Why you should grow your own strawberries
According to the EWG you really should be growing your own tomatoes, spinach hot peppers and especially strawberries.
The strawberries came top in their ‘dirty dozen’ for the most residual pesticides.
Strawberry growers ‘sterilize’ the ground by pumping poisonous gas into the ground – removing every weed, pest and other living thing – beneficial or not.
Better to eat organically grown- but even better to grow your own…
Using an aerogarden to grow strawberries is easy- as long as a few rules are followed.
If you have a bounty or an ultra model then you can take advantage of the aerogarden strawberry crown kit sold for this purpose.
For the rest of us….well we still can grow them, so let’s get on with it…
Types of strawberries.
It’s all to do with how they produce the strawberries – what size and how many crops per year…
June bearing have a single bumper crop around june., something in the name?…
The plants put all their energy into that single crop to produce the largest strawberries – so if this is what you want them look out for this type of strawberry.
Ever bearing is a bit misleading as they produce typically over a 5 month period.
You can harvest from them every few days depending on the quantity of strawberries grown.
Now which variety – have a look at this list by state and see if you like the look of any.
what i am trying is the smaller alpine or woodland strawberry – tiny little fruits and more resiliant to stress.
So now you know the difference between June bearing and ever bearing strawberries then you need to know how to grow them.
Growing strawberries in your aerogarden
Can you grow strawberries from seed – yes it is possible…if you have the time.
It typically takes two years to get from seeds to fruit bearing plant.
So would i recommend it….no, i would always recommend the way they propagate in the wild….by runner….
And with the seeds you cannot guarantee what you are going to get – whereas the runner is an exact clone of the mother plant.
You can look at the aerogarden strawberry kit – which has the grow bowl, coco coir chips and the strawberry crowns – or you can just buy the strawberry crowns.
Strawberries don’t like to be soaked while growing, they will rot.
If you plant them too low – getting the crown wet – they will rot.
If you plant them too high – the roots will dry out and they will die.
It sounds very difficult to grow them, doesn’t it.
It really is not that difficult – it can be a bit blurred where the ends of the roots are and the crown starts and if anything it is better to go just slightly on the too high side than the too low side.
If you are using the grow bowl then you need to plant the strawberry roots up to the point where they all join. And as i said if necessary leave them slightly too high.
If you are using the aerogarden seed pods from the grow anything kit then with the original ones you will need to tease the roots out of the sides of the basket.
With the longer later ones then the easiest way is to cut the bottom three prongs and pull the roots through.
No need to use the grow sponge – there probably isn’t room anyway.
And the setting of the middle selector – on the early ones you have a strawberry setting ( the last one clockwise).
Later models with the on off pump may not need this and you can select veggies for 16 hours of lighting.
Then there is the nutrients – use half strength until they get 6 proper pairs of leaves.
Removal of flowers until this point will give you larger and better fruit – so a bit of delayed gratification maybe in order….
Once the fruit starts then go up to full strength nutrient and make sure that they never dry out on the roots – any stress will cause them to get rid of their fruit – so a daily topup from the point where the flowers arrive till the end would be good.
When the fruit starts to form the strawberries need a minimum of 10 hours of daylight to form properly – but this is no problem with the Aerogarden grow lights, they will be on for longer than this at a consistent light level.
This makes it easy to be able to grow strawberries indoors.
What about pollination
Growing strawberries indoors does have drawbacks.
Unless you can position your aerogarden so that bees can naturally pollinate the strawberry flowers you are going to have to be the pollinator.
Using a soft makeup brush gently roll the handle of the brush in your fingers while the bristles are brushing the middle of the flower.
You then want to do this with all the open flowers and come back to the first one.
So you may have to wait till there is more than one open flower before doing this.
The strawberries have both the male and female parts on each flower – so the pollen only has to make it form one part to the other for you to have strawberries.
But it has been found that the heavier the pollination the larger the strawberry.
And cross pollination helps.
Good pollination will give well shaped strawberries – poor or no pollination will produce little or mis-shaped fruit.
Can you tell whether you have pollinated well – unfortunately not, but if you are growing the ever bearing then you do get time to practise your technique over the growing season.
It takes between 30 and 45 days for the fruit to develop from the flower, but this may be a little shorter with an aerogarden.
The fruit will ripen from the tip to the stem and when fully ripe will look shiny and red all over ( note some varieties don’t go red at the base of the stem and there are some varieties which don’t redden)
Removing the ripe fruit will allow the plant to produce more.
[update]: I’ve just found my first strawberry flower and will be brush pollenating it after i finish this quick update- if and when it grows into a strawberry i will take a picture and update again….keep growing
What if it all goes wrong
Even growing in a well managed aerogarden things can still go wrong.
Strawberries can still get diseases ( or be supplied with them)
Or pests can still find them and have a ball.
With the aerogarden environment there are still a few things that can go wrong with your plants like, powdery mildew, or grey mold.
The leaves can suffer from leaf spot or leaf blotch.
And the roots can suffer from root rot
Sound like the whole lot can go wrong.
One of the most important points is cleaning the aerogarden thoroughly before using it for strawberries.
If you have grown tomatoes, eggplant, peppers or hot peppers then they may have left something behind to attack the strawberries – so give it a good clean before you start and you may get through the season without trouble.
Are strawberries good for you
If you grow them yourself then you know what is being sprayed around them and goes into growing them.
As stated at the top, to grow them commercially and to get the price down then they need to have a very clean slate to start with.
That means nasty chemical pumped into the ground to kill everything and pesticides to reduce the number of pest.
But if you are growing them then the are about 33 calories per 100g
Have 0.5g of fat and 3.8g of fibre.
Manganese is required in your diet and cannot be produced by the body.
The strawberries have loads of antioxidants as well – so as you grow older you need to eat more – well that is a good excuse to have more strawberries and cream isn’t it….
Although it may not all be good news – some may have an allergic reaction to the color producing chemical within the strawberry.
This may cause hay fever like symptoms or break out in dermatitis or hives.
An extreme reaction may cause shortness of breath.
But for those there is still hope – assuming they want to try one after going through that.
There is a variety which stays golden when ripe, leaving out the allergenic red coloring.
So if you do find a reaction to those red fruits – change over to the golden ones and try again.
There is one variety that is almost allergy free ‘sofar’
Harvesting and storage of strawberries
Once fully ripened the fruits are ready to be removed from the plant.
Don’t be tempted , like you can with tomatoes, to remove them and allow them to ripen on the counter as the strawberries stop ripening after they have been picked.
Leaving about 1/2″ (12mm) of stem on break the stem and remove from the plant.
You can use scissors to cut the stem rather than trying to tear it.
Don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them as they absorb water and then sweat it out and start the softening process early…
Like this they will last the longest off the plant.
Make sure the fruit is dry and don’t allow it to sit in water or if it sweats then make sure that is wicked away to prevent premature softening.
Storing them in the refrigerator in a partially opened plastic bag with a paper towel to soak up any moisture will allow them to last as long as they can out of the freezer or being dried.
Yep you can freeze them, i haven’t heard of it, but i would partially dry them out first.
As freezing them will break down the small internal membranes and when thawed they will be a bit like mush – tasty mush – but still mush as there is a lot of water content.
You can dry them out by slicing in 1/2″ (12mm) slices and drying for 7-15 hours at 130-140F( 50 -60C) or slice them in half and dry them for 24 -36 hours at the same temp
You should end up with pliable dried strawberries with little moisture content -store these in an airtight container or freeze them.
well i have my Aerogarden harvest setup a little unusually at the moment.
There is a soft drinks bottle cut up to make a deep water culture base – using the lighting and little heat from the harvest to grow cilantro and the found strawberry plants.
I have a few runners planted up in small cups of gravel and groton- these are rooting and will form the experiment in an aerogarden classic this year.
As i said above the strawberry variety is the woodland – which produces a very small but intensly flavored fruit – little treats of the woods.
I will keep this post updated on the progress of the plants and see what grows.
Are you going to be growing strawberries in your #ad aerogarden this year – if so how and what variety – let us know in the comments below.
UPDATE: what i found was that the lights on the aerogarden are too much for the wild strawberries – we went away on holiday and i decided to turn off the lights and came back to huge leaves rather than the small ones- so this maybe worth a try – if you can unplug the lights and see if they grow bigger…..
Many thanks for reading.