Aquaponic farming or gardening is a practice that involves the amalgamation of edible plants or vegetable growth with the help of aquatic life, usually fish. It provides an ecosystem that is self-contained and balanced. It can be practiced indoors or outdoors. Potatoes offer incredible versatility for cooking as they can be enjoyed, fried, boiled, mashed, baked, or even incorporated with other ingredients. Many people have realized that growing their potatoes in an aquaponic system can help them save money and offer them convenience while still being supplied with a fresh supply of fish. In growing aquaponic potatoes, the excretion left by the fish is absorbed by the potato plants as an essential nutrient. Leftover water is pumped into the fish tank after it is cleaned using an employed filtration system.
Potato varieties that you can grow in your aquaponics garden
There is a wide variety of potatoes that you may opt to grow in your aquaponics garden. Potatoes are classified and categorized according to the time they take before they can mature and be ready for harvesting, or they can be classified according to their culinary use.
According to the time they take, they may be classified into;
Early season potatoes
These potatoes take about 75 to 90 days in order to be harvest-ready. Ideally, they are grown in the southern regions. The varieties include the red-skinned Norland, the light brown Irish Cobbler, and the yellow-fleshed Yukon Gold.
This variety will take about 90 to 135 days to be harvest-ready. Gold Rush, Purple Viking, Red Pontiac, Catalina, Red Sangre, Ida Rose, Yukon Gem, and French Fingerling are popular types.
Late season potatoes
These potatoes will take around 135 to 160 days for them to mature and be ready for harvest. Due to this reason, they are ideally grown in the Northern Regions with mild summer weather. Common varieties are Canela Russet, Kennebec, Desiree, Carola, Butte, German Butterball, Russet Norkotah, Fingerling Salad, Amarosa, and Katahdin.
According to culinary use, potatoes can be classified according to the starch content level. Potatoes high in starch are best for baking and mashing. Waxy potatoes have less starch content and are best for stews and salads.
Why should you grow your potatoes in an aquaponic System?
Potatoes are generally considered to be among the most generous of plants. They are easy to grow, and you can expect a bumper harvest in short time periods. Potatoes also quickly adapt to different environments. They can grow in from a bucket, a growing bag, or even a plastic tub. Due to this adaptability, they can be grown in a setup that is self-sustaining such as an aquaponic garden.
Potatoes can be grown from themselves (seed potato), a small potato can be planted, or a large one can be cut into pieces then planted until it sprouts. Potato surfaces are usually dormant buds that sprout and grow into individual plants if provided with excellent and suitable conditions.
Factors to consider when growing aquaponics potatoes
The pH Levels
Potatoes will do well in various pH range conditions but will generally favor an environment that is slightly acidic. For optimal results and a good harvest, keep the water pH level between 5.3 – 6.0.
Moisture and temperature requirements
Potatoes are able to endure light frost as they favor cool seasons. For healthy and proper growth, keep the optimum temperatures at around 60 to 70-degree Fahrenheit.
Potato tubers should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Too much sunlight can cause the tubers to turn green due to solanine. Solanine is a substance that causes sickness and even death, especially if consumed in large amounts or quantities. For potatoes whose growth is favored by the sun, ensure they get around six hours of sunlight daily.
The grow medium
As potatoes are root crops like carrots, they will grow well in a wicking bed medium that is clay hydroton filled. The hydroton medium will retain water, allow for aeration to keep the potato tubers healthy, is pH neutral, and bacteria and disease sterile.
Preferable fish types
Potatoes can tolerate a variety of temperatures, with the best being 70 degrees Fahrenheit. To grow aquaponic potatoes, recommended fish types will include yellow pike or walleye. These fish types will favor similar temperatures. Perch and Koi fish types can also adapt to the conditions.
Planting and harvesting
Seed potato pieces should be planted approximately apart by 4 to 6 inches. The cut side should be placed downward with the eyes or buds facing up and should be buried an inch under the clay balls. Wait for about four days to a week when using cut seed potatoes. This will allow for “healing” of the cut surfaces and will stop them from rotting. You can get certified and disease-free seed potatoes from your local nursery. Grocery potatoes should not be relied on during planting as they contain sprouting inhibitors.
Depending on the potato variety, it will take 70 to 120 days for them to grow, but the plant itself will tell when it is ready for harvest. Generally, potato growers will start harvesting once the leafy tops die out. This is a particular sign that the potatoes are harvest-ready.
Commonly potatoes may be affected by blight, bacterial wilt, and potato blackleg. A water mold usually causes blight, and bacterial wilt leads to severe losses, especially in tropical, subtropical, and temperate areas. Potato blackleg causes the potato tubers to rot.
It is no doubt that aquaponic gardening has become very popular among many due to the many benefits it offers. From the continuous supply of fresh, healthy, and organic produce, its convenience, and the fact that it is environmentally friendly, it is a viable choice. Depending on your needs and requirements, you can opt to grow aquaponic potatoes, and these will turn out well, just like the store-bought ones. Potatoes grow easily and relatively fast. With the factors and the guide above, you will see your potatoes excellently thrive.
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