cap for chicken feeder

Here’s the plastic cap placed into the bottom of the PVC tee, it should be a pretty snug fit.

Test fit plastic cap for chicken feeder

I press fit the PVC reducer to hold the plastic bottom in place. None of the feeder parts had to be glued. Once installed the feeder will be resting on this bottom part so everything will be fine just press fit together, it also allows you to make changes later which I had to do.

PVC reducer to hold chicken feeder bottom.

Here’s the bottom cap from the chickens point of view. As mentioned before, one of my revisions was to drill small holes in here to allow food dust to drop out.

Looking at chicken feeder bottom - chicken view

Here’s a top view looking down into the PVC tee towards the bottom.

Plastic bottom of chicken feeder - top view

Next we are going to make a funnel, this is for the food that will drop into the bottom part we just made. This funnel will control the amount of food that is available to the chicken and may have to be modified for your feed type. I use pellet food, if you use crumbles then a smaller funnel may work better so the food doesn’t free flow too easily.

I initially used a two inch funnel. This was later changed to an inch and a half, the two inch allowed too much food into the lower area and the chickens managed to scatter it around the outside of the feeder. You want just enough dropping in so they can get to it but not so much that they can fling it around.

For a two inch funnel you need a PVC three inch to two inch adapter and a short piece of two inch pipe. To figure the pipe length just place the reducer into the top of the lower assembly and measure from the feeder bottom to the PVC reducer. Once the small pipe is cut, cut out a notch in it like the picture below ( I started with a one inch cut). This will all make sense in a minute.

PVC food funnel for chicken feeder

Place the short piece of PVC into the reducer like shown below:

PVC funnel assembly for chicken feeder

The drop the whole thing into the feeder bottom assembly:

Placing funnel into chicken feeder lower assembly

And this is what it should look like from the chickens point of view:

Chicken feeder funnel installed

Now you need to test the funnel assembly with your food type. Fill the top of the PVC tee with the type of chicken feed you use.

Testing chicken feeder

From the chicken point of view, the food should be available but not spilling out too much. I’d err on the side of not much food rather than too much, as long as the chicken can reach in and get a piece from the funnel that is good enough. The food does not have to spill out, the chicken will makethat happen.

My current funnel is smaller than this original one, I changed the reducer and short pipe to an inch and a half (from two inches).

Food test for PVC chicken feeder

With the hard part over, now all you need to do is cut an upright pipe to the height you want (mine are about forty inches) and put some sort of cap on. I used a threaded coupling to make filling easy and to keep water and bugs out.

PVC chicken feeders with uprights

There’s dozens of ways to mount these and you could also put a bend near the top so you can fill them from outside the coop. I went with inside coop feeding to ensure water stays out of the food.

The mounts I made were two boards in a L shape with a cutout for the pipe. The bottom mount also has a lower lip to support the feeders and I used pipe strap to secure the feeders to the mounts. Here’s the boards for the mounts after cutting and staining.

Chicken feeder mounts

I painted the outside of the feeders green but left the inside unpainted. Here’s how they look after mounting, you can see part of the automatic watering system to the left. I’ll cover that feature in a future post.

Chicken feeders mounted

Another view:

DIY chicken feeders completed

Here’s a list of materials required (not including the mounts):

  • 4″ PVC tee
  • 4″ to 3″ PVC adapter (holds bottom in)
  • Plastic piece for bottom, I cut mine from a bucket lid
  • 3″ to 2″ PVC reducer for funnel (later changed to 3″ to 1.5″ reducer)
  • short piece of 2″ PVC pipe for funnel (later changed to 1.5″ PVC pipe)
  • 4″ PVC for upright, whatever length you want
  • 4″ PVC threaded coupling for top
  • 4″ threaded cap for top

I’d suggest test fitting it all together while in the store to make sure you have the right parts. I’ve had these in place now for about a year and they are working great (after the few small modifications).

For the lazy, you can spend twice as much and get a feeder half the size.

If you are new to the site, here’s links to the chicken coop build:

And stay tuned, this Thursday I’ll be posting another one of my EX Life Tips!

Chicken Coop Build – Final

Welcome to part three of the chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. Part one of the build focused on building the foundation for the coop, part two was the main framing. This post is about finishing touches and moving the coop into place, I’ll have some follow up posts in the future with the feeders and watering system (and a chicken run when I get around to building it).

As of the last post the coop has taken shape and has been moved outside as it got too tall for the workshop. The focus now is on features and trim work. In this picture, you can see a few trim boards installed and a couple of others cut and ready for staining. The trim is simply 1×4 lumber (and a few 1×6 pieces) screwed over the stapled edges of the welded wire. For future repairs of any part of the coop it shouldn’t be too hard as most boards are screwed into place.

Chicken coop trim

Inside the coop house I’ve put a divider board in to separate the chicken area from the storage area. The storage will be used for coop supplies and for the water tank for the automatic watering. This view is from the storage side which is approximately two feet deep and four feet wide.

Chicken coop storage

Here is the view from the chicken side. The opening this picture is taken from is the clean out doors, the nesting boxes are on the right, and the chicken entry door is partly visible in the back.

Chicken home

In both previous openings you can see the lip at the top and bottom, these are for the doors to fit flush against. This will help keep rain out of the coop and give the doors something to support against. I also added some welded wire between the hen house and open area of the coop, this is to prevent the chickens from trying to roost up there and potentially get stuck. The same opening to the storage side is blocked off with wood.

The coop is being installed in the shade of some large trees so heat should not be an issue.

Blocked chicken access

Next, here is the coop with trim installed. The small opening at the bottom will be a slide up automated door for the chickens to access their run during the day, more detail on that later.

Chicken coop trim

Now for the nesting box. I didn’t have a real good plan for this so it was designed as I went, one thing I’d do different next time is make the opening a lot bigger. By the time it was built I lost a lot of interior space so it went from a three nest design down to two. The first thing was to build some sides, these were made from thick plywood and attached directly to the coop.

Nesting box sides

I then added some 2×2’s around the bottom to support the floor.

Nesting box floor support

Then the floor was cut and test fit prior to staining and mounting.

Nesting box floor

With the nesting box floor in place, I made it so the back could be opened for cleaning. This took some trial and error but here is the result.

Nesting box access

Here’s the back flipped open. Note all hardware I used is heavy galvanized, no zinc coated stuff for this coop.

Nesting box opened

All is going good so far, next is the top. This turned out to be pretty challenging, I wanted to be able to flip it open and latch it up out of the way but that didn’t work out. Weatherproofing took priority so the end result is it can be held up most of the way or easily removed, but it is not hinged. I may modify this at a later time to make it easier to use.

Here is the top piece after being cut and stained. Note the grooves line up with the siding, the little details count!

Nesting box top test fit

Here’s another view, you can see it is difficult to make it weatherproof and easy to use. To make it so the top could flip up all the way would require it to be attached to the outside but I prefer it goes up into the coop so water won’t enter.

Nesting box construction side view

I put a trim board above the nesting box roof to further keep water out and for aesthetics. The latch to hold the top on was also added at this point. Note all hasps on the coop are twist to lock and if needed I could add something through the lock hole if raccoons became a problem. So far they haven’t.

Nesting box almost complete

A shot inside the nesting box showing how the back is secured (opens for cleaning).

Nesting box inside

Here is the nesting box with the top on and secured.

Nesting box completed

You may have noticed in a couple of the other pictures that the side door is on. This was built with a 2×4 along the back edge then 2×2’s on the other 3 sides. Some shelf bracket angle pieces (galvanized) in the corners help keep it square.

Chicken coop main door

The hen house clean-out doors and storage doors were made from the pieces that were cut out, that way the grooves in the wood lined right up. Here is the hen house doors mounted and partially stained.

Cleanout doors installed

These doors have a piece of 1×4 on the inside as a hinge backer and one door has one in the middle for support. Here you can see the middle piece clearly.

Coop door middle bracing

With the door opened you can see both backings.

Coop door backings

This is the coop clean-out doors wide open, it makes things a little more clear. At the top and bottom of the doors you can see how they fall into the lip on the coop to help seal. When closed, the doors are flush against the coop sides and blend right in.

This picture was taken before the nesting box was completed so you can see it in progress as well (right side).

Cleanout doors installed

This inside shot is after the nesting box was completed, you can see there was a lot of space lost due to the sides and roof of the nesting box structure. Bigger next time!

Nesting box from inside

Doors on, nesting box build, main door ready. We are almost ready to move the coop!

Coop ready for move

I mentioned earlier about a sliding door on the back of the coop, here is an inside shot of it. For now I can raise or lower it from the outside using a rope, in a future project this will be automated to open at dawn and close at dusk. The door will probably have to be changed quite a bit as it does not slide up and down too easily.

Chicken run access door

Now, how to move the coop. As usual, I tackled this problem when the time came so there was no real plan until then. The coop is way too large and unwieldy to pick up with just pallet forks on the tractor so the next best idea is to make a dolly.

I used some tires from Harbor Freight, the axles are just threaded rod, and these were attached with some angle iron drilled out. The dolly frame is a hodge podge of 4×4 lumber but it served it’s purpose well. I picked up the other end with the tractor and very slowly drove it to the new location.

Coop dolly

To retain better control, the heavy side was the one lifted by the tractor.

Coop dolly front

When the coop was straddled over the foundation, a little push from the tractor put it right in place. I used some concrete anchors and angle brackets to bolt it down, unfortunately there’s no pictures of those steps. Here’s what it looked like right after the move.

Chicken coop in place

You can see a few chips in the foundation from maneuvering the coop into place but none of them are too bad. This makes a good case for putting dye into the concrete, if that were done there wouldn’t be any need for touch up. All concrete projects I do now have the coloring put right in the mix.

Coop in position

Next step is to shingle the roof. I waited until after the move to do this to avoid damaging the roof and also reduce the total weight during the move. The shingles match the ones on our house, these are leftovers from when it was built.

Coop being shingled

Shingled installed, just need to do the ridge.

Coop shingled except ridge

The chickens were already placed in the coop but I noticed at night they all gathered at the hen house door. The interior of the coop is very dark so as an experiment I put a small light in there, that worked as the birds went inside.

For a more permanent solution, I added a solar powered led light. Here is a link to the one I used, I cut off all but one light from the string so the battery would last longer. The solar panel was mounted by the coop door which faces west.

Coop solar panel

Mounting the panel was simple as it already had a bracket attached, a few wire clamps hold it in place.

Coop solar mount

Wires were stapled along the interior:

Coop light wiring

A final wire clamp holds the lamp in place. This has been running for a year and a half now with no problem.

Coop lamp mount

In the future I’ll add a more elaborate solar power system to power an interior light, wireless video camera, door for the run, and water monitor but for now this works well.

Here is a picture inside the coop with bedding in place, note the retaining board added to the front to hold the shavings from falling out. That board is removable to make cleaning easier.

Coop house bedding

From this angle you can see how the retaining board and coop doors all line up when closed. The coop doors help hold the board in place, there is a beveled board attached on the inside to keep it from falling out.

Retaining board detail

Hangars for food and water were added to use until the permanent feeders and watering were set up, happy birds!

Coop food and water

So there you have it – the coop is fully operational. On this last picture you can see the small rake hanging on the back, this is used for cleaning and herding the chickens around.

Completed chicken coop

Most of the things I’d do different are around the foundation, it would be bigger (taller) and the whole thing would be on higher ground. It has held up well including through some of the worst flooding this area has seen but I’d feel better if it was about six inches higher up. The nesting boxes are smaller than planned but has not caused any problems for our current eight birds.

If I were to do it again, and I probably will make another coop someday, it will be made from concrete. I’d build it as a building that could be re-purposed later or divided up for multiple bird types. This coop cost around $1,500 to make, the one I’d like to have would easily be triple that. That’s a project for five years out, this coop will easily last that long and maybe ten years or more. At a year and a half old now there’s very little sign of wear.

If you are reading this and are in the Brevard County, Florida area please check our Facebook page for upcoming events. We host seed and plant exchanges at Three Acre Paradise a few times a year and also have other types of meetup events here.

Until next time, keep on planting!

 

 

 

 

Chicken Coop Build – Framing

Welcome to part two of the chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. In case you missed it, here is a link to part one where I built the foundation. This post focuses on the main framing of the coop. The third and final build post will be about finishing touches, then in the future I’ll have posts on the automated watering system and the custom built feeders.

If you find any part of this useful and grab some tips from the build I’d like to hear about it. I’m not one of those people who can plan every detail ahead of time so a lot of this is figure it out as you go but I did have an overall idea in mind. The size of the coop is for up to eight birds comfortably although it could hold more once a run is attached (future project).

Building outside in Florida can be a pain due to the heat and mosquitoes, I’m fortunate to have a workshop large enough to start the coop build inside. The final location is about 200 feet from the shop so it also saved a lot of time not having to drag tools back and forth.

Here’s the start, a batch of 2×4 pressure treated lumber ready to go.

2x4 pressure treated lumber

The coop dimensions are twelve feet wide, six feet deep and six feet high. This made purchasing easy, I bought mostly twelve foot boards and cut them in half where needed. Here’s the first batch cut and coated with a redwood colored stain:

coop-build2-02

No I didn’t have a fancy plan but did have a rough idea on paper. To help avoid errors, I put blue painters tape on the floor to indicate where the uprights will go on the frame.

Painters tape on floor

The base consists of two 2×4’s put together in an L shape. I used coated screws for most assembly, this gives more strength and allows for changes (corrections) as needed. The reason for the L shape is that the bottom board needs to be flat to be bolted to the concrete base and the vertical board provides supports for the uprights.

Here’s the base of the frame assembled:

Frame base assembled

A close up of a frame corner shows the L shape in more detail, plus the way the joint meets for more strength:

Base corner detail

I’m not a carpenter so I’m sure there’s better ways to do this but it seems pretty strong. With the base now assembled I squared it up and screwed a board across the top to keep it in place while assembly continues. The frame is also kept above the floor with some scrap wood to keep it level.

Frame base squared

When building the coop I had no idea I’d be blogging this later so there are some steps that don’t have many pictures so I’ll describe what the next steps were best I can. For the corner uprights I used a 2×4 with a 2×2 attached to it to give an L shape. I Screwed each corner upright into place (they held without assistance since they were pretty vertical). I then use clamps to carefully attach the top boards one at a time until I had all of them up. Once they were up, I worked on squaring each corner and tightening up with more screws.

Corners and top attached

In the above picture you can see the closest corner has been squared and braced. The clamps hold the top boards in place:

Top boards clamped on

With this shot of the bottom bracing you can get a good idea how the uprights look. The 2×4 is flat to the front of the coop and the 2×2 is to the side.

Bottom brace detail

Once the basic rectangle was braced and tightened I added all vertical uprights. These are just 2×4’s, the tape on the floor helps me make sure everything is in the right place. Measure twice, cut once. You can see some additional bracing in place to keep everything squared.

All uprights added

Next, I added framing for the coop floor (hen house). Another advantage of building in the shop – I could work at night.

Coop floor framed

With the floor framing in place, I put in the last uprights. These don’t go all the way to the top since there will be access doors and a nesting box for the hen house. I also put the wire cloth in the lower section now since it will be harder to get to once the hen house floor is in place.

Final uprights added

Heavy plywood (3/4″) was used for the hen house floor. I left the top of this natural, the floor will be glued down so this will protect the wood.

Hen house floor installed

Once again, a couple of steps were done with no pictures. I used commercial grade linoleum flooring squares, these are easy to cut and glue down. Once the floor was dried the openings for the nesting box, clean out door, storage door, and hen opening were braced and support was put in for a divider.

Floor completed

Here’s a closeup of the nesting box bracing. 2×4’s were used and a Kreg jig made for strong joints. If you are considering a project like this I highly recommend the Kreg, it’s a big time and headache saver. Here’s an Amazon link to the one I use.

Nesting box bracing

Here’s a picture from inside the coop, this is the opening the chickens will use to get into the hen house. I used the Kreg here again, see how the 2×4’s are attached flush with the other framing. To the right you can see the framing for the divider, the left side is the hen house and the right will be for the water tank and storage.

Hen door framing

A closer look at the hen door framing and how it is flush with the other frame boards.

Hen door closeup detail

The welded wire I used has one inch holes, I could not find a good deal locally so ended up getting it from Amazon. Here is a link to what I used. The spacing on my uprights is two feet so this was made easy by buying welded wire the right width from the start. The wire was stapled to the outside of the uprights then trimmed to fit into the backside of the top and bottom. I’ll be putting trim boards over the outside to make it look nicer, again since everything is screwed together it will be easy to replace any future damage.

Welded wire attached

Siding for the hen house is a grooved exterior plywood that I bought at Home Depot. This was easy to cut and attach with all the bracing that was placed around every opening. When I cut each opening I was careful to do it in one piece and kept the scrap, these will be just right for making the doors. With this picture you can see the results so far, plus I’ve added some trim boards by the main door. Looks good!

Coop siding installed

Nothing fancy as far as attaching the siding, just a bunch of screws and it just buts up against the top rail. The coop is nice and strong now so no need for the original temporary bracing. This opening is for the nesting box.

Nesting box covered

Here you can see the back and end opening. The end (to the right) is access to clean out the hen house, the back (left) is for the storage and water tank. Note I left an edge of framing exposed at the top and bottom of each opening. This is to give the doors something to brace against when closed and will also keep rain and wind out.

Back and end openings

Looking from the inside, this is the hen house. The opening to the coop is to the left (hen access), nesting box to the back, and clean out opening to the right.

Hen house view

Well, that’s pretty much it for what I can do inside the workshop. The next step is roof framing and If I did that inside then it would be stuck in there since my garage door would be in the way. The coop is light enough to be moved with furniture dollies so I put it in the driveway and leveled it up.

The first step for the roof framing is the ridge board. If this is done straight then the rest should fall in place nicely.

Roof ridge board in place

The inspectors stopped by to check on progress and offer their advice.

Chicken inspectors

With inspections complete, the rafters went on next. To make the rafters I used trial and error to make one good one then just copied it thirteen more times.

Coop rafters installed

Each rafter is secured with an extra metal bracket. I want this thing to be hurricane proof if possible.

Rafter straps

Even the ridge board has extra bracing.

Ridge board bracing

Fast forward a few steps again, now we have roof sheathing installed, fascia boards, and most of the trim boards installed. You can see a few untreated trim boards leaning on the side, I used pressure treated wood for these too.

Coop roof sheathing installed

It looks like it is getting close but there’s still a lot to do! The roof is now covered with peel and stick and all trim boards are on. This is a good place to take a break, next post I’ll cover the finishing touches and moving the coop into place.

Coop framing complete

Again, if you have any questions or want more construction details let me know,

Until next time, keep on clucking!

 

 

 

 

Chicken Coop Build – Foundation

If you are considering getting chickens – do it! They are everything we were hoping for, and more. Chickens are smart, easy to care for, they can learn some tricks and have a lot of benefits like producing eggs, reducing the insect population, and prepping garden beds. Let’s see your dog do that! One of the most important things for keeping your chickens is the coop, don’t cheap out on this. The store bought kits are usually junk, the wood and hardware won’t last more than a single season and they are not nearly secure enough to keep predators out.

The next series of posts will show our chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. I’ve broken this into several segments to provide more detail, pictures, and commentary including what I would do different if I were to do it again.

When I build something such as this I don’t usually start with a fixed plan but rather an idea of what the finished project will look like and provide. This coop was based on lessons learned from an earlier one, I’ll highlight the differences at the end of the build. This one is designed for up to eight chickens (which it currently houses). It will be mounted in a permanent location (the previous was portable, sort of), will have storage for supplies, and have high capacity feeders with automatic watering. The location is southeast of the house, that is in the back left side (see the end of the Upcoming Projects post for a visual location).

The dimension for this coop are 6’W x 12’L x 6’H (six feet wide by twelve feet long and six feet high). The previous coop was 4’W x 12’W x 4’H, I quickly learned that having more headroom inside makes it a LOT easier to clean and maintain.

Chicken coop foundation layout

The pad area was prepped with some fill dirt to raise it above the surrounding area and packed down real good. The coop will have a concrete base around the perimeter, then a drain field inside topped with gravel, weed block and sand. In these first pictures you can see where I measured out the perimeter area to set up the form boards for the concrete pour.

Chicken coop foundation layout again

The coop frame will be built from 2×4 lumber and will rest directly on the concrete. To protect the frame from standing water and also have some leeway for error I made the base six inches wide but sloped the sides to shed water.

The next picture shows the form set up. The form boards are just under ten inches high, with the dirt dug down below the overall height will be right at about a foot. Half of this will be below ground and half will be above, this is the first layer of predator protection. Future plans include adding a pavers around the coop to make it even harder for any animals to try digging underneath.

Chicken coop foundation form

Once the basic form was set up i added a drain pipe, then put a ring of rebar into the form. The rebar won’t prevent the concrete from cracking but if it does the rebar will keep it from separating. The drain pipe is shown here:

Chicken coop foundation drain

Although the form doesn’t look that big, it required 30 bags of concrete!

Chicken coop foundation concrete

The concrete mixer made quick work of this. I don’t have any in progress pictures since once started I didn’t want to stop but the pour only took about an hour. The mixer was a great Craigslist find a few years ago, total investment after repairs was only around $350.

Chicken coop foundation progress

Here’s the form after the concrete was poured. After it set up for about an hour I went back and rounded the inside and outside edge to help it shed water.

Chicken coop foundation poured

Next step is to build the internal drain. This was accomplished by making a PVC assembly and drilling a lot of holes.

Chicken coop foundation drain holes

Here’s the completed drain frame:

Chicken coop foundation drain pipe

And the drain frame placed into the concrete base:

Chicken coop drain

Here’s a closeup of the drain attached to the exit pipe:

Chicken coop drain detail

Then the drain was covered with gravel. The drain sits pretty high above the surrounding area and was put to the test with Hurricane Irma in 2017 (about six months after the build completion). We had some of the worst flooding in recent history and water never pooled inside the coop, although if the water had been any higher this would not have been the case.

Chicken coop foundation gravel

Before adding the weedblock and sand I painted the concrete. I used a redwood color since this was the same color as I would use for the coop frame.

Chicken coop foundation painted

This final picture in this series shows the process of adding the weedblock and sand.

Chicken coop foundation sand

When I built this coop we had 5 chickens, for that amount it worked great. On Christmas Eve in 2017 all five were killed by a neighbors dog that got loose so we had to start over. We now have eight birds in there and for some reason they are a lot more destructive than the previous batch (maybe because we don’t let them free range as much). They have managed to dig down and tear up  the edges of the weedblock. The previous birds never did much digging, this new batch has a fascination with making sand piles.

The reason I bring that up is it involves one thing I would do different. If building again, I would make everything deeper and higher. I’d build the initial mound higher and make the concrete deeper and taller. More is better, maybe have the concrete go down a foot and up eight inches for a total of twenty inches instead of the twelve.  This would ensure that it drains well but also allow me to have a lot more sand (deeper).

In summary, here’s the things I would do different:

  1. Make initial mound higher
  2. Concrete would be deeper and taller
  3. Have multiple drain outlets (currently has one)
  4. Use larger drain pipe (3/4″ used, switch to 1″)
  5. Use concrete coloring mix instead of painting

Overall I am happy with the way this turned out and there hasn’t been any real problems, making these few changes would just make it that much better. I hope this information is useful for anyone looking to build a coop, the next post will cover the main framing. Happy planting!

 

Aquaponics Filter Build

It’s raining here! Unfortunately it seems like we are either in a drought or flood, there hasn’t been any significant rain in a while and now it looks like a tropical depression has parked itself right over the state. Hurricane season is right around the corner. The good news for me, I finished the filter build and it has been tested prior to the beginning of this deluge.

Starting with this post I’ll be updating the format a little, I’m going to put a section at the bottom of each post with information and links to any items used within the article. I think this may be better than just having links throughout, if you want to help support this site please check out any Amazon links provided as I am on their referral program. I’ll link to other sites as well but I’m only affiliated with Amazon at this time.

On to the filter build, there’s a lot of plans on the internet for different types of filters but the basic idea is to capture and eventually remove large solids from the water flow. One of the most common is called a swirl filter, this is where the water is swirled to create a vortex to trap solids. My design started with this in mind but changed a little bit as that didn’t seem to trap enough, I wanted as close to 100% removal as possible with little maintenance.

The first step was to build a stand for the filter to sit on. While not very exciting of a build, it may help someone out so I’ll cover it here. I measured the height of the fish tank and filter tank to figure out the height of the stand so your requirements will probably be different, but basically the top of the filter is just below the top height of the tank (using gravity flow for the water). Next step, cut the legs and shelf supports using 2×4 lumber:

ap_filter_01

For aesthetics and strength, I routed the legs so the shelves would be recessed into them. This also helps keep everything square.

ap_filter_02

Nailed together shelf supports:

ap_filter_03

Attached plywood to shelves:

ap_filter_04

Screw shelves to legs:

ap_filter_05

At this point I tested the height and made sure it was level in the location it was going to be installed. The pavers aren’t perfectly level so I figured how to orient the stand to be level and not wobble on the ground. Turns out I had to cut all the legs down by about an inch. You can see I also cut a hole in the middle, this is for the filter drain.

ap_filter_06

The final step was to paint it so it has a fighting chance against the elements. I had plenty of leftover exterior green paint left so that became the color of choice.

ap_filter_07

For the filter I had a 15 gallon tank that had previously been used as part of the water system for the house, a lot of designs use 5 gallon buckets but that just seemed too small. This tank had an opening on the top already but it was too small to work with so I cut around a ridge to make a larger opening but also tried to leave as much material as possible for strength.

ap_filter_08

Here it is with the cut off part removed:

ap_filter_09

Next I cut a hole in the bottom for the drain. I went off center to avoid a plastic seam.

ap_filter_10

“MADE IN U.S.A” – awesome.  Bulkhead installed. I’ll put a link to the one I used at the end of this post.

ap_filter_11

The drain is just a PVC quarter turn valve from Lowes:

ap_filter_12

The aquaponic system doesn’t have any leaks and I want to keep it that way. Before going any further, a leak test:

ap_filter_13

Next step is to cut holes for the inlet and outlet pipes. The inlet (from the fish tank) is slightly higher than the output (to the media beds) to allow for the gravity flow through the system.

ap_filter_14

Uniseals installed. These are the most common types of seals used in home built aquaponic systems and for good reason, they work. Even if you have to go through a curved surface like this filter or a bucket they handle it with no problem.

ap_filter_15

Don’t let anyone fool you, pushing the pipe through the Uniseal is not easy. I’ve found it helpful to bevel the pipe edge slightly and use some soap as the directions recommend. Once you get the pipes through they do a great job though and they are quick and easy to install.

ap_filter_16

Here’s what the pipes look like inside the filter. The water coming in is to the left, it is directed near the bottom at an angle to start a swirl, then exits out the top.

ap_filter_17

Here’s how it looks from the side:

ap_filter_18

This design did work but the lighter particles still remained suspended and were getting through. One thing that I tried was to reduce the suction of the output flow by adding a pipe with holes. The idea was that this would break up the flow into more but smaller drains.

ap_filter_19

This did help, but the lighter solids were still not settling into the tank, instead they would eventually find their way out. I tried adding some screening to this pipe but it would clog up in a few hours. I added some plastic fencing rolled up near the top of the filter to break up the circulation but that only helped slightly. The final solution? I filled the filter about 3/4 of the way with lava rock. Bingo! This works great.

ap_filter_20

I know the swirl has been stopped but the results speak for themselves. The picture above is what the rock looked like after about a week of running, the debris at the top is actually algae growing but the water exiting is crystal clear. I left the additional filters in the media beds so I could see how much was getting through and with this setup it is very little.

ap_filter_21

Now the very last problem to solve was that there was algae growing in the filter since I had left the top open. This was solved by cutting the bottom off of a large nursery pot of about the same diameter and holding it down with a bungy cored. Maybe in the future I’ll come up with something more elegant but for now this works.

ap_filter_22

The filter has been in place for about three weeks so far and the water seems to be a lot cleaner. I have flushed the filter out weekly but it could probably go for a month or more between cleanings. One reason I’ve had to clean it more often is that raccoons have discovered the automatic fish feeder and have dumped the entire contents into the fish tank twice so far so that is something that will have to addressed right away.

Thank you for reading and if you want to help support this site please check out any of our Amazon links below or from the Product Links page. It doesn’t cost you anything 🙂


Links to products mentioned in this post

Lifegard Aquatics 3/4-Inch Double Threaded Bulkhead

Uniseal – best prices I have found are from  The UNISEAL Warehouse

 

Aquaponics vs EarthBox – 6 week (final) results

We are now six weeks into the Aquaponics vs EarthBox challenge and there’s no big surprises since the three week results. The EarthBox plants have grown huge, I’ve even harvested them a few times. The aquaponics plants have grown, not a whole lot in size but they have a lot more leaves but not nearly as much as the EarthBox plants. I had originally planned a three month checkpoint for this competition but have decided this will be the final update for this round. I’m going to do a few improvements to the aquaponics system then replant and see if I can get better results.

Here’s the EarthBox plants as of now. The first is the Chinese Cabbage, I’ve harvested these twice and they are still growing like crazy. For size reference the EarthBox is 29 inches wide. These two plants are dwarfing the box.

ap_vs_eb_6wk_01

Next, the Kale. This has been harvested once to make some Kale Chips and a few older leaves have been removed.

ap_vs_eb_6wk_02

Last, the Swiss Chard. I take a leaf here and there to mix in salads and cut off old growth when it starts to go brown. I’ve got Swiss Chard growing in several places around the property.

ap_vs_eb_6wk_03

Keep in mind these are all after six weeks of planting. The aquaponic system is working and growing but the EarthBox plants have just exploded. For the aquaponic results I’m just going to show each bed which has the same plants as the EarthBoxes (one of each per bed) plus a few other things. Media bed one:

ap_vs_eb_6wk_04

The Swiss Chard in the back left is not the one from the competition, that was planted earlier. For scale, these beds are 37 inches wide, eight inches wider than an EarthBox. Media bed two:

ap_vs_eb_6wk_05

The plant in the back center is celery that was a leftover core just stuck in the bed, it’s growing good and I’ll occasionally cut a stalk off for salads. Finally, the raft bed:

ap_vs_eb_6wk_06

Overall I prefer the media beds over the raft bed, the raft does have the advantage of being easier to clean.

Over the next month or so I’ll be adding a filter to the aquaponic system, covering the sides with something other than black plastic, increasing the fish load, automatic water level maintainer, and building a screen cover over the fish tank (I caught a raccoon fishing there one evening). I’m hoping to see better results and I’m sure there’s plenty of room for improvement. Surprisingly, I didn’t get too much hate mail from other aquaponic users but I did get a few that said the systems can’t really be compared.

Here’s my take on the results. For anyone starting out and just trying to get some vegetables to grow, go with the EarthBoxes (or GrowBox). They are fairly foolproof to set up and can get you some quick success. The cost to start up a single box is under $50 all in, including some seedlings. Annually, it runs around $1 to refresh the box (not including seedlings) and they should last 15-20 years. It really doesn’t pay to make your own, but I’ll still post a “how to” for that in the future.

Aquaponics systems have the advantage of a secondary output, the fish. You can eat the fish or raise decorative fish to sell at a profit. The downsides are a much higher entry cost, higher maintenance (you have to add trace minerals, keep it clean, and feed the fish), and a single problem can wipe out everything at once.

I hope some people find this useful, again I want to state I have not received any promotional materials or discounts from any manufacturer (or store). All of this is my own opinion, my goal is to just help others get the biggest bang for their gardening buck and I’ll continue to test and compare methods to show what has worked best for me.

If you like this post please like and follow our Facebook page to get the latest updates. The next comparison will be EarthBox vs Grow Bags for tomatoes and peppers, the planting has already been completed so I’ll post a three week update soon. Happy planting!

Upcoming Projects

Last week I posted my views on homesteading, prepping, and self sufficiency which are all goals for Three Acre Paradise. While those are all part of the big plan, there’s also some other things that are very important when working towards these. Low maintenance, aesthetics, and convenience are all key items. I like to build things so they don’t require a lot of work to maintain, otherwise I’d be spending my time with weekly chores rather than enjoying the property and working on new projects. They must fit in and be pleasing to look at to help create a relaxing and low stress environment. That’s what Paradise is all about.

Here is an overhead view of the property as it is today. The house, pond, and workshop are in the middle, the main road at the bottom and driveway leads up to the house and shop. The red border indicates the property line. The width of the property is about 230 feet, the depth is 550 feet.

property_plan_00

The top priority right now is to get the property fenced. I’ve had a lot of trouble with deer eating just about everything from the smallest plants to the larger fruit trees. They have chewed down vegetation, scraped bark off trees, and trampled through sensitive gardens. Secondary, the fence will keep our small animals in and others out. We have three small dogs and a flock of chickens that all seem attracted to the woody areas where predators like to hide. We’ve also had the neighbors dogs over feasting on the chickens, fencing should cure these problems. The first step is to fence the front and put up a gate, that has been contracted out and should be done in the next few weeks. The yellow lines show the approximate area for the this:

property_plan_01 - Fencing

Here’s what it looks like along the road. I’ve made sure the area is clear and level so the fence company shouldn’t run into any problems.

property_plan_02 - Fencing

The fence along the front will be a three board split rail made of vinyl, similar to this:

property_plan_03 - Fencing

The gate will be aluminum and eventually automated. Since the split rail does not keep smaller animals in or out I’ll have to put another layer of fencing behind it. This will be the same or similar to what is used on the remainder of the property. The only part that will remain un-fenced is a section along the back where there is a utility easement.

property_plan_04 - Fencing

The easement will allow animals (such as the deer) to easily pass between properties such as they do today and hopefully will keep them from thinking they have to jump over the fence. There’s already a good collection of wildflowers growing in that area, I’ll probably add seed for some other beneficial plants. I can’t put any trees back there in case the city has to dig to access the buried water main. Here’s what that area looks like today:

property_plan_05 - Fencing

The dirt mound is a raised and cleared path for the future fence, the utility easement is to the right. Since the neighbors yard behind me is fully fenced this access path is pretty important. The fencing that will be used will be a field fence such as this:

property_plan_06 - Fencing

Once the fencing is complete the focus will be on a new garden area. Here is where it will be on the property:

property_plan_07 - Garden

The garden will be approximately 40-50 feet per side. There will be a pergola running down the middle with supports to help with plants that like to be trellised. The garden area will also be fenced so there will be two layers of protection from larger animals. An electric wire will help discourage the smaller ones from climbing in. Here is what that area looks like today, it has already been cleared and prepped:

property_plan_08 - Garden

Next project will be a potting house on the pathway to the garden (PH on this drawing):

property_plan_09 - Potting House

This will be a work area for planting seeds and storing gardening supplies. I’m also thinking of adding a sitting area on the side facing the pond just as an area to relax. This area has also been prepped:

property_plan_10 - Potting House

Once the garden has been moved the old garden location will become a carport. I’ll have a concrete slab put down and a metal carport cover put in. This will have two parking places for whatever extra vehicles we have at the time (CP on drawing):

property_plan_11 - Carport

We could also use the carport area for parties and gatherings, it’s nice to have some additional shaded area due to the sun and unpredictable rains. This is what the garden looks like today, it has a shade cover and everything is planted in containers:

property_plan_12 - Carport

Yup that’s a lot so far, but the biggest stuff is done at this point. Timeline for these is by the end of 2020 but hopefully sooner. After these I’d like to build a fire pit and picnic area with paths leading to them (FP and PA):

property_plan_13 - Fire Pit

One more overhead to go, this one is pretty all inclusive. What I’ve added here is the current chicken coop on the left about mid way down, current aquaponic system behind the shop (AP), and a bunch of poorly drawn squiggly lines. Those lines are the approximate edge of the grass to natural areas. Basically, there will be grass parallel to the driveway, around the house, and partially around the pond. Everything outside that region will be gardens, food forest, walking paths, and other small coops or structures. The grass along the driveway will provide parking for when we have a lot of guests over.

property_plan_14 - All

There are a few other things to be built but I haven’t pinpointed the locations yet, this includes a quail area, tractor shed, mulch bins, and aquaponic expansion.

Some of the other projects that are planned are expansion of the solar power system, battery backup, antenna tower, shop storage, aquaponic improvements, seedling start experiments, growing microgreens, and more growth comparisons (EarthBox, aquaponic, grow bags, raised beds, in ground, others).

For more fun, I’ve got some ideas for a “live off the land challenge” where I consume only what the property produces for a day, three days, and eventually a week. Planning for these are still in the works but I’ll post a timeline soon.

Stay tuned for next post in a couple of days, a six week check into the Aquaponic vs Earthbox challenge!

Aquaponics vs EarthBox – 3 week results

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Last week I wrote about an experiment to compare growing some leafy greens in 3 different types of systems and comparing results. These systems are aquaponics media beds, aquaponics raft, and EarthBoxes. I’ve used EarthBoxes for a few years but couldn’t wait to get into aquaponics as it seemed to have a lot of the same benefits, or maybe even more with the added bonus of fish production.

To keep track of the results, I measured the plants progress and counted leaves, it seemed like a nice simple approach although not very scientific. Some other comparisons I have seen will actually weigh the crop results but I don’t tend to harvest all at once, rather I take a little off of each plant as needed. If the results were too close to tell I’d give the edge to the EarthBoxes because of their lower cost and they are much easier to set up. Again, the aquaponics has the added bonus of fish production but that’s not what I am looking for, I’ve got a pond already in place for that.

I don’t want to make any haters out there by claiming one system is superior. I’ll be the first to admit my aquaponics system is probably far from optimized, it is fairly new although it was a previously established system. All water tests have come back good, I have not had any fish or plants die, and there are established plants in there that have been doing well. To appease the EarthBox crowd (or the similar GrowBoxes) I have mentioned many times that they are less expensive and a lot easier to set up and maintain. Mine have practically no maintenance required as I use a drip water system on a timer to top off the water reservoir every morning.

OK, with all that said, what were the results so far? Well, forget the leaf count and measure method as I won’t need that. The EarthBoxes absolutely crushed the aquaponic system. It wasn’t even close, or in the same field. See for yourself below. As for the aquaponic results, the media beds did better then the raft system.

This next sets of pictures show the results of the best plant from each system, From top to bottom the results are from the aquaponic media bed, aquaponic raft, and EarthBoxes. First, the Chinese Cabbage:

ap_vs_eb_01a
Aquaponic Media Bed
ap_vs_eb_01b.jpg
Aquaponic Raft
ap_vs_eb_01c.jpg
EarthBox

What you probably can’t tell from the pictures is how much bigger the EarthBox result is. The larger aquaponic plant is around 8 inches across, the EarthBox one is about 24 inches.

Lets look at the Kale next:

ap_vs_eb_02a
Aquaponic Media Bed
ap_vs_eb_02b
Aquaponic Raft
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EarthBox

Similar results, the largest aquaponic plant is around 7 inches and the EarthBox is at least 18 inches across. Finally, the Swiss Chard:

ap_vs_eb_03a
Aquaponic Media Bed
ap_vs_eb_03b.jpg
Aquaponic Raft
ap_vs_eb_03c
EarthBox

You may have noticed the leaves are darker green on the aquaponic raft results, this is actually just due to the camera. I think it was adjusting the white balance due to light reflecting off of the raft. They are actually the same shade of green as the other plants.

Here’s the largest aquaponic result along with the EarthBox result with a tape measure for scale. Chinese Cabbage:

ap_vs_eb_04a.jpg
Aquaponic
ap_vs_eb_04b.jpg
EarthBox

The EarthBox results would actually be wider if the leaves were held up. Kale results:

ap_vs_eb_05a
Aquaponic
ap_vs_eb_05b.jpg
EarthBox

And Swiss Chard:

ap_vs_eb_06a.jpg
Aquaponic
ap_vs_eb_06b.jpg
EarthBox

To see more of a progression of growth, here is the aquaponic media bed from day one to the end of the three weeks. I’ve circled the Chinese Cabbage in red, Kale in blue, and Swiss Chard in yellow. Note the previously planted Swiss Chard in the upper left corner is doing well, I made sure to keep it trimmed back from shading any of the new plants. As planted:

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End of week 1:

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End of week 2:

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End of week 3:

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Now, lets take a look at one of the EarthBoxes through the same period. This is the one with the Chinese Cabbage, as planted:

ap_vs_eb_08a

End of week 1:

ap_vs_eb_08b

End of week 2:

ap_vs_eb_08c

End of week 3:

ap_vs_eb_08d

Pretty impressive eh?

Here’s my thoughts on the results so far. I know my aquaponic system can be improved, I plan on adding a swirl filter over the next week or two. I’m not sure that will help growth but it will reduce maintenance. I also know my fish load is not very high, this will increase as they grow. I’ve also heard that it takes a few weeks for plants to get settled but I haven’t seen that yet as the case, established plants are growing good but the new EarthBox  plants are still outpacing the older aquaponic plants.

If you are a new gardener I would strongly suggest starting with an EarthBox or similar self watering container. They are inexpensive, even when compared to building your own (they last for many years, DIY systems may last a season or two in the sun). They are easy to set up and give you instant results. They don’t take up much space although they are pretty heavy once filled with water.

Aquaponics certainly has more wow factor, when friends come over that’s the one they want to see. It also gives you a fish output, but is far more complicated to set up and maintain. I got lucky by finding a deal on an established system but it still requires monitoring, cleaning, feeding, and adding nutrients. I’m going to continue to improve and possibly expand this system but more for my own curiosity rather than production.

Last ramblings, the EarthBox is producing so much at this point that I harvested some Kale and Chinese Cabbage for dinner tonight. I’ll post an update at the 6 week point to see if there is any major difference, maybe the aquaponic garden will start to boom by that time. Until then, keep on growing!

Aquaponics vs EarthBox, which is better?

If you are like me and are always looking for the easiest and fastest way to grow vegetables, you are probably familiar with aquaponics and self watering container gardening. There are many other ways to grow plants but these two constantly pop up as some of the easiest and most productive systems with the least amount of work. For new gardeners, it can be frustrating trying to get the first harvest due to poor soil conditions, weeds, pests, and poor watering practices. These two help solve a majority of those problems. Or do they?

Just to be clear, I use EarthBoxes but do not receive compensation from the manufacturer in any manner. A few years ago, I was on the fence about trying an EarthBox or GrowBox (their main competitor), while looking around at a local nursery I saw they had EarthBoxes in stock so I picked one up. I was leaning towards the EarthBox due to the watering tube difference but this just made the decision easier since it was right in front of me. I was talking with an old timer who worked at the nursery and he said he had been gardening for 40 years and switched to EarthBoxes 5 years prior and that’s all he uses now.

Since my last few posts went over the aquaponics system setup I thought I’d run through an EarthBox setup in this post. Next week will be the third week they have been planted and I’ll show results to date, and again at the six week and three month point.

For this competition I’ll use three brand new EarthBoxes, three different types of plants, and two of each type of plant in each system (EarthBox, aquaponics media bed, aquaponics raft) for a total of 18 plants. Here’s the EarthBoxes ready to be set up:

ap_vs_eb_setup_01

First step is to put the aeration screen and watering tube in place. The water reservoir is right below this aeration screen.

ap_vs_eb_setup_02

Next, pack the corners with moist potting mix. This is where the water will be drawn up or wicked up from. Potting mix is used instead of soil, it is sterile and does not contain any fungi or weed seeds to cause problems.

ap_vs_eb_setup_03

Add more potting mix to just a few inches below the top edge. I put the bag in the picture so you can see the brand used for this competition. In a future competition I’ll try comparing a few different brands but I’ve had good success with this one.

ap_vs_eb_setup_04

Add dolomite (lime). This helps counter the acidic nature of the potting mix.

ap_vs_eb_setup_05

Mix in thoroughly then add more potting mix. When complete the box uses two cubic feet of mix. Next will be a strip of fertilizer, how that is laid out depends on how many plants will be in the box and what orientation they are. For my purposes it’s just 2 plants so I’ll put it down the middle.

ap_vs_eb_setup_06

Add fertilizer, in my case I used 6-6-6.

ap_vs_eb_setup_07

And top off with potting mix to form a mound.

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Next, place a cover over the box. They come with two elastic covers, once those are used up I just use black plastic sheeting. The cover keeps weeds away and moisture in.

ap_vs_eb_setup_09

Here’s the three boxes covered and ready to go. It may seem like a lot of steps at first but once you do it a few times it is actually pretty fast and easy. Also, for replanting you don’t have to go through all these steps, just add dolomite, add fertilizer, top off with potting mix to replace any lost, then cover again.

ap_vs_eb_setup_10

In trying to keep the competition fair I wanted to have all plants to have the same sun exposure. The backside of the aquaponics system faces south so I put the EarthBoxes on this side and low enough that they wouldn’t shade the aquaponics system.

ap_vs_eb_setup_11

When putting plants in the EarthBoxes you cut a hole in the top covers, I use an empty soup can mounted on a bolt (I’ll post a picture next time). I heat the can up with a propane torch then burn a hole in the plastic. This makes a nice round hole that is less likely to rip.

ap_vs_eb_setup_12

Here’s the EarthBoxes planted:

ap_vs_eb_setup_13

Aquaponics media beds planted. There is also some other plants already there, I left them as a way to monitor the system (they are growing and healthy).

ap_vs_eb_setup_14ap_vs_eb_setup_15

Aquaponics raft bed planted:

ap_vs_eb_setup_16

The plants selected were Swiss Chard (started by seed), Chinese Cabbage, and Lacinato Kale (both bought). All of these were selected since they are leafy greens and should do well in the aquaponics system, both the media beds and raft bed. All seedlings were about the same size and healthy.

The EarthBoxes are set up with automatic watering, I do this with all of them that I have set up and it is simply a drip water system on a timer that tops off the reservoir every morning. There’s no worry about over watering as any excess just overflows out. The aquaponics system has an automatic fish feeder set up to feed the tilapia twice daily. I also tested the aquaponics water to be sure all levels are good (pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates). I add nutrients to the aquaponics system on a regular basis to ensure the plants are getting required minerals.

That’s it for now, next week I’ll post the first round of results and my thoughts on the two types of systems. Until then, happy planting!

Oh Deer, the Heat!

Spring is fast approaching, oh wait, it’s here. We’ve been experiencing very warm days already and it still surprises me to turn on the TV and see it is still snowing in other parts of the country. I’m behind on getting things planted and a lot of the fruit trees that are still in pots are starting to really grow.

Back to that in a bit, the bigger problem here is still the wildlife. Over the last few months I’ve planted a few new areas including the banana circles and a Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke) mound. Turns out deer really like these, they’ve been tramping through the new mounds and eating the tops of the plants.

Deer tracks

Here’s a banana plant where the top  has been chewed along with some of the leaves, the plants are starting to grow faster now so they have recovered quite a bit. When this first happened it was chewed down to the stalk.

Banana damage from deer

The long term plan is to fence a majority of the property. We will leave a corridor in the back so wildlife can still pass through from property to property, the front fence will also be setback so there will be open space there as well. We have already contracted a fence company to do the front and 40 feet along the sides with a 3 rail fence and gate, the remainder of the sides and back will be a deer & wildlife fence that I will install. In addition, garden areas will have their own fencing to keep the inside animals out such as our chickens and dogs and will act as a secondary barrier for anything else that still manages to get in past the other fence.

For deer control now, I’m trying an experiment with some solar powered motion lights. I got a 3 pack of these from Sams club for $20 so they are a little over $6 each. Here’s what one of these looks like mounted to a tree:

Motion sensor closeup

And a view further back for scale. The light is mounted about 6 feet up.

Motion sensor on tree

As you can see, these are pretty small and after reading the fine print turns out they only have about a 10 foot activation zone. I tested these at night by walking around and unfortunately that is pretty accurate so they will not give the coverage needed. I’m ordering these from Amazon as replacements as they claim a 26 foot detection range. I’ll reuse the other ones around the chicken coop and aquaponics area and also give a review of the new lights once tested.

Back to the subject of the heat, I had taken the shade cloth down from the garden for the cooler months but it is already time to put it back up. I use a 40% shade cloth which gives pretty good results, I’m able to grow just about everything right through the worst parts of summer. There will be a new garden area created later this year that will also have some natural shading from oak trees that shed their leaves in the winter.

Garden shade cloth

The shade cloth is fairly inexpensive, especially if you compare it to the cost of a greenhouse. The framing is made up of 1 5/8 inch chain link fence toprail and pre-made connectors. I’ll put some links at the end with the sources I’ve used, all were bought online with the exception of the toprail since the 10 foot sections would be cost prohibitive to ship. I found a local supplier for the connectors and bought one as a test, it was rusted within a month so I went with mail order.

Garden shade cloth bracket

Assemble is fairly easy, I used a low peak design. Last year when we had hurricane Irma come through I removed the shade cloth but left the rest of the structure up and had no problems with it. Each leg is weighted down by a single concrete block attached by rope and that has also held up well and the connectors have shown no signs of rust after a year. I’d say the only real drawback so far has been that some of the pipe is sagging, not surprising since I am using 10 foot sections tied together for a 20 foot span. They do have connectors that can be used with additional bracing but since this is temporary I went the cheaper route.

Shade product links:
40% Black Shade Cloth 10×20 ft
6 inch Ball Bungee
9 inch Ball Bungee
Canopies and Tarps low peak fittings and if you order from Canopies and Tarps check out their coupons page.

That’s it for now, I’ve got some fun projects coming up including a lot of product and growing comparisons. Until next time, keep on planting!