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Growing Alfalfa Sprouts in Aquaponics Gardens
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If your parents were anything like ours when growing up, you are well-versed with various nutrient-rich superfoods such as Spinach, Kale, and Brussel Sprouts. However, did you know that Alfalfa Sprouts are also a member of this group? Mixing a handful of sprouts on your sandwich gives it just the right amount of zest, along with some other tasty benefits. So if you are a fan of packing your hoagies full of flavor, then growing Alfalfa Sprouts in Aquaponics Gardens is one way to keep the good stuff coming year-round.
In this article, we will discuss how to cultivate Alfalfa Sprouts in your Aquaponic system.
Why Grow Alfalfa Sprouts in your Aquaponics Garden?
Medicago sativa L. or Alfalfa has been a plant grown for centuries as a forage crop. The name “Alfalfa” literally means “the best forage.” People feed sheep, cows, horses, and goats with this fresh crop. Most experts agree that Alfalfa is a native of the Southwest and Central Asia.
In addition to being a livestock feed, folks value Alfalfa for its medicinal purposes. People in the past believe that the crop can relieve arthritis, lower blood pressure, and boost breast milk production. Countries that commercially produce Alfalfa Sprouts are the United States, China, Russia, Canada, and Argentina.
How to Serve the Alfalfa from Your Aquaponics Garden
Do you want to upgrade that plain soup or salad? You can make an otherwise bland meal and turn it to a nutritious dish by introducing Alfalfa on your plate. Doing so will bring texture, color, and flavor to your food. Sprouts are known to be a staple among Oriental dishes; however, they are also increasingly popular in other cuisines.
Alfalfa is delectable, whether you serve them hot or cold. Alternatively, you can replace the lettuce in your sandwich with sprouts to give it more crunch. Others likewise love Alfalfa as an excellent addition to stir-fries. Keep in mind though that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that sprouts may contain illness-causing bugs like listeria, E.coli, and salmonella. Hence, when serving sprouts, remember to wash or cook them thoroughly to eliminate potential bacteria hazards.
Health Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts
As earlier mentioned, Alfalfa is a superfood popular for its nutritional content. According to the USDA Food Data Central, 1 cup (100 grams) of Alfalfa Sprouts will provide you the following nutrients:
- Fiber – 1.9 grams
- Calcium – 32 milligrams
- Iron – .96 milligrams
- Magnesium – 27 milligrams
- Potassium – 79 milligrams
Research conducted in both humans and animals shows that Alfalfa helps in lowering cholesterol levels. The reason for this is because the sprouts carry the component called Saponins. Another study revealed that Alfalfa plant extracts reduce blood sugar levels by boosting the discharge of insulin from the pancreas.
Cultivating Alfalfa Sprouts in your Aquaponics Garden
Unlike other crops, the advantage of growing Aquaponic Alfalfa Sprouts is that you can harvest your greens in about 1 or 2 weeks. Here are simple guidelines you can follow to cultivate Alfalfa in your garden.
Because of the meager size of Alfalfa, it is essential that you have a flat, full surface to grow them. The two best methods to cultivate the crop are Deep Water and Media Bed Aquaponics.
If you opt to use a media bed, you can choose Perlite, Clay Pebbles, and Coco Coir as growing media.
Alfalfa doesn’t require full sunlight. In fact, it is best to keep the plant away from direct sunlight, or the heat will cook the sprouts. You can position your Alfalfa in a spot where it can receive indirect sunlight.
Water and Air Temperature
For your sprouts to thrive, optimal water and air temperature should be between 70°F to 75°F.
In purchasing your seeds, see to it you are getting certified pathogen-free seeds that are labeled and packed for sprouting. You can place 1.5 ounces of Alfalfa seeds in a 10-inch x 20-inch bed or raft.
Tiny plants like Alfalfa Sprouts are sensitive to their environment. Gardeners should maintain the plant’s preferred pH range between 6.5 to 7.5 to prevent growth delay or even death. Also, make sure to use a quality pH meter.
You can sanitize your Alfalfa seeds before planting as a safety measure. When using the floating raft method, it is ideal to leverage netting pots covered with hemp grow mat. The netting pot will permit the water to circulate around the roots. At the same time, the mat will keep the tiny seeds from being saturated. Ensure that the base of your pots touch the water so that they are consistently moist.
Use hemp grow mats also when you are cultivating the sprouts in a media bed. Place the grow mat on the surface on your media bed so that it can soak in the water and keep your plants moist. You can harvest your Alfalfa after 1 to 2 weeks.
Largemouth Bass is a hardy fish that can withstand low water temperatures. This makes the fish one of the best to raise when you are growing Alfalfa Sprouts in Aquaponics gardens. Aside of course, from the fact that Bass is a savory fish. Largemouth Bass prefer water temperatures between 65°F to 80°F and a pH range of 6.5 to 8.5.
The crop usually attracts Aphids, Alfalfa weevil, Beet armyworm, and Looper.
Common problems growing Aquaponic Alfalfa Sprouts
Alfalfa Sprouts are sensitive to changes in the environment. You will need to continuously monitor and maintain the standard parameters preferred by the crop. A small shift can negatively affect its growth process.
Whatever technique you choose in growing Alfalfa Sprouts in Aquaponics gardens, remember that your crop requires adequate space to develop. A standard rule is that if two crop’s foliage is almost near to touching, then their roots are probably competing for nutrients. Consider cutting back before the sprouts grow thick to allow them adequate space.