Strawberries are a delectable fruit which makes them one of the most valuable fruits to grow. Out of season, they are almost impossible to find and if you are lucky finding them, they can be very expensive. In season, while they are more readily available, they can be relatively expensive.
So, what’s one way to avoid this issue of inaccessibility? Grow strawberries in a greenhouse!
The problem with strawberry production:
In the United States, 91% of all strawberries produced come from Florida and California. For someone living in Montana, this means there’s a good chance their strawberries traveled far to get to them. This is true in many places around the world. Germany, for example, imports approximately 100,000 tons every year, mostly from Egypt. These food miles are costly for the environment, and in an effort to keep the planet green we should try to reduce our carbon footprint by considering the origin of our purchases.
Another disadvantage of long distance import has to do with the diminished quality of the product. Strawberries are the yummiest when they are ripe. In order to be able to travel thousands of miles, they need to be harvested before they are ripe and processed. Therefore their taste, flavor, smell, look are compromised.
Is there a way to avoid this? Yes. Growing strawberries in a greenhouse year-round will help decrease food miles and ensure that you always have tasty, juicy and nutrient dense strawberries right at your fingertips.
Why grow strawberries in a greenhouse?
There are many advantages to growing strawberries in a greenhouse. Some advantages include:
- Accessibility to the off-season strawberry market (in which they have higher value)
- Year-round operation (in some locations you might need to install additional equipment such as artificial lighting, heating, cooling etc.)
- Better control of substrate and nutrients levels through hydropony (a soilless growing method)
- Can be harvested at the optimal time (better taste)
- Consistent quality, which increases the value
- Very high quality, which increases their worth and therefore cost
- Protected from outside risks: birds, hail, etc.
How to grow strawberries in a greenhouse
Technically speaking, strawberries are not the easiest crop to grow. Pollination is a necessary process for this fruit to thrive. This is usually achieved by honeybees or bumblebees, which adds another layer of complexity and can make growing strawberries challenging.
Also, there are many different strawberry varieties, each with different photoperiodic responses. Short day strawberry varieties (like June Bearers) require less than 13 hours of sunlight to flower, whereas long day varieties flower best when they are exposed to longer photoperiods. These different photoperiodic responses initiate different fruiting behaviors, so it’s best to grow different varieties to ensure constant yields.
Figuring out when to harvest the fruits to ensure the right sugar content is also crucial and challenging. This issue will resolve itself in time as you gain growing experience.
An important thing to remember if you’re growing strawberries hydroponically, is that they require high oxygen levels to their root zone. Be sure to use substrates with higher oxygen availability than those used for other greenhouse crops.
Advantages to growing strawberries in a greenhouse:
One advantage to growing strawberries in a greenhouse is that the night time target temperature is one of the lowest for the most commonly grown fruits and vegetables (54℉-55℉), making it relatively cheap in terms of heating cost. In addition, this crop requires a middle level of artificial lighting (higher than lettuce and leafy greens, but lower than tomatoes).
You can also experiment with bringing back older strawberry varieties that were abandoned by outdoor growers due to their disease susceptibility. Those diseases and other issues may not be as relevant when reintroducing said variety to a greenhouse environment.
To sum it up, growing strawberries in your greenhouse is beneficial for the environment (because of shortened food miles) and is a great way to have perfectly ripe and delicious fruit available to you all year long. Plus, if you choose to grow strawberries in a Ceres hybrid greenhouse there is the additional benefit of saving energy while reaping the reward from a high-value crop.
If you are considering investing in a greenhouse, you should definitely consider growing strawberries! To speak to a greenhouse expert about getting your greenhouse up and running for strawberry production, contact us today!