Paul Nickerson

Soiled Seedlings

In Aquaponics, Propagation on October 26, 2010 at 11:10 am

I have returned from fall break, and gathered my seedlings from the greenhouse. Unfortunately, I forgot my growing stone at home, and therefore have altered the system slightly. Until I am able to get the stone for the grow-beds, I am using a simple, medium-free, ebb-flow system.

I took the lid that belongs to the container I used for the grow-bed, and punched holes through it. I passed the roots through these holes, then secured the plant in place by wrapping a small piece of fabric (from an old sock) around the base of the plant. This works as a collar that protects the fleshy stem of the plant from the sharp edges of the plastic. The roots simply dangle down into the water. If I was to continue using this system, I would need to light-proof the grow-bed to inhibit the growth of photosynthetic bacteria.

The seedlings I used were grown horticulturally, in soil, which made for a lot of added work. It is easiest if you buy hydroponically started seedlings, as they come with exposed roots, ready to be placed into your system.

Having used soil-based seedlings, it was necessary to remove the seedling from its pot, carefully shake off as much dirt as possible, and then, using a wash bath, wash the remaining soil from the roots. The disadvantage to using such seedlings, apart from excess work, is that you will likely not remove all of the trace soil from the plant. Soil introduced to the system can result in changes in pH and nutrient levels, which can be harmful to your fish. Due to the volume of my fish tank, I am not concerned with the small amount of trace soil introduced into the system.

Furthermore, a large amount of soil remaining entangled in the root of the seedlings may result in false hope. Even in a faulty system, plants may seem to thrive. This is due to the nutrients found in the trace soil. Unfortunately, as the nutrients within the soil becomes depleted, the plant will become ill. For this reason, it is important to continually check up on your plants, even after it appears to be balanced.

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