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Strawberries have always been some of the top options for home gardeners because aside from their nice flavor, they’re also capable of producing fruits quickly. This is why it’s not too surprising that a lot of people are interested in learning how to grow hydroponic strawberries. Having the juiciest strawberries all year round can really be worth the effort.
Anyone who has an inkling about hydroponics would know that fruit-bearing plants aren’t always the easiest plants to grow through the system. Don’t let this discourage you, though. Growing strawberries hydroponically is said to be an exception to the rule since they tend to thrive in such systems.
Some actually consider them as the best fruit plants for the system since you can fully customize the irrigation, humidity levels, and sunlight conditions according to their needs. Hydroponics will also help you avoid the common pests and diseases that often affect soil-planted strawberries, so you can expect better yield from this system.
If you have doubts about the process, you really don’t have to. Some people even grow aquaponics strawberries which can guarantee that growing strawberries in a hydroponics system is more than possible to achieve.
To help you further explore the topic and maybe even learn the basic concept of the process, check out our guide below in growing indoor strawberries hydroponically.
Growing Strawberries Hydroponically: The Basics You Need to Know
There are lots of things about hydroponics that can get a bit daunting. And if you’ve never really tried growing strawberries before, it can add to the overwhelming sense of taking on such a different project. Don’t worry, though. This guide will help you take things one step at a time so you can better understand how the process works.
The Benefits of Growing Strawberries Hydroponically
A few points were mentioned above about how growing strawberries at home can be a good thing for you. However, if you need more convincing, we’ve rounded up a few reasons why you should really give this project a shot:
- You’ll get to enjoy strawberries year-round. Since you can control the environmental conditions for your hydroponic crops, you can plant and grow all sorts of plants no matter what the season is. This will also let you grow fruit-bearing plants like strawberries in the colder months.
- You don’t need a lot of space to grow a lot of strawberries. Hydroponic gardening will allow you to maximize your limited space because you can grow stuff vertically. This means that you can also grow strawberries vertically which can allow you to have more plants that can bear more fruits.
- You can grow strawberries indoors faster through this method. Growing strawberries from runners take a shorter time than growing strawberries from seeds. How long does it take to grow strawberries from seed? This process can take 2 t 3 years before it can start bearing fruit so it can be far too long for a lot of gardeners. Hydroponic strawberries offer a faster way to start enjoying garden-fresh fruits.
- There’s less need for pesticides when growing strawberries hydroponically. Since you won’t be working on soil, hydroponics can help eliminate the soil-borne pests and diseases.
- You’ll need less water to grow strawberries in a hydroponic system. Studies show that hydroponic systems use up to 85% less water than when growing strawberries on the ground.
The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Hydroponic Strawberries Answered
With hydroponics an entirely different way to grow plants, you might have a number of questions about how you can translate your know-how in soil gardening to this procedure. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about the process that might just help you understand it better:
How different is strawberry hydroponics from growing strawberries from the soil?
Process-wise, the process of how to grow strawberries from seed is definitely different from growing strawberries hydroponically. In terms of fruit quality, further studies are necessary.
As a lot of the nutrients of fruits and vegetables come from the soil, it’s definitely worth asking just how different are soil-grown strawberries from hydroponically grown ones. There are also varying opinions about this topic so it’s really interesting to look into.
A study found out that in terms of fruit-taste and quality preferences, there isn’t much difference from the two. In terms of the nutritional content of the fruits, when grown in the right conditions, there shouldn’t be much difference between the two.
Can you grow strawberries indoors?
As most hydroponic setups are indoors or inside a greenhouse, it’s quite safe to say that you can grow strawberries indoors. Can you grow strawberries inside your house? Yes. There are lots of people who are already doing this and you’ll find lots of tutorials about it online.
How long does it take for strawberries to grow hydroponically?
As mentioned above, if you’re wondering how long do strawberries take to grow from seed, it can take a couple of years. If you grow them hydroponically from the rootstock, they can already bear fruits in a month’s time.
What are the most important things that you should remember in growing hydroponic strawberries?
Aside from learning the right steps in how to grow hydroponic strawberries, the following are also very important to keep in mind in this process:
1. There are a couple of manual steps in caring for hydroponic strawberries. These can include the following:
- Make the strawberry plants go through a winter period to help strengthen them.
- Pollination for natural propagation.
- Nutrient provision to ensure that your plants will get their required nutrition.
2. Making the right choices is crucial when starting a hydroponic strawberry garden. You’ll need to choose the right strawberry variety and hydroponics system to get the results you want.
3. As said before, strawberries require certain nutrients to grow healthily. Unfortunately, strawberries in water can’t get those without your help. So, here are a few of the key nutrients you should make sure to add to your system while growing these plants:
- Trace elements of iron, copper, zinc, cobalt, chlorine, molybdenum, etc.
You also need to provide the right EC and pH levels when growing strawberries hydroponically. The recommended strawberry pH range is 5.8 to 6.2. This is slightly lower than the required strawberry soil pH, so make sure to take note of such. The EC should be maintained at around 1.0 dS/m or lower as going higher can dampen the plant’s growth.
4. Start with plugs or rootstock. This can help guarantee faster growth as you won’t have to germinate seeds anymore in this process.
The Best Hydroponic Systems for Growing Strawberries
Another reason why strawberries are great options for hydroponics is the fact that it can work well with various types of systems. Some of the systems that this plant can thrive in include the following:
- NFT or Nutrient Film Technique
- Ebb & Flow
- Deep Water Culture
- Wicking system
- Drip Irrigation
If you intend to grow a lot of plants and have the space to do so, go for the Deep Water Culture method. If not, all the others will also work marvelously. You might also want to look into Kratky hydroponics if you want to pursue a no-fuss method.
Rigging a vertical strawberry growing system is also worth considering if it suits the hydroponics system of your choice. They’re proven to offer the largest yield so if you want to produce more fruits, this design would be the best choice.
How to Grow Hydroponic Strawberries
Now that we’ve got all of the basics covered, let’s move on to the crucial part of the process: the actual hydroponics planting. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting it done.
1. Start by doing a good deal of research.
Growing something successfully always requires the right information, especially if you really want your efforts to come to fruition. This is even more important if you’re trying hydroponic gardening for the very first time. There are a lot of things that you need to know to get the results you want so its best to read up, watch videos, and learn as much as you can about the process.
It’s also crucial to get the right kind of strawberries for your hydroponic garden. There are so many different varieties available and more are being added every year.
You have hundreds of options to choose from, so you might want to know which ones are your best options. Each has their preferred growing conditions so you have to learn which ones are best suited to your location.
Take Albion hydroponics, for example. They’re popular day-neutral varieties because they produce large and flavorful fruits. Those who prefer ever-bearing varieties can also opt for Ozark and Ft. Laramie varieties instead.
You’ll also need to know about the right hydroponics system for the process. We’ve listed above some of the most highly recommended options so you can start with those.
Getting to know the nutritional requirements of strawberries before you dive into the project is also essential. We’ve also noted a few crucial points about it above, so you should have some ideas by now.
2. Prepare your hydroponics system.
Follow the setup procedure of your chosen hydroponics system. Their processes may vary from one to another so ample research is necessary. The good news is, there are tons of information and tutorials about these online so you can arm yourself with the necessary knowledge to get it right the first time. If you plan on growing strawberries vertically, this is the best time to plan an effective layout.
3. Prepare for transplanting.
Remove the seedling or runner gently from its container. Be very gentle as the roots are quite delicate but make sure to take out as much soil as you can.
Soak it in cold water for 15 minutes afterward. This will keep the roots from drying out. In systems that will use a growing medium, add some pH-balancing solution to the soak and extend its duration to 30 minutes. Make sure to keep in mind the right pH for strawberries and to only soak the roots and keep the crown above water.
If you’re transplanting a runner, you should also prune it first if it's about 2-3 years old. This will help ensure that the plant will grow healthy and strong.
3. Place the plants in the container.
It’s now time to ‘plant’ your strawberry rootstock into the hydroponics system. Make sure to give them enough space and to splay the roots nicely to aid in its growth.
4. Add growing medium if your system requires such.
If your system requires a growing medium, this is the time to add them in. Fully cover the roots but make sure that the crown is left uncovered.
5. Place the plant container into the reservoir.
This completes the basic setup when growing strawberries in most kinds of hydroponic systems.
6. Check the water conditions daily.
Check the water levels and keep it at full capacity to ensure that the plants won’t have a hard time accessing the nutrients they need. Check the pH levels and EC levels after every refill and adjust them accordingly.
7. Flush the growing medium weekly to remove the mineral salts that could have accumulated over time.
Using water, flush the growing medium at least once a week. This will help remove excess nutrients and keep your plants in top shape. If not done properly, your plants can be killed by this buildup, so make sure to include this step in your regular routine.
8. Ensure that your plants are getting enough light.
Strawberries need about 8-12 hours of sunlight to stay happy and healthy. This also helps in maintaining their ideal temperature. This wouldn’t be a problem if your setup is located outdoors in an area with a mild climate.
However, if you’re growing strawberries indoors, you’re going to need to place the setup in the right location or use grow lights. To make your search for these items easier, here are some of the best T5 grow lights.
9. Pollinate your plants manually.
When growing an indoor strawberry plant, you can’t just count on Mother Nature to do carry out the essential task of pollination. You’ll need to do this on your own. Luckily, it’s very easy to do. Here are a few ways how you can pollinate your very own strawberry crops once they start flowering:
- Lightly run your fingers through the flowers. This will already help shake out the pollen and transfer them from the stamen to the pistil.
- Use a paintbrush or toothbrush to lightly shake out the flowers and make the pollen fall out.
- Use a soft makeup brush to manually transfer pollen from the plant’s stamen to the pistil.
- Use a small fan to blow out the pollens and cause them to fall into the pistil.
Aside from these manual techniques, you can also opt to host a hive of bees in your greenhouse or hydroponics facility instead. This will let you use the labor of hardworking bees to pollinate your hydroponics strawberries. The process will require some beekeeping skills, however, so it might need you to exert more effort.
10. Ensure good air flow.
Another important step in learning how to grow strawberries indoors is to make sure that the area your plants are in has good ventilation. This will help prevent mold and mildew growth which can then stunt the growth of your strawberries.
11. Ensure proper positioning of your plants at all times.
You should always make sure that your plants’ crown is never submerged. This will help prevent crown rot and ensure the healthy growth of your plant. Some also recommend positioning the crowns at an angle so the water will be kept away from them.
12. Harvest your strawberries only when they’re fully ripe.
Like hydroponic grapes, strawberries do not ripen after picking. This is why you should time your harvesting properly. Only pluck out the fruits when they’re fully ripe.
Luckily, it’s very easy to tell when strawberries are already completely ripe. They’ll look very red and feel somewhat firm. Depending on the type of strawberry you chose to plant, they might also be large in size.
How long does it take strawberries to grow fruits? It depends largely on the variety you chose to plant. Some of them produce fruits as quick as 4-5 weeks after blossoming. That’s an already quick timeline but you have to make sure to properly pollinate your plants first.
13. Trim the runners.
This will give you more rootstock that you can plant again when you have the room for them. As more plants promise better yield, doing this can really help those who want to sell their harvest.
14. Consider overwintering your plants.
If you’re worried about the frost damaging your crops, you can also opt to take measures of overwintering your plants. Strawberries are quite resilient, though, so some varieties might be able to tolerate low temperatures more than the others.
Keep your eyes peeled for signs of dormancy, however. When your plants start to look dead, that’s the time you should move them to your planned overwintering area. It’s crucial to keep the roots clean as well as keep it from freezing and drying while they’re not submerged in water. It could be quite the tricky task so some folks just opt to buy new rootstocks yearly instead. It’s possible to do, though, you just have to be dilligent in maintaining the overwintering plants.
Despite its challenges, growing hydroponic strawberries can really be well worth the effort. So give this crop a shot and you might just get more than just the most succulent berries from the experience.
However, if you're more of an outdoor person, how about learning how to grow organic grapes in your garden?