December 28, 2016

Raising Aquaponic Seedlings For The Lazy

Ask most people why they got into Aquaponics and they’ll tell you that its about “food security” or eating “healthy food” or to maintain an interest in an “unusual hobby” and these are all valid points but the real answer when you dig a little deeper is that most people are bone lazy when it comes to pottering around in the garden, digging up weeds and all that back breaking work shifting compost and mulching stuff around.

The real reason is that most people with a passion for Aquaponics tell you privately is that it works very well with minimal effort.

People want to grow food but not not spend a lot of time maintaining it, weeding it, spraying it or bending over hurting your back struggling with it.

If you’re like me, you want to grow nice vegetables and have a healthy garden bed but the practicalities are that we all lead busy lives so devoting a spare hour of your time each week to maintaining a vegetable garden is time many of us don’t have.

What started off as a great idea soon turns to sadness when you notice the moth eaten, sad looking plants struggling in your dirt garden bed full of very healthy looking weeds. Well, thats the sad reality for many folk when it comes to their gardening experience and its not often discussed. People give up and say they don’t have a “green thumb.”

But not so for aquaponics. For a start there is no dirt. The only dirt you see in a media system is the fish waste that adheres to the little clay balls (hydroton) that fills your grow beds. Its also at waist height which is perfect for those that don’t like bending over. And boy does aquaponics grow food very well.

Raising Seedlings

Take for example the experience of raising seedling for aquaponics. You’ll need a constant steady supply as you keep harvesting your produce. For a long time I thought  that to grow seedlings you would need to do what many people do. Either buy your seedlings ready to go – or wait a little longer and grow them in a special seed raising mix in those little plastic pot containers.

Whether you need the right mix of sand and compost or whether vermiculite or perlite are your preferred method there was a certain type of necessary methodology that many people adopt. Some folk insisted on growing the seedlings in a glasshouse and others used nutrient rich fish water to raise their precious seedlings. One forgotten day in watering your seedlings on a hot summers day – and bang – the little seedlings keel over – stressed and probably dead. Sounds familiar?

So is there a better way? A far simple way for the bone lazy that gets consistent results for no effort?

The answer is – Yes.

Recently I was given this advice.

“Just throw the seeds randomly into your grow bed and go away. Have a beer. Thats it. End of story.”

Don’t believe me? Neither did I at first. It sounded too simple and uncomplicated.

We are so conditioned to expect a high degree of complexity when it comes to building and maintaining plumbing in an aquaponics system.

To a degree – there is method in this complicated madness – but when I read about a growing number of people who have abandoned any method in regimented seed raising techniques  in aquaponics, who just throw caution literally to the wind and say “Just sprinkle the seeds directly into the grow bed…”

Well, I had to give it a try.

Guess what? It works.

Within a week a tiny number of little fragile seedlings are raising their little cluster of tiny leaves out amongst the red little clay balls announcing “Here we come.”

Can it be that easy? Yes – providing you have  normal sunny conditions and a warm climate. It probably wont happen in freezing alpine conditions or in a blizzard of snow or burning and baking sun – but test the theory. Sometimes the most unlikely things can and do happen.

Aquaponic media beds may not always look that inviting. No soft dark compost to cuddle the seeds. But surprisingly the seeds fall down deep within the dense cracks of the heavy media. There is plenty of moisture down below to shade and keep warm so no need for you to water the beds as that is happening already. There is plenty of good bacteria adhering to the clay balls. Lots of oxygen being provided by the rise and fall of the auto siphons flooding and draining the beds. So why indeed would you plant your seedlings anywhere else? You have the perfect environment already at your finger tips.

The good news is that you can easily thin out and lift and transplant the seedlings to other parts of the aquaponics system when they grow a little bigger.

Give it a shot. It seems to work fine.

Guest Post by Eco Films Australia – An independent production house based in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Australia.

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