Hydroponic blueberries are a sustainable, efficient way to have delicious blueberries all year round. Blueberries can be hard to grow in soil because of how acidic they like it to be, but with hydroponics, it’s as simple as adding the right nutrient solution. Your hydroponic blueberries will grow up to 35% faster than traditional blueberries.
Read on to get the rundown on hydroponic blueberries!
Can I Grow Blueberries Hydroponically?
People don’t often think of perennial fruits like blueberries when they think about hydroponics.
But blueberries are perfect for hydroponic gardening. This is because they require a very specific acidity that’s hard to master in soil.
What Are the Upsides of Hydroponically Growing Blueberries?
There are many upsides to hydroponically growing blueberries.
One pro is that hydroponics maximizes space. You can grow far more with much less space than traditional growing. One reason is because the roots don’t have to sprawl out for nutrients since the fertilizer is being delivered directly to them.
Another pro is that hydroponics conserves water. Hydroponic systems can use up to 99% less water than traditional gardening or farming.
Why does this matter? Well for starters, you can end up with a hefty water bill when you’re a traditional gardener. But even more important, within the next few years about half of the world’s population will live somewhere that is water-stressed. This makes water conservation a top concern.
Hydroponics is great for growing because you can create a specific micro-climate for your plants that is completely dialed in to what they need.
You’ll also get to enjoy higher yields all year round.
Hydroponics even has the ability to produce higher quality food. You don’t have to pick the food before it’s ripe and leave it in a warehouse to ripen. Since you can grow hydroponics anywhere, that means you can get fresh food that doesn’t have to travel long distances.
Lastly, hydroponic plants grow about 30-35% faster!
Guide to growing Hydroponic Blueberries
Here are the conditions needed to grow hydroponic blueberries:
- 12-16 hours of light per day
- pH level between 4.5 and 5.78
- PPM: 1260-1360
- Temperature between 72 and 75 degrees F
Types of hydroponic systems for growing Blueberries
Let’s go over the two most common hydroponic systems for growing blueberries.
Hydroponic Ebb & Flow Systems
Ebb and flow systems are potentially the best kind of system for hydroponic blueberries.
Ebb and flow is great for large blueberry bushes but you can still use it for small varieties.
With an ebb and flow system, a grow tray gets periodically flooded with a hydroponic solution. Then the solution drips down back into the reservoir to be reused.
Hydroponic NFT Systems
Nutrient film technique (NFT) is probably the second best choice of setup for hydroponic blueberries.
NFT systems work by having a shallow stream of water-nutrient solution circulate throughout the plant roots. The water contains all of the dissolved nutrients that your plants need.
NFT is affordable and energy efficient. It’s also great for vertical growing.
The most ideal lighting for hydroponic blueberries is an HID (high-intensity discharge lamp). These lamps are one of the most intense kinds on the market and closely mimic sunlight.
Flourescent lights work too, but you won’t have yields that are as large.
LED lights aren’t as effective as HID but are more friendly on the wallet. Using Mylar Reflective Film will help optimize your light usage.
Blueberries thrive with 12-16 hours of light per day. The exception is during the simulated winter/ cold season that you should create for about a month each year, with more hours of darkness each day.
Factors affecting growing Hydroponic Blueberries
The most important factors affecting growing hydroponic blueberries are the irrigation regime. This consists of water quality, irrigation system capabilities, and climatic conditions.
Other factors include the substrate pH, fertilizer quality/application, and the use of mulch discs.
Lastly, blueberries require excellent drainage.
Blueberries are unique in their nutrient needs. They require acidic conditions (a low pH) and won’t grow if their conditions are alkaline. If you have a traditional soil garden, blueberries won’t grow in alkaline soil no matter what kind of amendments you add.
One reason why blueberries like acidic conditions is that they’re often associated with iron and zinc.
Why pH is important in Hydroponic systems
It’s vital to have the correct pH level because this determines how available nutrients are for your blueberries. A pH that is too alkaline (too high) will prevent nutrient uptake and cause deficiencies.
Calcium deficiencies can cause tip burn and leaf cupping. Meanwhile, iron deficiency can lead to yellow or pale leaves.
Hydroponic plants need a different pH than if you were growing them in soil. This is because plants don’t benefit from organic matter or microorganisms in hydroponic systems. Don’t make the mistake of using soil-grown pH recommendations in your hydroponic garden!
Blueberries need high amounts of sulfur- more so than most other plants. A typical sulfur range in initial water is between 10 and 80 ppm, but blueberries can need more than standard nutrient formulas provide.
However, you can’t just add sulfur to the solution because sulfur isn’t water-soluble.
You can use sulfur prills to create elevated sulfur levels. You can also use sulfate salts, magnesium sulfate, or potassium sulfate to add some much-needed sulfur.
Epsom salts are often recommended when blueberries are grown in soil, but they can easily mess up a hydroponic system.
Some signs of nutrient deficiency include when the plant veins and leaves start to yellow or if the leaf tips curl down. Other symptoms include less branching and stunted growth.
Harvesting Your Blueberries
Harvesting your hydroponic blueberries is incredibly rewarding.
Let your berries fully ripen on the plant before you harvest them.
Ripe blueberries are fragile so you need to take care when handling them.
What are some common problems when growing blueberries hydroponically?
One of the most common problems you’ll face is not having enough sulfur in your system. You also need to make sure your hydroponic setup is acidic.
Do blueberries grow well as a hydroponic crop?
Blueberries grow very well hydroponically. Many traditional gardeners can’t enjoy growing blueberries because of how acidic the environment has to be. But any hydroponic grower can have blueberries in their garden!
How Long Does It Take To Grow Blueberries Hydroponically?
It takes about two years to grow blueberries hydroponically. This might seem like a long time, but it actually takes anywhere from 3-5 years to reap a crop of blueberries in a conventional garden.
Can you grow blueberries in a 5-gallon bucket?
You can grow blueberries in a 5-gallon bucket, although you will likely need to transplant your blueberry plant once it reaches a certain size. People often opt to grow blueberries in containers rather than in the ground because of how acidic the soil needs to be.
If you’ve never had a freshly grown blueberry before, you’re missing out! Hydroponic blueberry fruit are bursting with flavor and will remind you why you started growing in the first place.
If you want to brush up on your hydroponic skills, check out the rest of our blog!