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.
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 called aquaculture cultivation, there are records of usage of this system in hanging gardens of Babylon. There is no limitation to type of plants to be grown this 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.
In 2014, U.S. producers exported 273.6 million pounds of fresh strawberries, 63.4 million pounds of frozen strawberries were exported and 14.6 million pounds of prepared or processed strawberries were exported. Traditional cultivation methods or geoponics require 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.
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. It is suggested to use 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.
- Runners must not dry. Keep them away from direct sun. The best way is to place the runners in clean water.
- Choose proper hydroponic cultivation pot. Create a lining media of granular shale rock or clay pellets. Use pH balanced water solution to soak and saturate the media to avoid dehydration of runner roots once transplanted in pots.
- Transplant runners in cultivation pot with enough space between two runners. Roots must face upwards with top portion of the plant above the brim of pot. This gets ample sunlight and fresh air for growth and budding.
- You can make multi-tiered strawberry gardens with pots placed in similar way on each tier. This saves space and helps to grow maximum fruits.
- 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 many varieties of strawberries. Each variety has specific temperature needs that play a major role in the growth, quantity and quality of strawberries, sweetness and overall taste of the produce. Consult an expert for the perfect temperature need of strawberry in your garden. For off-season plantations, 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. There are innumerable baking recipes for fresh strawberries too. Post harvest season, you can make new runners from your existing strawberry plants and chill them at 0º C to 4º C.