Strawberries are among the best crops to grow hydroponically. Because of vertical grow systems you can increase yields, especially if you choose one of the highest-yielding cultivars.
Imagine an entire garden full of strawberries that you can harvest year-round! And it’s completely within grasp.
Let’s talk about all things regarding hydroponic strawberries. By the end of this article you’ll know everything there is to know!
Why should you consider hydroponically growing strawberries?
Strawberries flourish in hydroponic gardens. They’re a favorite fruit among many and eating them fresh makes a world of difference.
Between higher yields and increased efficiency, there are so many great things about growing strawberries hydroponically.
One benefit to growing strawberries hydroponically instead of growing strawberries in soil is that you don’t have to deal with soil-based pests, root rot, or fungal diseases.
You also won’t use as much water because the water is recirculated instead of constantly using fresh water.
Hydroponics use so much less space than soil-grown strawberries because it utilizes vertical growing. This means you’ll have a higher yield per square foot.
It’s also easier to harvest strawberries when they’re grown hydroponically. You don’t have to bend down to pick them because they’re hanging in the air. If you have bad knees, this is a huge advantage.
With an indoor garden you can grow strawberries year-round since you control the environmental factors. This includes the complete system such as temperature, breeze, and ample light.
One of the disadvantages of growing strawberries hydroponically is the initial setup cost. Hydroponic systems eventually pay for themselves, but you still need to dish out a pretty penny to start.
You also need to learn how to grow hydroponically, which will be a learning curve if you’re used to growing things in a traditional garden.
Hydroponic strawberries yield fewer strawberry fruits per plant than soil systems. But because you’re able to grow more berries in total per square foot, fruit production isn’t an issue.
If you have a power outage, it can be devastating to your plants because you need your water pumps to work and you need the light from LED bulbs.
Hydroponics also requires more care and attention than traditional growing. Lights, temperature, nutrient solutions- pH and EC- all need constant monitoring. You also need to clean your system consistently.
While you don’t have soil-born pests or soil based diseases, you still have a chance of pests. Your plants are prone to airborne pests and waterborne diseases. Unfortunately, because your water circulates throughout the whole system, one instance of disease can ruin your whole crop.
You also have more energy usage and energy consumption using a hydroponic setup than growing traditionally in the ground.
How to get started?
Deep Water Culture hydroponic systems are the easiest kind of indoor hydroponic system when you’re getting started because it needs the least amount of supplies and knowledge.
Here’s how DWC hydro systems work:
1. You fill up a reservoir with a nutrient solution.
2. Suspend your plant’s roots in the nutrient solution.
3. Use an air pump to oxygenate the water. This keeps your plants from drowning.
You want your system to have at least six hours of sunlight each day. If you’re not able to place your system in direct sunlight, you need to set up an artificial light source.
It’s a good idea to start your system with live plants the first time around while you get the hang of it. This will take the pressure off of growing from seed.
Choosing the variety to grow
There are three different kinds of strawberry varieties to choose from.
June-bearing strawberries produce large berries once a year.
Every-bearing strawberries produce three crops a year.
Day-neutral strawberries fruit all year round. These are the best types of strawberries to grow hydroponically because of their year-round conventional harvest period.
Some popular day-neutral cultivars include Albion, Seascape, Quinault, Tribute, and Mara de bois.
Growing strawberries from seed or cutting
It’s much better to grow strawberries from cuttings than it is to grow them from seeds. One major pro of this technique is that strawberries already create runners, setting you up for success from the get-go.
Strawberry plants love to spread out and produce runners. All you need to do is disconnect the “smaller” plants from the “larger” plants and place them in your hydroponic system.
These smaller plants will still be attached to their mother plants. Cut the runner as close to its main stem as possible.
Because your plant will have just undergone stress, it’s important to get it into your hydroponic system as quickly as possible.
What are the best hydroponic nutrients?
Hydroponic plants need nutrients just like we do. Without the right nutrients, your plants won’t bring maximum yields.
All plants need nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Each plant has different required ratios, and the ratios even change as the plant goes through different stages of growth.
Nitrogen. Nitrogen helps stalks and leaves grow. It’s one of the main components in chlorophyll, helping plants convert sunlight into energy. It also helps build proteins.
Phosphorous. Phosphorous is vital for root systems and seed production. It helps build plant tissues such as roots, buds, and flowers. It also helps plants defend themselves against diseases and pests. Without enough phosphorus, your plants may not produce flower buds or flowers.
Potassium. Potassium regulates CO2 intake during photosynthesis. Photosynthesis can’t take place without CO2. It also helps your plants maintain a healthy water level and produce growth enzymes. A sign of low potassium is if your plants are growing slowly.
Calcium. Calcium is integral to cell walls in plants. Strong cell walls strengthen and develop tissues at faster rates. Withered plants are a sign that your plants may not have enough calcium.Magnesium. Magnesium helps your plants intake phosphorous. It’s also the building block of chlorophyll.
How often do you need to feed?
A good rule of thumb is to feed your hydroponic strawberries twice a week.
Believe it or not, it’s better to underfeed than to overfeed your hydroponic strawberries. This is because you can notice the signs of underfeeding and add more nutrients, whereas if you overfeed it’s a bit too late.
The importance of water and pH
Having the correct pH level is vital because it affects the availability of nutrients for your plants. If your pH level is too alkaline, it can hinder critical nutrient uptake and result in deficiencies.
When you grow plants hydroponically, they need a different pH level than when you grow them in soil. This is because without the soil, the plants don’t benefit from things like organic matter or microorganisms.
Hydroponic strawberries need a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
The pH level in your hydroponic system isn’t a one-and-done situation- it’s constantly changing and needs to be monitored carefully. As your plants suck up water, the solution becomes more concentrated. This is a large reason why you need to keep your reservoir full.
Another consideration is that gravel and clay pebbles can cause a rise in pH levels. You should test the pH in the reservoir as well as the hydroponic drip at regular intervals.
Maintenance and care hydroponic strawberry
There are a few things you need to consider when it comes to maintenance and care.
Pollination. The strawberry pollination process is usually taken care of by bugs. If your hydroponic system is outdoors, you don’t need to worry about the pollination process. But if it’s indoors, you can use a small cotton swab to move the pollen from the stamen of one flower to the female parts of another flower.
Fruit rot. Be sure to pick your berries once they ripen to avoid them rotting. If your plants have a fruit rot disease, apply some neem oil.
Pruning. Prune off the weak branches of your hydroponic strawberries by cutting them at the base.
Growing problems you may encounter
One major problem you may run into is a hydroponic system leak. They can take place at any valve or joint in your system, or if your system gets blocked.
Another problem is if you don’t keep your system clean enough. This includes the area surrounding your setup. Mess and dirt can increase the chances of disease and pests. Cleaning also stops algae from building up in your system.
One mistake people run into is using hard water. If your water is less than 200 PPM, you can probably use your hard water without issue. However, some tap water can cause problems with your nutrient solution.
Sometimes your pumps either get blocked or break. This needs to be fixed quickly because water pumps are the backbone of your whole system’s water supply. Meanwhile, a failed air pump can cause your roots to drown.
Hydroponic gardening systems can run into pest problems just like any other garden. Some common examples of common pests include whiteflies, spider mites, thrips, fungus gnats, and aphids.
Here are some solutions to pest problems:
- Lay down sticky traps to capture the pests.
- Isolate plants that have pests on them.
- Use insecticides.
- Don’t bring outdoor tools into your indoor grow room.
- If all else fails, discard of the plant.
There are five main hydroponic diseases that you may run into.
Powdery mildew looks like white powder. It can stunt plant growth, cause leaf drop, and yellow your plants.
Downy mildew shows on the underside of leaves and can cause yellowing.
Gray mold is also known as ash mold or ghost spot. It starts off as spots on the surfaces of leaves that eventually become fuzzy gray and will lead to a mushy, brown plant.
Root rot happens if your plant doesn’t get enough oxygen in its roots or if pathogens get in your water (if you don’t have clean water or enough water flow).
Iron deficiency can cause a lack of chlorophyll, leading to bright yellow leaves.
The main way to lower disease risk is to keep your hydroponic area as clean as possible.
How to Harvest Your Hydroponic Strawberries
Your hydroponic strawberries will be ready for harvest about four weeks after the flowers first open.
You want your berry to be somewhere between too soft and too firm- it should have some give without being mushy.
The entire berry should be red with no green remaining.
All you need to do is pluck the fresh strawberries from the plant to harvest the batch of strawberries.
Whether strawberries are your first crop or you’re an experienced hydroponics guru, everyone should grow hydroponic strawberries at least once.
You’ll have high yields, they’re not a fussy plant to grow, and nothing beats fresh strawberries.
What could be better?