Those who have tasted strawberries grown in an aquaponics farm will agree that their taste is superior to those sold in the stores or markets. There seems to be nothing more pleasing than enjoying some delicious strawberries cultivated in your aquaponics farm. While growing them in this way is easy, there are some important things to know.
Why Aquaponics Strawberries?
It is a fact that strawberries grow fine in a soilless setup. Apart from the superior taste, a key benefit of growing strawberries in your aquaponics farm or garden is vertical survival. Yes, they can survive in a vertical space. This is beneficial for home growers, as it saves much space and becomes easy to rear the berries.
Due to the need of little space, you can even use baskets and a floating raft for cultivating these berries. Further, little care is required to cultivate them, due to which the first-time setters of aquaponics prefer strawberries.
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It is unfeasible to grow strawberries using its seed, as it is likely to take around two to three years to get the fruits. A more efficient alternative is to use runners to plant them in your aquaponics system. Strawberry plants tend to have many long stalks without leaves, which are known as runners used for cloning themselves. They are then cut off to cultivate new strawberries.
Requirements for Growing Aquaponics Strawberries
Before you know the requirements, you need to comprehend the life cycle of a strawberry plant. This will help you to grow them in your aquaponics farm or garden. Strawberries are from the Rose family. They are strong perennials that become dormant in winter and come back to life by spring. Like other plants, you need to fulfill the following requirements to set up an aquaponics system.
Right Type and Technique of Aquaponics System
Strawberries grow well on a vertical tower and on a media bed (media such as pebbles and gravel) below which lies your fish tank. If vertical towering is not possible, you can use the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) setup. Deep Water Culture (DWC) is not ideal, as you need to harvest the fruits once they start hanging down. Vertical towers are quite popular. They have fish water rich in nutrients driven to the top from where it trickles via gravel in the towers to feed the plants.
Strawberries survive well in a cool climate, meaning they need low temperatures. However, this does not mean aquaponics strawberries cannot be an option in a hot climate. It is possible there with some preparation and planting them at the right time. You just need to have the berries ready for harvesting in mid-winter instead of early summer or late spring. The best temperature for growing them in your aquaponics garden is 60 to 80°F. This range is suitable for most fish to thrive as well. At night, the air temperature should be quite lower, around 55°F to ensure boosted yields.
Water pH Level
Sustaining the pH level of water is important for the health of the full aquaponics system. It needs to be suitable for both the berries and fish. For strawberries, the water’s pH level should be between 5.5 and 6.5. Too acidic water shall kill both the fish and berry plants. Although this pH level for strawberries is somewhat less than what most aquaponics plants need, it is still suitable for most fish species.
The best fish for growing strawberries as a beginner is tilapia. These species are hardy and can adjust to water quality changes. Other fish species to consider are carp, koi, and sunfish.
As fruiting plants, strawberries would demand more potassium than those yielding leafy greens. Thus, it is highly recommended to plant strawberries only when there is a well-set system. Such a system has already witnessed some trials and errors of boosting the pH level for which you already have added potassium and calcium. These minerals are then used for fruit production.
Common Issues to Handle while Growing Aquaponics Strawberries
The most common issue that you are likely to face is a pest attack. A few common pests are likely to thrive on your strawberries by attacking them, which are bud weevils, sap bugs, spittle bugs, and slugs.
Especially while growing the berries outside your home, the worst pests that are more likely to attack are birds. To keep their effort at bay, it is recommended to use lightweight bird nets so that the strawberry plants remain protected from them.
At times, even extreme heat can decelerate the growth to give you small fruits. However, this is not a big issue, as the change in the weather is likely to restore the normal size of the fruits.
Another issue to watch out for is water quality. Although plants require nitrates, too much ammonia can slay them. Thus, it is vital to check the water quality frequently.
Growing your aquaponics strawberries may need careful attention and planning, but harvesting time is simply rewarding.
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