Very often, growing plants in an aquaponics system can be the same as growing it in soil, and just as much different at the same time.
You probably already know what plants need in order for them to thrive, but here are 7 insightful tips for growing aquaponic plants.
1) Broadcast Your Seeds
The most easiest way of starting seeds in any sort of environment is what’s known as broadcasting seeds. What this means is that you must scatter your seeds evenly over a growing surface.
When you do this technique in an aquaponics system using a media bed, the seeds will simply fall between the stones and as a result, many of them will reach the appropriate depth level to germinate.
The broadcasting technique works effectively for lettuce, radishes and carrots as well as other small seeds that are usually planted in early spring since they’ve adapted to the wetness.
2) Germinate Your Seeds In A Wet Paper Towel
Larger seeds such as those of beans, peas, melons and cucumbers tend to germinate quickly and sometimes planting them in grow beds are not that effective.
Since they’re longer-term plants, you should pay more attention to their positioning within the grow bed therefore it’s a good idea to start the seeds in a wet paper towel.
Once that’s done, seal them in a large ziplock bag and keep your eye on them everyday for signs of sprouting. When a good root of around 25mm or more appears, gently put the seeds in the media bed at a level where the root is able to become wet through your water cycles.
3) Buy Plant Starts
If you prefer not to deal with process of seed starting, then it’s absolutely fine to buy plants that have already been started. It’s very simple. All you have to do is to shake off the excess dirt when you take the plant out the pot.
You should try to take off as much dirt from the root system as possible by gently running the plant under little water. There may be bugs hidden within the plant so make sure that you check it thoroughly.
4) Space Your Plants Properly
A minimal root system is all that’s needed for each plant to supply everything it needs. This is because plants grown in an aquaponics system have everything they need at their root zone like water, oxygen and nutrients.
Their habitat is cooperative rather than competitive simply because resources are not insufficient. As a result, aquaponic plants don’t require as much space as plants grown in soil.
Many aquaponic gardeners place their plants twice as close together compared to soil based gardeners. However, you must be aware of what’s happening above the ground, not below it. You must take into consideration the right amount of space for air circulation (to control insects and diseases) and light penetration for your plants.
As your plants mature, you can always make adjustments if necessary by digging up and moving around the small root balls which is pretty easy to do.
5) Feed Plant Bugs To Fishes
Little bugs that like to eat plants can be very annoying, but they can be also be beneficial by turning them into fish food. Slugs, caterpillars and other insect larvae will make excellent meals for your fishes.
You just need to catch them before they do any more damage to your plants. You can also set up bug zappers and other traps to catch some free fish food!
6) Knock Off Bugs With Water Spray
Many harmful insects do the most damage when they’re at a non-mobile stage, therefore you have a good chance of controlling the population by spraying a stream of water to knock them off the plant. This is a very useful and easy first step to take when controlling a large infestation that has gone out of control.
You may want to repel insects by spraying organic solutions to the plant leaves so that it makes them less attractive to insects. Though you must be careful not to spray any into your fish tanks.
7) Setting Other Insects To Eat Or Kill Bugs
There are two ways that a beneficial insect can kill pests that are damaging your plants:
- Firstly, by eating it (predators)
- Secondly, by laying their eggs within the host which then kills it (parasitoids)
These beneficial insects are usually bigger than their prey, and include beetles, flies, spiders and wasps among others. A very common predator for pest control are ladybirds who love to eat aphids (tiny green plant lice).
A female ladybird will lay eggs near infested plants after a few days of feeding. The eggs then hatch into larvae after seven days, and begin feeding on soft-bodied pests, mites and insect eggs. After a month the larvae will pupate and turn into adults a week later, ready to fully feed.
Plants are the lifeline of your aquaponics system, so it’s vital that you take care of them. They filter water for your fish and provide food for you and your family. Losing plants cost time and money, so you must take the right measures in dealing with all the issues that come with aquaponic plants.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes on the way because it’s all part of the learning process. Once you go through the right steps you’ll have large, healthy and tasty plants.
To get the most out of your aquaponics system, I highly recommend the following articles, where you can decide from the highest rated and bestselling products for aquaponics.