The second most common question, after concerns arise regarding the top fish for aquaponics, tends to be which types of aquaponics plants are best for your do-it-yourself system? Well, the quickest answer is whichever you enjoy and will be sure to eat. This type of gardening system has its strengths and weaknesses like any growing structure, but there are more of the former than latter.
The weaknesses only really arise when considering growing specific ornamental house or garden crops which prefer high alkaline or acidic growing conditions. In most cases, soil gardening is still best for those items. But for all other edibles, this type of system can be a wondrous, quick and simple way to feed your family year round. Of course, there is a second more deliberate answer to the crop question as well. Let’s get into that, shall we?
The top 7 plants for your Do-It-Yourself system are as follows:
Leafy Green Vegetables/ Salad Greens
This includes kale, chard, spinach, lettuce. Arugula, bok choy…just about any leafy lettuce you can think of. Not only are these the most common varieties of plants grown, but they also provide some of the quickest harvest time ratios at 28 day full adult cycles on average.
Herbs or Mint
You may already know how well herbs and mint take off in soil gardening. Basil, bay, oregano, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, dill, marjoram, chamomile…whatever you know you’ll consume. As for mint, all forms go crazy. Even lemon grass and lavender can do well if you have the right lighting.
Certainly peppers are a regular staple in all gardens. Colorful sweet peppers are common, as well as banana peppers, capsicum, chili, and even jalapeno and habanero.
You can have a full harvest of carrots at the ready in just over 2 months. But don’t stop there. Turnips, rutabaga, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, even pumpkins and melons (OK, not exactly considered root veggies, but work with me here) are easily grown. A warning to the wise, however: Larger items may be difficult to grow on certain mediums and take a lot of growing space. So be sure to grow only what you know you’ll be able to either consume yourself, sell, or give to others. It may also be important to note that root veggies take on a different appearance when grown out of the soil. Don’t worry, though. The taste and applications remain the same.
Tomatoes, beans, peas, eggplant, whatever you want can be easily grown here. Most vine foods require mid to high temperatures to flesh out the highest yield. If you’re growing tomatoes of any kind, you can expect it to take a few months to see a full harvest. However, the resulting product is often the largest and juiciest products seasoned gardeners ever harvested. So it’s definitely worth the wait. Note: Some vine veggies germinate so quickly that growing in water-based mediums flood the plant before they’re able to set. Therefore, try germinating the faster growth items in a wet paper towel first and then transfer to traditional soil filled pots (or to a baggie) just until plants begin to set. Transferring the aquaponics plants to media is a simple procedure at that point.
Head Vegetables and High Yield Field Items
We’re mainly talking broccoli and cauliflower here for head vegetables. But if you can think of other floret-based head veggies, go ahead and try those too. As for the high yield field items, corn, wheat, hay, wheat grass all grow wonderfully. However, adequate space is required for such adventurous gardening efforts, so be prepared.
Nasturtiums, orchids, violas, and even roses grow wonderfully in a DIY system. Why? Well, it’s really simple. Those specific flowers require bright light as well as warm and humid environments free of external pests. Of course, not all flowers do well in this system. Wide head flowers such as mums, calendula, and zinnias prefer alkaline soil conditions, whereas delicate looking bush flowers such as azaleas prefer acidic soil. Since soil is not used, it’s best to continue growing those in traditional soil-based gardens.
Your gardening system can be as large or small, as simple or complicated, as your needs require. But be sure to only plant what you know you can use. Otherwise, unbearable waste will occur. Aquaponics plants can not be grown with the aid of chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides, or the fish will die. So sometimes plant bugs do settle. A simple trick to avoid their lengthy stay is to just flick them into the fish tank. Instant fish fodder. Adequate aeration/circulation prevents bacteria growth. So if you notice an issue, adjust the oxidation within your system. Also note that growth time and food size is substantially improved with this type of gardening. Starting off small is often the best rule of thumb…just until you get the hang of it. Then, by all means, go crazy!
Image Credit: Plant Chicago via Flickr | https://www.flickr.com/photos/plantchicago