With aquaponics, the majority of crops associated with this system tend to be of the leafy or flowery variety, with the harvestable part being on the upside of the grow bed, leaving the roots dangling beneath to absorb the life-sustaining nutrients. This tends to be the standard configuration and a very successful one at that.
Many growers are unaware that root vegetables can also be grown with aquaponics in just as healthy an environment, with equally impressive growing results.
Growing Root Vegetables With Aquaponics
Anyone who is immersed in the world of aquaculture can attest to the numerous benefits and the ease of growing herbs and leafy vegetables under this umbrella. For some, it is just a pleasurable pastime, while for others it is a blooming business, with flowers being one of the many beneficiaries of this system.
Perhaps looking to expand the business or wanting to broaden the variety of crops they cultivate, many farmers are looking at the possibility of adding root vegetables to their range of crops. But are all root vegetables compatible with the aquaponics way?
Root vegetables such as potatoes, beets, onions and carrots, for example, are top contenders for aquaponics, but certain changes have to be implemented to make these additions possible, with the growing process not being as straightforward as with leafy plants.
Carrots are probably the easiest vegetable to start with, not only because they can thrive in the aquaponics environment, but because of its hardiness and the colorful varieties available.
Apart from the classical orange variety, there are red, yellow, white and even purple carrots in the marketplace that, although not generally found in local supermarkets, are gaining in popularity. These uncommon varieties, Nantes, Danvers, Imperators and Chantenay, are just four types of carrots being incorporated in the root vegetable section by adventurous aquaponics farmers.
They can be a challenge Like all root vegetables in aquaponics there are initial challenges that need to be overcome, but if done correctly the successful harvests can be an eye-opener, and add different flavors and a splash of color onto the dinner plate.
Traditionally, all root vegetables are immersed in soil for absorbing the right amount of nutrients and water. With aquaponics, this soil has to be replaced by an alternative grow media to achieve a successful harvest.
Growing Carrots Aquaponically
Gravel and hydroton are the medium of choice for underground vegetables in aquaponics, either giving the roots something to grip onto for stability. An alternative to them is coco coir, a grow media that functions exceptionally well if the vegetables are to be potted in a cloth bag or a pot.
In this set-up, the nutrient-rich water from the fish tank will run through unimpeded, and the gentle compression effect from the coco noir encourages the root vegetables to grow to their standard recognizable shapes, rather than shapes that consumers consider to be deformed.
The fish selection also plays a defining role when deciding to go underground, and the most common fish in this type of aquaponics farm are tilapia and trout. These are ideal because many root vegetables can be grown in cooler climates and these fish thrive in cooler waters. Koi and goldfish can also be used if they are not be eaten.
Once the system has been set up and refined, and the correct fish selected for this endeavor, the crops can generally be harvested within two to three months. If there is sufficient space and if configured correctly from the outset, several other types of root vegetables can be grown within the same closed-circuit system.
To make the introduction of root vegetables into an established or brand-new aquaponics farm, there are full kits that can be purchased online or at gardening centers. These greatly simplify the process and reduce the time it takes to set up a fully functioning system.
These kits give detailed instructions on how and when to place the fish in the tanks, the ratio of fish required in relation to the number of root vegetables to be planted, and even when to increase the density of fish. All of this information takes the guesswork out of the installation process, eliminating costly mistakes that could otherwise be made.
Additional instructions on how long to wait after the set-up is completed before planting the root vegetables, the space required between the seedlings so growth is not inhibited, and even when to intersperse more seedlings among them, are invaluable to either an experienced grower or a complete newbie.
Residential Aquaponics Growers
Growing fresh fruits and vegetables has never been more fun and more accessible to residential growers owing to the simplification of the overall process.
Even those home gardeners living in cooler climates and with limited space can take advantage of aquaponics to grow all manner of vegetables indoors or in a shielded environment. The added ability to harvest crops at any seasonal time of the year increases the appeal, and the popularity of aquaponics continues to grow.
Once the mechanics have been mastered, the maintenance routine refined, then the expansion to include root vegetables is an easy step to take. There can be no doubt that in aquaponics healthier onions, potatoes, beets and carrots can be grown organically, and if they can all be accessible right from the bottom of your own garden…even better.
These ventures are sometimes started to save money, to grow healthier, more nutritious vegetables, in an environment that is not at the mercy of nature. What they morph into is a lifelong journey that either stays at the bottom of the garden or grows into a bigger business adventure.
The low maintenance aspect, the convenience, the harmonious nature of aquaponic farming itself, not only make this system sustainable for short-term harvests but ensures that it will continue to expand profitably into other farming categories not previously considered viable.
With the increasing demand worldwide for bolstering the food supply in impoverished countries, growing root vegetables with aquaponics could be a game-changer. Combine that with the fact that this farming method is constantly evolving and discovering better and faster ways to put a healthier meal on a plate, and it looks like aquaponics is finally getting to the root of the food problem.