How Hydroponics Can Help You Grow Bulbs, Tubers and Root Crops
Tuber and root crops never seem to get the kind of attention or appreciation that growing vegetables like big, juicy tomatoes or peppers do, but they can still be a very useful addition to your indoor vegetable garden in Florida.
Once you get the hang of growing these valuable veggies, you may even want to experiment a bit and create your own varieties. If you’ve never worked with veggies that grow beneath the ground surface, you’ll also enjoy gaining new knowledge and skills which are related to the procedures necessary for this type of growing.
CHOOSING YOUR CROPS
Since there are so many of the subterranean veggies to choose from, you might have trouble deciding on just what to include in your eventual harvest. A few of the possibilities might be horseradish, ginger, turmeric, sweet potatoes, radishes, onions, shallots, garlic, turnips, carrots, parsnip, beets, and rutabagas. You can probably narrow down this list by crossing off some of the larger plants which may overtax your hydroponic system, and if this is your first attempt, you’ll probably want to start out with some of the simpler vegetables anyway. Some good starter choices might be beets, radishes, carrots, and turnips.
Seed tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes can be planted directly into a hydroponic grow bed, but you’ll have even better luck if you allow them to pre-sprout before planting. To do this, you’ll need to store the seeds in a warm place so shoots will have a chance to form eyes, which are the little surface buds on your seed potato.
Once these have developed, you can place them in a tray under direct lighting, and give them time for the shoots to grow to a length of two or three inches. Next, you can plant these shoots into a loose hydroponic growing substrate, like coco fiber or a soilless mix like ProMix. Plant them about six inches below the surface, while keeping the shoots pointing in an upward direction. Within a week or two, you’ll have new foliage breaking the surface, and the plants will develop rapidly afterward.
Plants like beets, turnips, and carrots all produce an enlarged taproot, which is actually the edible part of the plant. With these kinds of plants, you’ll have the option to harvest them as succulent baby-sized veggies or to let them continue growing to super sizes in your hydroponic garden. If you’re interested in adding a different splash of color to your dinner table, you’ll be able to choose from several unusual colors that these veggies can be grown in.
When you intend to harvest your root vegetables as baby-sized edibles, you won’t need a very deep hydroponic system, and of course, if you’re going for the really big ones, you will need a larger, deeper growing bed. You can start your seeds out right on the growing bed, and then when germination begins, you can start spacing out the tiny plants. You can also use seed tapes to speed up the process if you prefer.
There may not be a lot of bulb vegetables to choose from – you’re basically limited to onions and garlic – but there is a wide variety of form, flavor, and color which you can choose from, to make them your personal favorites. The number of lighting hours provided in your hydroponic garden is very important for inducing onions or garlic plants to form bulbs. Anywhere from 12 to 16 hours of light will be necessary, depending on which type of onions or garlic you’re working with. When you purchase your seeds from a supplier, be sure to ask how many hours of light you’ll have to supply for the specific variety you want to purchase.