This is the third Hydroponic system I’ve setup this year for growing Strawberries, This time I attempted to grow them in a NFT system. I understand from reading other peoples articles and information on the web that NFT was not the ideal hydroponic method for growing strawberries but I thought I would give it another try.
As you can see if you have a read half way down this previous post Our new Cedar Alton Greenhouse – 2007 I have previous attempted this, with unsuccessful results.
Anyway, The plan this time was to start the tank with the nutrient solution pumping around the system and be stable. Then to make holes in the plastic cover sheet and place pots with clay pebbles in like the other systems. I did this for a day to see what happens, And surprise surprise the clay pebbles were completely dry . I’m not quite sure why I thought that the nutrients would be able to jump from thin flow of nutrient solution being pumped around into the clay pebbles. If there was a lot more of a flow maybe this would have helped but the nutrient pumps do not create that amount of flow.
I then had the bright idea of using some capillary matting to try and get the nutrients to be wicked up into the clay pebbles, I placed two wicks made up of matting into each pot filled with clay pebbles. I thought perhaps the nutrients would be taken up enough to be able to keep the clay pebbles full of nutrients. After setting this up I placed one strawberry plant in one of the pot’s and left the system running for a couple of days.
When I came back the pebbles were bone dry and the strawberry runner was not showing any sign of being alive.
It appears like the clay pebbles either need to be submerged within the nutrient solution to soak it up or drip fed from above, I may try the drip feeding method from above next year.
For now though I have decided to abandon this method of growing as it seems unreliable at best. At least I have tested one of my tanks and have a NFT system ready for running and growing the tomato plants later on in the season, These I know from experience are more than happy to be placed directly within the nutrient solution.