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When it comes to versatile crops, potatoes top the list. You can do a lot of things with this vegetable – mash, bake, hash, boiled, fried, and even cook it with other ingredients. Many people are starting to realize that growing potatoes in aquaponics gardens can save money and trips to the grocery store. As long as you have the right spot, like a sunny location, a working aquaponics setup, and some seed potatoes, you can start your own potato patch at home.
In this article, you will learn about potatoes, the different varieties, and how you can grow them in an aquaponics system.
Why Grow Aquaponic Potatoes?
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are widely considered to be one of the most generous plants Not only are they relatively easy to grow, but you can also expect abundant harvests in a short period of time. In addition, potatoes are easily adaptable to various environments; you can grow them in a plastic tub, a grow bag, or even a bucket. For this reason, they make a great crop to grow in a self-sustaining setup, like an aquaponics garden.
You can grow a potato from a potato – or what is called the seed potato. You can either plant a whole small potato or cut up a larger one into pieces to plant and wait for sprouts. On the surface of potatoes are dormant buds, which will then sprout and develop into individual plants when provided with the right conditions.
Nutritional Content of Potatoes
Potatoes are a staple food in many households. They are well-loved because of their versatility and also because they are nutritious. Potatoes are mainly known for being an excellent source of carbohydrates, which will supply energy for the body. But more than that, when you’re consuming potatoes for energy, you’re also taking in other micronutrients.
According to the USDA Food Data, 100 g of boiled potatoes, with skin and without salt, contains the following:
- Calories: 87
- 1.9 g protein
- 20.1 g carbs
- 0.9 g sugar
- 0.1 g fat
Along with these nutrients, potatoes also contain fiber, which aids in digestion. It is a good source of vitamin C for healthy skin, teeth, and gums, and B vitamins (B1, B6, and folate), which are essential for proper nerve function. In addition, potatoes contain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron.
If you want potatoes to be part of a healthy diet, it is recommended that they are boiled or baked.
Choosing Potato Varieties For Your Aquaponics Garden
There are dozens of varieties to choose from when growing potatoes in aquaponics gardens. The different types of potatoes are classified according to the days it will take for them to mature and become ready for harvest.
- Early season potatoes take 75 to 90 days to become ready for harvest. They are ideally grown in southern regions. Varieties include Yukon Gold, Irish Cobbler, and Norland.
- Midseason potatoes take 90 to 135 days to become ready for harvest. Examples are French Fingerling, Gold Rush, Red Pontiac, and Purple Viking.
- Late season varieties take 135 to 160 days to become mature enough for harvesting. This makes them ideal for growing in northern regions with mild weather in summer. Varieties in this group include Katahdin, Canela Russet, Kennebec, and Amarosa.
Potatoes can also be classified by their culinary use or according to their starch level. Those that are high in starch are better for mashing and baking while waxy ones with less starch are perfect for salads and stews. Check out this guide to see which variety is ideal for each recipe.
How to Grow Potatoes Aquaponically
While potatoes are generally considered easy to grow, keep in mind the following parameters when growing them in your aquaponics system:
Potatoes can do well in a wide range of pH conditions, but generally, they prefer a slightly acidic environment. That said, keep your water pH between 5.3 and 6.0 to enjoy a good quality harvest.
Potatoes are cool-season crops that can tolerate light frost. To ensure proper and healthy growth of potatoes, maintain optimum temperatures of 60-70 deg F.
Sun-loving potatoes should get at least 6 hours of direct sun per day.
As with root crops, like carrots, potatoes will benefit from a wicking bed filled with clay hydroton.
Plant seed potato pieces approximately 4 to 6 inches apart. Make sure you place the cut side downward and the buds or eyes facing up. Bury under one inch of clay balls.
Depending on the variety, potatoes can grow anywhere from 70 to 120 days, but the plant should be able to tell you when it’s time to harvest. Usually, growers start the harvest when the leafy tops have died out. This will be a sure sign that your potatoes are mature enough for harvest.
Fish Type to Consider
A walleye or yellow pike is a good match for growing aquaponic potatoes because they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but they’re the happiest in 70 deg F. Koi and Perch are also two fish types that can adapt well to the conditions required by aquaponic potatoes.
Quick Tips When Growing Aquaponics Potatoes
- When planting potatoes, visit your local nursery to find certified disease-free seed potatoes
- Do not rely on grocery potatoes as they are sprayed with sprouting inhibitors.
- If you use cut seed potatoes, wait at least 4-7 days before planting. This allows the cut surfaces to “heal” and stops your seed potatoes from rotting.
- Do not expose potato tubers in direct sunlight. If you spot greening of the tubers, avoid eating it. Green tubers containing high levels of solanine, which, when consumed, can make you sick.
- Watch out for blight, which is a commonly dreaded fungal disease in potatoes. They rapidly develop in wet conditions, so make sure to keep your water flow consistent. Here’s a complete guide on how to deal with potato blight.