A nutritious diet is vital to long-term health, but it can be rather expensive to buy fresh vegetables and fruits every week. A more affordable and convenient option is to grow your own food and ensure you have fresh options available every day. Growing and harvesting strawberries in your iHarvest® is a much easier task than you might imagine. Before you get started growing your very own strawberries, however, there are a few things you should know.
First, although many iHarvesters do grow strawberries from seed, they are notoriously difficult. Consider using our Seedling Starter Kit, or using the paper towel method discussed here for best results. Many also choose to purchase bare root strawberry plants when growing also. These fully grown strawberry plants can be bought online and shipped to your door. Just keep in mind that many are grown in soil, and if the roots are not very carefully cleaned, they can bring pests into your indoor garden. If this ever happens to you, you may want to read our blog on managing pests.
Strawberries require steady, consistent artificial light for 14-16 hours in order to flourish. You will want to purchase a day-neutral strawberry variety, which are able to continuously flower and grow strawberries throughout the year, and do not depend on changing light and weather patterns to flower.
Every iHarvest® system comes equipped with a PPM tester. Standing for “parts per million”, PPM is a measure of all nutrients in a water solution. When growing strawberries in your iHarvest®, you should keep your PPM range between 500 to 700 and pair them with other plants that thrive in similar PPM ranges such as peas, thyme, and watercress.
Another iHarvest® feature that makes growing your own strawberries easy is its pH tester. It is important to find the right pH in order to ensure your plants absorb the nutrients important to their growth at an optimal rate. Keep your pH between 5.5-6.5 to ensure they thrive.
Because they bear fruit, you want your strawberries to have plenty of nutrients. The MaxiGro nutrient solution provides everything the plant needs to thrive early in life. Once the strawberries start to flower, you might find the additional phosphorus in Maxibloom nutrients, with its N-P-K ration of 5-15-14, more effective at improving harvest yields and shortening time between harvests.
Strawberries require a modest amount of space per plant in order to thrive, so you can plant one in each of the iHarvest pots. While you can let them grow naturally, some people will snip off the first several flower buds that emerge, thus allowing the strawberry plant to strengthen and ultimately produce more strawberries in the future. You will also want to prune the strawberry ‘runners.’ These are the long, skinny shoots that you will occasionally find reaching out from your strawberries. If you let them grow, they will try to root and develop a new strawberry plant. If you’re interested in an experiment, you can allow one of the runners to grow into a new net pot. It should eventually grow its own roots, and become a new strawberry plant!
Strawberry plants are self-fertile, but they sure do appreciate a helping hand. Unlike tomatoes, your strawberry plants will need more than a tap or a shake in order to fruit. Pollinate your strawberries frequently in the early stages. Using a small art or makeup brush to pollinate with is a great idea. A sign of under pollination are strawberries that look a little deformed, like the picture below. But don’t worry…they will still taste just as sweet!
While pollinating, it’s important to move pollen from the Stamen on the outside of the flower, to the Pistils on the inside of the flower. Try to pollinate each and every pistil, as these become the strawberry seeds, and ensure a fully formed strawberry when ripe.
The exact length of time it takes your strawberries to grow depends heavily upon the variety you choose to plant. If you’re using an everbearing variety, plan on 2 months from seed to your first flowers. Strawberries are usually ripe around four weeks after the plant begins to flower.
Indoor gardening can be an incredibly rewarding process as long as you are willing to do a bit of experimentation when you’re first starting out. You likely won’t produce the perfect plants on your first try, and that’s okay – learning is part of the process. If you want the absolute best chance to grow healthy, thriving plants as quickly as possible, invest in the iHarvest® system and reach out to us and our community for tips and advice!