Strawberries are a great treat but don’t last long around our house. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a strawberry patch that you could just keep coming back to? With hydroponics, you can have a strawberry patch on your porch, in your garage, even in your home. Due to their high water content, strawberries thrive with hydroponics systems. Here’s a guide to growing hydroponic strawberries.
Recommended Strawberries Varieties for Hydroponics
Day-neutral and everbearing strawberries are the varieties that are recommended for hydroponic gardeners, day neutral especially for those growing indoors
Everbearing varieties typically produce 2 crops per year, one in the spring and another in the fall. Under the right light and temperature conditions (they don’t get too hot), they may be able to produce 3 harvests.
Day-neutral strawberries produce flowers and fruit up until a higher temperature point, around 85 degrees, at which point it will stop producing until temperatures cool back down. This variety can produce fruit throughout the year as long as they are kept at the right temperature and light cycle. This is why day-neutrals are recommended for indoor growers.
Getting Hydroponic Strawberries Started
The first step to growing hydroponic strawberries is figuring out what you’re going to start with.
Germinating seeds Strawberry plants grown from seed can take 2 or 3 years before producing fruit. For this reason, I would not recommend trying to start your hydroponic strawberry garden from seed.
Rootstock- Rootstock typically comes dirty, so it will need to be thoroughly washed before being placed in your hydroponic system. I would recommend dipping rootstocks in fungicide before planting them.
If you’re using an ebb and flow system you can plant rootstock directly in the grow medium. I prefer to use hydroton. In NFT systems you can use foam inserts or hdyroton in net pots.
Store Bought Strawberries in Dirt- Buying strawberries plants from the store and transplanting them into your hydroponic system is the easiest way to get your garden started. It is also the most expensive route. I personally like to buy a few plants to get my garden started and then expand using runners.
Runners- After strawberry plants get established they start to produce runners. These runners can be removed and used to start new strawberry plants. To get runners started, the bottom of the runner needs to be placed in moist grow medium. I have found that rapid rooter plugs work well for this. Once the root system gets established you can remove it from the mother plant then plant it elsewhere.
What Hydroponic Systems Works Best For Strawberries?
There are a variety of different hydroponic systems that work well to grow strawberries. Hydroponic strawberries should be in a system that makes each plant easy to reach for pruning and harvesting.
Nft and vertical systems are the most common hydroponic systems used for strawberry production. With these methods, the weight of the fruit causes it to dangle over the side of the system, making it easy to harvest.
Hydroponic strawberries also do well in ebb and flow systems in the right conditions. Ebb and flow systems also make it easy to position new runners to start rooting, expanding your strawberry garden. Strawberries are susceptible to crown rot if too much moisture is built up around the crown of the plant, so the water level should be set to drain when it reaches few inches below the base of the plant.
What Is The Best Temperature For Hydroponic Strawberries?
Temperature has an effect on strawberry growth and production. Strawberries grow best in mild temperatures in the mid 60-70 degree range during the day or lights on period. Decreasing the night time temperature to the mid to upper 50’s will increase the sugar content and size of the strawberries.
When temperatures get too hot or cold, plants will slow in growth, flower and fruit production.
Spacing Requirements For Hydroponic Strawberries
Hydroponic strawberry plants should be given about 6-8 inches of space between plants to provide plenty of room to spread out.
How Much Light Do Hydroponic Strawberries Need?
Strawberry plants like to have plenty of light. Plants can grow to be large and produce an abundance of fruit which takes a lot of energy. I recommend giving your hydroponic strawberry plants about 14-16 hours of light each day.
Recommended pH Level For Hydroponic Strawberries
The recommended pH level for hydroponic strawberry plants is 5.5–6.5.
Hydroponic Strawberry Nutrient Requirements
Strawberry plants should start off being grown with a nutrient regimen geared towards vegetative growth. A simple one part nutrient solution like Dyna Gro Grow works well up until your ready strawberry are ready for flowering.
*Tip- Your Hydroponic strawberries will start producing flowers in the first few weeks. I recommend pinching off flowers for the next 4-6 weeks as they appear. Instead of putting energy into the fruit, the plants will become well established and grow more vegetation. This will allow the plant to produce larger healthier fruit in more abundance later.
For the flowering stage, you should switch to a nutrient regimen with less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium for flower and fruit production. A 1 part nutrient like Dyna-Gro Liquid Bloom is easy to use for the flower and fruiting stage of growth. I also use Dyna-Gro’s Pro Tekt throughout the growth cycle.
One part nutrient regimens are easy to use, but don’t allow you the flexibility to tailor your nutrients to the specific crop. When you start to understand the nutrient needs of the plants your growing, you may look to a more advanced nutrient regimen like General Hydroponics Flora Series. Plants can also benefit from various supplements that go by different names depending on the nutrient regiment your using
Pollinating Strawberries Grown Indoors
Strawberries grown outdoors have help from nature when it comes to pollinating their flowers. When grown indoors they are going to need some assistance.
Strawberries produce flowers that are hermaphroditic, containing both male and female parts. This means that you can pollinate the flowers pretty easy. For pollinating indoor strawberry plants, I like to use a q tip or small paintbrush and gently rub the flower to assist with pollen transfer. For more on hand pollination check out this article on 3 methods of hand pollination.
I recommend coming back and repeating the process a couple of times over a few days to makes sure the flowers are well pollinated.
Harvesting Hydroponic Strawberries
The strawberries should be ready for harvesting after about 8-9 weeks after planting. You can tell when berries are ready for picking when they are bright red.
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