Friday, December 13, 2013

Hydroponic Strawberries

Here it comes! I finally made a hydroponics setup!
I wanted to make one for a long time, searching on the internet and on YouTube. Have you ever noticed how if you type "hydroponic" on YouTube you get about 10,000 videos made by stoned college students showing their "secret" marijuana closets to the world? (hint- it's not secret if you show your face and post it on the internet... And at least film them when you are sober)

But anyway, I found one video which-although the man was clearly planting lettuce at some sort of public facility has the title "How To CHEAP Hydroponic System Hydro Grow Marijuana Weed Tutorial." (the video has since been removed) It was a very concise video about how to make a simple, cheap system with a minimum of tools. So I am going to grow some hydroponic strawberries. I am so excited about this, I made a paper tutorial as well!

You can easily make this an aquaponics setup by adding fish and a bed of media for bacteria to colonize. I plan on doing that in the near future to compare. But I already have an aquaponics setup, and I want to try a hydro now. I also have 18 new strawberries in the old rice paddy, so I can compare three types of growing.

A bit of advice- You can change some of the details. If you can't find the same sizes, materials, or tools, just adapt and adjust. It is basically water flowing downhill through tubes.
Hydroponic Strawberries 1/3
(click to enlarge)
Hydroponic Strawberries 2/3
(click to enlarge)
Hydroponic Strawberries 3/3
(click to enlarge)

1. Materials you need:

  • one- five gallon/ 20L bucket.
  • one- roll of electrical tape
  • two- 75mm x 200cm PVC pipe (six to eight feet of 3" pipe is fine)
  • one- 75mm x 15cm PVC pipe (You can cut 6" off of the pipe from above. It'll still work OK.)
  • three- 25mm x 200cm PVC pipe (six to eight feet of 1" pipe)
  • three- 75mm  90 degree PVC pipe joints.
  • eight- 25mm  90 degree pipe joints
  • 20 plastic cups or hydroponic net cups
  • 1 small roll of a rather thick, unwoven (like felt or garden row covers) synthetic cloth. Filters are often made of this material
  • 1 aquarium pump
  • 60cm (2 feet) of garden hose that fits the aquarium pump.
  • 1 bag of hydroton, perlite, vermiculite, or the growing medium of your choice.
  • hydroponic nutrient solution. 
2. Tools:
  • box cutter or knife
  • saw
  • tape measure
  • marker
  • electric drill
  • hole saw (my holes are 57mm (2.25") diameter- (1 1/8" radius) you can adjust this to your needs)

3. Measure and cut: 

The 25mm (1") PVC is for the base. Measure (twice!) and cut:
  • 30cm x 2        (12 inches)
  • 40cm x 2        (16 inches)
  • 45 cm x 2       (18 inches)
  • 170 cm x 2     (68 inches)
* make a cut diagram if you are using longer or shorter PVC pipe than I listed.

The 75mm (3") PVC is for the grow tubes. 
Draw a straight line down the pipe (a 2x4 on the floor next to the pipe can help you make the line nice and straight)
Start 10cm (4") from one end and mark the pipe at 20cm (8") intervals on that line. 
Use the hole saw and electric drill to cut out holes along the marks. 

4.1 Assembly of Base
  • Attach one 30cm crosspiece to the 40 cm legs with the 90 degree joints. 
  • Attach the other 30 cm crosspiece to the 45 cm legs with 90 degree joints. 
  • Lay the 170 cm pipes on the floor, and attach them to the two end pieces you just made with... you guessed it, the other four 90 degree joints. 
  • It should look like a really wiiiiiiiiiiiiide "U" with one side 5 cm shorter than the other. 
4.2 Assembly of Grow Tubes: (see illustration)
  • Put 90 degree joints on both ends of one grow tube, then lay it on the base.
  • Put the short, 15cm connector on the shorter, 40cm side of the base, and connect it to the second tube with a 90 degree joint.
  • The second tube PASSES UNDER THE 45cm support and must be tied or taped into place with electrical tape.
  • Secure the grow tubes to the base with lashings of electrical tape.
  • When the holes of the grow tubes are all arranged properly up, use electrical tape to seal the joints
  • Put the 5gal bucket under the lower pipe exit.
5. Planting:
  • Prepare the cups- cut a small slot in the bottom of the cups with a utility knife/ box cutter
  • Cut strips of cloth to use for wicks. About 2.5 cm (1") wide and 15cm (6") long
  • Thread them halfway through the slots in the cups.
  • Fill the cups about halfway with growing media (perlite, peat moss, coconut coir, hydroton....). Arrange the wick so it is standing up, not crushed to the bottom under the media. 
  • Put in your strawberry plants and fill the rest of the way. Make sure you don't cover the crown of the berry.
6. Starting Up:
  • Place your prepared cups in the holes of the grow tubes, making sure the wicks are touching the bottom of the grow tube.
  • Put your aquarium pump in the bottom of the 5 gal bucket below the lower pipe's exit.
  • Attach the 60cm garden hose to the pump, and lead it to the upper pipe's entrance.
  • Fill the bucket with hydroponic nutrients (follow their instructions for mixing proper amounts)
  • Plug in the pump and let it run. 
  • Top off the nutrient solution as necessary.
  • You can use this system with just about any non- root vegetable. i.e. carrots and potatoes are not suited for this, but lettuce and bok choi are.
  • To prevent algae growth, keep the nutrient solution out of the sun as much as possible. Devise a cover for the bucket, etc...
  • I use unwoven poly cloth for the wicks, but almost any cloth will work. Natural fibers will decay quickly though.
  • Your growing media can be just about any inert media, not just the lightweight expanded clay aggregate in the illustration. Coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite, pea gravel, etc...

1 comment:

  1. Hi eric i like ur idea. Where can i buy nutrient solution in japan i live in kurashiki (okayama)