Winter Gardening With Soilless Media
If you’re gardening without soil there will be some distinct changes in your garden when winter starts. Because aquaponic and hydroponic systems are water based, temperatures can drop quickly and take your garden by surprise! But you can avoid a drop in production for your family. Read on to find out Aqua Gardening’s best tips for maintaining your vegetable and fish gardening system in the cooler months.
How are things different in Winter
- Many cellular functions rely on particular temperature ranges to carry out their daily tasks. When temperatures are not within this range, everything slows down.
- This slower functioning also means that less food is required by both fish and plants.
- Cooler temperatures mean less flow of nutrients through the plant as it does not need to draw up and expel as much water through stomata to keep itself cool.
- Bacteria also function better in warmer temperatures and their slowing down in winter can allow fungi to take over.
- Temperature also affects pH, so be sure to check regularly until you are familiar with these changes in your system.
- When temperatures cool down, the moisture in the air condenses more and humidity can increase dramatically and change rapidly along with temperatures.
Winter Growing Tips For Hydroponics
- Plants get shocked by cold water just like us! Use a water heater in the water reservoir to keep temperatures in the 18-21C range.
- Switch the crop to vegetables that thrive in cooler weather, like brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli & choi) and these temperatures are perfect for lettuce.
- Ensure the system is still catching plenty of sun when the sun is lower in the sky. No direct sunlight = no growth! - If not select plants that are ok with this lower light.
- Cover the vegetables if there is a chance of frost.
- Ensuring adequate flow of nutrient solution can help to maintain even temperatures across the whole system.
- Starting plants indoors, in a greenhouse or one of our propagation kits where it is warmer can give them a head start before combatting winter temperatures outside.
Winter Growing Tips For Aquaponics
- Keep fish tank water in a comfortable range to keep your fish happy. This often means using a water heater to boost the water temperature up or insulating with a barrier.
- Using a water heater can help maintain healthy bacterial colonies and reduce potential for fungal infections (ich & white spot).
- In continuous cold conditions, the grow beds can be separated from fish tanks and connected via tubing and water pumps to house either in an enclosed insulated environment and provide protection from cooler temperatures.
- Keep leaves and grow beds pruned and tidy to maximise airflow through the canopy and minimise the risk of pest and fungus development.
- Reduce the feeding in the fish tank to minimise uneaten food. Feeding at the warmest time of the day for a maximum of 2 minutes, or very small amounts regularly.
- If the fish are eating less, your plants will be receiving fewer nutrients. Boost the growth of your plants with organic nutrients. Bloom Yellow Bottles have some excellent boosters which are tried and proven in Aquaponics, try these in a foliar spray first to avoid changing the water chemistry too much. Basic seaweed powders and liquids may help with micronutrients, but they won’t boost the growth of the plants like NPK fertilisers will.
Don’t take for granted that your system will thrive regardless of the temperature – plants and fish, like humans, need some extra TLC when temperatures drop and keeping some easy to change parameters in control can help your garden continue to thrive during winter.