Hydroponic Strawberries

NFT StrawberriesStrawberries can be grown successfully using a number of different Hydroponic Systems.   Strawberries grown in hydroponics will grow around 40% faster than when grown in soil.

Strawberries can fruit all year around if you provide them with a good growing environment.

Strawberries require a CF range between 18 and  22

Commercial StrawberriesNFT Strawberries

I have found using NFT with a PVC pipe as the channel is the best for me, this method is also the most commonly used system for commercially grown Strawberries

If possible suspend the pipe above head height, the strawberries will hang below the pipe and it is very easy to see when they are ready and to pick them, this also allows easy management of Strawberry runners.

I generally plant my Strawberries in a mixture of Perlite and Vermiculite in grow pots, the mixture has a lot more Vermiculite than Perlite as Strawberries to limit the amount of moisture around the Strawberries crown, Strawberry plants to not like having a wet crown.

Flood and Drain Strawberries

Strawberries can be grown in a Flood and Drain system as long as you take special care to keep the crown of the Strawberries dry.

Use a mixture of Perlite and Vermiculite as the aggregate, have a 2 cm layer of Vermiculite at the top of the Grow Tray.  Ensure that the Overflow Pipe is below the level of the layer of Vermiculite.

Grow TowerGrow Towers

Grow Towers are another method for growing great Strawberries, you are able to have a large number of Strawberry plants with a very small foot print.

Fill the pots with a mixture of Perlite and Vermiculite, plant a single Strawberry plant in each opening.  Ensure that the Strawberry crown stays dry.

Caring for your Strawberries

  • Pick the fruit as soon as they are ready
  • Check the plant regularly for runners and cut them off
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Plant Pollination

Tomato Flower

Plants grown in a Hydroponic System need to be pollinated in the same way as if growing the plants in soil.

Plants that are growing outside will need minimal pollinating, while if they are inside or in a glasshouse the plants will need some assistance in pollinating.

Pollinating the flowers will ensure that you have the highest flower setting rate possible and in turn the largest possible quantity of fruit on your plants.

Hand Pollination

I prefer to use hand pollination and you would be forgiven for thinking that hand pollination sounds like a very painful slow process it really doesn’t have to be.

Paint BrushShaking or Tapping

I currently have a lovely crop of Tomatoes growing in my Hydroponic System.  I pollinate my tomatoes by tapping the flower stem with a artists paint brush a couple of times, this is all that is needed to set the flowers.

Brushing

The paint brush can also be used to gently brush the pollen from the flowers stamen onto the pistil.  This method can be time consuming and is better for plants that have a few larger flowers.

Hair DryerBlowing

Strawberries can easily be pollinated by using a hair dryer on COLD and blowing air onto the flowers.

Spraying

Another method to pollinate flowers is to spray the flowers with water.  It is best to do this first thing in the morning before the plant has any sun on it, spraying at night is also another option only this can put the plant at risk of getting mold on it as the humidity level around the plant over night will be a lot higher.

Setting Agents

There are a number of Setting Agents that can be purchased from your local garden centre.

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How to grow Tomatoes in NFT

Hydroponic TomatoesTomatoes are very easy to grow in hydroponics and produce an amazing quantity of

great tasting fruit

I grow tomatoes every year in my homemade  NFT hydroponic system utilising Panda Film for the channel.   I generally grow one cherry tomato and one or two other larger varieties.

I have a small glass house to protect the tomatoes from the weather and they normally will produce fruit from late autumn to the middle of winter.  In ideal conditions tomato plants will fruit for an entire year.

I prefer to purchase tomato plants that are 15 – 20cm tall, this is because this extends the growing period and the requirement of larger plants when using NFT.  The plants need to be talk enough to have their roots dangling into the nutrient solution and have the leaves above the top of the channel.

If you want to sow seeds one of the best ways is to sow seeds directly into Jiffy-7 pellets.  Ensure that you soak the pellets before planting one seed in each pellet.  This is a very commonly used propagation method in commercial hydroponic systems.  When the plants are 15 – 20cm they can be planted into the NFT system

Preparing the Tomato seedling for planting

Cleaned Tomato PlantCarefully remove the plant from the pot and very gently shake as much soil as possible from the roots of the Tomato plant.  Use your hose on low with a soft spray nozzle to wash more soil away from the plants roots.

The plant roots have very fine hairs on them which can very easily be damaged, please take your time and be very gentle with them.

Planting Method

Close up of Tomato plantPlanting Tomatoes when using Panda Film is very easy.  The Panda Film is folded into a triangle with clothes pegs to hold it at the top.   Put the plants into the gap at the top and place a clothes peg either side of the plant close enough to hold the Tomato plant without actually applying any pressure onto the plant (2 – 4 cm away from the plant).   Leave plenty of room between the plants, they are going to grow much larger than when grown in soil.

Tip – Place some open weave multi cloth in the base of the channel to ensure even flow of nutrients over the width of the channel.

Training the plants

I have twine hanging down from the root of my glass house which I tie the Tomatoes to as they grow, I am not able to use stakes because the glasshouse has paved flooring.

I tend to leave the first suckers (side shoots) above the first fruit cluster on each side of the plant and will train them up adjacent twines.  It is best to remove all other suckers and let the three remaining stems produce all of the crop.  It is important for the leaves of the Tomato to have  space around them to decrease the risk of disease.  Every leaf on the plant should be able to get full sunlight every day.

Nutrient Requirements

Tomatoes should be grown with a nutrient strength between 22 and 28 CF, young plants should be started at 22 CF.  Tomatoes will become very big feeders, I recommend that you use a 40 litre or larger reservoir to avoid having to dose nutrients too frequently.

Fertilising the flowers

There are several spays available which will set the flowers, I have not found it necessary to use these.  The easiest method is simply to gently tap the flower stems with a small stick which will shake the pollen onto the pistil.

I have found that my tomato plants will easily grow 30cm per day during summer.

Have fun and enjoy you Tomato crop in your own Homemade Hydroponic System

For other methods of growing Tomatoes and many ways to eat and drink them check out http://www.TomatoGuru.net

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Vegetable Growing Guide

Wonderful Vegetables from my Homemade Hydroponic SystemHere is a list of some of the vegetables that you can grow in your homemade hydroponic system.  I have put the recommended nutrient concentration (CF) beside each of the vegetables,  grow within these ranges for the best produce.
Details of specific hydroponic system requirements are also detailed below.

Vegetables with similar CF ranges can easily be grown in the same hydroponic system to give you an amazing variety of produce.

Beans CF 18-25

Climbing beans produce a high yield in a small ground area by using air space.  This makes them a good subject for a greenhouse hydroponic system.  Butter beans grow especially well.

Beetroot CF 18-22

Beetroot grown hydroponically has a superb flavour.  Large tender roots are easily grown in an aggregate filled system taking between two and three months to reach a edible size.

Broccoli CF 18-24

Broccoli will grow well over a long period of time, cut the main head early so that a number of small heads will form.

Brussels Sprouts CF 18-24

Brussels Sprouts should be grown outside as they require a cold period to ensure that the sprouts are small and compact, when they form.

Cabbages CF 18-24

Cabbages are easily grown all year round, however they tend to use up a large amount of space.  If you want to keep a supply of fresh cabbage available, keep sowing a few extra plants every two or three weeks.

Capsicum CF 20-27

Capsicums grow from spring to autumn, leave plenty of room and ensure they get lots of sun if you want the fruit to colour.

Carrots CF 17-22

You should only grow carrots if you have plenty of space available in your growing container as they need to stay in position for longer than most crops.  Sand is a good medium to use, thin them at an early stage then allow the rest to develop to a size your growing container can hold. You will find that even the largest carrots are juicy and delicious with no sign of woodiness.

Cauliflower CF 18-24

Cauliflowers grown hydroponically become extremely large so unless you especially want to grown them hydroponically, do not put too many in.  They will need up to 500cm of growing space.  You will need to provide some shade over the heart as it forms to keep it white.

Celery CF 18-24

Gravel filled aggregate systems as well as NFT systems can be used to grow celery. Generally the plants will need spraying for rust at some stage.

Cucumbers CF 16-20

The smaller varieties of cucumber are the most suitable for greenhouse systems, as you can train them upwards over a frame.  Use a hybrid variety, some are resistant to mildew and you will find that other will develop to an enormous size if you let them.

Leeks CF 16-20

Leeks have a lengthy growth cycle and are compact and easy to grow hydroponically.  Leeks are best grown in an aggregate filled system.

Lettuce CF 8-12

Regular sowing of lettuce are needed to keep your home supplied. You can remove leaves leaving the plants in the system if only small quantities are required.  Grown in a greenhouse fresh lettuce can be available at anytime.  You may need to keep the plants shaded in hot areas, since they do not like too much heat.

Marrows CF 10-20

Zucchinis, Courgettes and other types of marrow grow so quickly hydroponically that it is necessary to restrict their growth,  keep picking zucchinis before they grow too large otherwise their growth cycle will stop.  One of two zucchini plants are enough to keep most families supplied.

Onions CF 18-22

Onions require too much space for most hydroponic systems and will grow well if you are keen to have some in your garden.  Spring onions especially are good to have growing for use in salads.

Peas CF 14-18

Peas grow really easily, plant them behind low growing plants with a frame to grow up.

Potatoes CF 16-24

Potatoes grow quickly in aggregate filled system and require large growing containers.

Pumpkin CF 18-24

Pumpkins will spread rapidly and become very large, ensure you allow plenty of space and train over a frame if possible

Radish CF 16-22

Radishes will grow extremely quickly so just plant a few at a time.  You can grow them in water with no nutrients added for the first weeks.

Spinach CF 18-23

Spinach is easily grown all year round.  You can remove leaves leaving the plants in the hydroponic system.

Silverbeet CF 18-24

Silverbeet are easily grown all year round, however they tend to use up a large amount of space.  You can easily remove leaves from the plants while leaving them growing in the hydroponic system.

Sweetcorn CF 16-22

Sweetcorn takes up a large amount of space,  If you would like to try it in your system make sure that it is carefully placed so the other plants will not be deprived of light by the rapidly developing corn

Tomatoes CF 22-28

Tomatoes grow extremely well in hydroponic systems.  If placed in a greenhouse with plenty of light a tomato plant will produce fruit all year round.  For heavy cropping allow the lateral immediately below a fruit set to develop and remove any other laterals up to the developing fruit

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