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Broccoli is considered a dietary staple in many produce sections in the US and Europe. This vegetable is not only filled with a lot of health benefits but also adds a splash of color to any meal. Many gardening enthusiasts encourage growing broccoli in aquaponics gardens because it’s easy to cultivate, and provides bountiful yield in a relatively small growing area. There is certainly a sense of pride knowing that you can produce this vegetable in the comforts of your own home.
In this article, you will learn more about broccoli and the requirements needed to successfully grow it in an aquaponics setup.
Getting to Know Broccoli
Broccoli came from the Italian word “Broccolo,” which means sprout or head. Popularly grown in the US and Europe, it is part of the Cruciferae or cabbage family and is related to kale, cabbage, and bok choy. Broccoli is known in North America as one of their “cole crops” as it is one of the commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables in the region.
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Since broccoli comes from the cabbage family, it is a good source of folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in fiber, which keeps you full longer and are a good addition to meals if your goal is to lose weight.
Research on broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have shown that high consumption of these plants prevents the development of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, ovarian, uterine, and prostate cancer.
Types of Broccoli
Broccoli was originally cultivated in the Roman Empire and soon spread out to Europe, the United States, and Asia. Although there are many varieties of broccoli, there are only three types that are commonly grown in both traditional and aquaponic gardening.
You may be familiar with Calabrese broccoli as it is the type that is commonly sold in stores and markets. This heirloom plant was named after Calabria or “the toe” in the Italian peninsula. Calabrese broccoli is highly recommended by gardeners as it has a long harvest window as it grows side shoots even when the main head is removed.
Compared to Calabrese, this type of broccoli has more stalks and has smaller individual florets instead of central heads. Sprouting broccoli is slightly bitter than the other varieties and is either white or purple. White sprouting broccoli has a milder and slightly sweeter taste than its purple counterpart.
Also known as kai-lan or Chinese kale, this type of broccoli is extremely different from the other types as it has no florets and has wide, thick leaves that taste bitter compared to Calabrese and sprouting broccoli. Chinese broccoli has a short growing time of at least 35 days and grows well in warmer environments, making it a perfect plant to grow during the summer.
Cultivating Broccoli in an Aquaponics Garden
Below are the requirements needed to grow your broccoli in an aquaponics garden:
Floating raft systems may not support your plant properly, as broccoli is a heavy plant. It is recommended to grow this plant through a traditional media bed approach with a proper flood and drain system. This flood and drain system encourages your plant to expand its root system for it to get enough nutrient-filled water.
Broccoli is highly tolerant of changes in pH levels, but it is best to maintain a pH level of 6 to 7. As always make sure to use a quality pH meter.
Water and Air Temperature
To successfully germinate the seeds, keep your water temperature at 75°F for a week. Once your broccoli successfully germinates, it is best to keep both air and water temperature at 55 to 65°F. Avoid exceeding 65°F as high temperatures may cause your plant to bolt.
Broccoli needs full sunlight of at least 6 hours to flourish in an aquaponics system.
Any fish type is suitable for growing broccoli in an aquaponic garden due to its balanced pH and temperature requirements. It is recommended to use tilapia as it is a fish type that is easy to manage and is resistant to diseases.
When all the requirements necessary for growing broccoli are met, your plant will be ready for harvest in two to three months (except for Chinese broccoli, which grows faster).
Quick Tips For Growing Broccoli in Aquaponics
- When harvesting, good broccoli has compact florets and has a rich green color. Yellow florets are a sign of over maturity, so it is recommended to closely check your plant when it is close to maturity.
- Growing marigolds or calendula flowers beside your broccoli can help prevent pests like aphids, cabbage worms, and flea beetles from destroying your plant.