Introduction to growing hydroponic Basil: Basil is also called great Basil and it belongs to the family Lamiaceae (Mint family). Basil plants can be grown from seeds or cuttings. Basil seeds are small and when soaked in water they swell and form a gelatinous covering. The seeds are used in Faluda and are some drinks. Basil is one of the popular and aromatic herbs. It suits so many different dishes and is a crowd favorite particularly when used with pasta, soup and meat dishes.
A guide to growing hydroponic Basil
Hydroponic Basil is simply Basil that has been grown in a soil-free system and the best thing about this type of Basil is you can be assured that it has virtually none of the problems associated with soil-grown Basil. This plant has shiny, green leaves. Its shape can hold water and it’s crucial to monitor condensation. A humid weather condition that is close to about 70% or more for a long period at times becomes an issue. It can transpire excessively in dark periods. It is a popular culinary herb, and producers are always looking to increase yields to boost their bottom line. In this article we also discussed the below topics;
- Hydroponic Basil growing conditions
- Optimal pH for Basil growing hydroponically
- How fast do hydroponic plants grow
- Types of Basil appropriate for hydroponics
- Hydroponic Basil nutrient requirements
- Propagation of Basil
- How long does it take to grow Basil hydroponics
- Advantages of growing plants by using hydroponics
Basil is a popular choice for hydroponics as this herb is ideal when used fresh to hold on to the aroma and flavor. Dried Basil loses these qualities and it’s not uncommon to see restaurants and greenhouses using a hydroponics system for their Basil herbs.
Altogether, there are 150 different species of Basil, but the most common types are;
- Sweet Basil
- Genovese Basil
- Thai Sweet Basil
- Purple Basil
- Lemon Basil
- Lime Basil
- Lettuce Basil
- Spicy Basil
You can plant Basil two ways, by germinating the seeds, or by cuttings, which form their roots within a week. Basil is a warm-weather herb, so it’s best to maintain a temperature of between 70 to 80°F. Rockwool blocks are the common medium used with growing Basil in hydroponics. You can though use peat moss, coco coir, perlite, and vermiculite, although these require sterilizing before use.
Growing Basil leaves in a hydroponic system
Growing Basil leaves in a hydroponic need pruning. If you find that the Basil stem ends increases heavily, the plant roots will split eventually and might become bitter. When you see that the source or stem is damaged, plant harvest and throw it completely.
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The essential nutrients for Basil in hydroponics
Several hydroponic growers have provided Basil a generic nutrient mix. And they used the same nutrient formula that’s applicable for other plants, herbs and other variants such as a lettuce plant. But you need to know that every plant has a separate nutrient composition that’s apt for the freshly grown Basils. As you see that the Basil has become mature than before, know that their nutrient ratio will change.
The mix of potassium and calcium are more in the feeding halves of Basil plants grown hydroponically. Thus, select a nutrient mix of calcium and potassium ratio is well maintained. Generally, it’s at a high level, almost at a 1:1 ratio. It is crucial to know that potassium and calcium have a direct association with the oil and flavor of Basil leaves and the branches. Also, even nitrogen is the deciding factor in yielding leaves. Hence, it is important to keep it constant almost at all points in time. And another essential element is Magnesium. It’s best to keep this nutrient at a level of 50 ppm at least and the reason is that magnesium has a direct link to its composition. It helps to yield certain essential oils that generally contribute to the flavor and aroma of the Basil plant.
How far apart to space hydroponic Basil
Hydroponic Basil plant can be spaced about 5 to 6 inches apart to allow for good airflow. Neem oil application is recommended if your greenhouse is normally very humid as this will protect the plants and prevent fungal problems that can spread fairly quickly throughout the system.
Basil plant is commonly propagated from seeds, which are obtainable in raw and pelleted form. However, cuttings can also be taken and will form roots within 7 to 10 days.
Basil seed germinates readily under warm conditions with 75°F being ideal for most Basil types and takes between 5 to 7 days. Rockwool propagation blocks are used in commercial production, while perlite or vermiculite, coconut fiber, peat moss, foam substrates, and sand culture are also suitably provided the medium is sterilized.
Basil seedlings are extremely prone to pythium and damping-off pathogens, so plant care needs to taken with watering in the early stages post-germination to ensure that the surface of the growing media is not overly wet. Once the seedling leaves have expanded a dilute nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 0.5 mScm-1 can be applied with a pH level between 5.8 to 6.2. Once transplanted into a hydroponic the EC can be increased and full, high-intensity light levels supplied. Flower buds can be removed from the growing points of plants as they increase; though, once these are seen it is usually economical to replace with young transplants unless blooms are to be harvested for culinary use.
Tips for growing hydroponic Basil
Unlike some field crops that can grow with little care for extended periods, hydroponic Basil plant requires daily management and will do best when environmental variables are tailored to crop-specific needs. Of primary importance are temperature, pH level, light, daily light integral (DLI), electroconductivity (EC), and nutrient composition. Though, specific requirements can vary depending upon the growing system and the time of year. In general, the following conditions are important for hydroponically grown Basil;
Temperature – 65–70°F (18–21°C).
pH level – 5.8–6.2 (slightly higher in aquaponics and organic systems).
Light – Minimum of 14 hours per day.
DLI (Daily Light Integral) – Minimum 12 mol per m2 per day or higher; Basil plant performs well with high light levels.
EC (electroconductivity) – 1.0–1.4mS, depending on the season; during winter, plants need a higher EC than during summer.
Nutrient solution – Choose a solution specific to herbs and leafy greens and suitable for water type.
It is advisable to grow Basil in isolation from other crops so that you can adjust the nutrient solution and other environmental variables as required; Basil grown under conditions optimized for another crop could not perform well.
How many hours of light for hydroponic Basil
Basil crop only requires ten to twelve hours of light per day, per five-week cycle. For people propagating during wintertime, you could need to support your crops with large LED grow lights to help control the ambient temperature and provide sufficient light to Basil crops.
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Some steps to follow for planting your hydroponic Basil
- Find a nice pot at least 4-6 inches wide and fill it with quality potting soil
- Check to see if there is more than one plant in a bunch of herbs. If so you will want to split them. Look to see which roots are connected and to the same stem and then separate all plants. You must give each plant at least 4-6 inches on either side when planting them in a pot.
- If your Basil plant is small and manageable, this step is unnecessary. If your plant is huge with tons of stems and leaves, cut back some of the stems leaving no more than the first 6 to 8 inches of green growth. This will make the transplant less stressful for the plant because it has to transport its water and nutrients so far.
- Water every day for 5 to 7 days and hydroponic Basil are acclimated to a wet environment. When Basil plants change conditions they can go into shock. The Basil plants might not even have the smaller root hairs that are meant to absorb moisture from a soil medium. After 5 to 7 days, start to wean them off the heavy watering. And eventually, you want to get to regular watering.
- Locate your pot in a window that gets the most light (preferably south-facing) or outside (when temperatures are warm). If you are going to put the pot outside, wait at least a week after transplanting so the plant doesn’t have to deal with the shocks of harsh sun and wind. This is known as “hardening off”.
Process of growing hydroponic Basil
All of the popular varieties of Basil can be grown hydroponically, and then the choice to make is more associated with the flavor of the Basil itself.
The popular type of Basil is the sweet, Genovese Basil which has large, succulent leaves. This type of Basil is used for a variety of dishes and food preparations, including salsas and pasta. The appropriate varieties for indoor hydroponics systems are the Genovese Compact Improved and the Elindra.
The common method for growing Basil in hydroponics setups is through the germination of seedlings. It is also possible to clone a mature Basil plant, and you can expect robust root structures to emerge from the cuttings in 10 days. Cloning is perfect for replicating mature Basil from nurseries or previous batches that have desirable traits, which are resistance to diseases and better flavor.
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Germinate Basil seeds then you will want to grow trays, starter plugs, and choice of soaking solution, and a heating mat to ensure that to maintain an ideal temperature. This applies particularly to growers who are cultivating their crops indoors. First, soak the starter plugs in the soaking or starting solution and allow drain. Make sure that you do not over-soak the plugs as too much moisture could rot the Basil seeds. If an indoor hydroponics system, make sure that after sprouting the Basil seeds, you will expose the grow tray to enough light to encourage robust growth and to maintain temperature 75°F (ambient temperature).
The most appropriate grow media for the hydroponic system is rock wool, perlite, vermiculite, coconut coir, and sometimes even sand culture can be used. During the germination phase, water the starter plugs when the surface of the plugs appear dry.
Basil seeds are prone to fungal diseases associated with “dampening off,” and your seedlings might be in trouble if there’s too much water in the starter plugs. When the Basil seedlings have grown to 2 or 3 inches, it’s time to transplant them to the main hydroponics system.
Time to take to grow hydroponic Basil
Basil plant germination process takes about 7 to 10 days, and the transplant will need 3 to 5 weeks to stabilize and mature sufficiently in the hydroponics system. You can harvest Basil in the tenth week.
Hydroponic Basil taste better than regular soil Basil
Hydroponic Basil can taste better than soil-grown Basil plant because of the type of nutrients you are going to be using can be modified by depending on needs. Some liquid fertilizers provide an added boost as they improve both aromas and also taste.
Troubleshooting Hydroponic Basil
All basil is prone to attack by aphids and White flies, sometimes attack thrips. All hydroponic plants are susceptible to attack by Fungus Gnats. Fusarium wilt and damping off are two of the common diseases. Then you can enhance the disease resistance of Basil plants by maintaining an adequate nutrient regimen and a hydroponic environment conducive to its stamina.
The majority of issues encountered in hydroponic system arise from nutrient problems, either excessive, inadequate nutrient level or environmental issues which hamper the uptake of nutrients to the plant tissues.
Harvesting your Basil
Basil plant has been bred to be a single-stemmed plant growing upward. For most growers, a bushier plant is better and a pruned plant looks better, yields more, and can be easier to transport depending on your growing method. The upward growth is known as apical growth. By pruning Basil this way, growers can increase the production of that branch and control the shape of the Basil plant.
Harvested Basil must be lightly wrapped in plastic and stored at temperatures between 52˚F to 57˚F. Cut stems can be located in a glass of water at room temperature to maintain shelf life for several days.
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