I am growing strawberries in DWC also called deep water culture. I will explain about growing strawberries indoors hydroponically and how to do it successfully.
Totem Strawberries For DWC Unboxing
My Totem strawberry plants just arrived and I am going to unbox them in this video. I only ordered 10 plants to start because I will get more from the runners.
How To Start Growing Strawberries In DWC
I am using an old aero cloner I had laying around to grow my DWC strawberries. You can use any size tote to do this but a 10-gallon Rubbermaid tote works great.
I am using 2-inch net pots because that is the size my cloner uses but if you are starting from scratch you can use 3-inch net pots.
You will want to cut the bottom off your net pots so the roots can hang down. You need foam inserts for your pots too.
You will need to enlarge the opening in them so they fit around the strawberry plant’s crown.
IMPORTANT the crown must be totally above your water line. If it isn’t it will rot and kill your plant. Only the roots should be in the water.
This holds true for all hydroponic systems and even in an outdoor garden the crown needs to be above the soil line.
The video above shows growing strawberries in DWC. I just started it but I will be updating things once it is growing.
Although I am using an old clone machine for the container and the top there is no pump inside. Just airstones.
It was just laying around so I decided I would grow some DWC strawberries in it. But you can use a tub or a 5-gallon bucket too.
I washed all the dirt from the roots before using the plants. I also sterilized the unit with a strong bleach solution.
This uses a two-inch net pot and I cut the bottom off it. I am only putting four plants in and the other holes need to be covered with pots and inserts too.
You dont want any light getting in because it can cause algae growth.
In the video, you can see the roots are hanging down and you can see the crown is above the ends of the foam insert. That’s important.
I did have to enlarge the hole in the insert in order to get it to fit around the crowns. I don’t want too tight a fit. Smaller plants are easier to work with.
I trimmed the roots a little bit to even them up. I also trimmed off any extra branches on top.
I only have four strawberry plants in there and that should be plenty because they’re going to runner.
The rest of these plants are going to go outside in a day or two. This is a variety called Totem and it’s a Pacific Northwest variety that bears two crops one in the spring and one in the fall.
Growing Strawberries In DWC Pros And Cons
Growing strawberries in DWC is probably the easiest hydro system to build and set up. You only need a tote or bucket, a net pot, and an airstone.
Other systems also will work but NFT, flood and drain or drip systems are more complicated and costly to set up and run correctly.
Soilless Growing Eliminates Many Pests
When you eliminate soil you eliminate many bugs and soilborne diseases from your project. Soil organisms can cause berries to rot and many bugs hide in the soil.
You may still have bugs that attack the leaves but it is unlikely. Overall you will use fewer pesticides or other chemical solutions growing in DWC.
DWC Uses Less Fertilizer And Water
You will not be wasting fertilizer and water in DWC because everything you put in your system goes directly to the plant.
A container plant or garden is much more wasteful. You have run off or you have to feed and water a much larger area in an outdoor garden.
Because roots in a DWC system have access to nutrients 24/7 you will use fewer nutrients. You can use half the amount used in any other system.
Extended Harvest Time
If you grow the right varieties you can harvest strawberries year-round instead of seasonally.
If you have to buy out-of-season fruit or vegetables they are usually considerably more expensive and nowhere near as fresh as yours.
So you can save additional money growing your own strawberries and other vegetables and they will be freshly harvested.
Nothing is ever perfect and everything has a downside including growing DWC strawberries.
More Attention Needed
This is the biggest downside to growing hydroponically no matter what system you use. You have to monitor and care for it.
Out in a garden, many things are taken care of by mother nature. Sunlight, rain, and the soil itself feed and look after your plants.
But indoors you become the provider of LED lights instead of sunlight. You are the rainmaker and supply the plant food.
It is not difficult to grow strawberries in DWC and it is easier than many other ways to grow a crop but neither is it set it and forget it.
Growing Hydroponic Strawberries Starts With The Right Varieties
There are two main types of strawberries. June bearing and day-neutral. June bearing strawberries produce one large crop and they are done for the year.
Since we are growing strawberries indoors we don’t want a plant that only bears once. We want a continuous harvest of fresh berries.
So unless you only want one crop and plan on saving crowns or buying new plants every year you will want day-neutral varieties.
Totem is a bit different in that it produces a June crop and a 2nd crop again in October. So technically it is not a day-neutral but an everbearing variety.
It also bears fruit on its runners which holds the berries off the ground. It is very good for freezing and is heavily planted commercially where I live so it’s a good choice for growing outdoors too.
You don’t have to grow hydroponic strawberries in deep water culture. Other hydro systems like NFT (nutrient film technique) and flood and drain work well too.
Many commercially grown hydroponic strawberries are grown in greenhouses using Rockwool slabs or NFT systems.
NFT systems or Rockwool can be used at home too but they require more setup time than DWC.
Here is a link to my article on building DWC bubble buckets Bubble Bucket Hydroponics [ Supercharge Your Growth ] (indoorvegetablegrower.com)
Here is a link to building a DWC tote Kratky Lettuce Easily Grow Lettuce With A Kratky Method Hydroponic System DIY (indoorvegetablegrower.com)
If you want a really easy setup for hydroponic strawberries you can even grow strawberries in an AeroGarden with a few modifications.
Can You Grow Strawberries In An AeroGarden?
People often ask if you can grow strawberries in an AeroGarden and the answer is yes. The AeroGarden is very similar to DWC but may not have airstones.
If you want to grow strawberries in an AeroGarden I would definitely recommend adding them. There are black rubber plugs in the back of the lid to add airlines.
Don’t Use AeroGarden Strawberry Seed Pods
You really don’t want to buy the strawberry pods that are seeded because they will take you two to three years before you get any berries.
And they may not even be that good. The reason we grow strawberries from runners is they’re just like the mother plant and that means is every plant is identical.
But when you grow stuff from seed it varies. The seeds by the way are actually on
the outside of the strawberry.
The problem with growing strawberries from seed is they don’t necessarily grow true to the variety so you could have anything there.
When researchers create strawberries from seed they grow hundreds even thousands and eliminate all but the best plants.
Also, you would be tying up your AeroGarden for two years at least and so I wouldn’t do it
How To Grow Strawberries In An AeroGarden
If you want to do it get some strawberry plants.
You will need to keep the crowns up above the water because otherwise, they will rot.
So what you would need to do is take some of those little pod baskets and remove the sponge and you will put your plant in there.
You could even clip part of the bottom off of the pod if it makes it easier to get the roots in. And you can trim the roots a bit too.
Then you would need to pack around the crown with Rockwool or something like that because you don’t want light getting in your root zone.
Make sure only the roots themselves are in the water. I think it is easier if you use smaller plants for this.
Some Hydroponic Strawberry FAQ
Can you grow strawberries indoors year-round?
Yes, you can grow strawberries year-round if you choose day-neutral varieties.
Are hydroponic strawberries better?
They certainly can be better than strawberries from an outdoor garden. For one thing, they don’t have to deal with extremes of weather.
As long as you use an automated hydroponic watering system they will never experience drought.
Assuming you use a well-balanced hydroponic fertilizer they will have all the nutrients they need. But many outdoor soils are deficient in some nutrients or soil conditions may make them unavailable.
I believe hydroponic strawberries are at least as good if not better than regular strawberries depending a lot on the care they are given.
Are hydroponic strawberries safe to eat?
Hydroponic strawberries are safe to eat especially when compared to what is available in the supermarket.
Commercially grown strawberries are exposed to many harmful chemicals. Even before they are planted the soil is fumigated with harsh chemicals.
Then they are sprayed with fungicides and insecticides throughout the growing season. Strawberries are soft-bodied fruit so they can absorb these sprays.
If you think organic strawberries are a safer option please be aware organic farmers also spray their berries. They just use less harmful chemicals.
If you compare your homegrown hydroponic strawberries to that they are much safer to eat and you know what they are fed and if sprayed with what.
Are strawberries easy to grow hydroponically?
Strawberries are an easy plant to grow hydroponically and a good crop for beginners. They also reproduce from runners so getting more plants is easy.
How long does it take for strawberries to grow in hydroponics?
A lot depends on what kind of strawberries you are growing. Strawberries from seed can take up to 3 years.
In the garden, if healthy plants are set out in late March they will have a crop in June. So figure on 90 days for your first harvest.
Indoor hydroponic strawberries should yield a bit sooner than that outside. They may be up to 2 weeks earlier but you cant force it so let nature take its course.
Here is some general info on growing strawberries https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2073/2014/03/070408.pdf