Get kids growing in the garden by starting them off planting their own strawberries. You can let them plant and care for a whole patch, or just one or two plants, planted in a strawberry jar or garden container. Be sure to engage your kids in the planting process and let them get their hands dirty. Then show them how to care for and water their home-grown tasty treats. You can make this more fun for children by buying them their very own watering can. Don’t forget to show kids how to pinch off plant runners to reap larger sized berries. And of course have them do the harvesting and enjoy the fruits of their labor!
You’ll find most kids enjoy helping in the garden, they’re allowed to get dirty, they get some good exercise, actually learn and understand, first hand, where their food comes from and they’ll gain a good sense of nurture, nature and responsibility within the process.
Children love watching strawberries grow, they’ll see flowers bloom, garden bees, and fruit develop and turn color. After developing a sense of ownership of their plants, they will especially love eating the sweet fruits they grew themselves.
Here’s some tips to ensure strawberry success:
• 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. Have kids measure and then dig holes for placing plants, depending on space and quantity. Strawberry plants should be placed approximately 14 to 18 inches apart from each other 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.
• If you want to keep it simple, plant strawberries in a container. Just remember that container plantings need much more water than in-ground plantings, usually once a day; and if it’s hot, twice. Strawberry pots are the obvious, best container choice for growing strawberries. You can fit several plants in one pot; just make sure whatever type of garden pot you use has good drainage. Strawberries have a relatively small root ball and can be grown in containers as small as 10-12 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. However, the smaller the container, the more frequently you will need to water. Synthetic and light colored pots will keep the roots cooler than dark colors and natural materials that conduct heat.
• Strawberries like well drained fairly rich soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing the pot or patch.
• They need full sun, and frequent, deep soakings. Be sure to give adequate water during bearing season. They will grow in all zones and should be fed twice a year — when growth begins and after the first crop. Use a complete fertilizer high in phosphorous for feedings.
Choosing Strawberry Plants
There are four different types of strawberry plants, June bearing, everbearing, day neutral and alpine. Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of veggies and herbs in the U.S., with 65 growing stations across the country, regionally serving 48 states, offers strawberry plants at your local garden retailer. Use transplants — they’re easier than seed and the growing process will take less time. For more information and tips on growing strawberries please visit www.bonnieplants.com.
Strawberries are one of the easiest and best home garden fruits for kids to grow. They’ll produce fruit throughout the summer and children will love to pluck them right off the plant, wash and eat! If your kids have yet to plant and care for a fruit or vegetable, strawberries are a perfect choice for their first gardening experience. Kick off this gardening season with your kids and get them growing strawberries!
Joan Casanova is owner of Green Earth Media Group and a spokesperson for Bonnie Plants.