It was a dream come true for me when I set up my own backyard aquaponics farm.
You will be surprised to know that, with the exception of root vegetables, you can grow almost any plants in an aquaponics system!
So, what crops to plant in your aquaponics farm?
When deciding what plants to cultivate, all you have to ask yourself is what would you like to eat freshly out of your aquaponics farm?
Common plants that are being grown in aquaponics farm include:
- Herbs, such as parsley, watercress, basil, sage and coriander.
- Green leafy vegetables , such as spinach.
- Legumes, such as peas and beans.
- Other plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons lettuce, chili, red salad onions, celery, broccoli and cauliflower.
In fact, you can grow a few different types of vegetables in a single aquaponics farm! Most people do so too.
BIG TIP: Do consider your choice of crops and fish together.
For example, lettuce’s optimal air temperature range is between 60-80 oF but the optimal temperature range for its roots is between 70-74 oF. Hence, lettuce is a good combination with tilapia as they also prefer warmer waters.
If you are thinking of growing tomatoes, you will need to choose fish that grow well in a densely populated tank as tomatoes require a high level of nutrients.
Taking care of the plants in the aquaponics farm
Caring for plants in the aquaponics farm is so much easier compared to a dirt garden. Unlike soil-based farming, you no longer have to battle against weeds, pests and wild animals that will eat or compete against your crops. Although there could still be bugs in the aquaponics farm, they are far fewer due to its soil-less nature.
TIP: For successful pest management, you need to be on the lookout for harmful bugs on your plants and identify what bugs they are. Most small bugs, such as aphids, can be easily removed by spraying a water jet.
Alternatively, if the plant is small, you can even remove the plant from the media and soak it in the fish tank for a few minutes. This drowns the bug and provides food for the fish!
If none of the above techniques work, you might want to consider using some natural, biodegradable foliar spray. Avoid using any non-organic pest control solutions as they are toxic to the fish and would contaminate the tank water.
In addition, you no longer have to worry about the complexity of fertilizing your crops and whether you are over or under watering them. Neither do you have to work with expensive concoction of chemicals as in hydroponics farming.
The best part of all, the crops grown in the aquaponics farm is 100% organic!
The nutrients needed by your plants are essentially provided by the fish waste. Bacteria colonies, mainly in the media bed, convert the fish wastes into nitrates and minerals that are readily absorbed by the plants for healthy growth. Supplements are not required in a well-managed aquaponics system. In fact, you will need to be very careful if you are thinking of using supplements as they can be harmful your fish.
BIG TIP: What you really need to do is to ensure that the water is well-oxygenated and pH is maintained at 6.7 to 7. If the pH range is not optimal, the uptake of nutrients by plant roots as well as bacteria activity will be affected. As such, waste will build up to toxic levels for the fish.
Effectively, the gardening chores left with is simply waist-high sowing, tending and harvesting of the plants. Simple, less tedious and no more back aches!
There are a couple of ways to sow the seeds, depending on the plants that you are growing:
- Toss the seeds evenly on the surface of the media-filled bed. This generally works well for lettuce, carrots and small seeds.
- Germinate the seeds in a wet paper towel before transferring them to the grow media when their roots have grown at least 1 inch long. This also allows you to ensure that the plants are well-positioned in the media bed. This method works for seeds that are larger than that of lettuce and also germinate very quickly, such as beans, peas, melons and cucumbers.
- Sow the seeds in seed starting media (such as Rockwool, Peat sponges and Vermicompost). This method works better for seeds that are harder to germinate (such as spinach and chard) or delicate plants (such as tomatoes and peppers) that require more attention before transferring to the grow bed
- You can also make use of root cuttings if you have access to existing plants.
With aquaponics, you can plant the crops twice as densely as a traditional soil-based farm. This allows you to easily set up your aquaponics farm growing organic vegetables and fish, requiring only a small space and relatively low cost.
Harvesting from your aquaponics farm
Imagine the sense of satisfaction and excitement when the time comes for harvesting!
I’m sure this is the gardening chore that most gardeners look forward to. You can harvest the crops for your own family consumption or even sell the organic vegetables for lucrative profits.
As different plants grow at different rates, you can check out the information on the back of the package when you purchase the seeds to know how long it takes for the crop to ripen.
Next step: Find out more…
Hopefully you have found the information and tips on this page to be useful. If you are thinking of setting up your own aquaponics farm in your backyard, you will need to equip yourself with a good set of aquaponics plans and a comprehensive DIY guide.
What I recommend you to do now is to check out John Fay’s DIY aquaponics guide. Not only will you find information on how to design and build your own aquaponics system, you will also be able to get details on how to run your organic aquaponics farm smoothly.