Everyone can be tempted to grow strawberries in their backyard. Who could not be? They are very delicious and filled with amazing nutrients like manganese, potassium, and vitamin C richer than orange.
But strawberries are not suited for all backyards. They have environmental requirements to grow into healthy and sweet strawberries. The good news is they are suitable for growing with aquaponics.
Strawberries are an excellent choice to grow with aquaponics because they only take a small space in which to grow. Since strawberries can grow in soilless environments it makes them a good candidate to grow in an aquaponics system. Most importantly, they need little attention to flourish, making strawberries low maintenance and a good choice for beginners.
However, even though they are easy to grow, there are crucial reminders that you have to know to be successful in growing strawberries with aquaponics. To do that, you have to take note of the following information.
How To Grow Strawberries in Aquaponics
In growing strawberries in an aquaponics system, you have to know the following:
1. Set the temperature perfectly
For starters, strawberries prefer cooler temperatures that is why you do not normally see them growing in places with extreme heat conditions. But you can grow them during winter when the temperature has already dropped and strawberries can grow perfectly.
The perfect temperature for strawberries is around 60-80°F or 15-26°C. This temperature is a safe line to choose fish of any kind to add to the aquaponics system.
Furthermore, the air temperature also plays a crucial role in the growth of strawberries starting from their flower up to the actual fruit. The daytime temperature of about 60-80°F and the nighttime temperature of 55°F will help the strawberries to grow larger fruits.
2. Balance water pH
The next thing to look for is the pH level of the water. The pH level must be perfect for both fish and plants to grow and live.
Strawberries can survive in water with 5.5 to 6.5 levels of pH. The higher levels of acidity will kill the strawberries. Thus, the pH level of your water should be around this number.
This is pretty obvious because strawberries, like any other plant, need a supply of nutrients to grow. Strawberries need potassium more than any leafy vegetables. The potassium helps them produce those sweet and lovely vibrant red fruits.
One way to add potassium and calcium is by increasing the pH level of your water but do not make it to a point that it becomes too acidic or else the strawberries will die.
4. Use the NFT System
The NFT system is one of the different methods of an aquaponics system. The NFT stands for nutrient film technique. This method works by pumping the water from the fish tank into a channel to reach the plants and absorb its nutrients before it flows back to the fish tank.
The water from the fish tank is filled with rich nutrients due to fish waste and this will feed the strawberries. The NFT system is a continuous flow which means the water can flow from the fish tank to the plants and the cycle continues.
5. Choose your fish
Since you are growing strawberries in an aquaponics system, it is expected that they need a friend to accompany them and that is fish. You can pick any fish starting from tilapia, crappie, koi, or sunfish. The acidity required by strawberries in the water is within the tolerance range of most fish.
If you are new to using aquaponics, the logical choice is using tilapia because you can eat them after they grow in average size. It’s a win-win situation because you harvest fish together with strawberries. But if you want to go for a little adventure, then you might consider another type of fish.
6. Prepare your strawberries to grow
When growing strawberries in aquaponics, it is not viable that you grow them from seeds because they take two to three for the plants to develop fruits. Hence, the alternative option is to purchase them as runners. The plant produces runners to clone itself which will then cut off to be used for the next generation.
This is where you can get your strawberry plants to grow in your aquaponics system. Take a visit to some close friends who happen to grow strawberries in aquaponics and get yourself some runners and buy them from them. If you do not have any close friends, you can go directly to any garden store or fellow gardener and ask for some runners for your aquaponics system.
Two Designs of Growing Strawberries In Aquaponics
There are many designs to grow strawberries in aquaponics depending on the preference of the grower. Sometimes, the grower designs aquaponics based on how it can be convenient for them. Nevertheless, you can use these two designs to your advantage:
• PVC Tower Design
The PVC Tower design is a sustainable and cheap growing bed compared to other growing beds. The PVC Tower works by putting holes all over the PVC with enough space for strawberries to not strangle while maximizing the number of strawberry plants to be put in the PVC. Afterward, the PVC Tower is attached to the main PVC line where the water is channeled back to the fish tank.
Once the strawberries are starting to grow in their independent holes, the water filled with nutrients from the fish tank is pumped from atop and slowly trickles their way down ensuring that all plants get as many nutrients as possible. This is a better way of keeping the roots wet without soaking them in the water all the time or else they will not flourish.
• NFT System
Of course, the other design is the NFT System that is used by commercial farmers. The main reason why commercial farmers use this technique is that harvesting is way easy. You can experience this too if you follow this design.
Health Benefits of Strawberries
Aside from it being a delicious fruit, strawberries are also responsible for holding many health benefits that our body needs. The nutrients available in a cup of strawberries can be broken down as follows:
• 49 calories
• 2 mg of Sodium
• 0.5g of Fat
• 11.7g of Carbohydrates
• 1g of Protein
• 3g of Fiber
• 7.4g of Sugar
Moreover, strawberries also possess an antioxidant property called fisetin. Strawberry is found to be rich in fisetin which makes it good for heart improvement, increase in good cholesterol levels, and blood pressure regulation. Another benefit of strawberries is that they are good for the brain, eye, and skin health.
Common Problems in Growing Strawberries
Like any other plant, strawberries are not safe from any problems that you may encounter when growing them. Some of these problems are:
Pests are a common problem for almost any plant. Pests like weevils, slugs, and sap bugs attack plants including strawberries. Birds can also attack your strawberries if you grow them in an outdoor aquaponics system.
• Extreme Heat
Outdoor aquaponics systems might encounter problems like prolonged heat conditions. Strawberries tend to produce smaller fruits if exposed to prolonged heat conditions. However, everything can go back to normal when the weather has improved to their side.
• Water Quality
High levels of ammonia can kill the strawberries. Be sure to monitor the water quality from time to time.
There you have it! A comprehensive ‘low down’ on strawberries! A guide on how to grow them, what you need and why and what you don’t need and why. Pests and health benefits – it’s all set out above. We’ve given you the best information we have available.
Who doesn’t love a strawberry (we’re not talking about donkeys here)! They are a very nutritious and health-giving fruit – even diabetics are allowed to eat strawberries!
Why don’t you try your hand at producing some beautiful red and succulent, sweet, strawberries – can you imagine that? Have fun!