Most people start their aquaponics garden for fresh, organic produce. You can raise other types of plants, but vegetables are the most common plant to grow. Once your garden is up and running, it is possible to keep you and your family in fresh vegetables all year round.The question is, what plants to grow in your backyard aquaponics garden?
With a typical vegetable garden, you plant the seeds in the soil, you water those seeds, you fertilize those seeds, you pull the weeds around those seeds, and eventually you see your plants push through the ground. This is a time and resource-draining process, all with the hopes of seeing your garden flourish.
With an aquaponics garden, the watering, the fertilizing and the problem with weeds is taken care of by the system. You don’t need to water as there is a constant supply of water for your plants. You don’t need to fertilize as the fish are supplying the waste that is processed into nitrogen rich fertilizer. Weeds are not a problem in an aquaponics garden. Your main job is making sure you feed the fish!
Some things to consider
Climate. If you are growing outside you need to stick with plants that grow well in your climate. Plants do better when they are in temperatures that match their normal growing process. If you want a year-round garden just make sure you are growing cold weather plants in the winter and warm weather plants in the summer.
Where to plant. It is crucial to the success of your aquaponics garden that you choose the right place to plant. Make sure there is enough sunlight for they types of plants you are raising. Consider other outdoor conditions where you live. If it is really windy you need to consider setting up your garden where there is some shelter from the wind.
Schedule. It is really exciting when your plants start to grow and produce vegetables, but, you need to consider scheduling your planting. You don’t want so much produce that you can’t use it all. Stagger your growing times so you always have just enough but not too much produce.
Fish. Make sure the fish you are using are compatible with the plants your want to grow. If you are using a fish that likes the cold but want to raise a plant that likes it warm, you won’t be successful.
How to choose what to plant.
There really are so many vegetables you can plant in an aquaponic garden that it helps to think about what you want to do with your vegetables. Are you looking to have a fresh salad with dinner every night? Do you love to stir-fry vegetables? What about fresh herbs? Let’s take a look at each of these and the plants you can grow in your aquaponics garden.
Lettuce. Leafy green vegetables are some of the easiest plants to grow with aquaponics. The top four types of lettuce are iceberg, butterhead, romaine and loose leaf lettuce. Lettuce is a winter crop, with night-time temperatures of 37-53 degrees and daytime temperatures of 62-84 degrees. Lettuce seedlings can be transferred to you aquaponics unit when they have at least 2-3 leaves. You can harvest your lettuce when the heads are large enough to eat.
Cucumbers. Cucumbers grow best in humid conditions with lots of sunshine and warm nights. Daytime temperatures of 75-80 degrees and 80% humidity. You can plant your cucumber seedlings when they have 4-5 leaves. You will be able to pick your first harvest within 2-3 weeks. Harvest every few days to optimize your results.
Peppers. Peppers need to be grown in warm weather, 71-82 degrees, and full sunlight. Seedlings can be transferred to you aquaponics garden when they have 6-8 leaves. Harvest your peppers when they have reached appropriate size and color. You can harvest peppers through out the season.
Tomatoes. Tomatoes grow well in an aquaponics garden, but you do need to provide then support. They love full sun and warm temperatures, Transplant your seedlings 3-6 weeks after germination. Harvest tomatoes when they are firm and full of color.
Brocolli. Brocolli is a winter vegetable, preferring temperatures of in the mid-50’s. Transplant your seedlings when they are 15 cm. high. You can harvest your broccoli when the head is firm and tight.
Cauliflower. Cauliflower prefers cooler temperatures for growing, around 59 degrees. You can transplant your seedlings to your garden at 3-5 weeks old. Harvest when the heads are firm, cutting it from the stalk. Remove the remaining part of the plant and dispose in your compost bin.
Cabbage. Another cooler weather vegetable, preferring 55-60 degrees. Transplant your seedlings when they have 4-6 leaves. You can harvest your cabbage when their diameter is 10-15 cm.
Basil. One of the most popular herb to grow in an aquaponic garden is basil. Basil likes the sun, but for best quality leaves it’s best to have some shading. Transplant the seedlings when they have 4-5 leaves. You can harvest basil once it reaches 15 cm high. You can continue to harvest for approximately 30-50 days.
Parsley. Most varieties of parsley grow over a two year period. The minimum temperature for growth is 46 degrees. Transfer the parsley seedlings when they are 5-6 weeks old. Harvest your parsley when it is 15 cm long.
This is not an exhaustive list of what plants you can grow in your grow in your aquaponics garden. This will give you some ideas to get going. Make sure you take into consideration your climate, what the growing season is for the vegetable, and set up a harvest schedule so you can enjoy all your produce at the appropriate time.