If you have a fruit or vegetable garden, and are looking for a fresh new challenge, you should consider growing hydroponic strawberries.
This is an easy plant to grow, and they do really well in hydroponic systems. Even if you have no experience growing strawberries in soil, you can get started growing strawberries hydroponically pretty easily.
We’ll elaborate on all the reasons you should try growing strawberries hydroponically, and share some of the drawbacks compared to growing them in soil.
After that, we’ll cover the different types of strawberries, and which ones are best for hydroponics.
We’ll also explain which systems are best suited for this plant, and go in-depth on how to get your grow started.
Then, we’ll take you through the entire process of actually growing your strawberries, along with how to harvest them.
Why you should try growing strawberries hydroponically
Even if you’ve never grown hydroponically or cultivated strawberries, this is something we highly recommend.
From increased yields to better efficiency, we will cover all the benefits below. We will also share some of the drawbacks of growing strawberries hydroponically.
Benefits of growing strawberries hydroponically
In general, hydroponics has a ton of benefits over traditional soil growing. It is a more efficient style of growing, because you aren’t having to constantly feed water.
Instead, you can recirculate the nutrient solution for a longer period of time before needing to completely change out the system with fresh water.
Speaking of efficiency, you can also grow strawberries quicker in these systems. Certain plants can be harvested sooner when grown hydroponically, which is a huge benefit.
Plus, hydroponic strawberries can be stacked vertically, so you can fit more plants in the same growing space. This means bigger yields, without increasing the size of your grow room or greenhouse.
From a pest control standpoint, hydroponic strawberries are also superior to those grown in soil. Because hydroponics doesn’t use any soil, many pests are automatically not going to be a problem.
This style of growing is just cleaner, and airborne pests will be less likely as well.
One final benefit of growing strawberries hydroponically is that you can enjoy increased yields, from being able to feed your plants a strong nutrient solution directly at the roots.
This concentration of nutrients constantly circulating around the root system leads to faster, bigger growth.
But, this isn’t to say hydroponic systems don’t have their own problems. We will also cover some of the reasons you may not want to grow strawberries in a hydroponic system.
Drawbacks of growing strawberries hydroponically
The biggest drawback of hydroponic growing, in general, is the initial setup cost. Compared to traditional gardening, where all you need is plain old plants and soil, you need a complete hydroponic system.
Or, you need to create your own from a number of components, which can really add up if you are starting from scratch. We’ll go into more detail on the actual systems you should use for hydroponic strawberries later on.
Another reason hydroponics isn’t for everyone is because there is quite a learning curve. If you are a first-time grower, you may want to start with soil.
This is because there is less room for error with hydroponics, as you are feeding a nutrient solution directly to your plant’s roots. This means if you overfeed, plant issues will be exacerbated.
The same goes for pH issues. But if you are careful about testing your nutrient solution, this won’t be an issue.
If you are looking to learn more about this style of growing, you should start by checking out our hydroponics 101.
In that guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know, including the differences between hydro and soil and the full list of benefits and drawbacks.
We also cover all the different types of systems, grow media, and other hydroponic components and accessories you need to start growing. Now, let’s discuss the best system for growing hydroponic strawberries.
How to get started growing hydroponic strawberries
If we didn’t scare you away with the drawbacks of growing strawberries hydroponically, then its time to get started! The first step is choosing the best hydroponic system.
What is the best hydroponic system for strawberries?
There are a few different hydroponic systems that growers use these days, each having their place in the grow room.
Deep water culture (DWC) systems like the Current Culture Under Current line are really popular for certain varieties of vegetables and flowering plants. These systems will have your plant constantly suspended in the nutrient solution, and use an air pump to keep your plants oxygenated so they don’t drown.
Another more technologically advanced system is the aeroponic system. This system is similar to DWC in that the roots are dangling in a growth module, but instead of being suspended in water, they are in the air. In the bottom, there are sprayers, which will emit a fine mist over your root mass. These systems are a relatively new advancement and can grow some super impressive plants.
But, neither this nor the DWC system is ideal for hydroponic strawberries.
Ebb and flow
One of the best hydroponic systems for strawberries is an ebb and flow system. Here, the plant’s roots are flooded with water and nutrient solution, before this drains back out momentarily later.
This system requires a timer, so you can set up your “flood and drain” cycles. These will occur a number of times throughout the day.
This is a really good system for strawberries because you can grow a bunch of them in one system. You can grab a preconfigured system, such as:
- Super Closet Bubble Flow Buckets
- Hydrofarm Megagarden System
- Botanicare 3' X 3' Ebb & Flow Kit
- Botanicare 4' X 8' Ebb & Flow Kit
Or, you can create your own ebb and flow kit here, and set it up exactly how you want. This way, you can grab a grow tray that fits your needs, and you can grow the exact number of plants you want.
Hydroponic Drip Systems
Another really great hydroponic system for strawberries is a drip system. These are exactly what they sound like, where drippers feed your plants throughout the day through the top of your plant, into the grow media.
These are very efficient, as you can feed your plants the exact amount of moisture you want, down to the number of drops. These are commonly used in commercial hydroponics. Just like ebb and flow, there are a number of complete systems you can grab, such as:
- General Hydroponics Eco Grower
- General Hydroponics EuroGrower
- Botanicare 4' X 8' Hydroponic Drip System
Or, you also have the option to build your own hydroponic drip system. Just like with building your own ebb and flow system, you can choose exactly what size components you want, and end up growing the number of strawberries that works for you.
Choosing a grow medium
Once you’ve decided on a system, you’ll need to choose a grow media (assuming your system did not include media). There are a few options we recommend for hydroponic strawberries.
The most common are coco coir, clay pebbles, or growstones. Any of these will work, and they all sort of do the same. In hydroponics, there is really only one purpose for media - to hold the roots in place and anchor your plant, keeping it upright.
If you are just getting started, you cannot go wrong with coco. This completely inert media does not alter nutrition or pH, and makes growing super easy.
What are the best hydroponic nutrients for strawberries?
The final thing you need to get started growing hydroponic strawberries is a nutrient line. Strawberries don’t have super high nutrient needs, like other plants, but they will need to be fed throughout their life if you want to actually see them through to harvest.
Their main needs are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. But, strawberries also have needs for secondary nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium. You’ll also need to make sure they are getting enough micronutrients, or you’ll start to see weird deficiencies arise.
You cannot go wrong with brands like Cultured Solutions, Botanicare, General Hydroponics, or any other brand on our list of the best hydroponic nutrients. Now, let’s get into the actual process of growing hydroponic strawberries.
How to grow hydroponic strawberries
The actual process of growing hydroponic strawberries is pretty easy, as these plants don’t need a ton of maintenance.
All you really need to do is choose a good, healthy variety, plant them, feed them, and eventually, harvest them. Let’s start from the beginning.
Choosing the best variety of strawberries to grow
There are a few different types of strawberries you can grow, and a few different ways you can actually start them. But, for home growers, some are better than others.
It really comes down to how quickly you want your strawberry plants to bear fruit. Some will take up to 3 years, while some can start showing fruits within a couple of months. It’s very unlikely you want to wait that long to harvest, so we’ll stick to strawberry varieties with a shorter time to harvest.
If you are looking for a variety of strawberries which continually produce fruit, you’ll want an ever-bearing species or day-neutral strain. Ever-bearing strains can easily produce up to 3 harvests a year, while day-neutral strains are able to continuously produce fruit throughout their lives.
If you are looking for a specific type of strawberry to grow hydroponically, here are some of your best bets:
- Red Gauntlet
Starting your strawberry garden from seed or cutting
Starting your hydroponic strawberry grow from seed is not ideal, because it will take you a long time to get it going, and you’ll need extra equipment and supplies to propagate this way.
Instead, try and get your hands on some cuttings or clones of the strawberry variety you want to grow.
This way, you can see harvests pretty quickly after starting, and you won’t have to invest time and money into months and months of growing just to get started. These are more expensive, but the cost is offset by quicker harvests.
Creating an ideal environment for growing hydroponic strawberries
Since you are growing strawberries hydroponically, you’ll likely be indoors, or at the very least in a greenhouse. This means you are in charge of controlling the environment - light, temperature, and humidity.
From a lighting standpoint, it’s actually really simple. Your strawberries need at least 10-12 hours of direct light a day, and if you are in a greenhouse, they may get this naturally. But, it is unlikely.
Strawberries thrive in warmer temperatures. Keep your growing environment between 65-75 degrees.
Humidity is also important. If there is too much moisture in your atmosphere, your strawberry grow will be susceptible to mold and mildew. You can prevent this by creating ample air flow, or using a dehumidifier.
The importance of water and pH
You may think you can just use the tap water from your garden hose to keep your hydroponic system running. But, this is not true.
There are tons of chemicals and impurities in our water, such as chlorine and chloramine, which can be detrimental to your strawberries. So, you should use a water filter to make sure you are giving your plants clean water.
You will also need to constantly monitor pH. Strawberries prefer a pH range between 5.8-6.2. If you extend out of this range, your plants will develop some weird issues, as they will no longer be able to absorb certain nutrients.
You can learn more about the relationship between nutrients and pH in our blog.
Hydroponic strawberry maintenance and care
There really isn’t much work to be done while your strawberries grow. Some serious growers will prune and train their plants once flowers start to appear.
You can pick these off, as they really do nothing for you. By doing this, your plants will put all their energy into producing fruit, rather than flowers. This leads to a higher quantity and bigger size of berries.
Harvesting your hydroponic strawberries
To determine when your strawberries are ready for harvest, look for signs of ripeness. Typically, they will be ready around 4 weeks after the first flowers open up.
You can feel for a consistency between firm and soft, and look for consistent red coloring across the berry. If they are still green, they aren’t quite ready.
Unlike certain plants that require trimming, drying, and curing, strawberries can simply be plucked from the plants and consumed!
This is another reason gardeners love keeping an ample supply of strawberries, as they are super easy to grow and harvest.
After reading this guide, you should be well on your way to cultivating your first batch of hydroponically grown strawberries.
If you have any questions about this process, or anything related to growing, reach out to our experts at 888-815-9763 and we will help you get started!