Which Hydroponics System Is Best For Strawberries
Growing strawberries in hydroponic systems is a great way to enjoy fresh, juicy, and flavorful strawberries throughout the year. Strawberries are a high-value fruit but can be a challenge growing them in the traditional way of farming.
However, in hydroponic systems, you can monitor their progress easily and enjoy a bountiful harvest during all seasons. In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about growing strawberries, the pros, cons, and other essentials to help you start your project.
Why should you consider growing Strawberries Hydroponically?
Growing strawberries hydroponically allows you to enjoy fresh and organic fruits in your household. You can do many things with strawberries and having them in your space allows you to save on the cost of buying them at the grocery store often. So what are the benefits?
- Strawberries require low maintenance compared to growing in traditional methods
- Planting, pruning, and harvesting takes less time
- It requires less space and can fit in the balcony, closet, rooftop, or any other smalls storage space you might have
- Pest, diseases, and weeds are not an issue
- You get healthy, productive, and flavorful strawberries
- You can plant more strawberries vertically
Which Hydroponic System Should I Use?
Hydroponic systems vary depending on the type of plants you’re looking to grow. In this instance, there are 4 suitable hydroponic system that you need to consider when growing strawberries:
Deep Water Culture System:
DWC is one of the best hydroponic systems for beginners. This method allows you to plant your seedlings floating on the surface of the water using a net pot to prevent them from drowning. This system is simple and requires a few materials to set up. You’ll need a few buckets or deep containers, air stones, an air pump, net pots, and a few tubes. If DIY projects are not your strength, you can buy readymade kits. This system takes less space and allows you to learn as you tend to your strawberries as a beginner.
The downside: Your strawberries won’t spread or grow as tall as they do in the traditional soil farms. You’ll have to cut off the little shooters and focus more on fruit production.
If you’re on a budget, NFT is the best one for you. You can place your system in the backyard, or balcony and your plants will thrive. Setting up the system requires a very shallow stream of water with dissolved nutrients mixed together to enable plant growth. The system has an external reservoir that re-circulates past the bare roots of the plants dipped in the shallow stream and back to the reservoir.
This process ensures the roots get enough oxygen, nutrients and prevents root rot. You can use locally available materials but there’s more work involved. For a smooth continuous process, you must connect a manual pump that helps circulate the water in regular intervals while preventing the water from running back.
The downside: This system takes up more space since you need more containers, PVC pipes as streams for growing your strawberries and holding water. The pump might cost you a little more and requires a lot of regular maintenance. You must also make sure the pump keeps the water moving forward always.
Ebb and Flow
This process is also known as the flood and drain method. This system is relatively low cost to set up and is simple for intermediate growers. The basic concept involves the plants placed n a tray that is filled with water dissolved with nutrients. The system uses gravity to drain the water from the trays to the reservoir and floods it again after some time. This process is aided with the help of a submerged pump that is connected to a timer to help with the flood and drain process. The timer comes on in regular intervals to ensure the plants get enough nutrients every day. This process prevents stagnant water, growth of algae, and root rot
The downside: This system is not beginner-friendly. It requires more work, upfront costs, and space. If you choose this system, you’ll need to control and monitor the pump and timers several times a day to ensure everything runs smoothly. Hence, it cannot be a hobby for a person with a busy schedule. Furthermore, you’ll need more upfront money to buy the pumps and materials required to set up the system. In addition, you’ll need to check for leaks often to avoid losing too much nutrient water.
Hydroponic Drip System:
An active hydroponic system uses a pump to feed the plants with water and nutrients regularly. The system uses small holes to drip nutrient solution directly onto your plants. This is the best method for outdoor hydroponic gardens to deliver water and nutrients directly to your plants.
This method is mainly used to replace the running or spraying water to plants due to much water wastage. You can use this method if you have enough growing space in your farm or backyard. This process is okay for beginners but requires some upfront money to set up. You’ll need a timer, pump, and other materials that are available in the local hydroponics supplier.
The downside: Setting up this system might be a challenge but once everything is up and running, you’re good to go. The system requires regular maintenance to keep everything flowing. That means you have to buy quality materials when making the system or risk running to the hardware after a few weeks.
How to Grow Hydroponic Strawberries - Step By Step Guide
Now that you have an idea of the best hydroponic systems that would work in your space, you need to know how to care for them, feed, balance the pH levels, and temperatures. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can plant your strawberries and watch them grow in your indoor garden.
Step 1: Decide What You Want To Grow
Strawberries come in different varieties and you need to decide which one suits your best needs. You can choose from over 600 varieties of strawberries that vary in shape, taste, and color but produce juicy fresh fruits.
For the most flavorful and juiciest fresh fruit, you can choose between 14 of the most popular varieties of strawberries including Albion, Allstar, Alpine, Aroma, Camino Real, Diamante, Earliglow Strawberries, Fragaria Virginia, Garden, Hood, Rosa Linda, Seascape, Sweet Charlie and Ventana.
Once you have your ideal variety, you can decide if you want to start growing from seed or look for seedlings. Seeds take longer to reach maturity compared with starting with seedlings. It’s up to you to decide which way you’d prefer.
Step 2: Prepping the Hydroponic System
You must prepare your hydroponic system before you start planting your strawberries. This is where you decide the best hydroponic system for you, DIY it, or buy a custom kit and set it up. After you’re ready, place the seedlings carefully and neatly while preventing roots from touching the same surface to reduce the risk of rotting.
Step 3: Planting Your Strawberries
Take your seedlings and plant in a medium of your choice or net pots. You can fill the net pots half-way with your growing media and stick them in individual plants after rinsing any soil in the root system. After you’re done, fill in the water to the top.
Step 4: Caring For Your Hydroponic Strawberries
Strawberries require a lot of nutrients to grow, flower, and produce healthy fruit. It’s best to add more nutrients after every two weeks in the form of powder or liquid fertilizer. Since the roots are submerged in water, liquid fertilizer will work best and can easily be distributed in your hydroponic system. You should always drain, clean, and refill your hydroponic system. This is because fertilizers and stagnant water can go bad affecting the plants. It’s best to make sure the system is clean to ensure no algae growth in your system.
Remember to provide the right lighting and temperature conditions for your plants to thrive. Strawberries prefer warm temperatures ranging between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. From the lighting standpoint, make sure your strawberries get light for 8 to 12 hours every day. If you’re in a position where your pants don’t have access to direct sunlight, you can purchase artificial grow lights to supplement the natural light.
Lastly, make sure the water quality and pH levels are okay. If you’re using tap water, you can purchase a pH meter to ensure the water is between 5.8 to 6.2 levels to make it conducive for the young plants to thrive.
Step 5: Harvesting Your Hydroponic Strawberries
After about three months, you can expect to see your plants flowering and producing juicy fruits. Make sure the fruit changes from green to red before you harvest them. The surface will feel soft or spongy when you squeeze it a little. You can enjoy the fruits for about a year before the plants die.
We hope that you found this guide useful and helped you understand how to grow your strawberries in a hydroponic system. Strawberries rarely suffer from pest and diseases in a hydroponic system but you should always do a routine check to protect your plants. That way you’ll have a successful project and enjoy a bountiful harvest throughout the year.