Brandon Miniman is a home garden enthusiast near Philadelphia who “loves growing things”.
When he first learned about hydroponics, he was very excited about growing food indoors. Philadelphia is well known for a great cheesesteak and an incredible orchestra but not so well known for its year-round agriculture.
Like many homeowners, he started small with a typical countertop unit and had fun growing herbs and greens, but he felt this limited him to what he could grow. So, he leveled up and bought larger versions of the countertop model. He successfully grew tomatoes, ground cherries, bell peppers, and even strawberries. “I was having so much fun until I realized these countertop units have space limitations, especially for larger crops, so I looked for something more versatile.”
After some research, he came across ZipGrow and the Tower-based hydroponic systems. “They appeared to offer a lot of space, flexibility, and control.”
Following the launch of the ZipGarden in Dec 2021, Brandon was intrigued and took the leap to purchase a system.
“I was delighted to see ZipGrow make a three-tower, self-contained home product…I wanted to push the limits of what I could grow indoors with this ingenious growing system that finally gave me the space and flexibility to grow to my heart’s content.”
Within weeks he was growing a wide variety of lettuce and herbs while simultaneously growing seedlings of warm-weather crops like peppers and tomatoes in (included) nursery station.
The gift to self that keeps on giving
Inspired by the ZipGrow YouTube video, which shows how well strawberries grow in a ZipGrow Tower, Brandon purchased some Seascape strawberry root crowns (Amazon) and planted them in the Towers.
“Within days, the dormant crowns burst into life, and my ZipGarden was growing strawberry plants.”
Brandon chose to leave the flowers growing from the first set. The results were smaller berries, but they appeared sooner than if he had pinched flowers. “I was able to fit about ten strawberry plants in a single Tower in my ZipGarden, which yields me a handful of ripe strawberries almost every week.”
“If you’ve never had a hydroponic strawberry, you’re missing out.”
Fresh produce in North America travels on average 1682 miles to get from the farmer to the consumer, so it’s really not so fresh. Unfortunately most strawberries you buy are not vine-ripened fully or at all. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a zone where you can grow strawberries outside in the winter months, you are limited to buying an underdeveloped and undernourished crop.
“When you grow hydroponically, you can wait until 100% of the berry has ripened, and wow, it’s like candy when it’s fully ripe because the sugar content is at the peak.”
Brandon’s short on TikTok (here) shows what a peak-ripeness of his strawberries look like when it’s grown in his ZipGarden.
Commercial indoor farms pollinate their strawberry crops using pollination hives from insect breeding companies like Koppert or Biobest, but in a home setting, you probably don’t want a bunch of live bees buzzing around your house.
You can recreate the vibration of a bee with an electric toothbrush. The vibration releases the flower’s pollen and causes it to fall onto the pistil, fertilizing the flower.
Brandon successfully does this to pollinate his strawberry flowers. You don’t have to touch the face of the flower: place the brush behind the flower and turn it on. Since Seascapes are everbearing, Brandon gets continuous harvests from his strawberry crop.
Watch this video showing the second fruit set just a month after the first fruit.
Brandon's home growing tip for Bigger Berries
While most hydroponic strawberry growers will tell you to remove any flowers for the first few weeks so the plant can focus on vegetative growth, my experience is that pinching flowers results in bigger berries, but you’ll have to wait longer.
“I really enjoy using my ZipGarden, and while these systems excel with leafy greens and herbs, everyone should give strawberries a try.”
You can view more videos of Brandon’s experiences on his YouTube channel:
Do you have a unique story about your experiences with a ZipGrow system? Contact us. We would love to hear from you.