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How to Grow Hydroponic Strawberries at Home

How to Grow Hydroponic Strawberries at Home

Hydroponic strawberries are the latest trend in strawberry cultivation. What's more? It can be done at home. Here is how you can grow hydroponic strawberries in your backyard.
Anuja Marathe Kanhere
There are so many for whom maintaining a kitchen garden is a passion. If you are one of them, then you will understand the feeling of extra enthusiasm to experiment with new cultivation techniques and broaden the variety of plants and herbs in the kitchen garden. One of the best fruits for a post dinner dessert happen to be strawberries. With a variety of uses in the kitchen, home-grown strawberries can be a delight to the growers. Here is how to set up your very own hydroponic strawberry garden.

Hydroponic Cultivation Technique
If you are yet to catch up with the concept of hydroponic cultivation, here is a simple explanation to clarify the technique. It is an age-old technique used for cultivation of plants in nutrient based water solution. There is complete exclusion of soil throughout this cultivation technique. Also known as aquaculture cultivation by some, there are records that show usage of this system in the hanging gardens of Babylon. There is no limitation to the type of plants that can be grown the hydroponic way. The upside of using this method is that cultivators can avoid soil based plants diseases and rampant growth of weeds that are a regular feature in the traditional cultivation techniques.

Strawberry production and demand is expected to cross the figure of 7 billion pounds by early 2012. In normal case, this figure was easily achievable. However, traditional cultivation methods or geoponics require usage of a chemical called methyl bromide which is now banned on account of its negative effects on the ozone layer. This prompted experts in the field of strawberry cultivation to look out for an alternative technique. Believe it or not, strawberry plantations flourish better in hydroponic gardens and the fruits are decidedly juicier and tastier than ever before.

Best Cultivation Time
There is no definite time for cultivating these strawberries. You can cultivate them anytime you wish all round the year.

Here is How You can Start....
  • Strawberry plants grown out of strawberry seeds take approximately 3 years to mature and start flowering. A better and faster option is to visit a local garden store or nursery that deals in cold-storage runners. These runners are clones of a matured mother plant. It is suggested that you choose runners which are flowering or with tiny visible buds.
  • It is essential to plan the watering and drainage techniques of your hydroponic garden well in advance. Personally, I suggest usage of either drip irrigation methods, deep water cultures or nutrient film techniques for best results.
  • Remove the strawberry runners from their plastic containers. Now shake them lightly to clear away chunks of hardened soil. Now dip the roots in a bucket full of cold water. Gently remove all traces of soil from the roots. Take care not to hurt or break the roots in any way possible. Carefully pluck the dried up leaves from these runners.
  • It is important that the roots of runners don't dry up. Keep them away from direct exposure to sun. The best way to keep the roots moist is to place the runners in a bucket of clean water.
  • Choose an appropriate sized hydroponic cultivation pot. Create a lining media of either granular shale rock or clay pellets inside the cultivation pot. Use pH balanced water solution to completely soak and saturate the lining media. This helps to avoid dehydration of runner roots once they are transplanted into cultivation pots.
  • Now transplant the runners in the cultivation pot with luxurious spacing between two runners. See to it that the roots are facing upwards and the top portion of the plant is well above the brim of the pot. This helps the plant to fetch ample sunlight and fresh air essential for its growth and budding.
  • You can make multi-tiered strawberry gardens with pots placed in similar fashion on each tier. This not only saves space, but helps you grow maximum quantity of strawberries.
  • Make sure to stand the plant in sufficient quantity of nutrient and water formula. For best results, the watering regime should ideally include a 2 parts blooming nutrition. For sufficient intake of nutrition by the plants, it is suggested that pH balance be maintained between 5.8 to 6.2.
  • There are abundant varieties of strawberry plants. Each variety has its specific temperature requirements. These temperatures play a major role in the plant's growth, quantity and quality of strawberries produced, sweetness of the fruit and overall taste of the produce. Consult an expert to find out the perfect temperature requirement of strawberry plants in your hydroponic garden. For off-season strawberry plantations, it is essential to artificially simulate climate conditions.
Harvesting the Strawberries
Plucking and harvesting hydroponic strawberries is much more convenient than regular strawberry techniques, since the plantations can be raised at convenient levels above the ground surface. It is essential to pluck strawberries only when they are perfectly ripe. Remember, these fruits do not ripen if accidentally plucked in unripe state. You may clean the fresh fruit and store it in your refrigerator for year round use. Another solution is to process fresh strawberries into strawberry preserves, crushes, jellies, etc. There are innumerable baking recipes for fresh strawberries too.

Post the harvest season, you can make new runners from your existing strawberry plants and chill them at a temperature ranging from 0º C to 4º C. Such chilled runners last for a maximum period of 5 months only, so plan your next re-plantation accordingly. With regular re-plantations at different intervals, you may end up harvesting strawberries all round the year. Yes, that is truly exciting!