Strawberry – A wonderful luscious fruit to add to your hydroponic garden We at City Greens have started our hydroponic strawberry journey, and in a few months’ time we should be able to share our experiences and learnings with you. Until then here is a small snippet and information so that you can join us in this journey! Have a pleasant one!!
One of the most colorful, delicious and healthy fruits belongs to the genus Fragaria. It is a short-statured bushy plant, with dark green foliage and produces bright red colored fruits. This color is due to the anthocyanin pigment called Pelargonidin-3-glucoside. The best source of flavor in a milkshake, ice creams, and yogurt.
Strawberries can be categorized under low volume high-value fruit as it is rich in Vitamin- C, and Antioxidants. It also contains detoxifiers to counteract the toxic elements in the body.
Strawberry mostly originated from the temperate regions of the world and almost requires similar conditions for its growth. The USA stands first in strawberry production, contributing nearly one-third of the world production. Earlier the crop was restricted only to the temperate parts of the world, but with the evolution of improved varieties and Hi-tech growing conditions, they are being grown all over the world.
When to grow
Strawberries are short-day plants (need exposure to sunlight for about ten days for less than 8 hours to enhance flowering in the plants), need winter conditions to put forth its reproductive growth. For commercial growing, polyhouse/net house/greenhouse is suitable. Nonetheless, you can grow them in pots, containers in backyards, terraces or balconies where plants will get sufficient sunlight.
Whenever we come across strawberry plants or fruits, it’s the most natural progression to think of how one can grow it – at least once in our own gardens. But where do we start? And how do we grow them? From seeds??
Yes, of course, we must sow seeds to get any new plant. But there is one more method to grow plants, i.e., use of any plant parts called as vegetative propagation.
If we sow strawberry seeds, it will take nearly 2-3 years to produce flowers and fruits. Thus, strawberries are commonly propagated through something knows as ‘Runner.’ The runner is a stalk that comes out from the strawberry plant. This stalk will have a plantlet at the tip, which will produce roots and this then develops into a new individual plant when planted in any medium.
Runner propagation is the simplest and fastest method of multiplying strawberry plants.
We can also go for tissue culture plants which will be free from viral diseases.
How do strawberry seeds look?
White or pale-yellow color spikes which are present on the outer surface of the fruit are the seeds of Strawberry. Strawberry seed is technically called by the term ‘Achene.’
Almost all the commercial growing of Strawberries happen with runners. The seeds are used only by breeders to develop newer varieties of this plant and fruit.
How to plant strawberries?
Whatever may be the source of planting material you get, the way of planting them will make the difference between getting a good crop or getting an average or poor crop. So be very careful while planting to not bury the crown part of the plant into the medium.
Strawberries grow well irrespective of the methods you choose. But the main problem with the soil medium is fungal diseases. Also, fruits that sit on the soil surface are easily prone to rot.
Hence one of the best methods to grow Strawberry is using hydroponics.
They can be grown in NFT, DWC or vertical towers.
If you want to go for a substrate method, go for an ideal potting mix which ensures good drainage. Also, the medium should be rich in terms of its nutrients supplied.
In NFT, plants are placed directly in the net pots with the addition of clay pellets to anchor and support the plants. Net pots are then placed in the NFT channel, where the bottom part of the net pot should touch the top of the nutrient solution such that growing roots are always suspended in the nutrient solution. This should be ensured and monitored at the initial stage of growth with much care and caution for this will determine the growth of the crop.
Soft, Succulent, red colored fruits will be seen after 3.5-4 months of planting or 4-6 weeks after flowering. When the fruit develops half or three fourth of its color- this is the maturity indicator to harvest them.
Leave fruits on the plant for 1 or 2 two days after they turn red to get uniformly ripened fruit. Gently pluck the fruits to avoid bruising. You can harvest multiple times from a single plant.
The yield for Strawberry will depend on many factors such as weather, variety, nutrition, etc. A Single strawberry plant will give you an average of 150- 450 grams of strawberry.
Pests to watch out for
Common sucking insects like aphids’ caterpillars will be noticed generally.
Fungal diseases like powdery mildew, leaf spot, leaf blight, Rhizopus rot also impact Strawberry plant. Remove all the infected plant matter and ensure it does not spread to the rest of the plants.
Ensure safe control methods like spraying of fungicides.
Sometimes, we can notice a physiological disorder called Albinism (Albinos=white) which means the production of colorless fruits or white fruits. This is a stress induced disorder that occurs due to extreme climatic conditions and variation in nutrition supplements.
So don’t wait. Join the Journey! To a harvest of yummy and healthy Strawberries grown by none other than you!!
Sushma completed her B. Sc. from College of Horticulture, Hiriyur and M. Sc. from College of Horticulture, Bengaluru. She is an avid gardener with expertise across soil based and soilless gardening techniques using substrates.