December 28, 2016

Growing Basil Vertically in Aquaponics

Recently we were talking to someone who wishes to remain anonymous who say they invested more than $250,000 in their commercial aquaponics business and it wasn’t working to plan. Sure they grew plants. The fish grew fine. They had 1,000 Jade perch in their tanks that were coming up for harvest. The system was running so well that they claimed they could grow lettuce in two weeks for market! They were able to get $1.20 per lettuce head wholesale at the food co-op. Although they didn’t have organic certification – their aquaponically grown herbs and vegetables were in demand as the co-op only sold organic food to their fussy customers at a premium price.

They had trialled all sorts of plants over the first year and the system worked fine but it had problems. Amongst the every day issues they encountered from high summer heat (52C) in the greenhouse and occasional bug infestations attacking their crops. Their main complaint was a major problem that doesn’t make rounds to often  in Aquaponic discussions – plants wilting

Wilting

Some plants are prone to wilting in high heat but the wilting they were talking about was at harvest. The owners had grown a large crop of Basil and blamed Aquaponics as the culprit. The plants after all had it too easy. The Basil plants were full of water with their roots submersed in the stuff all the time. It was a DWC floating raft system with heavily oxygenated water so the plants were very happy indeed – until harvest day. Then the plants flopped over and wilted when picked. They had lost a whole crop to wilting.

Harvest

A little closer investigation revealed that the owners had decided to let their Basil grow nice and big and then when they decided to harvest the plants out,  they also removed the roots and cut up the stems into marketable sizes and wrapped the whole thing in plastic and threw it into the truck to take to market the next day. They didn’t have a cold room so shelf storage of the product became a big problem. They had also tried adding a slurp of water into the parcels to give the plants a “drink” but that method didn’t work either!  All they had was a pile of wilted plants that no one would buy.

They had failed to understand the way a plant works. It requires its root system to stay alive!

Thats why you will see a lot of happy hydroponically grown Basil plants in the market-place selling with their net-pots – and roots still intact.

Each tower has a regulator attached to adjust nutrient drip.

Growing Basil in Vertical Towers

Here’s a clever way to grow Basil in vertical towers. Aleece Landis the Duckponics lady we featured before or as she is also known as TCLynx on Aquaponics forums demonstrated to us  her Basil herb arrangement grown in zip towers and also a curious method for capturing rain water in saucers to top up the towers. She has high alkaline water where she lives so capturing rain water with a neutral pH is a good way to keep her pH stable. There’s also a little bonus feature on Aleece’s method of growing Loofa, a type of fibrous gourd that when dried makes a great sponge that she also sells.

Aleece could take her Basil towers to market and bring the whole thing back, including the plants she didn’t sell. She could then hook her towers back up to her aquaponics system and away it goes for another week. No wilting. No dead plants. Vertical towers are a great idea that can also grow all sorts of herbs and climbing plants like – strawberries.

Making your own Basil or Strawberry tower is not hard if you run a pump with enough head to pump the height of your towers. The towers are ordinary storm-water drainage pipes or PVC tubing wide enough to accommodate gravel or hydroton. A series of holes are cut into the tower to accommodate spaces for the seedlings. Placing the tower at opposite end of your auto-siphon allows good nutrient flow through the entire growbed feeding your plants.

Check out this post on making your own strawberry tower.

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