“Strawberries cherries and an angel's kiss in spring … my summer wine is really made from all these things …” - can you sing along with Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood? Well, you will be able to make your own ‘summer wine’ when you grow your own strawberry containers.
Strawberries are, as with many other plants and fruits, easy to grow in containers and/or hanging baskets if you just follow a few good guidelines and gardening practices. You will certainly reap what you sow, so let’s go grow some.
Strawberries like space, well-draining loamy soil; sunshine; regular watering, good natural mulch (straw is best). In fact that is apparently one of two ways they got their name! One of the Cries of London included youngsters selling berries on sticks of straw crying into the streets of early London “Berries on a Straw, Berries on a straw!” Either that, or the fact that today the best mulch is a straw one, you see … berries grown on what looks like a straw bed.
PLANTING OUT SEEDLINGS
Do you have space for three or so pots? Any type, any size really, hanging, raised somehow even if you just stand them on bricks against slugs and other hungry things that may spoil your fun. Space them at least 10 inches apart and plant so that the crown (the bit in between the roots and the leaves) is not completely covered but just sticking out above soil level. And in fact the crowns should always stick out a bit during the growing season so don’t cover with soil when you are tending your plants.
This is very important for your strawberry plants – you should remove these regularly (at least weekly) so that the roots of the weeds do not compete with your strawberries roots for nutrients. Here too the straw mulching helps.
10 10 10 Fertiliser is a good one to buy and it is good practice to feed small amounts and regularly. You do not want to burn the roots or upset the soil balance (good composted ordinary potting soil is good to go) so use your Gardening Notebook to record when next feeding times are. I go with the moon days here and feed all my containers on the same days so that I get into a pattern and do not have to remember too much – I want to enjoy my garden and not be overwhelmed by all I have to do so that it becomes choreful and awful.
Strawberry containers must be kept moist at all times, not wet, moist and the plants should not be allowed to dry out. You will more than likely lose them in drought conditions and be disappointed, so watch your watering.
This protects your plants in several ways. The fruit is low growing and hangs down from the crown as it were so the straw will keep your berries clean. It will suppress weeds, deter creepy crawlies like slugs and will help offset quick changes in temperatures. Mulch conserves moisture and as it is natural, gradually breaks down and add humus to the soil. The straw mulch is also good as it allows air to circulate so do not use other wet composty leaves as mulch here – as this can smother the crowns of the strawberry plants and you will lose a lot more than harvest; the fruit may become soggy too.
Besides the caution to keep the soil moist and feed small measured amounts and consistently, when the fruit starts to show, if your containers are in the garden or in an open areas where the birdies are, cover them with black nylon netting to keep the birds away – see they love strawberries even more than you do and your losses will be heavy if they get there first. Also, strawberries are frost tender and like full sun so be sure to place your containers in a good place – and out of the strong winds. You want insects like bees to be able to pollinate your plants and in strong winds this will not happen easily if at all.
HARVESTING and HEALTH
Check your plants regularly and only pick red 'n ripe fruit off the plant (try not to gobble them though this is when they are really so tasty!) Strawberries juice up well of course and contain so much that is healthful and good. They are a good source of vitamins A, B, C and E and there is folic acid, potassium, fibre, calcium, iron, antioxidents and phosphorus. You can even add honey to some pulp to relieve sunburn. Just spread it over the skin, leave a while then rinse off with lemon water. This sure is a heavy-weight fruit to have in your space!
Oh my, there are so many recipes in the world with strawberries so the simplest use I thought of adding for you is on how to make a Strawberry Coulis (say cool–lee) or Sauce.
Of course seasoned cooks out there will know how to do this already, so this is for those who don’t or who forgot what they can do with the few ingredients that they have to hand. Use it with ice cream, over any pavlova and meringue puds or cheesecake or waffles or pancakes or freshly-baked scones or at Wimbledon for the Ladies finals with clotted cream or, or and or! Scrumptious … especially if your strawberries are home grown – a person just can‘t stop grinning believe me! Anyway.
INGREDIENTS are simple – say 6-8 cups of washed hulled strawberries; 1 cup caster sugar; 1 cup water; 1 Tblsp fresh lemon juice OR use vanilla pod for a different slant and taste. If you use a vanilla pod, remove it after boiling and before you blend. …then rinse and dry off your pod and add it to your sugar storage jar. It will give your sugar a subtle vanilla flavour which is super with coffee. Adding an alcohol kick to your coulis is optional and not my choice, but anyone can do it; use a white spirit like cane spirits or vodka, something that will not detract from the delicate flavour of the berries; for instance,do not use gin.
METHOD is simpler than you think – add your chosen ingredients to a pot, bring to the boil for stirring to ensure the sugar has melted, remove then blend until smooth. The sauce is hot so be careful not to burn yourself. Sieve the hot sauce into a bowl by letting it drip through. Being a bit patient will be useful and do not push it through the sieve using a spoon unless you do not have a blender, then do so. Some people do not boil the berries. That’s okay, but then you need to have some sugar syrup ready and anyway, boiling them makes the sauce last longer in the ‘fridge, up to 6 days or so. Of course you can freeze it for a long time too so make a big batch and you will always be in a ready-steady-go-mode in your kitchen.
EATING is simplest of all – choose your dessert or cake or decorate a plate and enjoy!
Nature is kinder than you think, so do not get fussed by all the do’s and don’ts above, just read the article, make a few notes and grow so me strawberries. Container Gardening is not only a science – it is the hands of the Gardener (that’s you) and that little piece of your heart you plant alongside that will make them grow for you. Try it and see. Just get going; the universe favours action!
William Butler once said:
“Doubtless, God could have made a better berry; but doubtless God never did.” Perhaps you agree with him?
What do you want your container garden to do?