For years and years Rebecca has been in awe of my strawberry barrel. I started with one plant. Just one. Over the years it put out runners and has filled an entire Whiskey barrel full of plants. So many, in fact, that it was wall to wall roots. I have been happy with my plants. They stay green all year round. I have gotten some nice berries off of it but not nearly enough in my opinion.
My success with strawberries is not top secret. When I got my barrels we drilled some holes in the bottom for drainage, if you don't you will have a swamp, trust me. We used plain potting soil to fill them most of the way up (about 2/3 full). Then I used a moisture control potting mix to fill it the rest of the way up. The key is you don't want to use a little pot. You want a nice big pot and one that will hold the moisture. Every year I would put in some all purpose fruit and vegetable fertilizer. In the summer I do water them every day when it gets really hot to keep them from drying out. However, I feel I could get more out of my lovely barrel...
Recently I received a catalog in the mail that featured strawberries as big as peaches (so they claim)with a picture of a little girl eating a beautiful strawberry bigger than her fist. The plants were on sale for more than half off and are guaranteed for as long as I garden. I decided to order some. They came in their dormant state. Meaning mostly roots with just a little green showing on top. You soak them in water for 15 minutes and then plant them. I also decided to order some strawberry plant food formulated just for strawberries.
On the left you see the strawberry plant as it came (for this picture I pulled up one of my plants to show you. When they arrive the leaves are smaller and a very pale green.) On the Right 4 days after they have been planted and they have already grown quite a bit.
Here is one of my strawberry barrels (I have 2 barrels, 2 large pots and some in my garden area) What can I say it was a great deal on 50 plants........ Go to Gurneys Seed and Nursery if you would like to get some of these plants for yourself. Right now they are on sale, 50 plants for $20.
I didn't get rid of my old plants. I took them all out of the barrel they were in. I thinned them out. My Dad grew up on a farm in New Jersey and one of the things they grew was strawberries. According to my Dad, only mature plants will produce strawberries (plants that are 1 to 2 years old). The old plants will send out runners to make new plants. On the farm they use to take the runners and plant them in the new field and till under the old plants. Every couple of years they would do this. (also it rotates the fields for the crops) My replanted strawberries went into one of the new large pots and mixed in with new plants in one of the barrels. From my old strawberry plants I only kept the newer runners and plants that are flowering and producing strawberries. Yep it is snowing on the East Coast and I have strawberries budding!!!
I can't bear to till my old plants into my compost pile. I just can't do it. Rebecca is going to take them and the runners that I didn't replant in my barrels. For the time being they are planted IN my compost pile till I can get them to her.
Recently I have been seeing information on adding a water gel product to the soil before planting. Water Gel is a super absorbent polymer and will soak up the water and release it slowly. It is non-toxic and biodegradable and will last for 8 years. It will keep the moisture right where you want it, at the roots. It will also help you to conserve water. According to a video clip I saw on this stuff you can see savings in water usage from about 50 to 80% over the course of 8 years. Check out Steve Spangler Science and watch the video clip. If you can't find them at your local nursery then check out this site for Crystal Soil .
Hydrated Water Gel Crystals. Also known as Crystal Soil
I plan to revisit Crystal soil in a future post. For now I wanted you to know about it and be able to use it for your strawberry pot(s).
These crystals are a lot of fun and you can do some great things with them with your kids. But that is another post for another time.............
Please consider posting your strawberry pot pictures on Our Flickr Page