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How To Build Your Own Strawberry Tower

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video How To Build Your Own Strawberry Tower
Detailed instruction how out to make your own growing tower out of a standard 4" PVC pipe.   Works great for hydroponic or aquaponic systems!  Below is the entire transcript from the video:

Hello everyone.

One of the top requests I get is how to build a strawberry tower. This video will display all the necessary steps to build your own.

The first step is to place a mark on each end of the pipe, then rotate it 180 degrees and mark the other end. Then snap a line down the entire length of the pipe. You could also use a straight edge to mark a line, but I find the chalk line to be more accurate and easier. Turn the pipe over and snap a second line down the opposite side.

Along each chalk line you will place a series of marks. Starting at 2 inches, draw a mark every 8 inches. This will be the spacing between each pocket in the tower. If you are going to grow plants that need more root area, set the spaces further apart. I typically replace the strawberry plants every season. If they grow for more than one season, they can become root-bound.

Starting at the first set of marks, draw a line from one mark and connect it to the mark on the opposite side. Then turn the pipe 180 degrees and connect the next series of marks. Continue rotating the pipe while connecting each series of marks. These lines will be used for cutting the slots in the tower.

Along each cut mark, carefully cut through the pipe until you reach the measured mark you placed at the chalk line. Do not cut through more than half the pipe! Rotate the pipe 180 degrees and cut the next slot. When you are done, each slot should be on the opposite side of the previous slot.

Time for some good gloves. The pipe doesn’t become flexible until it is well above the boiling temperature of water. Please be careful!

The general area that will be heated will be an arch shape starting at one end of the slit, up about 8 inches to the back side of the neighboring slit and then back down to the other end of the slit.

Heating PVC should be done in a well vented area. If you overheat it, it can release some nasty gases. Please be careful! Continuously move the heat around the arched area. Try to avoid heating the area below the slit to keep the pipe from bending too much.

After a few minutes, the PVC will become soft. It helps to apply a little extra heat at the each edge of the slit since this is where the sharpest bend will be.

Push in the PVC so it makes a concave shape in the arched area. You will want to push it in enough so that it will touch against the back wall, but not create a seal since the water will need to trickle through that area, but don’t leave too big of a gap so your growing media will fall through it. When you let go of the pipe, it will usually spring back a little, leaving a gap around ¼”.

I found it to be very helpful to use a few spring-clamps to hold the tight bends in place while the plastic is cooling. You will want to hold the shape in place for a couple of minutes while it is cooling.

It takes me about 3 1/2 minutes to completly create each pocket.

When you are done, you will have some nice pockets alternating on each side of your new tower.

As the water flows through the tower, the surface tension in the water can cause it to flip out of the edge of the slit. To correct this, I added a collar around each pocket.

With some extra pipe, cut some rings about 1 ½” wide. Then remove enough of the ring so when it’s placed over the slit area, it extends just beyond the slit. Add some silicone adhesive and clamp the ring in place. Half of the ring should be placed above the slit line. Use clamps to hold it in place until it cures.

If you’re not going to be draining directly into a sump tank, you’ll need a way to catch the water from your towers. Take a 4” cap and add a fitting to it. Drill a 7/8” hole and thread it with a ¾” tap. There are several ways of adding fittings, but I found this to be very cost effective method.

Take a ¾” NPT to barbed fitting and screw it into the tap. If it is screwed in far enough, it will be higher than the base of the cap. This work well to help any media that as fallen through from going down the drain and clogging it.

This cross-section shows how the fitting is placed into the cap.

Place the cap on the bottom of the tower. The bottom pocket should not be filled with anything so you can clean the base cap if necessary.

To hang your tower, drill a couple of holes on both sides near the top and insert some S hooks. Use a wire or chain to hang it from a strong support.

To connect the tower drains together, you can attach them with tubing and barbed fittings. I made some stands from scrap 3” pipe to support the bottom of the tower. Then I used a 1-1/2” pipe with holes drilled in the side to catch the water from each tower. Each pipe then drained into the main sump tank.

Filling each pocket can be a challenge so I made a tray-type funnel to speed up the process. Take a section of pipe and do a cut down its length. Heat the entire piece so it can be flattened, then bend up the edges so it forms a V shape.

I created a cross-cut section so you could see the inside of the tower. Please note that this sample is done with black ABS so you could see the various surfaces easier. Each pocket will hold about 5 cups, or 1 liter of growing medium. This is enough space for most shallow root plants like strawberries or lettuce. For my strawberry plants, they will usually get water for 10 minutes every hour and a half.

Thank you for watching. Here’s a quick slideshow of my strawberry towers in action!
fenix9101 year ago
Excellent description and guide!
juw461 year ago
Hi, I found the video and instructions very useful. Thanks and I did three in a raw of 4inch 6foot PVC, I have now strawberies, salad/curry leaves, beans and okra etc. I keep a PET bottle with a hole on top for drip irrigation! Jayantha - Sri Lanka
jahitch11 year ago
What kind of pump do you use to circulate the water? I want to hook up three of the systems (each 5' long). Thanks
web4deb (author)  jahitch11 year ago
it's just a cheap pond pump I bought at Harbor Freight. When you pick a pump, make sure the specs say it has a high enough heat to pump higher than your towers!
Jaycub3 years ago
I can't believe you went to all the work of making that and then cut it in half lengthwise!
ekardell Jaycub3 years ago
Yes, that adds a nice touch to the demonstration, thanks for showing the cut-away.
web4deb (author)  Jaycub3 years ago
it's all smoke and mirrors. ;-) The one I made up for the video is currently used my my greenhouse. The one cut in half was a small piece of scrap pipe that I was going to throw away.
erv_20063 years ago
Hi!!! what is the tool you use for heating the pvc??? Can you tell me the brand and the model or something like that. Thanks
web4deb (author)  erv_20063 years ago
It's a standard heat gun. You can buy them at most hardware stores like Harbor Freight, Lowes, or Home Depot. It should be less than $20.
clever AND productive! well done!
Very cool. Have you considered using galvanized or stainless steel pipe instead of PVC ? I might try it, as I'm not crazy about plastics (using or manufacturing process). Stay tuned, and thanks for the great idea!
web4deb (author)  sesquipedalian3 years ago
Unfortunately, the zinc in galvanized metal is toxic to the fish and it is frowned upon to use any galvanized material in an aquaponic system. You have to pick the lesser of 2 evils and go with the PVC. If you can find ABS, that's classified as "safer". Best yet, try to find HDPE...but it's REALLY expensive in piping.
What variety of strawberries do you use? Are certain types better for a single season harvest? Most of my friends who grow them plant them and have to wait until the following year for a harvest.
web4deb (author)  listentodave3 years ago
I've tried the ever-bloom and don't really like them. Smaller berries and sporadic. I like to get the majority all at once so I can freeze them. This year I've replaced them all and am trying "Northeaster" from Burpee's. They got a late start but will produce berries this first year.
What media do you use for your plants?
web4deb (author)  the pvc bike guy3 years ago
It's all expanded shale. You can get it from http://www.TheAquaponicSource.com or get more info at http://www.ExpandedShale.com. Thanks!

Also, they're running a promotion on it which ends on Apr 30th! There's a video at http://youtu.be/w2O5g04A9hk which explains the details.
nsokoloff3 years ago
This looks great, good job. I need to invest into some DIY equipment.
pitzhr3 years ago
Very good instructable :)!
thumpergirl3 years ago
This is a fantastic concept.Ive always had all these ideas for this type of growing tower but coud not quite get it right!!Absolutley lovely. One question thought: To heat the pvc what are you using?Is thia a heat gun? Ive a heat gun but nothing that looks wuite as "hot" or ":strong" as this. Would it need to be of a certain wattage to bend the pvc? or any gun with enough time will do this. or are you noy using a heat gun ata ll??
Sorry if that sunded a bit convoluted,I just woke up and your wonderful video caught my eye!!!!
Thumper
web4deb (author)  thumpergirl3 years ago
This is a standard heat gun. I believe it's 1500 watts - I got it years ago so I'm not 100% sure of the wattage. I pretty sure you can get them at Home Depot or Lowes. I've seen them at Harbor Freight for as low as $13. PVC will get soft at over 100 degrees C so most heat guns should do fine.
Dude Man3 years ago
This is amazing! +5.0, Great work!
idrussian3 years ago
just a question and thought is there any problem with pvc leaching into the fruit
web4deb (author)  idrussian3 years ago
PVC has been a debated topic for a long time with Aquaponics. It's almost a don't ask, don't tell rule. The aquaponics environment (mainly the fish) is sensitive to chemical imbalances and the fish would quickly show signs of disease. For example, using zinc coated or copper in the system will harm most fish. I always wash out the PVC dust after building a tower to minimize exposure. Some web sites say this stuff will kill you just from looking at it...some say it's perfectly safe. It's up to the end user if it's worth the risk or not. I'm sorry I don't have a perfect answer for you!
i appriciate the reply and info this has got me thinking about a design using bamboo with the same diameter and the proper design retrofit
smessud3 years ago
Very neat.
Showing the internals with the pieces cut-out is very informative.
Thanks a lot for sharing.