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alarrivy 12-14-2010 08:53 PM

hydro systems
i have a general question for growing fruit hydroponically. i have searched google for hours on end for the answer to my question which is; what hydroponic system would be best for growing fruit in general. i am very interested in starting my own hydroponic garden and i plan on mainly growing fruits so i am looking to buy a system which is best for fruit growth such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc. any info would be great thank you!!!


GpsFrontier 12-14-2010 09:58 PM

4 Attachment(s)
There is not really one type of system that works well for all fruits (or even any plant). They all have their good points and bad points to take into consideration. For instance raspberries and blueberries grow much different than strawberry's. Raspberries and blueberries are large bushes where strawberry's are small bushes. And raspberries and blueberries take years to be fully productive, where if chilled first (winterized) strawberries will be productive shortly after planted for months.

Personally I would not even consider buying a hydroponic system, but rather build my own. I would grow strawberries in long tubes as a flood and drain system, I might even consider using the same design but using it as a NFT system (although I'm not really a fan of NFT systems). Or even in a water culture system (most people will call that a floating raft system). For large bushes like Raspberries and blueberries, I would use a drip system and a minimum 3 gallon bucket size, but I would go with 5 or even 7 gallon buckets. I'm not sure about blueberries but raspberries store their energy in the roots, so it's important not to damage their roots.

I'm not sure of your familiar with growing raspberries, so here is a link to some info about growing raspberries.
Growing Hydroponic Raspberries, part 1 | Hydroponics Blog - Hydroponics Articles - Hydroponics Online

Here is a thread (http://www.hydroponicsonline.com/for...o-systems.html) about some strawberries I grew two summers ago. I built it as a flood and drain system (ebb & flow), but it took almost 50 gallons of nutrient solution to fully flood and not run the pump dry. I eventually got it down to only needing 32 gallons by some modifications. I like the system although I would convert it to a aeroponics system in the future. That way I can have the same amount of plants but use less than 1/4 the nutrient solution.

Also I attached a few pictures of a design I plan to build for growing strawberries. I have not found a good source for the square tubing yet. Vinyl fence post tubing runs about $15 for one five foot piece. But you can easily use round ADS tubing (irrigation tubing) that runs $9 for a 10 foot long piece like I built this system with, it's usually found near the PVC tubing. You can even use rain gutter downspouts that run about $8 for a 10 foot long piece, they don't usual sell end caps for downspouts, but that would work well if you wanted to run it as a NFT system.

alarrivy 12-14-2010 11:20 PM

Wow that is an awesome explanation to my question thank you very much
I did not expect so much help!!! It is very much appreciated as I am just getting a start into hydro-growing. Also would you happen to have any info on how to grow water-melons and mango trees?? Those will be my next endeavors once i master the basic art of hydro-growing. Again thank you for all of your advice and insight. I am the newbiest of all newbies here so if you have any more general info you would think would help with getting me started I would greatly appreciate that also.. looks like i came to the right place!!!

Much appreciated


GpsFrontier 12-15-2010 05:58 AM

No problem, alarrivy
I have been there myself, so I like trying to help others. I haven't grown mango trees in hydro, although about 10 years ago I had started some mango seeds in soil. Although they would be interesting to grow, they are long term trees that take decades to mature, and would require working out a lot of other details like maintenance issues, plant support etc.. But I'm sure I can find some good information on growing mango trees tomorrow, even if it's not in hydro it would give you an idea of the type of system needed and problems.

I have grown cantaloupe and are very similar to melons in the way they grow. I had them in a makeshift system that I meant to transfer them into another system I was going to build. But I didn't get the money together I needed to build it (about $150 total), then they grew together to much to separate. I posted picks of it in this thread:


I also posted some links to information on growing melons in that thread. Check them out, there is a lot of good info there. The system I had planed to grow them was fairly simple, using basically two trenches placed about 4-5 feet apart for the roots. Then building a "A" frame trellis between them for the vines to grow up on. And a drip system for the nutrient solution, with the reservoir in the ground to keep them cool. I can go into more detail of how I planed to construct it if you were interested in it.

Don't be afraid to ask any questions, start threads etc. even if you think it might be silly. What may seem like common sense to me and other growers, may be new to someone else. I don't consider myself an expert, but I have learned a lot in the last few years I've grow plants hydroponically. But even if I don't know something I try to at least point you in the right direction. I am not sure where to start with general information, but my first hard lesson was that the nutrient temperature is very important. 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit is in the perfect range. To hot and the plants will abort fruiting, wilt and just try to stay alive (among other problems). To cold and the plants wont be able to uptake the nutrients they need, and wind up with stunted growth.

P.S. I don't usually post this link because it's my website (it's in my signature) and I don't believe in spamming threads with links to my site. But it will cover a lot of general information (which is why I created it in the first place). I'm still working on the site so there is still a lot more I need to add, and it does not look right using internet explorer (but works fine in Firefox and Chrome).

Build Your Own Home Hydroponic Systems (homepage)
Types of Hydroponic Systems (the six types of hydroponic systems)

alarrivy 12-15-2010 03:26 PM

Awesome! Once again all of this info is greatly appreciated and will help very much.. This may seem like a stupid question but you have said it is neccessary to keep the nutrients at a certain temp. How exactly do I achieve that temp, Do i heat up the nutrients in the microwave before putting them into the system or is there a way to heat it and keep it at a certain temp in the system?? As of yet I have not used a hydro-garden at all so that may seem like a very simple question and I may find out the answer myself here today (I am just about to get started on making the system you have advised for strawberries, they are going to be my first endevor). I will check out your website here and will prob be back on here soon with more questions ( I am going to make a list of supplies right now and then go and buy the things I need and get started ) One more thing i can think of off the top of my head is what type of lamp would be best for growing strawberries (which i will be growing first) is there a certain type of lamp best for fruit in general? I think either watermelons or honeydew melons will be my next endevor. Depending on the price of the first system im about to make i may make another today and have the melons and strawberries going at the same time.

Again much appreciated,


GpsFrontier 12-15-2010 08:22 PM

Heating the solution is easy, cooling it is much more difficult to do cost effectively. Witch you need to do (and how much) really depends on where you grow and the time of year. I grow everything outside using natural sunlight (instead of artificial lights). So my nutrient solution is subject to the extreme summer temps here in the desert (120+F), and night time winter temps just above freezing. Heating the solution indoors or outdoors is probably easiest done using a Fish tank heater, they run about $10-$15 and up. Some have adjustable temperatures, and others are preset at 78 degrees. 78 degrees wont be bad, but they are usually for the smaller fish tanks, so if you are heating more water then the heater is recommended for (usually 10-15 gallons) it wont likely be that high, especially if it's outside in real cold temps. But I wouldn't want the water temp to get over 80, (68-72 perfect).

Insulating the reservoir may also be beneficial to keep the heat in from the fish tank heater, especially if dealing with very cold weather, or large water volumes. The only real thing to worry about with fish tank heaters is making sure the water level never goes down below the heater, if it becomes dry it can crack. Also they have burned holes through some thin plastic reservoirs if allowed to come in direct contact with it and nothing in-between, mostly when they become dry. I would create a holder for them myself, that way it will stay put and away from the side of the reservoir.

Another way to keep it warm is by using heating pads, not nearly as easy to control. But I got three of them last year at the salvation army thrift store for $1 each. I'm right now using one of them to germinate seeds with. Lastly a bit more expensive is something like plumbers heating tape, it's used to keep household water pipes from freezing in some areas. But you may be able to find it on sale somewhere, or even at a garage sale etc.. Also if growing outside keeping the reservoir in the ground uses geothermal energy to help insulate them from the cold, as well as helps cool it during summer. I have some plans I wrote in pdf. files for using geothermal energy, for heating and cooling the nutrient solution if your interested. I also have something new for cooling the nutrient solution this summer, but have not drawn up images of it yet. It's kind of like a reverse swamp cooler.

Unfortunately using artificial light is not something that I'm familiar with. Like I mentioned, I grow everything outside, I get all the light I need there free. But Metal Halide (MH) blue spectrum) is good for growing foliage, and High Pressure Sodium (HPS) red spectrum) is good for flowering and fruiting. Strawberry's and melons will be doing both at the same time. If I had the funds I would use both at the same time, if not I would probably just go with HPS. However their are some bulbs that have both MH and HPS elements inside the same bulb. Also some MH bulbs claim to be full spectrum bulbs. However I don't have any experience with any of them, so I cant say how well they work.

Any witch way, you would want the bulbs to be close to the plant canopy as possible, but without burning the plants to get the best use of them. 80 to 90 degrees at the plants foliage should be fine, using fans to blow heat away helps. How many watts and how many lights really depends on the configuration of the setup, and overall square footage for the plants to be grown. But in some cases using a smaller wattage, but using more of them (and placed closer to the plants) spread over the area is more useful than one large wattage (and farther away) trying to cover all of it.

P.S. If growing strawberry's and melons inside you will probably run into pollination problems. I need to check but I think they need to be pollinated by incests. I'm not sure if hand pollinating those will work for sure, and don't believe either can be pollinated by air currents or shaking.

Here is some info on growing strawberry's, It's been a while scene I read these, but I believe they cover pollination (especial in the first two)
Berry Bonanza: Growing Indoor Strawberries
The Development and Demonstration of an Outdoor Hydroponic Specialty crop

alarrivy 12-19-2010 12:53 AM

once again thank you very much for all the info, it will help me very greatly. unfortunately some things came up the day i was planning on building my system and i still havent completed it as of yet. although i was able up some net pots, I believe they are 5 inch, that was the size the very rude worker at the hydroponic store advised me to get for strawberries (looks like you will be my only source for info as i will not be giving them my business again). I have decided to do a water culture system as I took it to be the best for beginners and should work well for strawberries; though the way your making it sound strawberries may not be a possibility now that they need natural pollination and i will be doing all indoor growing until the summer months (I live in Northern Minne(snow)ta) where right now our average temp is about -10 at night and +10 during the day, only to get colder before warming. so unless i plan on releasing bees into my grow room until they do the deed im shit out of luck till summer.. Do the melons also need natural pollination?? both the water and honey?? Another question i have is with the 5" net pots i purchased and the type of system i am going to build how much of the pot should i have submerged in the water/nutrient mixture? I am planing on using styraphome to float the pots. :confused: Also I picked up a growing medium recommended to me by the guy at the hydro store, I am at a friends house right now but on my net post I will be able to tell you exactly what i purchased,hopefully the ass hole at least knows what hes talking about.. Since i will be growing inside is it possible to temp control my water/nutrient solution just by insulating it and keeping it at room temp (which in my grow room will be approx 70 deg)?? also i have no knowledge on how to germinate except putting the seeds in a moist warm place in a bag?? ..Again thank you for everything, without you id be sitting in my grow room with my tumb up my ass wondering wtf is going on. :rolleyes:

until next time


GpsFrontier 12-19-2010 04:45 AM

4 Attachment(s)
Hello Andy,
I know what you mean by things coming up, there always seems to be something that gets in the way of me being able to get what I want to accomplish done. Five inch net pots seems to big for me, is that tall or wide? Usually net pots are measured in width, and five inch wide is not what I would go with. That's not really big enough to put more than one plant in without crowding them. I usually use 3 inch net pots myself, I got a bag of 100 of them for about $25. But you could probably even use 2 inch net pots for strawberry's, possibly even 1 1/2 inch, but I wouldn't go any smaller than that. The strawberry's in the thread of the ones I grew, were 3 inch net pots, spaced 5 inches apart (that is 5 inches from the edge of one pot to the edge of the other). I found that to be a pretty good spacing, but regular trimming of old dead or dying leaves is important. Strawberry's need good air circulation between plants, or trapped humidity on the leaves and growing medium can lead to plant disease.

Going with a water culture system for your first one is a really good way to get started. It's a simple design, that is real cheap to build, as well as easy to expand on. And most plants do well in them like strawberries and lettuces. Short wide plants, rather than taller plants that would tip over when they get tall. One thing I don't want to forget to mention is don't get suckered into buying a pH meter. PPM, TDS or EC meters can be useful but not needed at your level. I still have not gotten a PPM, TDS or EC meter yet myself. Like I mentioned they can be useful, but they all have a specific limitation that they don't tell you about at the store. So you really need to know how they work and what they actually do with relation to checking your nutrients before deciding if you want to spend the money on one.

pH on the other hand is something you will need to test often, I would recommend daily. At least until you get good at guessing when and how much it changes. Also unusual pH swings can be signs to look for. But like I mentioned don't get suckered into buying the expensive meters now. Instead get the Ph test drops kit by General Hydroponics, I added the link so you can see what I am talking about, but just about everybody sells them. The drops are probably more accurate than the meters because you don't need to calibrate them, worry if they are malfunctioning, you don't need any calibration fluid etc. all that can give you false readings. And the drops are less than $8. Once you read the directions I can explain how to make them last even longer than they would if you go exactly by the directions (and still be accurate). One bottle of pH drops last me more than 6 months with multiple systems going at the same time. Just the calibration fluid needed for the meters will cost more than that.

If your growing inside and the air temp is set at 70 degrees, the water temp will be right about the same. As long as your lights are not so close, or put out so much heat that they heat them up a lot. They will probably heat them up a little but I wouldn't expect a problem. If so just a thin sheet of insulation (Styrofoam) should take care of it.

As for pollinating the strawberry's, again I have not re-read the articles I posted lately to be sure. But if I'm not mistaken they wont pollinate by using a fan to circulate air currents. But there are options, as long as you don't have so many plants that hand pollinating will be too labor intensive, that may work for you. One strawberry plant will probably give you about one pound of fruit over a 4 month season. So using that as a guide, you can probably figure out how many plants you'll want (I have some links for that too). If that means that you will have too many plants for regular hand pollinating. There are flys, if where you plan to grow is separate from the house (you don't want them to get in the house). I'm not positive about melons needing incests to pollinate, but that info is in those links that I posted in the thread about melons I'm sure (again I haven't re-read them lately). Hand pollinating those is possible, but if I am not mistaken they have both male and female flowers on the same plant, So you'll want to know witch is witch. If you still cant find that info in those links, I can see if I can find it for you when I have time.

As for how much of the net pot should be submerged, has variables. But the best advice I can give is, design it in a way that it's not hard to adjust (using spacers, inserts, another sheet of thinner Styrofoam as a spacer etc.). Type of growing medium (how much water it wicks up), is probably the biggest factor. But if it's adjustable, trial and error will tell you the best spot for your plants and setup. The lettuces plants I grew in a water culture were in 3 inch baskets, using coco chips for a growing medium and I tried to keep only the bottom 3/4 inch or less submerged. The baskets were in a fixed position on the lid of the container, all I needed to do to adjust it was either add or take out some water.

I start all my seeds by putting them on a wet paper towel, in a small Tupperware container with a lid to hold in moisture. I try to keep it in an area that is about 80-85 degrees. That keeps them warm moist and the lid keeps it humid inside. I attached some pic's of some seeds I'm starting right now, and here is a link to my High Tech Seed Germination System. Although you wont want to start strawberry's from seeds. Most variety's need to be winterized before they will bear fruit. That is they grow only foliage the first year, then go dormant during winter, and start growing fruit the second year.

It's to bad that your local hydroponics store employees are rude, I don't give people like that my business either. I live in Lake Havasu AZ, and it's not a big town so we don't even have a hydroponics store here. Nearest one that I know of is in Las Vegas NV, about 3 1/2 hour drive away (one way). Kingman and Bullhead city are only about 1 1/2 hours away but I don't think they have one in those towns either. Anyhow anything I need from a hydroponics supply store I get online. I have learned that most company's like General Hydroponics will usually get back to you quickly if you e-mail them questions, and pictures always help explain problems also. So that could be another source of information for you, just copy and paste the same question into e-mails to 3 or 4 different places. You don't need to buy anything, and you might get some useful info out of it. Just be aware that they most likely will only be familiar with their own products, and wont want to give any advice/recommendations on someone else products. So if they recommend something it will only be their own products. But it's still a good way to see if they all agree that it's the same problem, and one may have more knowledge than another one.

P.S. It is nice and cold in northern Minnesota right now. Ever take a day trip into Canada? I can see why growing outside right now is out of the question without a heated greenhouse. I have the opposite problem here in AZ. It's a nice 60 degrees outside here right now at 2:40am, and I even have the sliding glass doors open. But summer time can get down right brutal, I don't care if it is a dry heat. Sorry, now that I look over my post, I guess I have a tenancy to write books.

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