Our Flood and Drain Hydroponic Strawberry Tank


The Flood and Drain Strawberry tank fully working

The Flood and Drain Strawberry tank fully working

This is the first of the hydroponic strawberry systems I am trying this year, I don’t really know much about growing strawberries but I will be giving it my best shot.

This system I have set up with a HydroGarden Dual Flow NFT Kit which I purchased last year.

This is a unique kit as the tank can be used as either a NFT system where nutrients are simply pumped in one end and then flow back out the other end, or by moving a few included parts around and adding an extra electrical timer you can use it as an Ebb and Flood system where the nutrients are pumped from the underneath tank to the top channel where the things growing are flooded with nutrients for a while and then when the pump is turned off the nutrients slowly drain back into the nutrient tank below. Hence the Ebb and Flood description.

The Net Pots

The Net Pots

As you can see from the pictures, I have several net pots filled with clay pebbles which are then placed on the top channel which is flooded every hour. This allows the clay pebbles to  take on some of the nutrients which is then taken up by the plants resting in the clay pebbles. In this case my strawberries, these are placed into the pots with the crowns out of the clay pebbles as these are supposed to be kept dry.

Usually in hydroponic kits these pots are held in place by something called correx, I’ve found this to be ok but after a year of use it becomes too flexible and has lost all it’s strength so doesn’t work as well. This year I decided to try some other material.

Setting up the Flood and Drain Strawberry System

Setting up the Flood and Drain Strawberry System

The white plastic you can see on the picture surrounding the pots, Is actually PVCu plastic sheets normally used for surrounding showers or bathroom walls. It’s slightly more expensive than the correx but hopefully with the extra strength it will last quite a few years. It has added strength compared with the correx because the ridges within the plastic go across the tank rather than all the length of the plastic tanks. I’ve cut the pieces into several sections too which also means that I can remove parts of the cover if I want rather than the the whole top plate, And due to it having some form of tongue and groove ends it all clips nicely together. It also has the extra benefit of being easier to store at the end of the year.

Flood and Drain Running

Flood and Drain Running

I’ve had to adjust the HydroGarden system slightly by adding an extra bit of white plastic tube where the nutrients overflow when flooding as it didn’t quite allow enough of a flood to the pots.

The strawberry plants are now in place and have had the clay pebbles covered with black plastic to stop any algae growing on the pebbles. These covers are made from squares of pond liner which I simply clean and sterilize each year.

 

 

 

A Strawberry Runner

A Strawberry Runner

The strawberry plant as it arrives, Looking a little shrivelled and depressed ready for it’s new home.

 

 

After 1 week in the flood and drain

After 1 week in the flood and drain

 

The plant after a week in it’s flood and drain home.

 

 

I will post an update on how all the strawberries are doing in a month or two but as you can see from the two photo’s above taken before planting and after a week they are already doing well.

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Our Newly floored greenhouse


Mid way through the job

Mid way through the job

This year to try and make the greenhouse better to work in and hopefully stop some of the slugs getting in, I decided to lay paving slabs down inside the greenhouse as well as give it a good winter clean.

Previously I’d simply pulled up the floor matting I had put down and relayed it back down each year. This worked fine but meant if it rained the floor was all slushy under the matting, Not exactly nice to work on.

The finished greenhouse floor

The finished greenhouse floor

It was quite a job to do the flooring as I’m not an expert at laying flags by any means,
But I’m glad myself and the family did it over winter. It now feels like you are working in a solid structure and is very pleasant.
I also sealed all the side parts to the greenhouse so there are few gaps now for any slugs to get in, I’m sure they will manage to but hopefully not as easily.

One of the Drainage Gullies

One of the Drainage Gullies

To try and allow some form of drainage but still stop the slugs from getting inside from underneath in the soil, I decided to embed some drainage gullies along side the paving.
Rather than let these just drain into the ground though they are fully sealed underneath, but I’ve put small holes within the gullies and bunged them up with some rubber bungs.
Now if I need any water to drain into the ground I can just pull up the bungs from the holes and then let it drain out and put them back in afterwards.
With hydroponics all the water is within tanks so this should rarely be used.

If the worst comes to the worst with the slugs I can always make the gullies into huge slug traps by filling them with beer, The greenhouse could become a little smelly then though.

20130421-20130421_DSC0834Doing all this work and the miserable weather we have had has meant I’m slightly slower in growing things this year, But have now got some tomatoes and cucumbers well on the way in propagators. Incidentally to save a little extra money, I’ve cut up a plastic sheet I had lying around into little plant labels and have labelled them all with a number.

So I just have a table of numbers which mean different plants. That way I can use the same plant labels each year and don’t have to try and fit all the long plant names onto each label.

This year I have decided to have another go at growing Strawberries hydroponically, I’ve tried once in the past but never succeeded much.
I’m going to try and grow them several different ways to see which ones work. Including an Ebb and Flood setup, An Aeroponic setup, NFT and a bubbler system.
I’ll devote a separate post to each one shortly.

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