A Child’s Strawberry Garden


Let the kids plant and harvest strawberries. Fun for everyone!

By Joan Casanova

 

Children love watching strawberries grow. They can see the flowers that bloom before the fruit develops, observe the bees gather pollen, and finally see the berries develop and change from green to red.

Once they are bright red, it’s time to sample the luscious fruit. The best part!

Why Strawberries?

Most kids like to eat strawberries and because they are easy to grow, they are a good choice for budding gardeners.

Let them plant and care for a whole patch or just one or two plants, planted in a strawberry jar or garden container. Engage the kids in the planting process and encourage them to get their hands dirty. Show them how to care for and water their growing plants.

Strawberries need a lot of water. Buy your child his own watering can to make the job more fun. Don’t forget to show kids how to pinch off plant runners, which is a way to reap larger berries.

Tips for Success

Strawberry plants sold at garden centers are the best choice for kids’ gardens. They are less challenging than seeds and offer relatively immediate results. There are several kinds of plants—-those that bear fruit most of the season and those that have one or two crops. Still others are better suited for high altitudes or for hot, dry regions.

Talk to the experts at the garden center when you buy the plants. They will point you in the right direction. Don’t forget to mention that children will be planting and tending the plants.

How to Plant

When planting strawberry plants, be sure the crown is above the soil level and the uppermost roots are 1/4 inch beneath it. Buried crowns rot and exposed roots dry out.

Show your child how to measure and then dig holes for the plants. Strawberry plants should be placed approximately 14 to 18 inches from each other in neat rows that are two to three feet apart. Let the plants’ runners fill in the space until the plants are seven to 10 inches apart. At this point, start pinching the runners.

Strawberries like well drained, fairly rich soil and should be planted in full sun. Add compost or other organic matter to the soil when preparing the pot or garden patch.

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

Be sure to water the plants adequately during the bearing season. Kids may enthusiastically water the plants for the first week or so but lose interest as the days go on. You will have to remind them to care for their growing plants.

Strawberries, which grow in all zones, should be fed twice a year. First when planted and growth begins, and then again after the first crop. Use a complete fertilizer high in phosphorous.

Growing Strawberries in Pots

To keep it simple or if you don’t have much garden space, plant strawberries in a container. These are perfect for decks and small yards with full sun.

Container plantings need much more water than in-ground plants. This means a thorough soaking once a day; if it's hot, douse them twice.

Strawberry pots are the best containers, although any container with good drainage and that is at least 12 inches in diameter and eight inches deep works well. Strawberries have fairly small root balls and the smaller containers require more frequent watering. Synthetic and light colored pots keep the roots cooler than natural materials and dark colors, both of which conduct heat.

Strawberry Joy

Strawberries are one of the easiest and best home garden fruits for kids to grow. Once the plants mature, children love to pluck the juicy red berries right off the plant. Who can blame them?

You’ll find most kids enjoy working in the garden, particularly if they’re allowed to get muddy and use the hose. Best of all, it’s fun for everyone and your kids will better understand where their food comes from.

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Joan Casanova writes for Green Earth Media Group