At Niagara Parks we are all about growing and eating local. From our Nature + Gardens sites, including our Botanical Garden and Floral Showhouse and School of Horticulture, to our Feast On certified restaurants that source Ontario ingredients and beverages, local is very much rooted in what we do.
While we are all home and do our parts to flatten the COVID-19 curve, our talented growers, horticulturalists, and culinary artists at Niagara Parks want to offer our visitors from around the world some thoughts on growing at home. Check back in the coming weeks as we offer quick tips for your home gardens, whether edible or to create a feast for your eyes.
Edible Gardening: Planting Strawberries
From pies and jams to ice cream and cocktails, strawberries are easily one of the world’s most popular berries. Which is ironic considering that botanically speaking, they are not berries. It’s true! Both strawberries and raspberries, among others, are aggregate fruits coming from a flower with multiple ovaries, rather than berries which come from one flower with one ovary. In fact, watermelons and bananas are closer to being “berries” than strawberries. That said, the entire concept of what constitutes a berry is pretty confusing, as the word itself comes from a time that predates the biological classifications. So let’s just jump to the fun part, growing them!
Today we are going to focus on growing strawberries from bare-root plants, rather than seeds. You can find them with bulbs in the gardening section of many grocery and department stores, so keep an eye out the next time you go for a grocery run.
Step 1 – Preparation
Remove the bare-root plants from the package. Typically you will find a group of up to 10 dry plants, bundled together. Delicately untie or remove elastic (if bundled), and soak for a minimum of 20 minutes. The soaking is key to separate the formerly bundled roots from each other and reawaken the dormant plants.
Step 2 – Planting
Remove the bare-root plants from the water and trim the roots six to eight inches in length and plant approximately that deep. If you are planting the roots near each other, allow for 12 inches of space. When planting, keep the “crown”–those small, upright branches–above the surface of the soil with the fledgling plant.
Step 3 – Care
Soil should be loose and well-draining but kept moist. The soil should not get so dry that it is dusty or crumbly. Plant in a location that allows for lots of sunlight, six or more hours each day. Given the finicky weather, you may want to consider potting your young plants and keeping them indoors for the time being.
When plants start to grow, pick flowers to allow for stronger root development as this can help improve perennial fruit growth.
BONUS: Look for ever-bearing varietals, Ozark Beauty are a popular example, as they will produce continuously across the season.