What are the 3 staple aquaponic vegetables that you can grow yourself? Read on, young apprentice!
(yep, Star Wars reference)!
Tomatoes will do well in an aquaponic system provided you have well stocked fish tanks as they require more nutrients than leafy vegetable such as lettuce. In the initial stages of growth the nutrient demands are fairly steady, but once they reach roughly 6 weeks the first flowers develop and they will need more calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Tomato plants can grow quite big, so you should select the variety of plant to grow depending on the size of your system. Regular pruning is required to maintain the plant but is worth it as the plant can live for several years.
Growing conditions: The ideal temperature for tomatoes is 25.5 °C but it will also grow well anywhere between 20 and 31.1°C. A successful tomato plant will have 8-12 hours of sunlight per day while fruiting. The more sun the plant gets, the faster the fruit will grow.
Harvesting: For optimum flavor tomatoes should be picked when they are an even red color, however many commercial farmers will pick tomatoes slightly before they are ripe so they will remain firm if being shipped. Tomatoes should reach maturity in roughly 6 – 8 weeks.
Nutritional Benefits: Tomatoes have high levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which studies have shown reduce the risk of cancer. Reseach has shown that a single tomato can provide as much as 40% of your daily vitamin C needs, and also contains vitamin A, iron and potassium which is essential for blood health.
Cucumbers are vine crops. In a raft or media-filled bed aquaponic system these should either be tied to a string or trellis or grown without support with the plant resting on top of the raft or media. In Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) then having a trellis for the vines to climb is essential.
Similarly to tomatoes, be aware of the size of a mature cucumber in order to allow adequate space, and that your grow bed can support their weight as they grow.
Growing conditions: Cucumbers tend to thrive in slightly higher temperatures to tomatoes, with an ideal day time temperature of 23.9 – 25.5 °C and night temperatures of about 20 °C.
Harvesting: Most cucumbers take about 6 – 8 weeks to reach maturity from seed.
Nutritional Benefits: Cucumbers are the forth most cultivated crop in the world and they have a number of health benefits. Cucumbers have a high water content so is great for detoxing but also contains a good amount of vitamins B and C, silica, magnesium and potassium.
Watercress is perfect for an aquaponics system. It is hardy, and is usually found growing naturally in the wild along the side of cools streams and ponds. It’s distinctive peppery taste makes it popular as a food, and it grows quickly so cash turnover can be very good.
Growing conditions: Optimum PH levels are between 5.5 – 6.5. It tolerates varied levels of sun and shade so does not require constant sunlight like tomatoes.
Harvesting: You can either harvest the entire plant or take sprigs as the plant matures. It is popular as a cooked green like spinach and kale, but is also excellent raw in salads.
Nutritional Benefits: Watercress contains substantial levels of calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. It is very low in calories and is an excellent health food.
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