Sustainable farming(backyard or commercial) can be simplified with the term 4R Nutrient Stewardship; Right Source at the Right Rate at the Right Time in the Right Place.
Let’s think about that for a second and realize what a line of common sense we really have. First of all, the right source. Let’s just start with one simple fertilizer we need need- Nitrogen. We want use the right source of fertilizer.
With hydroponics that could be a Nitrogen source like Calcium Nitrate or Urea, Aquaponics using Tilapia fish and organic could be Blood Meal or Manure.
Now that we can get a list of the source, we can look a little further into how they are produced and what affect they have in our situation. For example, we have read a lot of bad press about cows and methane production. Thus, is cow manure a good, organic Nitrogen source, or can we find a better alternative?
We can look at our alternatives and find an appropriate solution to ‘Right Source’.
The ‘Right Rate’ is very important. If we use only we need, we can preserve the worldwide supply, cut down on shipping and waste. This is especially true for inorganic growing because ‘Phosphorous’ is already on the alert for scarcity.
In addition, methods contribute much to this as well. For example, efficient hydroponic growing without wasting nutrients and water will save from waste and productive square foot organic gardening can cut down from fertilizers emitting gases into the atmosphere.
With Aquaponics, we can precisely feed fish which in turn can precisely feed the plants.
The ‘Right Time’ is having nutrients for the plants when they need them. With hydroponics, this is easy because feeding is very controlled and waste can be minimized. With soil growing, sloppy fertilizing and water waste can leave undesired waste, even though cost-effective for farmers.
The ‘Right Place’ is the micro and macro site for growing, like the garden location and its pot and media. If the right place is there for the plant and its root system, it can thrive with minimal waste. Thus we get productive plants without a bunch of wasted water and fertilizer run-off.
An example of the right place would be using the shadier part of the garden that get 6 hours of sunshine a day for low-light plants like lettuce. In addition, the pots could be a vertical garden using pots which hold the root system and allow for the other 3Rs.