Aquaponic systems can grow many plants, but some plant types have requirements sensitive to aquaponics processes.
Growing ginger in aquaponics is one of these situations, but it can be grown successfully when the details are taken care of. We dive into some of the challenges that growing ginger can meet. Read on for more.
How do you grow ginger in an aquaponics system?
You can grow good ginger crops in an aquaponic system by understanding the needs of the ginger plant and matching those needs with what the aquaponics system has to offer.
The list below are things that you should consider before you plant those rhizomes.
- Use prime rhizomes for planting.
- Allow for plenty of drain time.
- Keep the nutrients high.
- Keep Ph between 6-7.
- Limit salt use.
- Allow ten months for growing.
1. Pick the best ginger you can find for growing.
This is vital for a good result because the best, fullest rhizomes will resist rotting in the early stages of growth. Old shriveled rhizomes have already started to decay, so the growing medium’s moist environment will likely expedite the rotting process.
To give yourself the best chance of growing ginger in aquaponics, use the best ginger to begin with.
For ginger selection, “can ginger be grown from store bought roots?” is recommended.
2. Adjust the flood and drain cycle towards a less frequent flood.
Ginger loves a moist location but not a soaking one. Even in the ground, it will rot if there is too much water. This is one of the many benefits of the aquaponics process.
You can fine-tune the nutrient cycling to suit what you are growing. We had a root crop of taro growing in a bed and ended up with massive tubers. They were far bigger than any plant we had in soil, and it was because of the slow fill-fast drain cycling of the beds.
3. Gingers love nutrients.
If there are nutrients available, gingers will use them. They can be relied on to uptake a good percentage of the nitrogen in the water and will ramp this up as they get bigger.
Planting gingers in the grow-beds might be worth considering when the fish are getting on the larger side. The gingers can act as a good buffer for the nutrient load.
Be careful when you harvest the ginger because that nutrient sink is now removed from the system. However, you may already be aware of this risk.
4. Gingers are acid lovers.
The ginger family originates from the world’s tropical rainforests, where the soils are poor and acidic. This is where gingers love to be. For details on how much they enjoy acidic conditions, “growing lots of ginger” is recommended.
The pH sweet spot for ginger is between 5.5 and 6.5. Aquaponics operate best at around 6.5-7.5 so there is a small bit of overlap for you to take advantage of if you monitor you chemistry carefully.
The primary consideration here is the welfare of the fish because, as you would likely know, they are the engine of this whole system.
5. Salt and ginger don’t mix at all.
Sometimes an aquaponics system suffers from bacterial problems that can harm the fish, and then the plants.
A system that is under stress performs poorly. Some aquaponics operators will use salt to shock the system back into balance, and while this can work, some plants will suffer. Ginger is one of these.
In the natural environment where gingers grow, the top soil layers are rich in humus and organic matter. This acts as a buffer for pH and nutrient release. It is a balanced system.
Because of the high rainfall in these areas, any salt is washed away and has little to zero chance of causing plant growth issues. The gingers will therefore suffer from salt in your aquaponics water. The plant is not suited to it.
6. Plan for ten months of growing.
Ginger takes time to grow. It is a simple task to plant ginger in a garden bed and ignore it for a year, but an aquaponics operator does not have that luxury.
A fine-tuned aquaponics system is only a month away from being out of balance because of so many variables that don’t stay constant. The fish grow and produce more ammonia, and the plants grow and get harvested along the way.
Planning out the grow-bed growing season is a good idea so you don’t get blindsided by nutrient overload because the plants are ready to be harvested. This planning will come with experience.
When harvest time comes, lift the rhizomes in the one clump. There may be a question of can ginger regrow from roots that are left in the grow-bed. That is answered in the linked post. We had this very question when we had fish in our pool, described here.
Aquaponics are a good way of harmonizing two separate systems into a single unit, but there is a lot of work in keeping the system stable. For growing ginger, we recommend planting in the ground for less work, more crop certainty, and potentially better flavored ginger. That’s how we approach it.
Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.