Plant and harvest your own strawberries

(Newport News, Va.) Daily PressApril 19, 2013 

LIFE HOME-ENV-DIGGIN-IN 5 MCT

The relatively small root balls on strawberry plants makes them perfect pot partners. You can also grow the plants in a "strawberry fountain" or "strawberry pyramid" using directions from www.bonnieplants.com.

COURTESY OF BONNIE PLANTS — MCT

  • More about strawberries

    • Learn how to build a strawberry fountain and pyramid, and get strawberry recipes and bird-protection tips at http://nando.com/ab.

    • Find strawberry festivals, plants recommended for each state and recipes at http://strawberryplants.org.

Melissa Goodson grows strawberries as an attractive border along the edges of her perennial gardens.

In their special spot near the back deck of her southeastern Virginia home, the sun is good for them, and it’s easy to harvest berries when they ripen. She prefers everbearing-type strawberries because they produce fruit intermittently during spring, summer and fall and not just the all-at-once bumper crop that June-bearing plants yield. Plus, everbearing plants don’t send out so many nuisance runners.

She also finds kids in the neighborhood like the crop, openly giggling while they sneak berries when they visit her riverfront yard.

Fresh, homegrown strawberries are ideal for introducing kids to edible gardening, according to gardening experts.

With your gentle guidance, kids can plant a whole patch, or just one or two plants in a strawberry jar or large pot. Just make sure the container has plenty of good drainage holes.

Children will be fascinated as they watch the strawberries grow. They’ll be out there every day, soaking up some healthy sunshine and outdoor exercise while they watch the flowers and berries appear, and the bees buzzing about. It’s a science lesson all its own, according to educators.

Here are some tips to ensure strawberry success, courtesy of Bonnie Plants ( bonnieplants.com):

• When planting strawberries, be sure the crown is above soil level and the uppermost 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 about 14 to 18 inches apart in neat rows separated by 2 to 3 feet. Let runners fill in until plants are 7 to 10 inches apart.

• Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture and control weeds.

• To keep it simple, plant strawberries in a container. But remember that container plantings need more water than in-ground plantings – usually once a day, twice if it’s hot. Strawberry pots are the best container choice for growing strawberries. You can fit several plants in one pot; 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 to 12 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. However, the smaller the container, the more often you need to water. Synthetic and light-colored pots keep the roots cooler than dark colors and natural materials that conduct heat.

• Strawberries like well-drained, fairly rich soil, so add compost or other organic matter when preparing the pot or planting patch.

• They need full sun and frequent, deep soakings. Be especially careful to provide adequate water during fruit-bearing season.

• They should be fed twice a year – when growth begins and after the first crop. Use a complete fertilizer high in phosphorous. In addition to June and everbearing strawberries, there are day-neutral plants that flower and set fruit when temperatures are between 35 and 85 degrees and alpine varieties that thrive in shade. Be sure to pick the type best suited for your growing conditions.

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