Aquaponics in Cold Climates
While both conventional and hydroponic gardening are significantly limited by the weather in which one is growing, aquaponics enables the savvy gardener to make the most of the time and resources and produce significant crop yields, even in a chillier location. There are some hurdles you will have to overcome to create a sustainable aquaponic system in a cold region, but with a little patience your aquaponics set-up will be just as fertile as anyone's.
Where to Grow: Greenhouse vs. Indoors
In a a very warm climate, an aquaponic garden can be constructed outdoors, or even on naturally flowing water. This method is significant for its role in pioneering sustainable agriculture, but most smaller aquaponic farms are indeed built inside. In just about any non-tropical climate, a green house is the most recommended setting for an aquaponic habitat. A well-constructed greenhouse will protect plants from the outside weather while funneling in sunlight to help them grow.
If a greenhouse is unavailable to you, the situation does become a bit more complicated, but you still have options. If you have a substantial space inside of your home that gets adequate sunlight, you may be able to construct an aquaponic set-up there. Heating will still be an issue however, and your plants will grow best if you are able to keep your aquaponic garden a 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the rest of your home.
If a substantially-windowed location is not available in your habitat, any room will do, provided you bring along the right equipment. Even if you are able to provide adequate heat throughout the location, you will need to purchase ultraviolet lighting to stimulate proper plant growth.
Plants You Can Grow
Aquaponics frees up the gardener from being a slave to the seasons, but the temperature and humidity of your climate are still a factor in aquaponic gardening, if not to the same degree as in a conventional garden. Lettuces are especially adaptable to cold weather, with the Hawaiian variety Anunue and Romaine being particular favorites. In fact, one of the most successful cold climate aquaponics projects is a Canadian commercial farm specializing in lettuces. Other leafy greens will generally fair well in the cold; kale and Swiss chard can flourish in frigid weather with proper attention and lighting. If leafy greens are not to your taste, tomatoes can be grown in low temperatures and light with sufficient humdity. Depending on the specific features of your local climate, you may find success with other popular plants with a little bit of trial and error. Research what food plants are native to your area; you may find some local specialities are well suited to the aquaponic treatment!
Aquaponics is admittedly more challenging in extreme weather. However, it is also more adaptable to those variances than other forms of gardening. With some practice, patience and commitment to bio-diversity, your aquaponic garden can grow to be as successful and diverse as anyone's, anywhere in the world. If you start to doubt your chances of success, just remember those farmers growing kale in Quebec, and know that with aquaponics, anything is possible.