Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alpine Strawberries from Seed (Kit)

Speaking of cute kits, Target has these adorable little strawberry growing kits (as well as flower kits) in their dollar section for Valentine's Day. I've picked these up a couple years in a row, and they're pretty cool... but they're also an example of how a kit could result in frustration for a first-time gardener.

First of all, keep in mind that growing strawberries from seed isn't the easiest task for a beginning gardener. The seeds are minuscule, the seedlings dry out so easily, and they're delicate. It can be done, but you have to check on them daily and handle them carefully. Second, the kit suggests that 10 seedlings would flourish in virtually no space at all! It comes with a teeny tiny pot, a small packet of about 20 Alpine Strawberry seeds, and a pellet of growing medium. But trust me, you don't want to put 10 seeds in that teeny pot! It's not nearly enough room.

  • Use something like peat pods (or my budget version: toilet paper roll pods) or seedling cells with seed-starter mix.
  • Put only one or two strawberry seeds in each pod/cell.
  • Water from the BOTTOM by pouring water in the seedlings' tray, because those tiny seeds could wash right away if you water from the top.
  • Keep everything consistently moist! These plants are so tiny that they dry out FAST when mere seedlings.
  • Later, you can harden them off and put the plants in hanging baskets or a strawberry planter... or maybe along the edges of your flower bed, as they are quite lovely little plants.
But let's not waste that gowing medium pellet and teeny pot. If you want, you can use them as directed but sow only one or two seeds in the little pot. Just don't over-water, because the pot has no drainage hole. You can also use the pot as a cute container to give away one of the seedlings when they're almost grown. I did this as a gift to a gardening friend of mine, a couple years ago. (In this case, you can hydrate the growing medium pellet and mix it into the rest of your seed-starting mix for another seedling project.)

Alpine strawberries are a small, everbearing variety. That means that, instead of one large harvest at once, it'll give you several small harvests. It's one of the easier varieties to grow from seed, and it's less likely to take over your garden if you put them in the ground. They're about as close to a "wild strawberry" as you'll get in a domesticated plant. They're fairly similar to Alexandria strawberries.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cute Kits

I'm such a sucker for cute kits and convenience. If I were planning an in-ground garden this year, I totally would have snatched up one of these baskets at Lowe's the other day:
I mean, how perfect would this be for a small in-ground garden? And it comes in an adorable basket that's perfect for small harvests!

Could you get all of the contents cheaper? Yes, probably. Especially if you make a deal with other backyard gardeners and split that bundle of onions or bag of seed potatoes. But for the convenience, $10 isn't so bad. In fact, I think this could be the way to go if you're a new gardener or are growing these plants for the first time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Portable Garden

Because we might be buying a new house in the next few months (yikes!), this year's gardening plans focus on the portable. Everything I'm choosing must either be able to survive in a pot (like not-too-big determinate tomato plants), or it must be something that could be harvested early (like lettuce).

It feels good to simplify. This is why I love container gardening in the first place! There are ants all over the basket of strawberries? Well, brush them off and move the strawberries to the front porch! There's an unexpected spring freeze on its way? Just move everything inside to the utilities room! We're moving? No big deal! Put those pots of Red Robin Tomatoes in the back of the car and let's go!

With this in mind, I just ordered most of my (very few) "new" seeds for this season:

The Tumbling Toms are perfect for hanging baskets, and I have a pot large enough for a determinate like the Fabulous Hybrid. Lettuce is no problem at all, as it can be harvested and enjoyed even when it's still very small.

I will still most likely buy some parsley seeds, and maybe spinach. Everything else will come from my existing stash or from seed-swaps.

I feel good about this upcoming season, and I'm so happy next month is February! We'll soon be starting winter vegetables!!!