Mmmmmmmmm. There's nothing like a sun-ripened, freshly picked strawberry. Warm, sweet and juicy. Growing your own will offer you a sweeter strawberry because it is allowed to ripen on the plant. You will also know how it was grown (no pesticides, etc.). Children often like growing strawberries, well, because they like strawberries! Here are some pointers on growing and using them.
Strawberries grow 6-8 inches tall spreading about one foot across with long runners. Their white, sometimes pink (depending on the variety) flowers turn into luscious strawberries that we can enjoy fresh, put into desserts, make jam, or freeze and use later.
In mild winter areas, planting season is late summer or fall. These plantings will produce a spring crop of strawberries. In other areas, plant strawberries in early spring. Everbearers will produce a summer and fall crop.
When planting strawberries, be sure the crown is above soil level and the topmost roots are 1/4 inch beneath soil level because buried crowns rot and exposed roots dry out. Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture and keep weed growth down. Set plants 2-3 feet apart and let runners fill in until plants are 7-10 inches apart.
Strawberries like well drained fairly rich soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing the strawberry 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.
June bearing types produce one crop per year in late spring or early summer. Since this type gives you all the fruit at once, it's best planted for reasons of preserving or freezing.
This type of strawberry tends to peak in early summer and continue on through the fall. This is the type to plant if you want fresh berries all season long.
Most strawberries produce offsets at the end of runners. If you want more plants, just let them grow. If you have enough strawberry plants, pinching off the runners will give you larger plants with small yields of big berries.
If your children are interested in growing strawberries, you can let them plant and care for the whole patch, or just one or two plants if
the patch is too much for them. Strawberries will also grow in containers, so this is another option that is less work for children. Remember that container plantings need much more water than in the ground plantings, usually once a day; if it's hot, twice. Be sure to let them help you with the fun part -- harvesting and making delicious things to eat with them.
Monica Resinger is editor/founder of Creative Gardening newsletter, a FREE and fun interactive ezine. Each Monday you'll be able read,
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