Aquaponic Plants

The fish and plants you chose for your aquaponic system must have similar needs as far as temperature and pH they can tolerate. There will always be some compromise to the needs of the fish and plants but, the closer you match them, the more success you will have.

As a general rule, warm, fresh water, fish can be matched with leafy crops like lettuce and herbs.. To have luck with fruiting plants such as tomatoes and peppers you need to stock your system heavily with fish.

Lettuce

aquaponic lettuce

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable. It is eaten either raw, notably in salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, and many other dishes, or cooked, as in Chinese cuisine in which the stem becomes just as important as the leaf. Both the English name and the Latin name of the genus are ultimately derived from lac, the Latin word for “milk”, referring to the plant’s milky juice. Mild in flavour, it has been described over the centuries as a cooling counterbalance to other ingredients in a salad.

Lettuce plants should be grown in a light, sandy, fertile, humus-rich soil that will hold moisture in summer. A soil pH of 6.5 is preferred; lime may be added for this purpose. For best eating quality, water is essential; the plants prefer the soil to be moist at all times.

Lettuce plants prefer cool weather, ideally with day temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit and night temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot, sunny, or dry conditions may cause the plants to turn bitter and produce a flower shoot, a process known as bolting. Therefore, lettuce is often grown in the coolness of spring and autumn in the Northern Hemisphere; lettuce sown in summer is often grown in light shade. In addition, bolt-resistant summer cultivars of lettuce may be recommended as temperatures increase.

Lettuce can be direct sown in the garden, but lettuce plants are often started in cold frames or greenhouses, and the resulting seedlings transplanted to the garden or field. This allows an earlier start, or allows more efficient use of garden space, as the lettuce can be transplanted when growing rapidly, avoiding the use of garden space for germination of seeds.

As another way to allow an earlier crop in cold weather, lettuce is sometimes given glass protection, known as a cloche, or protected with spun material known as a floating row cover. In sufficiently mild-weather climates, these same protective devices (greenhouses, cold frames, cloches, row cover) may be used to protect lettuce throughout the winter, allowing harvest even in near-freezing or freezing weather. Lettuce is hardy to Zone 6.<./P>

Lettuce is often grown between rows of slower growing plants like brussel sprouts or broccoli. This is called a catch crop. It allows more efficient use of garden space, and also provides the lettuce with needed shade in warm weather. For detailed plans with video instruction on how to build your own aquaponics system Click Here.

Tomatoes

aquaponic tomatoes

Hydroponic and greenhouse cultivation

Tomatoes are often grown in greenhouses in cooler climates, and there are cultivars such as the British 'Moneymaker' and a number of cultivars grown in Siberia that are specifically bred for indoor growing. In more temperate climates, it is not uncommon to start seeds in greenhouses during the late winter for future transplant.

Hydroponic tomatoes are also available, and the technique is often used in hostile growing environments, as well as high-density plantings.

Diseases and pests

For a more comprehensive list, see List of tomato diseases. Tomato cultivars vary widely in their resistance to disease. Modern hybrids focus on improving disease resistance over the heirloom plants. One common tomato disease is tobacco mosaic virus, so smoking or use of tobacco products are discouraged around tomatoes, although there is some scientific debate over whether the virus could possibly survive being burned and converted into smoke. Various forms of mildew and blight are also common tomato afflictions, which is why tomato cultivars are often marked with a combination of letters which refer to specific disease resistance. The most common letters are: V – verticillium wilt, F – fusarium wilt strain I, FF – fusarium wilt strain I and II, N – nematodes, T – tobacco mosaic virus, and A – alternaria.

Another particularly dreaded disease is curly top, carried by the beet leafhopper, which interrupts the lifecycle, ruining a nightshade plant as a crop. As the name implies, it has the symptom of making the top leaves of the plant wrinkle up and grow abnormally.

Some common tomato pests are stink bugs, cutworms, tomato hornworms and tobacco hornworms, aphids, cabbage loopers, whiteflies, tomato fruitworms, flea beetles, red spider mite, slugs, and Colorado potato beetles.

When insects attack tomato plants, they produce the plant peptide hormone, systemin, which activates defensive mechanisms, such as the production of protease inhibitors to slow the growth of insects. The hormone was first identified in tomatoes, but similar proteins have been identified in other species since.

Picking and ripening

Tomatoes are often picked unripe (and thus colored green) and ripened in storage with ethylene. Unripe tomatoes are firm. As they ripen they soften until reaching the ripe state where they are red or orange in color and slightly soft to the touch. Ethylene is a hydrocarbon gas produced by many fruits that acts as the molecular cue to begin the ripening process. Tomatoes ripened in this way tend to keep longer, but have poorer flavor and a mealier, starchier texture than tomatoes ripened on the plant. They may be recognized by their color, which is more pink or orange than the other ripe tomatoes' deep red, depending on variety.

A machine-harvestable variety of tomato (the "square tomato") was developed in the 1950s by University of California, Davis's Gordie C. Hanna, which, in combination with the development of a suitable harvester, revolutionized the tomato-growing industry. In 1994, Calgene introduced a genetically modified tomato called the 'FlavrSavr', which could be vine ripened without compromising shelf life. However, the product was not commercially successful, and was only sold until 1997.

Recently, stores have begun selling "tomatoes on the vine", which are determinate varieties that are ripened or harvested with the fruits still connected to a piece of vine. These tend to have more flavor than artificially ripened tomatoes (at a price premium).

Slow-ripening cultivars of tomato have been developed by crossing a nonripening cultivar with ordinary cultivars. Cultivars were selected whose fruits have a long shelf life and at least reasonable flavor.

At home, fully ripe tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator, but are best kept at room temperature. Tomatoes stored cold will still be edible, but tend to lose flavor; thus, "Never Refrigerate" stickers are sometimes placed on tomatoes in supermarkets.

STRAWBERRIES

aquaponic strawberries

The garden strawberry, Fragaria × ananassa, is a hybrid species that is cultivated worldwide for its fruit, the (common) strawberry. The fruit (which is not actually a berry, but an aggregate accessory fruit) is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness. It is consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in prepared foods such as preserves, fruit juice, pies, ice creams, and milk shakes. Artificial strawberry aroma is also widely used in all sorts of industrialized food products.

The garden strawberry was first bred in Brittany, France, about 1740 via a cross of Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America , which was noted for its flavor, and Fragaria chiloensis from Chile and Argentina brought by Amédée-François Frézier, which was noted for its large size.

Cultivars of Fragaria × ananassa have replaced, in commercial production, the woodland strawberry, which was the first strawberry species cultivated in the early 17th century.

The strawberry is, in technical terms, an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant's ovaries but from the "receptacle" that holds the ovaries. Each apparent "seed" (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it. In both culinary and botanical terms, the entire structure is called a "fruit".

Strawberry cultivars vary widely in size, color, flavor, shape, degree of fertility, season of ripening, liability to disease and constitution of plant. Some vary in foliage, and some vary materially in the relative development of their sexual organs. In most cases the flowers appear hermaphroditic in structure, but function as either male or female. For purposes of commercial production, plants are propagated from runners (stolons) and, in general, distributed as either bare root plants or plugs. Cultivation follows one of two general models, annual plasticulture or a perennial system of matted rows or mounds. A small amount of strawberries are also produced in greenhouses during the off season.

The bulk of modern commercial production uses the plasticulture system. In this method, raised beds are formed each year, fumigated, and covered with plastic to prevent weed growth and erosion. Plants, usually obtained from northern nurseries, are planted through holes punched in this covering, and irrigation tubing is run underneath. Runners are removed from the plants as they appear, to encourage the plants to put most of their energy into fruit development. At the end of the harvest season, the plastic is removed and the plants are plowed into the ground. Because strawberry plants more than a year or two old begin to decline in productivity and fruit quality, this system of replacing the plants each year allows for improved yields and denser plantings. However, because it requires a longer growing season to allow for establishment of the plants each year, and because of the increased costs in terms of forming and covering the mounds and purchasing plants each year, it is not always practical in all areas.

The other major method, which uses the same plants from year to year growing in rows or on mounds, is most common in colder climates. It has lower investment costs, and lower overall maintenance requirements. Yields are typically lower than in plasticulture.

A third method uses a compost sock. Plants grown in compost socks have been shown to produce significantly higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), flavonoids, anthocyanins, fructose, glucose, sucrose, malic acid, and citric acid than fruit produced in the black plastic mulch or matted row systems. Similar results in an earlier 2003 study conducted by the US Dept of Agriculture, at the Agricultural Research Service, in Beltsville Maryland, confirms how compost plays a role in the bioactive qualities of two strawberry cultivars.

Strawberries are often grouped according to their flowering habit. Traditionally, this has consisted of a division between "June-bearing" strawberries, which bear their fruit in the early summer and "ever-bearing" strawberries, which often bear several crops of fruit throughout the season. Research has shown recently that strawberries actually occur in three basic flowering habits: short-day, long-day, and day-neutral. These refer to the day-length sensitivity of the plant and the type of photoperiod that induces flower formation. Day-neutral cultivars produce flowers regardless of the photoperiod.

Strawberries may also be propagated by seed, though this is primarily a hobby activity, and is not widely practiced commercially. A few seed-propagated cultivars have been developed for home use, and research into growing from seed commercially is ongoing. Seeds (achenes) are acquired either via commercial seed suppliers, or by collecting and saving them from the fruit. Strawberries can also be grown indoors in strawberry pots.









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