When you think of hydroponic gardens, which crops do you think of? You probably think of the typical lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, and maybe even some strawberries. But what about citrus fruits, apples, pears, and other fruits from fruiting trees?
Yes, with some tweaking of your hydroponic set-up, you can grow trees effectively in your garden.
To get started, your hydroponic garden must mimic all the things that a tree would need if you planted it in your backyard. It’s going to need warm temperatures and lots of light. So, you’re going to need to bring in LED growing lamps, high-pressure sodium lamps, or metal halide lamps for your set-up. These are non-negotiable with trees.
Stock vs Seeds
The next step is to decide if you’re going to purchase a tree from your local nursery or grow your own from seed. If you decide to get a seed started, soak it inside of a napkin for a few days to soften the external coating. You’ll want to remove this external seed coating or knick it to help with germination for the tree.
Keep in mind that if you decide to start with a seed, you may have to wait some time before you finally get fruits setting on the tree. Most species take about three to five years to mature. Purchasing a tree from your local nursery is a good choice if you’re looking to have a healthy sapling that is closer to bearing fruits.
No matter which source you choose, however, it’s a good idea to consider using a dwarf species as a smaller tree will ensure that you’ll have enough room in your growroom.
Now that you have your tree, it’s time to plant. Remember, the container size you use will dictate the end size of your tree. You’ll want to start with at least a five-gallon container. However, over time, you may want to opt for larger and larger containers to ensure that your tree grows to its full potential while staying within your grow space.
While your tree may not grow to the same size as it would outside in your backyard, it will often bear normal-sized fruit and potentially produce full-sized harvests.
Once you’ve chosen your container, fill it with perlite, rice husk, or vermiculite and include the tubing you’ll need to evacuate the nutrient solution from the bottom. Some find it beneficial to use a drip irrigation system with about three emitters per tree, while others prefer the flood and drain method to prevent the growth of algae.
No matter the method, the most important thing is to keep your root ball from drying out as this could ultimately damage—or kill—your tree. Some growers prefer using a root bag or a net pot, but this is an optional step based on how your system is set up.
When putting your tree into your new system, no matter if you started it from seed or purchased a stock tree, be overly careful with your tree’s roots. Pampered roots lead to better growing trees.
At the start, your nutrient solution should be kept at half-strength; however, as the tree grows bigger and stronger, you’ll want to start using a full-strength nutrient solution. Also, find out your tree’s optimal pH range and keep a close eye on your system’s levels. pH levels that are too high or too low could be detrimental to your tree.
On that same thread, get familiar with the other specific needs of the tree species you’re growing. For instance, some trees require a cold period for them to set fruit the next year. Also, find out if your tree has any specific nutrient requirements.
If you ever find that your system is not working for your tree, feel free to modify it even more as you go along to find that perfect set-up. The options are almost endless.
If this article has you thinking about picking mouthwatering cherries from your hydroponic set-up or making an apple pie from your dwarf apple tree, it may be time to explore the exciting area of growing a tree.
Have fun in learning about the different types of trees you can grow and how to add a tree to your current system.