Learn to make your own homemade hydroponics system to grow virtually any plant, vegetable and fruit without soil.
This article offers a few tips on using hydroponics with strawberries, clearing up some of the confusion surrounding the subject.
Everyone's into using hydroponics with strawberries these days, be it for their ornamental value, as a source of food, or for their marketing value. If you skim around the Internet, you'll see hundreds of forums filled with hydroponics enthusiasts trying to find out how to start growing strawberries correctly, but unfortunately the information to doing this is scarce and when it can actually be found, it's misleading or confusing. So I'll try to make it a more pleasant and clearer read for you, in the form of the next few tips.
This is the first and probably the biggest problem when it comes to hydroponic strawberry growth. People are used to simply going online, finding the right setup for a plant then applying it in their own hydroponic system. They find out that lettuce requires 'x' to 'y' degrees temperature, 'z' humidity and several specific nutrients, so they go home and set up the exact environment conditions and voila! you have lettuce! Strawberries are a different thing though, since they are a complex and varied species. So you can't simply throw specific numbers with hydroponic strawberries, because each class or type requires different humidity, temperature, nutrients, etcetera. So the first step you need to take before using hydroponics with strawberries is exactly what type of strawberry you would like to grow and understand its needs.
There are several popular strawberries out there that had great results when used in combination with hydroponics. Chandler and Camarosa are the most common, since they grow slightly bigger than other varieties and Chandler also has the advantage of being a strawberry that is resistant to pests, so there are less deformed or lost berries when it's time for picking them, as you can see in this chart. Camarosa is also very common with out-of-season hydroponics, but it's a bit more demanding. You will have to keep a constant temperature between 55F and 70F, alternating with the normal temperature coming from the outside. In some cases, in a hydroponic greenhouse, both Camarosa and Chandler strawberries get enough light from outside, in order to fulfill their photoperiod. If you notice that your strawberries, or a part of them are not getting enough natural light, you can add some supplemental artificial hydroponic lights to handle the difference.
It's sort of a popular belief that strawberries are best fitted into drip hydroponics systems, but that's not necessarily a must. Any type of system is ok, if it can hold up to the needs of the crops. Check out our recommended systems for growing strawberries. Generally, strawberries "eat up" a lot of nutrients, so many people recommend flood and drain hydroponic systems for them, because with those you don't risk your plants ever lacking nutritious solution. You'll have to choose a system that's also based on the amount of strawberries you want to grow.
Fortunately, strawberries are not that picky when it comes to their growth media. Almost anything you would normally use goes with strawberries, but a few medias have proven to be more efficient. These are:
Some specific variations of strawberries might work better with one of these, or maybe with a different growth media, so the best option would be to look for the right one after knowing exactly what type of strawberry you will be growing.
In terms of how much you need to take care of them, strawberries are quite a nuisance, since they're very demanding. Everything needs to be just right, ranging from temperature, to humidity, pH levels, nutritious solution and so forth. When using hydroponics with strawberries, you'll also notice that insects and spiders are attracted to their foliage, so you'll need to take care of those as well if you want your fruit to grow healthy.
To conclude, as you can see, strawberries aren't the easiest of plants to grow using a hydroponics gardening system. If you want easy, go back to growing beans. If you want a challenge, combine hydroponics with strawberries and try to get the best out of them. You may not get it the first time, but the satisfaction of eventually eating your first home grown strawberries right out of your hydroponic garden is priceless.