Saturday, May 3, 2008

Strawberries, one more time

Having spent a great deal of time last winter attempting to grow hydroponic strawberries with no success, I am going to give it another try, with a much different approach. Many of the commercial growers appear to be using vertical drip irrigation stacks to grow strawberries. And, they are growing outdoors, and in many instances under netting or shade cloth.
My approach is to try to grow them in an flood and drain system filled with expanded clay pellets. Strawberries will rot if they touch damp soil, so I felt I needed a dry surface for the fruit to rest upon. The expanded clay will remain dry on the surface, and if need be I will place dowels under the plants to support the berries. Additionally, they are planted close to the edges so berries can cascade down the sides.
I have a mixture of plants in the containers shown above. In the black container the large plant in the upper right is an Alpine called Temptation. It was started from seed in February and has berries forming already. The plants in the lower right and upper left corners are Sarian, and were also started from seed in March. Sarian is a new variety of a traditional berry developed in Holland for home gardens, and it is supposed to be the very best for home gardeners. Time will tell. The remaining plants are all Seascape runners purchased from Agway. Seascape is also a new variety that is supposed to be the latest and greatest. In the portable greenhouse I am growing a Quinault berry in soil. I read on a hydroponic site that Quinault is the only self pollinating berry, and the author was trying to locate them. Well, I have one, and did not pollinate it, and I have monkey faced berries which result, I believe, from inadequate pollination. So I guess you can't believe everything you read. My interest in the Quinault was to obtain runners to place in cold storage for growing indoors next winter. However, the Sarian plants are producing runners like mad, so I should have a few options for the winter experiment.
Pollinating strawberries with an artist brush is not my favorite activity, and hopefully a few bees will wander into the greenhouse and take care of that little chore.
Last, but not least, the white tub on the right in the photo was a stacking sweater storage box purchased from the local supermarket for about six dollars. Again, hydroponics does not need to be high tech or costly.

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