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 them.
You can let them plant and care for a whole patch, or just one or two plants 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 the plants. 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 berries. And, of course, have them do the harvesting and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Some tips to ensure success:
• Be sure the crown is above soil level and the uppermost roots are ¼ inch beneath soil level, as 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 to 3 feet each.
• 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.
• Choose the right plants. There are four different types of strawberry plants: June bearing, ever-bearing, day neutral and alpine. Use transplants — they’re easier than seed and the growing process will take less time.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service