How do I add plants to the system? Plants may be added by either directly seeding, clippings, divided root stock, seedlings or transplanting larger plants. Each is very effective. Direct seeding is even practical for sprouting sunflower seeds or raising wheat grass. Clippings may be taken from other plants, just below the knuckle of green, non woody clipping. Divided plants merely should be separated, roots untangled and rinsed of any debris and plant into the rocks. Seedlings and transplanted plants must have their roots rinsed of all dirt. This may be more difficult from tightly bunched roots in contained plants. Roots may have to be trimmed back if they are filled with dirt and are larger transplants. It is a good idea with transplants to shorten the top of the plant by 1/3rd and remove any dead or unhealthy roots. This will invigorate the plant and allow more water and nutrients to reach all the leaves. Clippings are best managed by cutting 1” below a knuckle and directly inserting to the rock bed, without hormone or fertilizer. The leaves should be trimmed back by pinching the lower larger leaves or cutting them in half horizontally. Leaving two to six small to medium sized leaves is all that are required for most plants. Roots will develop quickly.
How many plants can I plant at once? In a Little Tokyo sized system, you may plant between 6 to 8 plants. Space them to allow for growth and if some outgrow the area, clip them back and eat (if edible) or transplant into another system, or in the ground. For larger plants you may start with one to three plants. All plants may be trimmed back or divided at the roots. It is not a problem to lift the plants out of the rocks and divide the roots, as long as they are not left out to dry.
What about water plants? Water plants are helpful for many reasons. Fish tend to be less aggressive towards each other when plants are in the water that they like to eat. Anacharis and water hyacinth are ideal. These plants also add oxygen to the water.
What plants can I grow? These systems will accommodate almost any vegetable, herb or flowering plant. Larger fruiting plants and heavy feeders, including tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli and melons will require more sunlight and more fish to ensure enough ammonia is produced. Light feeding, can be raised with fewer fish, and includes leafy greens including arugula, lettuces, basil, strawberries, mint, chives, parsley, cilantro, peppers, sprouts and okra. Flowering plants will grow but if they require bees to fruit (ie strawberries) then you’ll need to be sure to raise them outside.
What ratio of plants to water to growing area is ideal? Light feeding systems do not require too many fish; 1 pound of fish need about 2 gallons of water and will produce enough organic nutrients for 4 square feet of growing area.
If the new leaves on my green plants are yellow what can I do? If your plants are starting to go yellow it is most likely because your system is low in Iron. Add some Chelated Iron to your system. A teaspoon of Chelated Iron mixed in a bucket of water and added slowly into your grow beds should do the trick. You might notice your system goes black or very dark in colour after you do this. That is fine, don’t worry about it and it will clear in a few days.
What causes the plants to wilt? If they are getting too much water and not enough sunlight they will wilt.