PHILADELPHIA, PA — One of the first food plants you’ll see at garden centers are strawberries and there’s lots of good reasons to get them growing in your garden.
Kids are likely to enjoy the sweetness of strawberries even more if they’re involved in the planting, growing, and harvesting. Planting strawberries will offer a healthy way for children to learn about natural sweetness, and kids love watching them grow, seeing the flowers and bees and then seeing the fruit develop and turn color. After developing a sense of ownership of their strawberry plants, they’ll love eating the fruits of their labor. Getting kids in the garden will provide good, healthy exercise and an opportunity for them to nurture nature and see, first hand, just where food comes from!
Plus homegrown strawberries just plain taste better than store bought. Strawberries are cold-hardy and very adaptable, so they’re really easy to grow. You can grow them in containers, hanging baskets, raised beds or in-ground, making them accessible to everyone, no matter how much space you have –or don’t have. Growing “Ever-bearing” strawberries, like Bonnie Plants’ “Ever Sweet”, “Quinalt”, “Tristan” or “Loran” varieties will keep you well supplied throughout the entire season and into fall.
If you want to keep it really simple, or you just don’t have in-ground garden space, plant strawberries in a container, or you can buy them already planted in a hanging basket. Just remember that container plantings need more water than in-ground plantings, usually once a day, and if it’s hot, twice a day. Planting in a “strawberry pot” is easy too and you can fit several plants in just one pot; just make sure whatever type of garden pot you use has good drainage.
There are two main types of strawberries, “June-bearing” and “Ever-bearing.” June bearing varieties, like Bonnie Plants’ “All-Star”, bear all at once, usually over a period of about 3 weeks, they’re high yield and produce very large, juicy, sweet berries in late mid-season. “Ever Bearing Strawberries like Bonnie Plants’ “Ever Sweet”, “Quinault”, “Tristan” and “Loran” will set fruit through late spring and then bloom and bear again in late summer and fall. When you grow your own Ever Bearing strawberries, you’ll get a good, steady crop of sweet, ripe strawberries all season long. Pick a strawberry variety that suits your geographic region for best results.
• When planting strawberries, be sure the crown is above soil level and the upper most roots are 1/4 inch beneath soil level, buried crowns rot and exposed roots dry out.
• Plant approximately 14 to 18 inches apart in neat rows that are separated by 2-3 feet each. Let runners fill in until plants are 7-10 inches apart.
• Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture and control weeds.
• Strawberries like well drained, fairly rich soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing the pot or patch.
• Strawberries need full sun, 6-8 hours per day, and frequent, deep soakings. You’ll need to feed them a plant food like Bonnie Plant Food that has nutrients that your strawberry plants will love. Just follow label directions.
• Control slugs and snails by handpicking them off plants and prevent theft from birds by covering your patch with netting as the first berries ripen.
• Pick strawberries in the morning, when the fruit is cool, and immediately put them in the refrigerator. Wait until just before you eat or cook them to rinse the berries thoroughly with cool water.
• Harvest when berries turn red. Avoid leaving ripe berries on the vine, as they’ll rot quickly.
Strawberries are one of the easiest and most delicious home garden fruits to grow. Try growing them with kids, plants produce fruit throughout the summer and children will love to pick them right off the plant, wash and eat. If your kids have yet to get growing in the garden, strawberries are a perfect first choice. Kick off this gardening season—with your kids— and get growing strawberries!
For more info on growing strawberries as well as vegetables and herbs please visit www.bonnieplants.com
This story was submitted by Joan Casanova of Green Earth Media Group.