What’s a Strawberry Tower?
Growing strawberries vertically is a concept that’s been around for a while. A tower is an upright structure filled with a growing medium. It may also have a system for irrigation embedded. Towers can be made from metal, plastics or wood. In the case of hydroponic towers, plastic is the most likely material, as it will not be damaged by constant contact with the growing solution.
Types of Towers
There are many styles and types of towers, but all are basically a round or square column with multiple holes or containers for individual plants. PVC sewer pipe is often used by do-it-yourself types as it is relatively easy to cut. The tower is filled with growing medium and watered thoroughly before planting. It should be securely fastened to prevent it tipping over.
In the garden, soil is the growing medium. For hydroponics, you have other alternatives, such as:
- Rockwool/Stonewool – considered the commercial industry standard.
- Perlite Vermiculite – used for seeds and cuttings.
- Expanded Clay Pellets – expensive but can be reused.
- Gravel – heavy, but inexpensive and can be reused.
- Coconut Fiber – organic, good water-holding capabilities.
The Hydroponic System
Hydroponic systems typically have some sort of recirculating method to allow the nutrient fluid to move through the growing medium. Many also have some sort of filtration method to remove waste products. It’s important to understand exactly what kind of fluid you should use – find or get expert advice. Salts can build up on the growing medium and harm plants without proper attention.
Any strawberry variety can be grown in a hydroponic system. June bearers will give the largest crop; they bear only once a year. Ever-bearing strawberries produce smaller crops and berries, but fruit in summer and fall. Both will produce runners – June bearers produce more – which allows you to expand your strawberry “plot” or replace aging plants.
Managing the Hydroponic Tower
If you are growing indoors, you may need to use artificial light, especially when growing winter strawberries. Various testing kits are available to ensure correct pH and nutrient levels. Monitor the system for leaks or clogged tubing and emitters. Keep everything clean to prevent disease and use plants grown in soil-less mediums to prevent the introduction of soil-borne diseases. You will need to hand-pollinate plants grown indoors.