Tower gardens are perfect for producing more in a small space, and they’re perfect for a strawberry crop. But like any other system you can buy, a lot of would-be hydroponic and aquaponic gardeners face sticker-shock when investigating getting set up to grow. Sometimes you just gotta get started with what your current budget will allow though, and the good news is that there are ways to do that with a homemade system.
A homemade strawberry tower that do-it-yourselfers have built that works well is still going to cost between $75 and $150 – depending on where you live, and the materials you wind up using. I’ve seen a bunch of different homemade versions, but they aren’t all practical – especially if your growing strawberries outdoors. Which is where you’ll have the most economical growing conditions, because strawberries are light energy hungry plants. To have a bumper crop from your strawberry tower in the indoor garden beneath a solid roof means investing in super powerful grow lights, and paying for the electricity they consume. One overhead light isn’t going to power your strawberry tower residents up to breaking any records, let alone producing a great harvest – you need top lighting , and side lighting.
Its just way more cost effective to let the sun carry the load. But, putting together the tower itself is something you will find just about everything you need at Home Depot, Lowes, or any fully-stocked hardware store. Pulling nutrients from an aquaponic setup will require a somewhat different inflow than a simple bucket of hydroponic nutrients, but this is about the tower, more than it is about outfitting it for any configuration possible.
Some DIY tower garden designs are just a length of PVC pipe with a channel or holes cut in rows for the plants that the grower has just filled with a grow medium. Gravity and the wind will pull the outer layer away outdoors, which is not good for plant health. But it takes a lot more media to fill the entire pipe, then it does a couple dozen net cups, which reduces the overall cost of planting your vertical growing system. Net cups are very inexpensive – a lot cheaper than potting mix or hydroton. Working them into the tower design means you’ll need a few more tools, a PVC fence post and caps, and some other supplies.
In the first video below the builder uses different tools than the second guy – but the both arrive at the same hydroponic tower setup in the end. I will say that the extra step of sanding before gluing the net cup sleeves to the tower is very wise, and will give you a much stronger bond than quickly slapping A and B together using lots of epoxy. Some people caulk them, but that won’t hold up over the long haul.
With a hydroponic bucket system you will have problems with the heating up of nutrient solution as summer progresses. Some people bury them in the ground, but there are other solutions. For one, the size of the pump you need to push water 6 feet high is a lot larger than one that gives you 4 feet of rise, and it runs hotter too. Like everything else that are always more than one way to cure the problem. Mike in the second video above has switched from buckets to coolers for his nutrient tank/tower base, and he’s created a cooler to maintain better solution temps for his plants. You’ll find his videos on what he’s done and learned on his YouTube channel.
But here’s a guy who has stuck with a 4 foot strawberry tower design, increased the number of plants it will house to 24 with a little CAD engineering, and found a smaller, much cooler running, and power conservative pump than the 400 gph size everyone else is using.
He talks about the smaller pump for a couple minutes in this one, starting at about 1:30.
He forgot to share where he got the pump at the end, but this one on Amazon looks just like the one in the video, and meets the description the 4 ft. tower builder gives us. He’s hooked it to an AC adapter, but you could set it up to run off a battery power supply.
Here’s a list of materials you’ll need to make the bucket reservoir version of the square strawberry tower. For tools – follow what the guys in the videos above have used.
- Black 5-gallon bucket with lid
- 5″ vinyl fence post (8′ long)
- (2) 5″ post caps – 1 plain, 1 fancy
- Vinyl fence cement
- 3″ PVC SCH40 pipe, or sewer drain pipe
- 3″ PVC female thread adapter
- 3″ PVC plug
- (20 – 24) 3″ net pots
- 8′ of 1/2 tubing
- 1/2″ Slip to male thread adapter
- 1/2″ Female thread to barb (an irrigation system part)
- Submersible fountain/pond pump (** minimum 6.5′ head height)
- Air Pump
- Air stone
- 1/4″ ID grommet (inside diameter)
- 1/4″ Air tubing