The above picture is of my new batch of duckweed.
I have grown “duckweed” (both Lemma species and Azolla species) before and always find it fascinating.
Overall duckweed it is a great, and easy to raise plant, that can be high in protein and is extensively studied and fed to livestock in Asia. It is extremely easy to feed to poultry if you have any. For our chickens I scooped it out by hand and threw it on top of their feed, and for our ducks we would just float it in their water and by days end it was all gone.
Once established, and with warmer weather, duckweed grows AMAZingling fast. They say it can double within a day if given the correct conditions and I can attest that from the middle of summer to the end mine definitely did. I didn’t even worry about ph or fertilizing, though it probably got some fertilizing from my water lotus and lily that I had in the same containers. They say if you watch ph and fertilize it it will have its highest protein and grow the fastest.
I also tried to over winter it this past year, in a large covered glass container in a somewhat sunny spot, and had a bit of success. The conditions were not perfect so it did not really grow…but it didn’t die either. Unfortunately I decided to give it a bit of a boost early this spring and over fertilized it in it’s jar. Oops.
Some, but not much, did make it through me doing that though and when it warmed I put it outside with my freshly re potted lotus and lilly. Then, it got quite quite cold, and I lost a tad more. Oops.
Then it got warm and I actually could still see a few still floating around on the water. However when I added water to replace what had evaporated….I forgot what I was doing and overflowed it. Losing the last of the few little plants that had made it. Bummer.
So..I bought more. From pondplants.com and found that I received hands down the nicest “bunch” of it I have ever purchased. Actually two bunches since shipping was more than the price of one bunch, so I figured what the heck I will have one for each of my containers instead of splitting it between the two.
This year however, reflecting back on the title of this post, I am going to try feeding it to my rabbits. Not exactly sure how to go about that since I am not going to dry it. I will have to figure out if they will eat it fresh and/or mixed into a bit of grain. Maybe I will partially dry it?? And when I say grain I am not speaking of pellets since they will expand with the moisture. I am thinking an actual grain mix that rabbits can and do eat. There is truly not much information out on the web about how exactly to feed it, especially from a small farm perspective (one that does not have large drying machinery available to it—not that I would waste the energy) so I will have to trial and error this to an extent.
If I can work this problem out though I can supplement my rabbits at least part of the year with a plant that, grown in even half way decent conditions, can supply from 18 to 42% protein. The difference in protein has to do with the amount of fertilizer in the water. I think I will use pig poop probably. If I end up feeding it to the pigs, which might be easier than the rabbits, I will use rabbit poop in the water. No transference of parasites, just in case.
I could of course use “human manure” but well, ick. Not that I have an overall problem with say an outhouse or something like that but I don’t really want to flick my hand around in human feces laden water…even though this plant is commonly used to clean up sewage waters and even waters with chemical runoffs and high metal contents.
Yet even if you take out the disease problem that could potentially occur (we are not sick here so I say potential) summers are still hot, and other conditions can occur etc etc, so in my mind the potential is always there. Best to stay far from that issue since I have pigs and rabbits to supply the necessary fertilizer without my family’s help. Pigs, just in case you did not know, will eat human feces, do eat them in some more remote parts of the world, and can actually get protein from it (am I grossing you out yet??) and would not have a problem with it. Yet….I will stick with the rabbit poop for them if no one minds —grown in a third container so my “fancy” ones on my dining patio stay nice :-)
Straying away from the talk of poop (dinner anyone?), even if you do not have livestock you want to feed this plant to, it is an easy and good looking way to dress up the outside of your house. We use galvanized livestock waterers purchased from our local feed dealer. One is older but one was purchased just for my lotus. Add lilies or lotuses for height and flowers, float some duckweed to fancy up the surface and you have an easy summer “potted plant” that basically cares for itself. You can even go on vacation and not need a neighbor to water it :-D In the winter, bring the container with the lily or lotus (I use small buckets with handles) into the garage, keep water standing on the surface and they will easily make it through to the next season. Supposedly the duckweed will make it right there in the same bucket along with the lily/lotus ( which is what I should have just done this past winter.), unless your in say Canada or some where really cold….then you’ll have to find out if that will work for the duckweed and/or the flowers. However, I am zone 7a and the lotus/lily overwinter just fine in my garage…actually growing just a bit even.