Tough strawberry question - PVC tower spacing

andyinnycMarch 8, 2010

I have two 8" internal diameter PVC pipes that I'm going to fill with growing medium and plant strawberries growing up (5 feet of tower will be above ground).

Two questions

How big should I drill my individual strawberry holes? I've seen 2" used in web searches, but that seems big to me.

More importantly, what kind of spacing between holes (horizontally and vertically) should I employ? This is the bigger question to me - it clearly impacts how many I plant (and how many holes I drill).

20' section of the cell core PVC was \$120; I had it cut down to 2 8' sections (3' in the ground) and 1 4' remainder that I may additionally use on the deck.

I have included a link to a commercial version of my goal.

All thoughts welcome.

Andrew

Here is a link that might be useful: A Commercial Version of Strawberry Tower

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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

Raintree nursery 5ft towers with 96 holes.

That's 6 rows of 16 holes. 60 inch long pipe with 16 holes on center would be 3.75 inches apart. With a space at the top your pipe would have to be about 64 inches long. The rows are also staggered so this would make the pipe 68 inches long. I'd go with a 1 1/2 inch hole. Gives you a little wiggle room. You need to get your finger through the hole to spread the roots out.

I would wrap a piece of paper around your pipe to get the circumference. Then lay the paper flat and divide it into 6 equal spaces. The dividing lines is where you drill the holes around the tube. I would then use a piece of angle iron as your straight edge to mark your running lines.

Hope this helps and makes sense.

Eric

March 8, 2010 at 6:10PM
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andyinnyc

Makes sense and is very helpful - thanks.

Seems like the tower they have has a much smaller diameter than 8".

I can't seem to find cheap end caps for the 8" PVC. The plumbing supply store wanted \$25/unit. Too much.

Andrew

March 9, 2010 at 9:55AM
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tammyinwv(z6/WV)

Just curious, but why would you need an endcap, wouldnt you want to leave it open for rain and watering? I thought about trying this myself once before, but haven' done it yet.
Tammy

March 9, 2010 at 8:33PM
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Michael

Andy: just in case you haven't thought about it, pay very close attention to the water needs of the plants in that vertical system. The water holding capacity will be very low compared to what it would be if the whole thing was lying down. to get a sense of this, saaturate a sponge while holding it and feel how heavy it is once the mass flow of water out of the sponge has stopped. Next, hold the sponge up on end and notice how much water drains out. The same thing will happen to your tube making necessary more frequent waterings. the good news is that you shouldn't have a drainage problem if you are using a peat-lite mix. I'm guessing the lid is to help keep the top from drying out even faster.

Sorry, can't help any further with the hole sizes but Eric's template idea is excellent.

Michael

March 9, 2010 at 10:12PM
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tammyinwv(z6/WV)

I dont know if this will help, but I found this guys site while trying to research this planting method more. These pics show the tops of the tubes left open.
Tammy

Here is a link that might be useful: Strawberry tubes

March 10, 2010 at 10:04AM
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andyinnyc

The tubes are going to be filled with one of the mixes suggested on the container gardening site - Turface, granite and pine bark. Turface holds a lot of water.

The cap is because every watering will be with fertilizer - without the cap, rain will simply give liquid, but no nutrients. That's my thought at least.

Andrew

March 10, 2010 at 2:44PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

Andrew,

Are you water only through the top? I can't tell by Raintree's pictures, but I'm assuming there is a drip line down the middle of each tube. My setup will have 6" on center drip line

Also why the expensive pipe. \$125.00 and \$25.00 fittings. Ouch! The Raintree pictures look like 6" recycled milk jug pipe. I can't recall it's name. Cheap!

Eric

March 10, 2010 at 4:18PM
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andyinnyc

Why the expensive pipe?

Well, it's cellcore so it's lighter and easier to use/cut holes in.

I needed a longer length in order to bury a significant portion for stability.

Given the cost of the rest of my life, the \$125 isn't a major capital expense - although the cost of the end caps really peeves me.

Reports that I did read all panned the 6" as opposed to the 8" pipe. They noted a marked decrease in productivity and health of the plants.

Andrew

March 10, 2010 at 5:17PM
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andyinnyc

Center watering.

Now that I seem to have quite the following, I thought I'd ask a follow up.

I'm using an almost completely inorganic medium for the plants inside the pipe (Turface, granite and fir bark). I was thinking of picking up a length of 1" PVC and drilling a million holes along the length and an end cap and putting it in the center of my 8" pipe and watering it through the perforated pipe.

Advantages - all the fertilizer should be spread equally throughout the tube and water distribution should be +/- equivalent throughout.

Disadvantages - slight increase in time to drill holes and keep 1" pipe centered as I fill; other disadvantages??????

Cost of 1" PVC and an endcap is not a factor in the discussion.

Thoughts?

Andrew

March 10, 2010 at 5:24PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

Andrew,

I don't have any answers to your watering setup. I have more questions than answers. Will it spread water equally? Is water pressure, gravity invalved? Could you fill the 1" pipe with Turface and leach out more evenly.

Centering the 1" pipe could be done with discs made of hardware cloth, or similar porous material. #2 You are burying the 8" pipe 3ft down, you bury the 1" along with it centered.

My last question, sense this thing will be fixed in place, will the northside get enough light. I will be hanging mine, so I can rotate daily.

Eric

March 12, 2010 at 10:26PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

Andrew,

How goes the project? Can you post pictures.

Eric

March 16, 2010 at 2:49PM
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andyinnyc

Work and life interfere with hobbies.
This weekend will hopefully be the start.
Will take pictures as I go along.

Andrew

March 16, 2010 at 4:07PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

Andrew,

Thank you for the Email update. You should also post it here for all to see.

A well done job, now clean up your mess! :)

Eric

March 21, 2010 at 7:51PM
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Abha_1

I bought a couple of these towers from Raintree. I got them because my garden space is quite limited where I am now. The first one I got was the short one--that one was not a bad idea. I would recommend it. It has about 2 dozen holes for the berries.

When you grow the berries, the pots fill up with roots and the soil gets depleted. You do have to clear them out every so often and renew the soil. I went to an all day class at Raintree on March 22nd and they said in one of the sessions that the berries only produce well for 2-3 years and then you have to discard them. That may be simply that the soil in the containers gets exhausted? I am no expert on that one.

As to the larger tower. I emptied it out yesterday as most of the plants in it were dead. It is nearly as tall as I am 5+ft. It was awful to try and get the tangled roots out, and that is a job you would have to do periodically. I think this is important to know. If you have very little space for gardening, you might want to go for it anyway? But it is useful to know ahead of time. That is the tradeoff for the taller tower. And it is also heavy to pick up to knock out the old soil. As I said before, the shorter tower was easier to manage with regard to this issue.

I am going to sell the larger one because I plan to move to a colder planting zone and the roots would freeze in the winter in that tower if they were not planted in the ground. Also, where I plan to move, space is not an issue.

YMMV.

Abs

April 3, 2014 at 6:55PM
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