I have decided to try going vertical with my soon to arrive strawberries. I have seen a number of different approaches to going vertical and decided to build a two tower set-up as my first test. I chose 3″ PVC drain pipe – it is light weight, cheaper than the heavy wall PVC and easy to work with. The picture below shows the two tower set-up after they were put together and filled. The base of the structure is filled with pea gravel for stability. I drilled 24 – 1 1/4″ holes in each tower, none on the back side. I inserted a butcher paper tube inside prior to filling with potting soil. The blue masking tape is used to keep the tubes in place as I filled the pipe and to help keep the soil in place. When planting a small hole will be made through the paper and the bare root plant will be placed into the hole. I have subsequently added a 3X4 swage on top as an added reservoir for water and liquid nutients.
I also drilled a weep hole a few inches above the “Tee” at the base of the tower. Wetting the soil by pouring water from the top was going very slowly. So when I returned from my inner injection appointment this afternoon I swung by Lowes and picked up a couple of 3X4 swages and placed them on top to increase the volume of water I can pour. Seems to be working much better. Have not yet filled the towers with enough water to reach the weep holes. It may take a lot of water as the pore space in the base could be considerable.
During the construction of the test towers it dawned on me that this could develop into a viable hydroponic set-up. The PVC piping used for the base could be used to provide the return run of the nutient run-off. Rather than using potting soil, a hydroponic perlite type of material could be used. While doing a little research into the hydroponic stuff I seem to run across lots of sites that are linked to growing that funny seven leafed plant that is in the news quite often. Wow – 55 gallon drums of nutient chemical will set you back about 3 grand….Must be good money in growing that other stuff……
The week of November 7th is the promised date for my strawberry plants to arrive. I have to work all week so planting will be deferred a bit. The plants should hold well in the produce drawer until the weekend.
Shown next is the close-up of the 1/8″ weep hole and another angle of the base and towers set up next to my compost bins and in front of my blackberry bed. If the experiment works it could lead to a small commercial patch. I think you could increase plantings by a factor of 5 or 6 in the same square footage of space and really simplify the harvest. I have seen the strawberry harvest in California and it is back breaking, stoop labor. This could be a win all around. Intitial investment might be a little higher but in the long term could be much cheaper.
FYI – The towers are not glued in place to aid in dumping and replacing the growing medium. In the future I may consider 4″ or even 6″ PVC drain pipe.