Thursday, April 23, 2009

Strawberry Towers

Here's a couple of pictures of phase 2 of my greenhouse aquaponics system. I'll give credit to Synaptoman for his strawberry tower design....and I've made a few tweaks to the design.

Here's the entire system. I don't have a open pit for the drain, so there are caps on the bottom of each tower with a 3/4" tapped fitting thats drain to the discharge pipe. I was afraid to have each tower hang since this greenhouse isn't really designed to hang that much weight in it. So I took a piece of 3" PVC pipe and made little stands to carry the weight, then strapped each tower to the cross brace to keep them balanced. Each tower has it's own ball valve to regulate the supply water flow.

Last week I chiseled out a few strawberry plants out of the frozen ground and planted them. They're already sending out new growth...early berries this year!!! This setup will hold a total of 48 plants which takes up about 5 square feet.

I had some problems with the water escaping at some of the 'pockets'. The surface tension was just enough where the water would flip off the curve. I took some scrap pipe and cemented a lip to each opening. If this drained into an open pit, it wouldn't have mattered, but I wanted to keep my floor somewhat dry.

This is how the drain from each tower is connected to the discharge pipe. I just cut a bunch of holes in each stand and ran a 1" pipe through it. Also, you can see part of an oval piece on the floor. This goes into the bottom 'pocket' to help prevent the stone from getting stuck in the drain fitting.

After a few weeks, there are now new leaves and they are starting to blossom!

I'm really hoping this setup will work. Strawberries are a lot of work in a regular garden. Plus, just when the berries are ripe, the chipmunks steal them. I'll keep you posted on the progress....


Kellye said...

This is the most elaborate setup! I'm planning on getting the HF 10x12 shortly and using your "instructions" to reinforce it. I'm most interested in your Strawberry Towers. I've looked at Synaptoman's blog and understand the jig. From what I can surmise is 80mm downpipe is thin enough to be heated with a hair dryer, is this something that is sold in the US? The alternative must be PVC pipe, and I believe that is what you used? How did you heat it to make the bends? I know a hair dryer won't cut it! Also, what type of growing media did you use for the strawberries? Thanks so much!

Web4Deb said...

A hair drier probably wouldn't work. I use a heat gun. You can buy one at one at Home Depot. Mine came from and was much cheaper. You can do a search on their site for "heat gun". I did buy the 4" pipe from Home Depot. It their standard thin-walled stuff (not the schedule 40 or 80 sewer pipe) Make sure you don't get the kind that has the black tar on the inside.

To make the tower, cut the slit half way through with a standard hand saw. You want to heat above the slit and then up to around 8 inches...sort of in the shape of a triangle. Keep sweeping the entire triangle area so it heats evenly. The PVC will start to become soft. When it's soft, you can simply push down in it with your hands (put on gloves, it's hot!) and the PVC will bend right into place. Hold it for about 30-60 seconds until it cools a bit. Leave a little gap so the water will be able to get through.

If you overheat the pipe (like under the slit, or the rear side of the pipe that you aren't going to push in, you run the risk of the pipe getting malformed. Also, wait a few minutes between doing each pocket....I've found that the PVC will still bend a bit if you start moving the pipe around to make the next one. It won't hurt anything, but it can get crooked and ugly.

I used 3/8" gravel for the towers (and regular growbeds) I have a quarry near us so it's cheap. You probably could buy a bag of stone at Home Depot....make sure it's not limestone!

I water the towers once an hour for about 10 minutes. Too much water will rot the roots. ;-)

Good luck with your towers!

iwant2sail said...

I really like that strawberry tower! Can you post an update? Have you grown other plants in the same tower? This seems very space efficient.

Ed said...

how did you keep the plant and gravel at each section in the tower?..depth?

That's the puzzling part.

Anonymous said...

Great idea, and a "clean" looking setup.
How are your plants doing now have the tower worked out to your satisfaction? What pump/timer are you using?
Thanks for the post.

Web4Deb said...

The plants did really well in the towers. A few that I should have replaced got root-bound, but overall, I got over 5lbs this year. Check through some of my newer postings for more details and also the youtube video at Thanks!