Hydroponic farming involves growing plants in a water-based nutrient solution rather than in soil. This actually requires less water than soil irrigation and allows the farmer to control growing conditions. Strawberry plants produce large, juicy, unblemished fruit when grown hydroponically. There are now farms where customers can pick their own hydroponically grown strawberries.
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Hydroponically grown strawberry plants enjoy greater yields with fewer losses. Weeds, disease and pests are nearly nonexistent for hydroponically grown strawberries. The chemical methyl bromide is commonly sprayed on strawberry plants grown in soil to protect against these problems, but methyl bromide is facing a worldwide ban due environmental and health concerns. This may speed a shift towards hydroponic growing.
Start your strawberries from a runner, preferably with flower or buds visible, that has been clipped and rooted from a mature strawberry plant and kept in cold storage. Remove soil from your runner and put the roots in water for at least ten minutes. You must keep the roots moist while planting. If you are using a plant growing media, make sure it is moist.
Generally a hydroponic system that constantly drips nutrient solution onto the plant or a system that keeps roots submerged is best for strawberries. Temperature is actually more important than light for strawberries. Different strawberry varieties will have their preferred temperature range. Your nutrient solution should be at a pH of 5.8 to 6.2 for maximum strawberry growth.
Because your strawberry plants don't have to be sitting on the ground, harvesting is easier. Strawberries must be picked when they are fully ripe as they do not continue to ripen like other fruits. Be sure to put some runners into cold storage for your next crop. You can restart your strawberries at staggered times to ensure fruit year round.
The upfront costs of equipment for growing strawberries hydroponically are very restrictive, but not having to buy pesticides or herbicides, growing more strawberries in less space and being able to have consistent strawberries in any climate may help offset these costs. Growing other crops, such as winter vegetables, during the off seasons can help recoup the costs of the hydroponic equipment.
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