Hydroponic Strawberries

Tips and Techniques for Growing Strawberries Hydroponically


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A major advantage to growing strawberries hydroponically is having fresh strawberries that you can harvest throughout the year. And if your strawberry plant should yield more strawberries than you can eat, you can always freeze or preserve any excess production.

Quick Facts

  1. pH range 5.5-6.0 for optimal results, up to 6.5 acceptable

  2. Strawberries prefer low humidity

    • Good air flow is essential for plant vigor.

    • Strawberries are prone to powdery mildew in high humidity.

  3. 65-75 degrees F is best for fruiting

  4. 12-16 hours of light daily optimal - but a minimum of 6 hrs.

  5. Annual yield: up to 3lbs fruit per plant

  6. Harvest 12 months/year is possible - Shorter Plant Life expectancy




Plant Selection

I suggest avoiding June bearers as they won't bear past summer, they are suited for one heavy crop only. Day neutral or Ever Bearing varieties are best for Hydroponic growers who want an extended season. Some varieties that have shown to do well in hydroponics are

  • Red Gauntlet

  • Brighton {Higher Yields - some sacrifice of flavor.}

  • Chandler - reasonable yields and flavor

  • Douglas

  • Tuft {Lower yields, sweeter berry}

  • Tioga {Lower yields, sweeter berry}

Growing Strawberries from seed will take 2 - 3 years to attain maturity, which is not good for hydroponic growers. Cold-stored certified virus tested runners are best. Runners are the off-shoots of a mature strawberry plant that have been cut off and re-rooted.

Ideally the runners you choose should be in flower or at least have buds . Planting chilled cuttings to your Hydroponic garden at staggered intervals will help to ensure a supply of fresh strawberries year round.  See Also :Strawberry Varieties

Runners on strawberry plants should be cut back



Equipment, Media, Solution

Nutrient Solution


Presoak all media {LCA, Rockwool, vermiculite...}  in a pH balanced water for at about 45 minutes before using it. Dry media will soak up moisture from the plants roots.

Nitrogen, potassium ,phosphorous are the three primary nutrients required by strawberries. Substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium and sulfur, are also needed, as well as the hydrogen, carbon and oxygen they will naturally get through the air and water.

Strawberries also need trace amounts of certain elements in order to thrive. These elements are copper, manganese, molybdenum, iron, cobalt, chlorine and zinc.

Strawberry Nutrient SolutionsStrawberry Nutrient Solutions for Hydroponics are available ready mixed from many online sellers.

Yellowing or browning leaves, brown spots, strangely-colored plants, or poorly developed berries, are all signs that your strawberry plants aren't getting all the nutrients that they need.

Properly cared for Hydroponic strawberry plants will produce up to 25 percent faster than if grown conventionally.
See: Hydroponic Nutrients






Containers

The container[s] you choose will depend on the hydroponic system you decide to use. A very basic and inexpensive system is the Bucket System. It is easily made using 5 gallon buckets, mesh pots, assorted fittings and a little ingenuity.

Obtain a 5 gallon food-grade plastic bucket[s]. If not already present, drill drainage holes in the bottom. You should avoid containers that contained chemicals such as paints and other coatings - use Food Grade containers only. Thoroughly clean and dry your container.

Fill the container about 2/3 full with your pre-soaked growth media - vermiculite is best for strawberries, but other media will also suffice.

You will also need net pots, they look somewhat like miniature laundry baskets, they will be holding the actual plant that will sit in either the media or solution.

See Also :Hydroponic Growth Mediums

Basic DIY Hydroponic Bucket System

The Bucket System is a flood and drain set up, Nutrients get pumped into a tray containing the strawberries, the tray contains holes allowing the nutrient to drain back into a reservoir and re-circulated.

Nutrient Film Technique - a system where the roots of the plants are suspended in a trickle of nutrient solution is also popular for hydroponic strawberry production.




Planting, Care and Growing Tips

Planting

Proper technique of planting hydroponic strawberries

Fill a second bucket with cool water.

If you are transplanting strawberries from soil, gently remove the strawberry plant from its container and remove attached soil from the roots with a mild shaking. You should also lightly tap any dirt clinging to the roots with your fingers, try to avoid damaging the root systems, even the finest of roots contribute to the plants overall health and production.

Soak the entire root system in the cool water bucket.

After 10 - 15 minutes remove the roots from the bucket and rinse them gently under cool running water to ensure that any remaining soil is removed.

Before placing the strawberry plants in the net pot remove any dry, discolored or dead leaves.

Place the plants in the [net] pot by holding the crown and evenly splaying the roots above the vermiculite, or chosen growing media.

Add enough media to cover the roots, but not the crown. The crown should be exposed to light and air. Make sure all plants receive adequate light, for optimal results 12 - 16 hours daily is best. If you do not have grow lights place them near a sunny window.

Mix your Hydroponic nutrients according to the package directions, and thoroughly water your plants with the nutrient solution.  The water should checked daily and water added as needed in order to keep the roots constantly moist.

Care and Tips

Premature flower blooms may appear before the plant reaches 10"-12" round , these should be removed and not allowed to re-grow until the plant is able to support the weight of the berries {10-12" round} without being anchored in soil. Runners that may appear should also be cut back, even after the plant has reached full size,  Runners use up the plants energy that otherwise would be put into fruiting. You may want to save the runners to grow more plants.

Temperature levels are vital. Too hot, and your strawberries will slow down , cease  flowering and sometimes stop producing fruit.

Too cold, they simply won't grow. 65-75 degrees F is best for fruiting.

Strawberry plants actually do benefit from chilling during the winter months, some varieties tolerate more cold than others. In all likelihood your plants would  benefit from over-wintering in an unheated location.  You can also simulate a winter season for new seedlings. Dip the roots in a microbial solution, carefully and loosely wrap them in a clear plastic and refrigerate them for up to three months.



Misting strawberries weekly is advisable. Strawberries do better with lower humidity and good air circulation to ward off mildews.

If your strawberries are grown indoors they will not be pollinated by teh birds and the Bees, artifiical insemination is needed - You'll have to hand pollinate them. Hand Pollination is simple and not tediously time consuming. See: Indoor Pollination

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