First, apologies for a very random question, but this has been dogging me for over a year now and I don’t know where to turn other than the mass of expertise on these forums. Almost all of my (gardening) time now is spent focused on my outdoor endeavors informed by the many brilliant posts here (which I’ve lost many, many weekends reading in detail) and one day I’m sure I’ll have some good information to share. But, for now…
I’ve been trying to grow hydroponic strawberries indoors year-round in an Aerogarden for about 18 months now. I buy bare root day neutral (occasionally everbearing strawberries), I place them in the Aerogarden, and they absolutely thrive leafing out quickly, flowering, and growing delicious strawberries. (Day neutral as there won’t be chill hours in my indoor grow room.)
I read on the Internet: a) to disable the Aerogarden drip watering system pretty much completely (5 minutes on, 3,000 minutes off) to avoid root rot; b) to use Fox Farms nutrients instead of the standard Aerogarden nutrients (I currently use Grow Big); c) to aerate the water with an aquarium aerator. Bare roots are placed in the plastic wire baskets directly.
For the first six months, I had no issues with the plants (other than lots and lots of runners I had to continually cut off) and had many delicious strawberries. My project was a success against all odds. I even transplanted some of the runners outside by using soil pots to spawn new plants. Life was good.
But then the plants all died out. I bought replacements. They would all thrive, leaf out quickly, start to create strawberries and then… die. I would replace them again and this cycle has continued for most of the past year. All of my initial success has withered on the vine.
I discovered via a post here that the place I’ve been buying bare root strawberries for over the last year (but not the initial six months where I had success) is known for selling diseased plants. I’m coming to believe that maybe my grow room has some sort of disease from those. We removed all of the old strawberries about two months ago, cleaned the entire strawberry grow area thoroughly (sanitizing where possible), and replaced with new strawberries from sellers with a strong reputation.
But now it’s happening again, one plant at a time.
What is going on with these strawberries? Is it disease? Am I missing nutrients? Too much water / too little water? Too much / too little aeration? Or something completely different? I’ve tried to search articles on strawberry diseases, books on strawberry diseases, and the forums for anything like this, but nothing seems to match (even though it’s obviously tough to tell so I may be missing something really obvious).
Also note that I mostly grow hot peppers in Aerogarden in my grow room and they’re all doing just fine, but, when we cleaned everything up about two months ago, we didn’t remove/replace them so they could be a vector for disease. We have some likely fungus gnats floating around in there, but nothing excessive. I had two serviceberry and six thimbleberry plants in pots in there for the past few months waiting for Zone 4 weather to warm up for planting and they could’ve also been vectors.
Here are some photos of the issues:
And then another strawberry plant that’s just starting to see issues (an Albion):
And finally a neighbor plant that is still unaffected (a Delizz):
Any ideas from the brain trust here?