Cauliflower grows well in an aquaponics system, but it is a bit more challenging to grow than other vegetables. Cauliflower has a definite growing need and can only be grown in one type of aquaponics system. So if you are an aquaponics beginner, this plant is probably not the best plant for you. However, if you're an experienced aquaponics grower and want a challenge, growing cauliflower is definitely worth the effort.
This article will discuss the tips and information you need to know to make cauliflower flourish in your media-based aquaponics setup.
Why Grow Cauliflower in Your Aquaponics System?
Growing Cauliflower in an aquaponics system is a fast and sustainable way to grow them in a controlled environment that promotes more rapid growth and frequent harvest.
Cauliflower is a heavy plant, so the best system for growing it is the media based aquaponics system with an excellent flood and drain system. The media based system will support its weight and encourage plants to expand its roots, resulting in a healthier yield.
Growing Requirements for Cauliflower in Aquaponics Systems
pH: 6 to 6.5
Air Temperature: 66 to 77°F
Water Temperature: 68 to 77°F (20 to 25°C) during the growing stage, 50 to 59 °F (10 to 15°C) for head formation
Germination: 4 to 7 days
Sunlight: Full sun exposure
Fish: After transplanting your cauliflower, it can reach maturity and be ready to harvest in about 12 weeks. Cauliflowers can be harvested once their heads are compact and firm. You can use a knife to cut off the main head.
Pests: Pests such as cabbage worms, flea beetles, cabbage aphids, and white maggot larvae may damage your cauliflower plant. It is essential to check the heads regularly to remove the pests manually.
Common Cauliflower Problems in Aquaponics: Generally, cauliflowers need very little maintenance, but are very sensitive to sunlight and frost. It is vital to regularly check the temperature to prevent your plant from bolting.
The Best Aquaponics System for Growing Cauliflower
Since cauliflower is a heavy plant, the best aquaponics system to use is the media based aquaponics system with an excellent flood and drain system. The grow media and grow beds can support their fairly heavy weight and encourage them to expand their roots for optimum growth, resulting in healthier and higher yields. Unlike the floating raft and NFT systems, the media based system will provide your cauliflower plants with a firm and sturdy base.
Types of Cauliflower
There are over 100 different types of cauliflower that come in different tones. The most famous type of cauliflower is the white assortment of ivory-white heads and dull green leaves. The other types of cauliflower are:
1. Green Cauliflower
One type of green cauliflower is the Romanesco which is lime green with pointed zeniths at the outer layer of its head. The Romanesco has a gentle nutty taste, just like the broccoli.
2. Orange Cauliflower
Also called Cheddar cauliflower, the orange cauliflower is a hybridized type that creates radiant orange in shading curds.
3. Purple Cauliflower
The purple cauliflower is one of the most vibrant and striking cauliflower in your aquaponics garden. Compared to white cauliflower, the heads of the purple cauliflower is tender and milder in taste. They are the healthiest cauliflower because of their naturally-occurring blue and violet colors that comes from an antioxidant called anthocyanin. They also have a sweeter and nuttier taste compared to white cauliflower.
4. White Cauliflower
The white cauliflower is the type of cauliflower most people think of. This cauliflower has a pure white head that is surrounded by green leaves.
How to Grow Cauliflower in Aquaponics
Cauliflower can grow in an aquaponics system, but it's not recommended as the best plant for aquaponics beginners because it has specific needs that need to be maintained. But it does not mean you should avoid growing them. If you're up to the challenge and can get the right growing conditions, then growing cauliflower in your system might work.
Here are some steps in growing cauliflower in your aquaponics system:
1. Cauliflower Germination
Under the right conditions, a cauliflower will germinate in 4 to 7 days at a temperature between 47°F and 68°F. In the early seeding days, it is recommended to provide them a direct sunlight exposure to keep them from becoming too leggy.
2. Transplanting Cauliflower Seedlings
When the cauliflower seedlings have 4 to 5 true leaves, you can start transplanting them into your grow bed. Ideally, you should give them enough space to grow and plant each seedling at least 50 cm apart from each other. Only transplant during optimal temperatures and handle them carefully to avoid plant stress.
3. Preserving Cauliflower Heads
If you're growing white cauliflower, you should do the "blanching" process to preserve their heads and ensure their white and creamy color. Blanching is wrapping the cauliflower heads with their own leaves so that the sunlight will not penetrate the curds, which will turn them brown.
Steps in Blanching Cauliflower
- Once transplanted into your grow bed, it will take about 30 days to get a 6-10 cm (size of a golf ball) diameter cauliflower curd.
- Once your cauliflower heads reach the 6-10 cm size, fold the cauliflower's leaves over the head of the plant and use rubber bands to secure it in place. Make sure that:
- The rubber bands are not too tight. ( Give the plant plenty of room to grow)
- The rubber bands are not too loose, or they may fall off.
- Ensure the leaves have no moisture when you fold them up, as wet leaves might lead to fungus infestation.
- In maintaining blanching, regularly check to ensure the rubber bands are secure and fitted correctly.
4. Harvesting Cauliflower
When the cauliflower heads appear white, firm, and compacted, your cauliflower is ready for harvest. Here is how to harvest your aquaponics cauliflower.
- Use a large, sharp knife to cut the heads off. Leave a few outer leaves wrapped around the cauliflower to help preserve its quality until it's time to cook them.
- The cauliflower will not grow another head, so you need to remove the rest of the plant from your grow bed after harvest and dispose of it.
Common Problems for Growing Cauliflower in Aquaponics
Generally, cauliflower needs little maintenance but is very sensitive to sunlight and frost. It is almost essential to check the air and water temperature regularly to prevent your plant from bolting. The key to successfully growing cauliflower in aquaponics is in selecting the correct type of aquaponics system, properly transplanting the seedlings into the grow bed, and ensuring that the growing requirements are followed. Here are a few things you need to know about growing cauliflower in aquaponics.
- Cauliflower needs enough spacing to grow.
- Cauliflower is a high nutrient-demand plant.
- Cauliflower needs potassium and calcium for the production of the heads.
- Cauliflower is susceptible to fungus.
- Cauliflower is sensitive to the changes in temperature.
- Cauliflower heads do not develop well in hot, dry, or very cold temperatures.
Tips for Growing Cauliflower in Aquaponics
- Cauliflower has high nutrient demands and reacts well to high nitrogen and phosphorus levels.
- If the temperature drops below 53°F, buttoning might occur. Buttoning is when cauliflower develop a small button-like head instead of one big curd.
- Maintain your fish properly to ensure their good health. Healthy fish provides enough nutrients for your cauliflower plants to thrive.
- Avoid overfeeding your fish, and always remove uneaten fish food to ensure the excellent water quality of your system.
If you're looking for a healthy and sustainable way to grow cauliflower, then growing them in your media based aquaponics system might be a good idea. The process might be challenging compared to growing other aquaponics crops, but the result will be worth it. Aside from harvesting fresh and healthy cauliflower, you are also helping the environment.
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