Strawberry trees.

imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)February 5, 2009

I've seen some pics of commercial 'strawberry trees' and some other sort of stack-able container for strawberries - but decided I hate paying for things I can build cheaper.

A friend had a length of 8" i.d pipe with 1/2 inch walls. I got about 3.5ft of it for free. The plan is to put rows of 2" holes all over the pipe and hang it from the rafter of the greenhouse. Has anyone else did this as a DIY? The space savings will be amazing. I will be able to fit about 10sq/ft worth of tradition containers into a 9" diameter pipe.

I have not yet figured out how to cap off the bottom in a nice way. any ideas? I'll put up pics and instructions later if anyone wants once i figure it all out.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The pipe is made of what material?


    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 9:22AM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)


    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 12:27PM
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tom_n_6bzone(Western Maryland 6b)

lowes, home depot, sell caps for pvc pipe.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 9:10PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I was going to suggest a PVC cap too .... if the pipe was PVC.

You could also cut a disk of any handy and durable material that just fits inside of the tube. Drill 3-4 pilot holes at one end of the tube & put screws through the holes. The screws will protrude inward through the wall and you can drop the disk through the end opposite the screws. The disk will slide freely through the tube until it hits the screws & will lodge there, allowing you to fill with soil. You probably won't even need to drill drainage holes in the disk because it won't fit perfectly tight.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 9:31PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

Yeah I just never remember seeing any large pvc at our home -dope-o - but a cap would be optimal. I think I will have to go with tapla's idea and see how that works.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 1:15PM
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jacqueinthegorge(USDA 8 / Sunset 5)

Here's a commercial system that I have. The tubes are about 10" in diameter, are not capped on the bottom, and each tube has an included drip irrigation system, with the emitters going down through the container - the tubes can be daisy-chained. Note that the holes are staggered, not in rows.

Since you're hanging them, I'd suggest gluing some water-permeable landscape fabric or some nylon screening to the bottom rather than a solid cap.

For beside-the-point reasons, I wasn't able to use the drip system this past summer, and watered from the top. The nature of these containers is such that in hot weather, the top plants could be dry while the lower ones were still wet. I needed to water almost every day in order to keep the top plants well-watered, so free drainage is essential to keep the lower plants healthy. Had I been able to use the drip system, the differential between top and bottom would probably not have been an issue.

You'd think that the top plants would grow longer roots to reach the wetter soil levels, but they didn't seem to.

A general note on this guy - the website is terrible, but he himself is a self-taught plant genius. Sells his greenhouse grown fruit at very premium prices.

Google - Tom Wood fruit washington - to read more about him.

Here is a link that might be useful: strawberry growing tubes

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 4:59PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

That's the commercial one I saw before from raintree. I never saw Tom Woods site though. That is essentially what I will be emulating though.

I've considered putting a blocking plate in the middle (18" or so) and about 1" of space before the lower layer of soil thinking it might hold some moisture on the top section for a little longer - delaying the dry out. I would attach it the same way tapla suggested capping the bottom.

Either way, My little plants have nearly doubled in size the last few weeks so I think I better get on it this weekend.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 9:20PM
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I'm thinking of trying the same concept. I'm in a colder area, so I'd be doing this later than you. After you've built one of these, please share your design and lessons learned. And please share how your strawberry plants are doing. Thanks

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 12:03AM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

will do.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 12:21AM
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This is so cool but i have a question: i don't know what i have for strawberries (because they were giving to me and this person did know what they were) and well they have taking over a large bed in my veggie garden. the question is if i did the strawberrie tree in vermont, in zone 4 what would over wintering them be like. i don't think i can leave these trees in place and expected the plants to make it the next spring (or can I?). The only thing i can think of doing is at the of the growing season laying the trees down and covering with hay and then in the spring standing them back up. but with over winter like this does it invited mold, diseases, and such into the tubes. has anyone in my zone used the strawberry tree or something simular and what did they do for over wintering.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 7:45AM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

I like doing things as free (or cheap) as possible. So when looking for something to cap the bottom I came across and old stainless steel kitchen bowl that had a 1/2" flat lip around the top. the diameter of the bowl was a perfect 9", same as the pipe.

I'll refine / edit this and it all up on my website with photos later, but thought I'd post here before I forgot.

1) Cut pipe to length and square off ends if needed

2) I used a stainless steel bowl with a 1/2" lip. The bowls lip lined up with the 1/2 wall of the pipe. drill holes through the lip for the screws (I used 8 screws) use those holes to mark the cut end of the pipe. Drill pilot holes for the screws in the pipe so you don't crack the pvc. use stainless screws to attach the bowl to the pipe end. This will be the bottom.

3) Place holes about 8" apart. I put 4 holes around the diameter, and offset the next row of holes by about 4". This is more clear when you see pics - I'm a bad explainationist :) Start your first row of holes about 8 to 10" from the bottom. you don't want the lower plants soaking to long after watering - So leave some room for the water table just like a normal container. (I haven't verified this - are things different in a container so tall??)

4) drill drainage hole in the bottom of the bowl. I like the idea of the bowl because it added a couple extra quarts of soil capacity at the bottom, allowing me to drill my first row of holes a little lower.

5) about 1 1/2 inch from the top I drilled 1/4" holes 180 degrees apart (straight through one side, out the other). I put a metal rod through that I had laying in the garage, and stole some chain from my engine hoist. I hooked the chain to the metal rod and hung it from a rafter in the greenhouse.

6) Mix up a batch of your favorite potting mix. (by 'your favorite' I means Al's Mix, of course :] ) I can't imaging the muck at the bottom that would result with a compost based mix in such a tall container watered from the top.

7) I haven't filled mine yet. I'm wondering if it will be easiest to fill all the way, then push the plants in the holes, or fill up to a row of holes and put in some plants, fill more, put in some plants, etc..

8) water from the top. you'll be able to tell if you need to water by checking moisture at the holes.

A note: the way I hung mine, it does not swivel. I think I will find a way to hang it so I can rotate it so every day or two a new side is in the full sun direction. If i try now, it just goes back to it's original position becuase of the chain.

hope this helps. I wish i knew where to get cheap pvc pipe. the stuff I am using could cost over $10-$15 a foot since it is thick walled pressure rated. if you can find pvc made for drains, rather than water supply it will be cheaper. our local co-op had 8" thin walled, but it was over $40 for a 10 foot length, they would not sell cut sections. maybe ask around anyone in construction or someone that works for the water district or something? the might have scraps they would give or sell you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Instructions / photos will be here somewere...

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 12:57PM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

I'm a hydro grower. I grow strawberries and and use a similar system with 100% perlite. There are pictures of lettuce growing this way in my Gallery; Web page URL in my profile.

I currently have over 100 strawberry plants in perlite, some in towers and others in individual pots that either hang on my "Salad Wall" or sit on shelves in my greenhouse.

My goal is to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 strawberry plants and 200 tomatoes.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 6:33PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

awesome site freemangreens - lots of cool stuff.

I will get 16 plants (could have got 20 If I planed my holes better) in horizontal bench space than 2 currently take up. I've freed up about 6 feet of bench space - with only a 10x20 greenhouse that's significant to me!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 7:02PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

Started adding info about the strawberry tree. I'll try to get more pics and real info soon. I moved the strawberries I had in regular containers to the tree. we'll see how they do.

Here is a link that might be useful: Strawberry Tree How-To DIY

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 5:36PM
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Thanks for sharing your info. Are you planning on watering only from the top? Does it appear that the potting mix will be equally damp along the entire 3.5' length?

Please continue to share the results of your experiment.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 8:41PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

I'm not 100% sure about watering yet. temps have been in the 50's most of the week with high humidity, so the initial watering from planting is still damp. If top watering does not work well, I'll just hook up a drip at each level of rows and only drip enough to damp each level. We'll see. still a learning / work in progress.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 1:54AM
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the strawberry tree using PVC and/or someone's pics of 2 5 gallon buckets word....INGENIUS...I'm so dazzled by this that I'm just still in awe. I realize I"m probably behind the times as far as the concept goes, but still.... WOW!!!!

Goodbye hours of bending over picking berries!! This is just the coolest thing I've ever seen. so practical and functional.

I have just ONE question for anyone who can answer. How reasonable would it be to use a second pvc pipe, drilled with holes all over and stuck down in the middle of the 8 or 10 inch pipe to assist with even watering? I have seen this done with strawberry pots and this smaller pvc was not capped off but closed off with wire mesh or nylon stocking and then filled up with pea gravel. the water went directly into the smaller pvc pipe to evenly disribute the water. wouldn't this still work for a taller container (the 8 or 10 inch PVC, cut 4 feet tall?)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 9:54PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

something like that might work. I think the inner pipe would need to be rather small, like 1/2" diameter, and the holes at the bottom more sparse than the holes at the top, so watering is even at any given height. good idea for sure! If I have trouble watering mine I will experiment withe a inner pipe with holes.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 10:14PM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

This weekend I put up a new post on my Web page (URL in profile) showing two different methods of constructing strawberry trees from 2" PVC as well as plastic 2-gallon buckets.

I grow hydroonically using 100% perlite with my own proprietary organic-based, self-buffering nutrient, top-watering.

So far, everything is growing really well. I have also developed a commercial method which is uses a modified drain-to-waste method that actually recaptures any run-off nutrient.

Because of the medium I use, I'm able to hand water 300 strawberry plants in less than 2 minutes. Watering the commercial version takes about 12 seconds per 10-foot growing section. All growing stations are waist height or higher; who wants to bend over?

The home version holds 20 plants per 7-foot pole and costs about $2 per strawberry plant to build. The pole is the most expensive component, so if you are a good scrounger, the plant, medium and growing bin can cost as little as $0.75 each!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 1:08AM
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Imstillatwork...can you explain (sorry, if this is a "blonde" question)..why fewer holes at the bottom of the 1/2 inch pvc? are you assuming that the water from above would flow down to the lower plants therefore balancing things out?

I was under the impression that using the centered, smaller pvc drilled with holes was to promote even water distribution...but logic says that the lower plants would automatically get less water than the upper plants? Because in order to get enough water to them, you have to continually soak the top plants? this is what would seem likely with any kind of vertical growing container? be it the traditional strawberry jar/pot or any created versions (pvc pipes drilled out etc). Am I missing something obvious?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 8:11AM
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Dan Staley

I used to provide non-fired clay strawberry pots for landscape clients as a decorative accent in California, watering with a 1/2 in PVC with holes drilled and capped at bottom and 1/4 - 1/2 in drip tube secured to the PVC. The issue in all of these designs (and upthread) is getting adequate water to the bottom plants - fewer holes drilled at the bottom is counterproductive IME (and agreeing with rjinga). You can put gravel in the bottom of the watering pipe as well, or drill a small hole in the cap - IME you want slow flow out of the 1/2 in PVC and I wonder if gravel would slow the flow enough (not sure here).

And better than the name '10 green thumbs' is the stackable strawberry tree. Well done.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 11:12AM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

not only because water from above would flow down, but because of the total time water would be in the pipe.

I mean, I could be totally wrong, but I am thinking about the total time water is in the pipe at any given point, and the total amount of water exiting the holes at any given time period. (rate of watering at any given height.) Because of gravity, there will always be more water for a longer period at the bottom of the pipe. I assumed that with clever adjustments to the holes, you could counter act the duration bu lessening the rate. But lessening the rate will also increase the duration, so I need to just stop now. Ignore me, I'll go away :)

I also JUST thought of possibly much better solution.... again, could be totally wrong though :) What if you (or I) use a 1/2" capped pipe that reaches near the bottom but only drill holes on the bottom section. That way that watering pipe is used exclusively for the bottom section. The top section could be lightly top watered as needed (not enough to soak all the way down).

On the other hand, I truly believe that the ultimate solution is in the composition of the potting mix. I did not have enough bark fines/peat/perlite available at the time to mix a fast draining, lightweight soil for my tree, and now I regret using other stuff.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 11:50AM
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holes only at the bottom seems reasonable! in essence you would be watering from the bottom up *which is quite desirable in many plant watering set ups.

It would be worth while to experiment some...I just may do it and if I do, I'll report back and tell all what I see happening.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 12:23PM
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I'm not much of a gardener. So I hadn't thought about either the potting mix or the weight. Your link indicates 60 to 80 pounds. Wow! That's heavy! I realize that I could make the tree shorter to make the tree lighter, but the point was to grow a lot of berries in a small space. I've seen references to Al's mix. But there seems to be many variations. Can anyone suggest a potting mix for this application? Seems to me the number one priority would be that the strawberries thrive. The second priority would make the strawberry tree a little lighter for hanging and maybe moving inside for the winter.

Also, any suggestions on how many plants would be appropriate for a family of three berry lovers?


    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 3:07PM
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how do you build this strawberry trees out of pvc

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 4:31AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I really think you guys might be over-thinking this business somewhat. (Especially) if you are using a free-draining soil, and watering slowly, the water will easily get to the bottom of the tallest containers. If you think of a coarse sponge that you are pouring water on from the top, the water travels through the sponge and drips off the bottom. Water is free to move laterally out of the sponge at any time (hundreds of holes - right) yet it doesn't. The key is to not apply water any faster than the percolation rate. When you do water too copiously, the water column that is pressing downward can squeeze water laterally through the openings, but like the sponge, it won't do it if there is not enough head pressing down to overcome the capillary attraction of the soil.

I can see where it would be a pain with slow soils, but SBs won't tolerate slow soils anyway. A gritty mix with lots of porosity should work just fine w/o all the filler tubes and added accessories. I've grown in 3' hanging bags with regular potting soil (years ago) and I had no trouble getting water to the lower reaches of the bag. In fact, the trouble was too much water in the bottom of the bag because of the heavy soil.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 4:58PM
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I want to make one of these strawberry trees... but I understand that strawberries need a dormancy period during the winter so that they stay healthy.

This past year I planted my first strawberry plants in the garden and covered them with straw when it started getting really cold.

I don't have any outdoor buildings to put them in during the winter... I would think that a 6' tall, 8" PVC pipe would get much colder than they naturally would in the ground.

How can I keep them "warm enough" in the winter, but cold enough to trigger the dormant period? Or, for my situation, should I just forget about it and put all the plants in the ground?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 1:40PM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

I'm a hydro grower and I grow strawberries but I live in southern California where the only snow we see is on mountain tops and snow cones. To get around the "dormancy" issue, I buy bare-root stock that has been "pre-treated". That means the stock came from plants that are grown in a cold region.

As to your worries about the plants not over-wintering well, I have it on good authority that soil-grown strawberries that have a shallow layer of straw to protect them from direct contact, will do just fine under several feet of winter snow.

An 8-foot tall container would be subject to wind chill if not shielded. As long as we're not talking about temps in the zero range or below, my guess is the strawberry plants in a tower would make it through a (but it's only a guess).

If you make strawberry trees like I've shown on my Web page, they are only about 3-feet tall and could be grown in a basement with minimal lighting during the winter.

Perhaps you'll just have to give it a whirl. If you do, please post your results here on the 4m.

The link takes you to pictures of two "strawberry trees" you can build yourself by just looking at the pictures and reading the blog.

Here is a link that might be useful: Build Your Own Strawberry Tree

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 12:16PM
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I was going to do the 8 foot one and sink it into the ground, but now I think I'm going to go with some 5 footers.

I thought of two ways so far to get around this that might work... one is to just keep them near my garage in the winter, and on the brutally cold sub-20 days bring them in, the other is to make some holders that would keep the pipe and plants off the ground slightly while laying on its side (to keep from crushing/rotting the plants on the bottom) and cover them with straw, put some support near them and put an old blanket over the straw.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 1:13PM
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Would adding a water reservoir at the bottom of the PVC pipe/tower and using a wick work?
Would a wick be able to keep the mix watered all the way to the top of a five foot or taller pipe/tower?
In my mind I picture the PVC pipe/tower sitting on top of a 5 gallon bucket, with a hole in the lid for the wick.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 2:50PM
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Wow, that 8" is expensive!! $50 for 10 feet!

4" is only about $6... is it big enough to keep the roots from blocking the water flow? If so, what spacing should be used?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 5:38PM
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I plan to experiment with these strawberry trees this year. I'd like to try your idea of wicking water out of a bucket. I'm new to gardening. Can you elaborate on your idea? would the wick need to go all the way to the top of the pipe, or just a few inches into the soil and let the soil wick the water. Suggestions for wicking material? Is there an optimium width for a wick. Any other suggestions? Thanks

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 7:17PM
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Not my idea at all, using wicks has been around forever. I'm new to gardening as well and I dont grow strawberrys. I've used wicks in smaller containers. Reading about the PVC pipe/tree and peoples various ways of watering them, I was currious
Wick material has been talked about before here. Ive been using a synthetic rope.
I have no idea if the wick would draw all the way to the top of the PVC pipe/tree, thats what I was asking about before.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 7:39PM
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fanny(Z4 OR)

Back in the year one, we made strawberry barrels.

In the center we made a tube of hardware cloth, then filled it with composted chicken manure.

After planting the barrel, we watered into the tube, which filled up to the top, then spread pretty evenly out through the barrel.

It might work with your tree

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 7:12PM
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