Imagine a strawberry. It’s red, juicy, and delicious. You pick it off the vine, pluck off the leaves, and pop it into your mouth.
The sweet juice explodes in your mouth as you bite down on its firm, fleshy center. The experience is so wonderful that you want more – but this time maybe with whipped cream or chocolate sauce!
You can have this delicious experience year-round if you grow your own strawberries. And the best part is, you don’t even need a garden to do it. All you need is a hydroponic system and some determination (and maybe a little bit of help from this guide).
This blog post will explain everything you need to know about growing hydroponic strawberries. This includes the pros and cons of growing hydroponic strawberries, which system can be used for that, and how they compare with soil-grown ones.
Finally, we will take you through the entire process of producing your strawberries with how they are harvested and how to care for strawberry plants – pollination, pruning, and fruit rot.
Why Growing Strawberries Hydroponically?
Hydroponically grown strawberries are a novel way to get your daily dose of fresh strawberries. What are hydroponic strawberries? Those are strawberries grown without the use of soil. Instead, they are grown using a soilless medium and supplied with a nutrient-rich solution. When ready, you can harvest straight from the plant and eat.
What’s more, different plants may be grown in one system – for example, you can grow strawberries alongside herbs and lettuce.
So, what is the difference between hydroponic strawberries and regular strawberries?
- Low Maintenance: strawberries grown hydroponically require minimal maintenance, especially compared to traditional soil-grown plants.
- Time-Saving: The harvesting process is easier and quicker than traditional farming methods. It doesn’t involve digging or weed removal (especially if you grow on a rooftop or balcony)
- No Weeds: weeds are not an issue, as the soil is sterile and sterilized before planting.
- Can be stacked vertically: If you are limited to horizontal space, strawberries also lend themselves very well to vertical growing, so long as you have a hydroponic system that can adapt to this.
- Yield: You can get a greater hydroponic strawberries yield, as you are not limited by the amount of space that you have. You can also harvest all year-round if you have a controlled environment.
- Pest and Disease Control: Pests and diseases are much easier to manage in a hydroponic system as you can more easily monitor the environment
Are hydroponic strawberries better?
In some ways, yes – but it really comes down to personal preference. A study from 2015 actually found that hydroponic strawberries are often described as being ‘sweeter’ than their soil-grown counterparts. This is due to the increased access to oxygen and nutrients which the plant roots have.
Step 1: Decide what you want to grow
Before breaking ground, you need to decide whether to start your hydroponic strawberry garden by growing from seed or starting with seedlings.
Seeds take much longer than seedlings before they are ready to plant and fruit, so this is not an option for you if you’re in a hurry. As a beginner, we recommend starting with seedlings as they are easier to care for and have a higher success rate.
Please read here for our guide on how to start seeds for hydroponics.
When deciding what you want to grow, you may have different questions:
Which Variety Of Strawberry Plant Should I Use?
There are about 1500 different strawberry varieties. For home growers, the most common varieties are everbearing and day-neutral.
Everbearing plants have up to 3 growing seasons while day-neutral strawberry plants continuously bear fruit throughout their lives.
Specific types of strawberries to grow hydroponically are:
- Mara de bois: productive, firm, good sized fruit with very nice flavor
- Albion: large fruit, excellent flavor
- Seascape: popular, firm, good-sized fruit, nice flavor
- Quinault: self-pollinating & wide berries
- Tribute: medium to large berries
How Long Does It Take To Grow Strawberries Hydroponically?
It takes anywhere from 90 to 120 days for hydroponic strawberry plants to produce fruit. If you’re using the right type of hydroponic growing system and it’s working well!
Step 2: Prepping the Hydroponic System
You should set up a hydroponic system before you even start planting anything. So take the time to put together your growing area, make sure it looks neat and tidy, and try not to let too many roots touch the same surface as this could lead to rot.
In terms of choosing a hydroponic system appropriate for growing strawberries, there are 3 central systems we need to consider. Deep water culture and aquaponics are less appropriate for this purpose.
Ebb and flow System
This system is the most popular among hydroponic strawberry growers. It involves using a timer to regulate how often water gets pumped into the growing tray or container filled with nutrient solution and your plants. It can be every few minutes, hours, or even days.
The pump cycles on and off, allowing for maximum absorption of nutrients by the strawberry roots. While minimizing standing water in the troughs where your strawberries are planted.
We recommend using:
- Hydrofarm MGSYS Hydroponic Megagarden Ebb & Flow System
- Active Aqua EBB-12 Grow Flow Ebb & Gro 12 Site Hydroponic System
- Hydrofarm Active Aqua Grow Flow Ebb
The downside: This type of system requires more work. You have to monitor and control when this happens (by adjusting timers accordingly). You’ll also need pumps which will cost some money upfront but then pay for themselves over time thanks to their low maintenance requirements.
It doesn’t require any tools because all you do is fill the container with water and nutrient solution (and strawberries, of course). But that means you’ll need to check on them often for any leak.
Hydroponic drip system
This system is also reasonably easy to set up but does require some upfront investment. You will need a timer and pump, which you can order online or buy from your local hydroponics supplier.
The basics of this type of strawberry growing kit are that it’s an assembly-required drip irrigation system. Plants won’t be sitting in water. They’ll just be suspended above the surface (which also means less chance for rot).
We recommend using:
- Blumat Drip System – 12 Pack Medium Deluxe Kit with Reservoir
- DIY Micro Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit
- The Atwater HydroPod
The downside: There’s more work involved when setting up this kind of hydroponic strawberries growing system and maintaining it regularly. So make sure you don’t get tempted by cheaper kits!
Nutrient Film Technique
This system is perfect if you’re looking for a low-cost way to grow hydroponically in your backyard or balcony. Because it doesn’t require expensive equipment as other systems do. But there’s more work involved here as well – just not upfront costs.
NFT stands for Nutrient Film Technique, which has plants growing in a container filled with nutrient solution. The plants are at the top of the tank. There is always some water running through it to provide continuous availability of nutrients.
To make sure this does its job correctly, you have to manually pump the liquid up onto the film at regular intervals so that it can drip back down again and keep.
We recommend using:
- LAPOND Hydroponic Grow Kit, Hydroponics Growing System
- WEPLANT NFT System Hydroponic 72 Plant Site Grow Kit
The downside: It takes up more growing space than other systems because you’ll need containers or troughs for growing your strawberries and water. Plus, you’ll need a pump to keep the liquid flowing correctly. It’s worth mentioning that because of its high initial setup cost, NFT is recommended for commercial-level growers only.
There are also other smart planters that you can use like:
- Aerospring 27-Plant Vertical Hydroponics Indoor Growing System
- AeroGarden Bounty Basic – Indoor Garden with LED Grow Light, Black
- Click & Grow Indoor Herb Garden Kit with Grow Light
Step 3: Planting Your Strawberries
This step is super easy. Fill the net pots halfway with your chosen growing media. Carefully insert your plant’s root system (which you should have rinsed thoroughly), then fill to the top with water.
What type of growing medium should I use?
One aspect of growing a strawberry plant hydroponically that is important to understand is the growing medium. The growing medium is used as a base where the plant’s roots grow through and help anchor its position, providing stability while absorbing nutrients from the solution above.
Strawberries need good aeration, so they should be grown on a substrate with 15% porosity. Common ones are growstones, clay pebbles, coconut coir, or Rockwool. There are many other forms of growing media available, too!
Based on this understanding, the University of Arizona conducted a small trial in 2008, examining different substrates and substrate mix:
- granulated Rockwool
- 100% coconut coir
- 50% coconut coir + 50% perlite
- 70% coco nut coir + 30% perlite
The growth and yield of strawberry plants were restricted when 100% coconut coir was used as the growing medium. Better results were achieved when using Rockwool, and the best results were achieved when perlite was used, supporting their hypothesis of the importance of oxygen availability.
The current growing medium the University of Arizona uses in its greenhouse is a mix of 50% perlite, 25% coconut coir, and 25% peat. The addition of peat is for better pH management as their source water has high pH.
Step 4: Fertilizing Your Hydroponic Strawberries
The thing about strawberries is that they need many nutrients to grow and produce fruit, so make sure you never forget this step!
Soil-grown plants need nutrient-rich soil from which they draw their food – but this doesn’t apply to hydroponics! You’ll have to find a fertilizer to ensure your strawberry plant gets all of its necessary nutrients.
When picking the proper hydroponic nutrients for strawberries, you can choose whether you’re looking for organic or chemical fertilizer and what form you want it in.
To make things simple for beginners, we recommend using a liquid fertilizer that’s easy to mix into your reservoir. This way, you can more easily control your plants’ amount of nutrients.
When using chemical fertilizer, make sure you’re using one that’s specifically designed for hydroponic use. This is because the general-purpose chemical fertilizers you might find at a hardware store aren’t always ideal for plants grown without soil.
Things get a little more complicated when it comes to organic hydroponic nutrients for strawberries. This is because you’ll need to find a source of organic nutrients that can be dissolved in water – which can be challenging to find. Once you find a source, you’ll also need to make sure the nutrient levels are high enough to support plant growth.
The two main categories of critical nutrients are:
- Macronutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium
- Trace elements (Micronutrients): those act as secondary nutrients – Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulphur
The system you choose to grow with will depend on your own preferences. But the important thing is that you find nutrients for strawberries tailored to what type of environment they’re going to be grown in!
Also worth mentioning that you’ll need to keep an eye on the pH of your reservoir. Strawberries prefer a slightly acidic environment, so you’ll want to make sure the pH of your nutrient solution is between
There are many hydroponic nutrition formulas for strawberries. Still, the most popular ones are General Hydroponics, and Farm Fox. They will provide the necessary macronutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and trace elements.
How often do you need to feed?
The amount of time you need to feed strawberries will depend on the type of system they’re in. In a hydroponic garden, it’s best not to overfeed your plants. This can lead to an excess buildup of salts, turning into toxic substances and eventually killing them.
The general recommendation is to feed your growing strawberry plants twice a week.
How Often Should The Nutrient Solution Be Changed?
You should change the nutrient solution every 2 to 3 weeks or every 5 to 6 days if there are many plants.
You mustn’t pour off too much fertilizer at once, or else your soil can become depleted and suppress new growth. To avoid this, add just a little bit of water with the diluted liquid fertilizer to the outside edges of your soil. Soak it up from there (this will ensure that nutrients are going down as far as they need). Finally, take any other possible steps mentioned by your manufacturer!
What should be the PH level?
Hydroponic systems generally prefer an optimal pH range of 5.5 to 6.5, ideal for strawberry plants. For best results, aim for a pH of between 5.8 and 6.2 when cultivating strawberries with a basic pH meter to keep your levels consistent.
The easiest way to check for pH is to use test strips that are relatively inexpensive and have a high success rate! Alternatively, you can buy a pH meter that is more precise and gives readings on an actual scale that goes from one to fourteen instead of just “high/low”.
Step 5: Taking Care of a Hydroponic Strawberry Plant
A hydroponic strawberry, being a fruit, still requires some care! There are a few different ways to do this, but pollination, pruning, and fruit rot are the most common.
A strawberry plant can be pollinated by bees or other types of bugs. This is how nature does it, so you should try to mimic this for the best results! Pollination encourages cross-pollination and increases fruit production in plants.
You can pollinate hydroponics strawberries using a small paintbrush or cotton swab to move pollen from the male plant’s stamen (where it can easily be seen) and transfer it onto the female parts of another strawberry.
Pruning is necessary because plants need space to grow. If your berry bush has grown too large with many weak branches, don’t worry – just follow these simple steps: Cut through a few stems at their base (don’t clip them).
You’ll want to trim off about 25% of leaves per cut stem. Although pruning doesn’t affect yield significantly, it will keep your entire garden tidy. It can help prevent fungus from forming on old berries, which reduces quality.
Fruit rot is defined as any decay on your strawberry’s outside or inside layer. This is usually caused by overwatering them or having too much fertilizer close to their roots. This makes your strawberries taste bitter when eaten.
Fortunately, these fruit rot diseases can be avoided by picking your strawberries as soon as they ripen. If you end up with a fruit rot disease, an application of neem oil can help eradicate it.
What’s the best way to water, and what should be its temperature?
Ensure the nutrient solution in your water has been appropriately diluted and that you’re not watering too often or infrequently.
Strawberries are the fruit of winter. They thrive in cool conditions, and they prefer an ideal temperature range of 15-27 degrees Celsius during their growing season.
The agricultural cultivation in Arizona noticed that in the winter night, at a temperature of 10-20 degrees Celsius, the yield of the strawberry fruit has been increased.
What should I do with my strawberries when they have a disease? How does it spread, and how can I stop it from spreading more?
There are many ways a plant can get infected with diseases, and one way is by being too close to other plants that have the same disease. Make sure you give your strawberry plants plenty of room, so it doesn’t spread more!
You should also make sure you don’t overwater or over-fertilize them – this will cause your strawberries to taste bitter when eaten also use a good quality clean potting mix or soil each time.
What about humidity?
Maintaining the proper humidity level is critical for growing strawberries. Low humidity affects calcium uptake, which affects photosynthesis and fruit quality. You need to maintain at least 60-75% relative air humidity–a higher nighttime humidity benefits nutrient movement during the day.
How much light do hydroponics strawberries need?
Hydroponic strawberries need at least 8 – 12 hours of direct sunlight each day. If you live somewhere, that doesn’t get a lot of sun during the winter months.
It’s best to invest in some artificial light such as LED or HID lights.
Step 6: Harvesting Your Hydroponic Strawberries
Berries are ready to be picked when at least three-quarters of the fruit’s surface has changed from green to red. The berries will also feel soft and give little when lightly squeezed.
You can harvest them by hand or with a pair of small scissors, taking care not to damage the plant. Eat them fresh, use them in a recipe, or store them in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy your delicious hydroponically grown strawberries!
Do hydroponic strawberries taste different?
The answer to that question is a big “maybe“.
Many people notice differences in taste, texture, and sweetness when they eat fruits or vegetables grown hydroponically. This has to do with the nutrient solution, which often differs from one hydroponic system to another, resulting in different tastes.
Another element is the smaller surface area of strawberries than soil-grown plants meaning less airflow (oxygen) gets through them. That also enhances their sweetness.
One thing is for sure: even if you do not notice any change in taste or chemical composition, hydroponic growing will introduce you to healthier habits and new ways of enjoying your favorite fruit.
Are Hydroponic Strawberries Organic?
This is a controversial subject…
Some people will argue that because hydroponic strawberries don’t have any dirt, they’re not “organic” by definition. But others might say that since the soil is replaced with nutrient-rich water and no pesticides or fertilizers are being used – it’s just as organic if not more so!
We hope you found this post helpful in understanding how to grow hydroponic strawberries. It will help you turn your own garden into a more successful venture.