This trial was initiated in the fall of 2012. Here’s a bit of background and rationale for the trial.
For several years we have been getting questions about growing strawberries hydroponically. There is a lot of information online about growing strawberries in hydroponic systems, but only for growing hybrid strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa). Alpine strawberries grow differently than hybrids and don’t fit into all available systems. This blog has discussed some of the issues with growing alpines in strawberry jars, NFT, vertical tubes and others. We have tested a lot of systems and have not found one that works well for alpines. This trial incorporates several containers that we have used and containers that we feel have potential.
Another area that needs to be explored is media. We have used a variety of media including soiless mixes, sand, perlite and others. It appears that coir (coco) and perlite are being used extensively in foreign countries. I was going to say Europe but have found information from other countries including Iran. Again, little or no research in this area is being done with alpines or any other species other than the hybrids. We have worked with coir in the past but were not satisfied with the results or even with the growth. We tended to get stunted plants and ran into all sorts of nutrient deficiencies.
The last area that we have explored is in vermicomposting. We have a small worm farm that supplies vermicompost for our business. We use household waste, cardboard from the business, and other available materials like grass clippings. We use both red wigglers and European Night Crawlers in various systems. There is a lot of literature out there showing the benefits of using vermicompost and vermicompost tea (vermitea) on a variety of crops including strawberries (hybrids again). We have found that vermicompost significantly improves germinations and have noticed significant yield increases. With this trial we are finally getting around to doing formal tests in a real world situation. The trials discussed here build on trials done in the past involving the addition of vermicompost to soiless mixes.
With the rationale and background now discussed we’ll move on to specifics.
We variety being used in this trial is Fragaria vesca ‘Reine des Vallees’ which is the European standard fraises des bois. This image was taken a couple of years ago in our nursery. It is a very strong growing variety that produces fruit of excellent aroma and taste and is very productive.
Here’s the treatment list (5 replications)
- Bato Bucket Coir:Perlite 50:50
- Roottrapper II Coir:Perlite 50:50
- Smartpot Coir:Perlite 50:50
- Bato Bucket Coir:Perlite:Vermitea (weekly) 50:50
- Bato Bucket Coir:Perlite:Vermicompost 45:45:10
- Bato Bucket Coir:Perlite:Vermicompost 40:40:20
- Bato Bucket Coir:Perlite:Vermicompost 35:35:30
Planned Fertilizer Program: CNS17 CocoGrow and CocoBloom for all treatments
Seed was sown on 8/3/12 in sand. Transplanted to containers on 9/27 to 9/29/12.
Here’s a pic of the bato buckets just after transplanting
March 9, 2013
The plants all made it through the winter and are beginning to grow again. I will take photos soon to show the progress. The winter was mild (we had two dustings of snow – so far, knock wood) and rainfall plentiful so we didn’t have to irrigate. We will begin irrigating when needed and will start fertilizing with each irrigation when we do. We are looking forward to harvesting – and eating a lot of fraises des bois. We are planning to make low tunnels to protect all of these plants. We constructed the first 10 foot low tunnel today.
April 13, 2013
Applied Vermicompost Tea to appropriate containers. Plants have been growing slowly in the very cool weather. We noticed the first flowers today.