Hydroponic and Aquaponic Plant Cultivation
Hydroponic and aquaponic systems are an alternative method for growing plants. In both systems, plants are grown in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. The key difference between the two systems is the use of fish in aquaponic systems to maintain a symbiotic balance in an the interdependent ecosystem in which both fish and plants thrive. These systems are environmentally-friendly because they reduce the amount of water needed to grow the plants. Many types of plants can flourish in aquaponic and hydroponic systems such as vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Leafy vegetables like cabbage, bok choy, and spinach, can easily be grown hydroponically. Still, larger vegetables such as tomatoes or cucumbers can also be cultivated if gardeners use a strong base to protect the roots. There’s no difference in vitamin content between aquaponically grown vegetables and traditionally cultivated ones as long as the gardener maintains the water’s high nutrient content. In fact, vegetables cultivated via hydroponics or aquaponics are healthier because no pesticides or insecticides are used. Aquaponics gardeners should pay close attention to oxygen circulation in the water to maintain consistent vegetable growth. If there is any uneaten fish food, it must be removed before it has an opportunity to rot and destroy the vegetables’ roots.
Basil is one of the most widely-used herbs in hydroponics and aquaponics. More acidic herbs such as mint or lemongrass could affect the pH of the water, so gardeners should monitor pH levels constantly. Another important factor in aquaponic herb cultivation is nitrogen levels. If nitrogen levels are too high, gardeners should add more herbs or remove some fish. For those seeking herbal variety, parsley, sage rosemary and thyme can also be grown hydroponically. One method for hydroponic gardening is the ebb and flow system in which the herbs are placed in planters, and a sluice is run underneath. A timed pump flows nutrient-rich water under the herbs multiple times a day and renews oxygen levels when it drains back through.
Hydroponics and aquaponics can be utilized to grow beautiful flowers. Carnations and snapdragons may wilt in moldy soil, but they will bloom quicker in a hydroponic system. Any strong and natural material can be used for root anchors, such as sand or pebbles. Humans have been growing flowers this way for millennia. The only difficulty with aquaponics as a flower cultivation tool is the presence of insects. They must be physically removed to prevent their re-circulation because their desiccated bodies will harm the plants, and the use of pesticides will kill the fish.