If you've been thinking about getting the kids involved in gardening and growing some of your own food, strawberries are a fantastic place to start. They're easy to grow, not to mention sweet and delicious - nothing tastes as good as fresh strawberries eaten in the summer sunshine straight from the garden! As part of my new Growing Food with Kids Series here on the Eats Amazing blog, I've asked some of my blogging friends to share their top tips and today the lovely Donna from What the Redhead Said has written this fab post all about how to grow strawberries with children.
We have been growing strawberries for years - long before we had children. But now that the children are older and love growing and looking after the strawberry plants - as well as picking the strawberries - strawberry plants are always the first thing I suggest to people looking to start gardening with children.
Strawberries are such a versatile fruit and the great thing about them is that they come back year after year - so after the first year of growing there is a lot less work involved in the following years. Also, strawberries spread with shooters - each plant gets off shoots that plant themselves and turn into a new plant which will in turn produce strawberries. It means that you can start with just a few strawberry plants and end up with a whole patch within just a few years.
If you want to start growing strawberries the first thing you need to do is decide whether you are going to grow plants from seed or buy seedlings that have already developed and will be hardy enough to survive outside. Growing from seeds can be quite rewarding but it does take a while - plus, the young seedlings need to be kept sheltered and protected somewhere sunny, like a kitchen window ledge. Some seeds will also not grow and others won't make it to maturity so I usually buy seedlings and the children get as much satisfaction from them.
Once the seedlings have grown to maturity or when you buy seedlings they can be planted. We have a vegetable patch with them in but you can also plant them in pots or planters - or even hanging baskets. Strawberries don't take up much space and you can literally plant them anywhere accessible that gets sun.
Once the strawberries are in their new home you just have to water them every couple of days - every day in the hottest weather - and wait. Generally strawberry plants won't produce any fruit in the first year but as soon as you see the little white flowers you know that there will soon be fruit to enjoy.
The only maintenance strawberry plants need is to cut off any dead leaves as they appear. Then, at the end of the season once the strawberry shooters appear you can place them in pots of soil, cutting them free from the main strawberry plant once they're established. These can then be planted the following spring or you can give them to friends and family to let them start their own strawberry patch.
It's recommended that you only let strawberries produce fruit for a couple of years but ours tend to last about five years before they start producing less or smaller fruit. At that point we take out the dwindling plants and replace with nice new ones we've grown from the shooters.
Strawberry season is a favourite time in our house and the children love to grow and pick fruit. It also helps teach the children where food comes from and I know that we'll have strawberries in our garden forever now - especially as the children are happy to look after the plants themselves.
If the gorgeous strawberries above aren't enough to persuade you to get gardening with the kids, check out these 12 brilliant reasons to grow food with kids or have a look at some of the other projects in our Growing Food with Kids section here on the blog.
I hope you found this post useful, please pin it if you did! For more posts about growing food with children, check out the Growing Food with Kids section here on the Eats Amazing blog or pop over and follow my Gardening With Kids Pinterest board for more inspiration from all around the web.