Thursday, August 25, 2011

Aquaponics in the Texas Heat

     At Trinity Aquaponics we maintain several systems so that our staff never stops learning and so we can conduct our own research on aquaponics in zone 9, the gardening zone we're headquartered in.  Research on aquaponics has been conducts since the '70s, but that research isn't widespread.  The research my company conducted is key to offering our customers here in Houston the advice and information that they need to successfully grow with aquaponics.
     We're in the heat of midsummer right now, and it gets brutal outside.  There are a lot of crops that simply won't grow right now.  But it's crucial for an aquaponic system to have plant growth in the system at all times.  Without plants the filtration is lost and fish mortality is significantly increased.  So, what can you grow the temperature rises?
     Most leafy green crops such as lettuce and cabbage are cool season crops.  If you try and grow them during the summer they are stunted, bolt (stretch and become bitter), or just die.  And fruiting crops such as tomatoes will stop setting fruit and produce much less when things heat up.  Crops that do extremely well are herbs.  Right now our systems are overflowing with mint and lemon balm.  I have several basil plants in the systems that are doing great, as well.  Peppers have also fared well this summer.  Despite the heat, these plants will continue producing for you.
    As part of the research that I run, we've just in the past week introduced pole beans, bush beans, cucumber, and tomatillos to one of the systems in order to record how well they grow and produce when introduced in midsummer.  So far growth has been great, and I will keep updating the blog with the progress of those crops as they continue to grow.  I can state for a fact that tomatillos will flourish despite brutal heat and little water in traditional soil gardens.  I have high hopes for them in aquaponics.
     Even though your options are severely limited in the heat of a Texas summer there are fruiting crops that will produce for you.  And it is a great time for herbs.  If you have a food dehydrator you can stock up on dried herbs during the summer to make more space for fruiting crops come cooler weather.  Peppers can be harvested and canned or pickled, which gives you a supply later in the year while once again making room for other crops.  Now, if you have a climate controlled greenhouse your crop selection won't be limited by temperatures.  But a greenhouse is typically a bit of an investment, so I'd suggest sticking with crops that do well in the heat for most residential aquaponic gardeners.

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