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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Hydroponic Wick System

Hydroponic Wick SystemThis is the most basic Homemade Hydroponic System that exists and is incredibly quick, cheap and easy to build.

This is a great project for your children to complete during their vacation,  not only is is fun and easy to build the hydroponic system, they can also watch their own plant grow.

Have the children decorate the container with paint or stickers to complete the project.

This system is ideal for growing herbs, lettuce and even flowers, I have a Pansy growing in the pictured system.  (The nutrient solution has food coloring in it for clarity.)

The plants can sit on any ledge where they can get plenty of sun.

Basic Design

The nutrient solution is contained in a reservoir underneath the plant pot.  A wick is placed into the plant pot and run down into the nutrient solution.  The wick draws  the nutrient solution up into the plant pot where the roots of the plants can use it.

Design Considerations

  • Select containers big enough for the plant you wish to grow
  • The nutrient needs to be kept in a dark reservoir to stop algae growing, you can decorate the outside of the container to stop light getting in

Design Components

Reservoir

The size of the reservoir is dependent on the size of the plant pot you are going to use, the plant pot needs to sit securely in the top of the reservoir.

In the picture I have used a soft-drink bottle with the top 1/3 cut off and inverted to make the plant pot.  The wick has been thread through the mouth of the bottle down into the nutrient solution.

Ensure your reservoir does not let light in and that it is not susceptible to corrosion.  Good reservoirs are made of plastic, glass or stainless steel.

Wick

The wick can be made from a large number of materials, the material simply needs to absorb liquid.  In the picture above I have used a wick designed for an oil lamp (new wick as oil in the wick will stop it from working).  For larger systems have multiple wicks.

Here are a few household items that can be used as a wick:

  • dish sponge
  • dish cloth
  • piece of a tea towel
  • rope (not nylon)

Media

In the picture Hydroponic Wick System I am using washed Pumice for my Pansy to grow in, other aggregates you can use include washed Gravel, Perlite, Vermiculite and Rock wool.  You can find further information on these aggregates here.

Please send me photos of your Homemade Hydroponic Wick Systems as I would love to see them, email them to Henry(?)HomemadeHydroponic.net

NB please replace the (?) with @ in the email address.

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Static Solution / Deep Water Culture

Static Solution and Deep Water Culture systems are very similar so I will discuss both of these in this post

Static Solution System

Static Solution is one of the easiest homemade hydroponic systems that you can build.

Basic Design

The basic components of a Static Solution Culture system are a  reservoir and optionally an air pump with an air stone to aerate the nutrient solution.  The lid of the reservoir has holes drilled into it and the plants are suspended through the holes with their roots only very slightly suspended into the nutrient solution.  The plants are generally placed in pots filled with aggregate  to hold them in place.

With this method you can simply have one plant growing in a mason jar or any other conatiner with a lid that you have around the house.  A vase or other stylish container can be used, it’s really easy so give it a try.

Design Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when you design your Static Solution hydroponic system

  • The nutrient needs to be kept in a dark reservoir to stop algae growing, you can paint the outside of the container to stop light getting in
  • Ensure that the roots are only just in the nutrient to stop the roots from rotting
  • You will need to refresh the nutrient solution

Deep Water Culture (DWC)

Deep Water Culture (DWC) is another easy homemade hydroponic system that you can quickly build

Basic Design

The basic components of a DWC system are a  reservoir, an air pump with an air stone to aerate the nutrient solution.  The lid of the reservoir has holes drilled into it and the plants are suspended through the holes with their roots suspended into the aerated nutrient solution.  The plants are generally placed in a net pot to hold them in place.

Design Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when you design your DWC hydroponic system

  • The nutrient needs to be kept in a dark reservoir to stop algae growing, you can paint the outside of the container to stop light getting in
  • The plants require air around the roots to stop the roots from rotting
  • You will need to refresh the nutrient solution

I have located the following YouTube video which demonstrates building a DWC system.  In the video a system is built for propagating plants, simply up size the reservoir for normal plants.

Please refer to the Vegetable Growing Guide for the required nutrient concentration to place into the reservoir.

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Nutrient Film Techinque (NFT)

NFT ChannelAs the name implies, the Nutrient Film Technique is a hydroponic system based on a moving film of nutrient solution.

This system is widely used in commercial hydroponic installations and can just as easily be used in your homemade hydroponic system.

A NFT hydroponic system can be as small as a single 1m channel to as big as you entire yard, give it a try and you will amazed at how well it works.

Basic Design

The basic components of a NFT system are a sloping trough or channel, a reservoir, a pump to circulate the nutrient solution and some plumbing.

Basic Operation

The nutrient solution enters the raised end of the sloping channel and flows in a thin film to the lower end of the channel where it flows into the reservoir.  The nutrient is recirculated to the top of the channel by means of a pump.

Image by chooyutshing via Flickr

Design Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when you design your NFT hydroponic system

  • The nutrient needs to flow not puddle around the roots of the plants to keep the roots from rooting
  • The nutrient needs to be kept in a dark reservoir to stop algae growing, you can paint the outside of the container to stop light getting in
  • The plants require air around the roots

Design Components

Channel

There is an almost endless number of items that you can use as a channel to grow your plants in, here are some of the ones I have used

  • Plastic roof guttering
  • Plastic down pipe with hole cut for the plants
  • A plastic film called Panda Film, this is black on the inside and white on the outside.  I lay the film on a board and fold the two edges up to form a triangular shape.

Reservoir

The size of the reservoir is dependent on the amount of channel that you are installing and the amount of plants you are planning to grow.  A small reservoir with a large number of plants will require dosing daily, a large tank with a large number of plants may only need dosing every two or three days.  Try and set up your channel so that as the nutrient drain from the channel they drop a distance causing bubbles in the nutrient solution, if this is not possible it may be necessary to use a fish tank air pump to aerate the nutrient solution.Reservoir for your Homemade Hydroponic System

Ensure your reservoir does not let light in and that it is not susceptible to corrosion.  Good reservoirs are made of plastic, glass or stainless steel, other materials are fine if you use a plastic liner.

Pump

Submersible Pump for your NFT System

There are a number of pumps that you can use, one of the easiest is a submersible pump.  The pump simply sits on the bottom of the tank with the pump intake on the side, a spigot is provided to attach some pipe to deliver the nutrient to the top of the channel.

Ensure you check the height that the pump is capable of pumping to, this needs to be more than the height of the high end of your channel.  This measure is generally known as the Head.

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Advantages of Hydroponics

Hydroponic systems can dramatically reduce the amount of time required to produce good plants.  Any vegetable, flower, shrub or even trees can be grown without the need to cultivate, weed or mulch, while watering and fertilising can be taken care of by automatic systems.

No longer will the quality of your soil dictate the quality or quantity of your produce.  Hydroponic systems can be established anywhere, irrespective of the soil, climate or the amount of space you have.

Superior produce from my homemade hydroponic systemYou will discover that the vegetables and fruit produced by hydroponic systems have a superior flavour and texture.  The plants have all the required nutrients readily available to them and don’t need to waste energy developing large root systems.  Because the plants have all the nutrients that they require they will develop faster, be more healthy and have a better resistance to disease than plants grown in soil.

It is possible to further increase the growth speed of the plants by techniques such as heating the nutrient solution to the optimal temperature for the plants roots.

You will be able to grow a larger number of plants in a small area producing a far higher yield than normally possible.  When plans are removed from a hydroponic system, new seedlings can immediately replace them making it possible for you to have a continuous yield.

You will find that only a small number of seedlings are required to produce what you need, as losses from pests and disease are greatly reduced when you grow hydroponically, especially if your plants are housed in a greenhouse or other structure.  Without dirt in the system it is easy to keep everything much cleaner enabling you to eliminate problems caused by many soil borne diseases.

You will find that hydroponic systems are highly efficient, require a low capital outlay and produce high yields with less effort.  This allows you to easily produce cheap quality vegetables and fruit almost all year round. Hydroponic strawberries

There are seven main designs used for Hydroponics systems, these will be explained in the System Design section.

With a little imagination you will be able to have a hydroponic system in almost any location, from the smallest indoor system to large outdoor systems.

Hydroponics will provide you with a challenging and exciting hobby and best of all you get to eat the most fantastic fruit and vegetables grown at your own home

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