Aquaponics systems commonly involve raising freshwater fish because they can tolerate diverse water temperatures and pH…
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Popeye the Sailor famously made kids from around the world want to run home and bust-open a hearty can of spinach. While not all of us received bulging biceps from the experience, many people still want to maintain spinach in their everyday diet as a source of nutrition. As produce prices continue to rise, more people are now turning to aquaponics to solidify their own supply of leafy vegetables. Growing spinach in aquaponics gardens allows you to harvest great-tasting and pesticide-free crops quickly. So the question is, how exactly do you get started?
In this article, we will discuss the requirements for growing spinach in an aquaponics system, including where to find spinach seeds.
Why Grow Spinach In Your Aquaponics Garden
Spinach, which belongs to the same family as beetroot and swiss chard, can grow all-year-round, but as mentioned, it is a cool-season crop so it thrives best during spring and fall. The good thing about growing your spinach at home is that you can have them in your plate straight from the garden. However, processed spinach is also popular among households.
In the United States, California is the leading producer of spinach. Seventy-four percent of the spinach grown in the state will be processed – whether canned, frozen, or pureed for baby food. One interesting fact about spinach is that it was the first vegetable to be sold frozen.
Preparing Aquaponic Spinach In Your Kitchen
There are different ways to prepare spinach, but the most popular of them all is by putting it in your salad. For instance, with savory onion and mushroom mix, plus berries and pecans, you can enjoy a healthy, delectable treat.
Spinach can also be an ingredient in many casseroles, sandwiches omelets, quiche, or even as a vegetable for a nutritious smoothie. If you’re worried about that vegetable taste in your health drink, you may use colorful berries to disguise the taste and color.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach doesn’t contain starch, so it is ideal for those who are being mindful of their carbohydrate consumption. And just like other dark leafy vegetables, spinach offers nutrients that make it perfect for any health-conscious individual. It is regarded as a nutritional powerhouse because of its ability to replenish energy and promote vitality.
The vegetable’s nutritional qualities are also backed by science. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one cup (35 grams) of spinach can give you 56% of Vitamin A, 14% of Vitamin C, 3% of Calcium, and 5% Iron.
More interestingly, a study on spinach showed that the vegetable is a source of antioxidants, having shown “significant” antioxidant activity. That said, spinach can help reduce cell damage, which causes a myriad of health problems like cancer and heart disease.
Best Conditions for Growing Spinach in Aquaponics Gardens
For your aquaponic spinach to survive and thrive, you need to prepare your system to allow the best growing conditions for the vegetables. Below are some of the things to consider when growing spinach aquaponically.
As a cool-weather crop, spinach thrives when the water temperature falls between 45° and 75°F. With a cool environment, your spinach should grow quickly and yield sweet-tasting harvests.
This leafy vegetable can do well under full-sun for 10-14 hours, but it can still grow in partial shade. You can also use fluorescent light as alternative lighting for your plant.
pH levels for growing spinach should be within 6.0-7.0 As always make sure to use a quality pH meter.
Spinach doesn’t grow long roots, and so you don’t need a deep growing bed. When sowing seeds, make sure you maintain a space of 4-5 inches apart. But if you don’t want your spinach to grow to full size, you don’t need that much space.
Sow your spinach seeds in hydroton – the ideal growing medium for aquaponics spinach. Using a seedling for your aquaponics setup can also work using the same medium. Just make sure you clean the roots thoroughly before transplanting to the aquaponics system.
Most varieties of spinach can be harvested in 30-45 days. You can either take out the whole plant or pick out small amounts of leaves at a time before coming back for another harvest.
Fish Type To Consider
Bluegill is one fish type to consider when growing aquaponics spinach because they adapt well to a wide range of temperatures, and they are considered a hardy fish. They mostly prefer cold water, but they can do just fine in warm waters. However, they shouldn’t be placed in hot waters.
Being omnivorous, they will survive on vegetation, algae, small insects, or snails. They don’t have any food preference, so it shouldn’t be a problem feeding them. As for the pH requirements for bluegills, make sure you don’t let it fall below 6.0 or allow drastic ph level changes.
Where to Find Spinach Seeds
Quick Tips for Growing Spinach in Aquaponics Gardens
- Exposing your spinach to prolonged warm temperatures will result in bolting, or it will start flowering.
- Bolting affects the quality of your yield, so you might end up with bitter-tasting spinach
- When harvesting, start with the outermost leaves once they’re large enough to eat.
- For better-tasting spinach, harvest them before they reach full maturity.