By utilizing aquaponics to create your very own indoor garden, you will no longer have to worry about paying that outrageous price for fresh vegetables in the winter. Instead you can grow your vegetables year round right in your basement or spare bedroom. Talk about fresh! And maybe best of all is the fact that you will have first hand knowledge of what you are eating. Hint: it’s all organic.
If you aren’t familiar with aquaponics, let me get you up to speed quickly. Aquaponics is simply an expansion of hydroponics–the art of growing plants without the use of dirt or soil. The plant’s roots sit directly in a container of water. The plant itself is usually in a floating type of bed. With hydroponics you had to add nutrition into the water to feed the plants.
With aquaponics, the plants get their nutrition in a much more natural and organic way. From fish. If you’ve ever kept fish before, you know that they can put out some pretty nasty by-products like ammonia, etc. Well, here’s where we see the great circle of life in action–those nasty by-products are just exactly what plants need to thrive. So the fish emulsion feeds the plants and as the plants take what they need from the water, they filter the water for the fish. All natural and all organic.
If you’re wondering what kinds of plants your can raise with aquaponics–well, basically anything goes. Beginners might want to start with a leafy green veggie like lettuce. It’s generally the easiest to grow. Other plants you can add as you get the hang of it include herbs, watercress, peas, beans, red and green peppers, strawberries, and melons. You can really try just about anything. In fact the true test of whether or not a plant will work for you is just to try it and see.
There is another benefit of aquaponic gardening, too. You also get to eat the fish! If you are looking for a way to become sustainable (or off the grid), this type of garden will not only give you fresh year round fruit and veggies, but protein too. All from the comfort of your own home.
You probably think an indoor aquaponic gardening system would be expensive, right? Well, yes, if you buy a ready made system that is probably true. The good news is that with a good DIY guide, it’s totally possible to build your own system. Your upfront costs will be offset by the savings from your produce bills. Plus you get the added benefit of knowing where your family’s food is coming from and that it is, in fact, healthy.
So are you ready to grow vegetables year round?
Growing fresh vegetables and herbs year round for your salads or cooked in the steamer or the oven is a form of intensive cultivation as the best vegetables are sowing, cultivated and harvested in short time spans. Successive plantings mean that you produce young growing tissue and this is always found in the crunchiest, tastiest vegetables. This is how I harvest quality vegetables and herbs year round.
Step 1 – Grouping
Vegetables can be grown in pretty much the same soil. The best vegetable soil is loose, crumby and able to hold water and nutrients. It needs to be fertilized and aerated but the same soil will grow a variety of vegetables. Vegetables are generally grouped into 3 main types-seed vegetables, leaf and stem vegetables and root and bulb vegetables. Group these together because each of these vegetable types require different types and amounts of fertilizer.
Step 2 – Seasonal Planting
Determine whether your vegetables are cool or warm season plants and plant them in season. Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and beans grow well during cooler months while capsicum, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and corn all enjoy warmer growing conditions. Vegetables like cabbage, lettuce and carrots grow in temperatures between warm and cool plantings. Plants these at the correct time of the year as they will ‘go to seed’ if sown when it is too warm or too cool.
Step 3 – Correct Sunlight
For quick growing vegetables select a garden area that is exposed to at least 4-5 hours of sunlight each day. Have part of this garden face the south for the best exposure to sunlight, especially in winter. Avoid shade from other plants or buildings.
Step 4 – Garden Layout
This will depend on your time and interest in gardening vegetables and herbs. Start small and extend after success and follow this. A popular size vegetable garden is about 10 square feet. Plant the vegetables you enjoy but remember that climbing beans and cucumbers grow on a trellis and need little space. Tomatoes and capsicum have high yield crops. Silver beet and broccoli and lettuce are good for continuous harvesting.
Step 5 – Fertilizing
Use a pre-planting fertilizer containing phosphorous before each crop to assist with healthy seedlings and roots. Then root and bulb vegetables require no further fertilizing but leaf vegetables need more nitrogen and seed vegetables need additional mixed fertilizing. Most vegetables and herbs need a lightly acidic soil so fertilize with lime after summer crops and before cool season crops.
Step 6 – Watering
Water well across each season to produce quick-growing vegetables. Vegetables can lose large amounts of water during dry hot seasons. Good soakings in hot weather assist keep them in an exclusive herb garden or use them as borders in your vegetable or flower garden. They also grow well in pots but these will need a liquid fertilizer. Harvest when you need them fresh or if you wish to dry them instead, hang upside down in a shady spot.
Step 7 – What About the Herbs?
A wonderful addition to many vegetable and meat dishes, herbs generally need well drained soil and vary in the amount of sunlight they require. Easy to grow, often from seedlings, they can be grown in an exclusive herb garden or be used as borders in your vegetable or flower garden. They also grow well in pots but these will need a liquid fertilizer. Harvest when you need them fresh or if you wish to dry them instead, hang upside down in a shady spot.
Remember also the benefit of crop rotation to reduce the impact of disease in each vegetable family.
Do you live in the city and would love to have a vegetable garden, but are constrained by a small garden space? If you really want to grow your own fresh vegetables, then there is an answer for you. You may want to plant a vertical vegetable garden right there in your small area. A vertical vegetable gardening can easily produce as much vegetables as a normal garden.
Remember, you don’t need to limit yourself to only growing outdoor vertical gardens. While caring for a vegetable garden in your apartment or other confined area could be a little tricky, it’s not impossible and very rewarding. Gardening indoors will allow you to grow vegetables that aren’t found in your region’s climate, offer you better variety to choose from when planting. It has also been demonstrated that live plants can improve the air quality in small spaces. While it maybe necessary to have proper ventilation to prevent any possible odors, others felt that they can breathe better and are generally calmer because of the refreshing oxygen emitted by your plants.
Vertical vegetables gardens are not a new ideal however at times they are mistaken with a living wall. Since both living walls and vertical vegetable gardens could be used for producing vegetables and fruits, living walls are more focused on beauty than production of food. This form of gardening could be done either in your apartment or in your small backyard garden.
In vertical gardening you train the vegetable plants to grow upwards. They have designed specific structures that contain the entire garden within a small area. With the proper frames and cross shelving setups, you will find it’s rather simple to train your plants to grow vertically.
There are ready-made vertical gardening kits you can buy that will eliminate the guess-work in constructing your setup, however if you want to you can do-it-yourself route. If you decide on a DIY method, be sure that the design structure you”re using to build your vertical vegetable garden is capable of holding the materials, soil, water, and the plants you want to grow in your garden as well as the vegetables it will produce. While you can find detail information online as to the weights of the different parts to your new garden. We have found that such ready-made kits can often save a lot of time – not only with setup, but also they prevented lost “growing” time that you may encounter with wilted plants that did not get the proper amounts of water or soil.
If you decided to build an indoor vertical vegetable garden, spend some time looking for the ideal location, as your plants will need enough sunlight to thrive. If you are in the city area where large buildings block most of the natural light coming from your patio or windowsills, you will need to buy lamps that produced specific light to help in growing plants and vegetables.
If you want a true organic garden, you will want to research how you can apply composting ways to the soil used in your vertical gardens. A proper drainage system is important, as well as good air circulation (whether indoors or out). NASA scientists have researched a variety of vertical gardening methods, which suggest that the supplies and processes of how to grow vegetables and herbs vertically will continue to get better with advance technology. While large grid systems and advanced hydroponic watering techniques may not offer possible solutions for your cement porch, we can use the concepts and the ideas they create and can scale them down to fit our own needs.
It would be good to stick to some simple steps to make sure your success as you begin to learn how to work with your space and your climate restrictions when you grow your first garden. For starters, consider growing peas, green beans, cucumber, squash, lima plants, and tomatoes, as they are great climbing plants in nature. As you become more comfortable you can grow other types of vegetables in your vertical garden.
Also, be sure you have the supplies you’ll need before planting your garden. This is important for plants that need vertical support, because seeds begin germinating almost immediately and it is best not to disturb the dirt by adding supports at a later time. Also make sure that your vertical vegetable garden is not entwined with shrubs or other plants that may divert water away from your plants or block out their sunlight. Once again, after some time, these issues may not be of a primary concern, as a beginner looking to start their first vertical garden you should keep these issues in mind.
Vegetable and herb gardening has always been known to offer “green” ways to lower environmental footprint, but those opportunities has been limited by space and region. Fortunately, with the new fun trend of vertical vegetable gardening, those who live in urban area can enjoy a similar level of increased self-sufficiency as they raise their own, healthy, fresh grown vegetables.