Aquaponics systems commonly involve raising freshwater fish because they can tolerate diverse water temperatures and pH…
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Winter dishes are never complete without a generous serving of roasted cauliflower. This mildly sweet vegetable is perfect for soups and is an excellent low carb substitute for rice. Growing cauliflower in aquaponics gardens is a sustainable way to produce this vegetable in the comforts of your home.
In this article, you will learn different tips and information on how to make cauliflower flourish in an aquaponic setup.
Getting to Know Cauliflower
Cauliflower belongs to the same botanical family (Brassicaceae is formerly known as Cruciferae) as cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Unlike its relatives, cauliflower is unique because it doesn’t have enough chlorophyll, the green pigment that most plants have, thus leaving its stems cream in color. As it is commonly grown in North America, cauliflower is part of a group of cruciferous vegetables widely known as Cole Crops, which are considered cornerstone vegetables in the region.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Considered underappreciated by many, cauliflower has a wealth of nutrients that your body needs. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 100g serving of cauliflower contains:
- Vitamin C – 24.7mg
- Dietary Fiber – 2g
- Calcium – 24mg
- Phosphorus – 44mg
- Potassium – 299mg
- Zinc – 0.27mg
- Copper – 0.039mg
- Manganese – 0.155mg
- Selenium – 0.6µg
- Fluoride – 1µg
- Vitamin B-6 – 0.184mg
- Folate- 57µg
- Choline – 44.3mg
Studies have also proven that vegetables like cauliflower which are high in fiber can help prevent obesity. Fiber is important as it keeps you full and is essential in maintaining a good digestive system.
Types of Cauliflower
Surprising as it may seem, there are over 100 different kinds of cauliflower. These varieties are divided into four main classes according to when they are grown. Here are the four major groups of cauliflower:
These cauliflowers include white, green, and even those with unique shapes such as the Romanesco cauliflower. The Italian variety is the ancestral form of cauliflower and was used to make the other varieties you see today.
Northwest European cauliflowers were varieties first grown in France in the 19th century. Often harvested during the fall season, these varieties or cultivars were called late harvesters as it took longer to get the plant to full maturity than other cauliflowers.
This cauliflower cultivar is usually harvested during both summer and fall. Northern European varieties were first grown in Germany in the 18th century and are ready to harvest during the early season. Snowball is a well-known variety of this cauliflower group and comes highly recommended for first-time gardeners.
Asian cauliflowers are unique because varieties under this group are more resilient to weather changes and can grow in warmer temperatures.
Cultivating Cauliflower in an Aquaponics Garden
Here are the following requirements that you need to make cauliflower flourish in your aquaponics garden:
Since cauliflower is a heavy plant, the best aquaponics system to use is media beds with a good flood and drain system. It is recommended to use this system as it not only supports the weight but also encourages your plant to expand its roots, which results in a healthier yield.
It is best to maintain pH levels between 6 to 6.5 for your cauliflower to flourish. As always make sure to use a quality pH meter.
The best growing medium to use is expanded clay pebbles, also known as hydroton. These pebbles keep enough air and moisture around the plant and are pH neutral, making it one of the most versatile growing mediums for aquaponics.
Water and Air Temperature
Cauliflower is a relatively easy vegetable to grow in an aquaponic garden. However, it is recommended to keep the air temperature at 66 to 77°F during the germination stage. To speed up the formation of heads (or “curds”), maintain a cool temperature of 50 to 59°F for autumn crops and a slightly warmer temperature of 59 to 68°F for spring crops.
Cauliflower needs full sunlight of at least 6 hours; however, you may have to take extra steps to protect the curds from overexposure. Too much sunlight may cause the main flower to separate into small, rice-like grains, so it is best to cover the heads with the leaves by tying them together on top of the plant.
Since cauliflowers thrive in temperatures ranging from 50 to 68°F, trout is the best fish to use. Trouts prefer cooler waters and will work well in your aquaponics environment. This fish will also provide you with a healthy meal as it is rich in protein and is rich in omega 3.
Cauliflowers take at least three to five weeks to germinate. After transplanting it to the media bed, it can reach full maturity and will be ready for harvest in about 12 weeks. Harvest cauliflower when the heads are compact and firm. You may use a knife to cut off the main head and gently uproot the rest of the plant to put in the compost pit/bin.
Some pests like cabbage worms, flea beetles, white maggot larvae, and cabbage aphids may damage your plant. It is recommended to check the heads regularly to remove these pests manually. Planting marigolds near or beside it can be a natural insect repellent for your cauliflowers.
Cauliflowers generally need very little maintenance but are highly sensitive to both sunlight and frost. It is important to check the air and water temperature constantly to avoid your plant to bolt. The key to cultivating cauliflower is in the selection of the type you’re planting and the proper transplanting from the seedling tray to the media bed.
- Cauliflowers have a high nutrient demand and react well to high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.
- “Buttoning” may occur if temperatures drop below 53.6°F. Buttoning is when the cauliflower develops small button-like heads instead of one big compact curd. Exposing your plant to enough sunlight is the key to avoid
- Avoid overfeeding your fish, and it is best to remove any uneaten food from your tank to avoid diseases. Uneaten food consumes dissolved oxygen in the water, which can be bad for both the fish and the plants.