Friday, March 23, 2012


Hunny came home with a package which arrived in the mail.  He told me some seeds came.  I said I wasn't expecting any seeds.  We had supper, then I opened the package.   It wasn't seeds, it was our strawberry plants.  Oh my, we aren't ready for them. 
It wasn't the fact there wasn't a bed ready for them.  We knew we weren't going to have a bed ready till late summer.  We  had ordered the plants to pot culture them until they could go into the ground. 

Hopefully it will give us a year head start.  Yes, it will mean extra work. We'll have to re pot a couple of times.  This requires extra mixing of dirt.  It also requires a staging area for keeping them safe.  The picture on the left is how our plants arrived.  They were in a sealed plastic bag.  The plants were rubber banded in a bundle.

We ordered our plants from  .  The plants were really nice, with fully developed root systems.  They were dry rooted but the roots were not dry.  They were nice and fleshy.
When you receive your plants, the first thing you want to do is open them up and check the condition of the bunch. (Your plants come with instructions on the care the producer recommends).  I have my own ideas which work for me.  I remove the banding, place the bunch in a container and rinse the roots, draining thoroughly. When drained, I stand them in the container  to wait till I can plant them.  This is to be the next day.  Only the roots are in the container.  I want the stems and leaves to be out in the air and the roots protected so they don't get dried out. (Do not leave them in the plastic bag.  They will mold and rot.)

Today is 14 hours later and I am in the barn preparing to get my precious plants in their pots.
(50) 4 Inch pots and trays, 
Large plastic wheel barrow (the 40 lb kitty litter bucket is for size comparison), 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup, microwave, large stainless spoon, scissors, plastic labels, sharpie marker,

DIRT INGREDIENTS:  peat moss, rice hulls, bone meal, Epsom salts,  good compost dirt, rotted wood chips,  dried manure, sand and fish emulsion,
After rounding up everything, I set about mixing dirt.  I was able to short circuit part of the process.  I had several large pots of dirt from house plants I lost due to cold.  But the dirt wasn't friable enough for strawberries.  I needed to add other ingredients. 

In my huge 2 wheel plastic barrow I mix my dirt.  I use a 40 pound kitty litter pail for measuring (the one you buy the litter in).
One pail ground peat moss which has been rubbed till it contains no lumps. 
One half pail of rice hulls.

Mix these together till they are thoroughly combined.
Start adding hot water.  I heat 4 cups of water at the time in the microwave (in the barn we don't have a kitchen and I don't pay to use the water heater.)  I heat the water for 9 minutes.  It is extremely hot but not boiling (It is a cheaper micro not real high powered).  Pour it on the mixture and stir like mad and then go heat more.  It usually takes about 5 trips to get the mixture till it feels moist.  Why do I use hot water?  If you use cold water it won't be quickly absorbed by the peat moss.  The  hot water is absorbed immediately.

At this point I would normally add approximately a pail of good compost dirt, 1/2 pail of pulverized dried manure, a 1/4 pail of rotted wood chips, and a 1/4 pail of sand.  I would incorporate it with the peat mixture.  I would dust the surface with 2 large handfuls of Epsom salts and 4 large handfuls of bone meal, stirring everything together.  Instead I just dumped the pots with the old dirt in the peat mixture and added the bone meal and Epsom salts.

Right now, I am hearing groans and gasps.  Why?  Because I am using old, already been used dirt.  Unsterilized dirt!  My theory is; they would be planted in the ground and I didn't sterilize it.   The plants in the pot did not die of disease or anything kin to that.  So I can dump the pots on the compost pile and wait a year to reuse it or use it right now.  The detriment for me in using it is the dirt will have weed seeds in it and I will have to be weeding the pots.

Everything is ready to begin.  The first thing I do is fill a short jar with a wide mouth with fish emulsion water.  It is large enough to soak the roots of the plants with out submerging the crowns.  I get an old rag and set it on the table in front of me with the scissors (rag is to soak up the dripping water from the roots).  We are going to prune the roots of the plants.

The picture on the right has a pruned plant and an un-pruned plant.  The instructions said to prune to 4-6 inches.  Because I am pot culturing them I pruned to three inches.  (They need to fit in the pot.) 
At this time I also trim off any dead stems and leaves. 
Fill your pots with dirt.  Then dump out one third and press the remainder firmly into the bottom.  You want to make a cone shape in the center.  I tried to picture it  but it doesn't show as well as I hoped.
The purpose of the cone is to spread the roots around.  You don't just do this in the pot, you do this when planting outside.  You don't want your roots to be crimped.  You will want to make your cone so the top of it is about 1/2" below the rim of the pot.  Perch your plant on it and cover the roots with soil mix and firmly pack the soil over the roots.

 Make sure you do not bury the crown too deep or leave it exposed to the air.  Either position is hazardous to the health of your plant.   How do you determine what is right?  Your plants will come with a planting guide (the growers want you to have success with them, they want repeat customers, lol.)
I have drawn an explanation which I hope will help.  The plant has an area between the roots and the leaves.  I call this the crown.  When you bury it you don't want the roots exposed and you don't want the crown exposed.  You don't want the dirt higher than the base of the leaves.  If the dirt is above the base of the leaves moisture can get into the crevices and cause rot.   If the Crown is exposed it can dry out.

This is a planted flat of 10 of the strawberry plants.  It is March 23, 2012.  When they start leafing out I will add pictures to show their growth.

This flat was watered in with fish emulsion water.  I use 1 Tablespoon of commercial fish emulsion with one gallon water.

When the plant's roots fill the pot, they will be transplanted to a pot that will be an inch larger and deeper.  Right now they will be in the green house until The weather has become more stable.  Our Valley can become extremely cold and frosts when the local area does not.  The tender new growth will be very susceptible to frost damage.

Strawberries take two years for a crop but they are worth the wait.  Yes, the plants will bloom this year.  We will go into that step in another blog.  I hope you will try planting strawberries.  Next Blog will be the preparation of a strawberry bed. 

UPDATE APRIL 5, 2012: 
These are the planted flats.  It has been  12 days since they were planted. 

We are expecting a brush with frost tomorrow.  They are still in the green house. 
I didn't have a measuring device in this picture but the tallest is only about 3 inches tall. 

The following pictures are of the plants today. The trowel is there so you can see the size.  The roots are showing through the bottom of the pot.  This weekend we will spend moving them to new homes.


The picture on the left is the above pot unveiled.  You can see it is getting "root-bound". When ever you see roots peeking through the bottom of the pot you should take the plant out of the pot and inspect it to make sure it isn't getting root-bound

Root-bound pots do not take up nutrients well.

The picture on the right is the plant with the dirt shaken off the roots.  I did not water for 24 hours before I knew I was going to re pot.  It makes it easier to shake the dirt off.  Yes, I do replace all the dirt with a fresh mix when I re pot.  I do this because I want to give them the best possible environment.  Someone might tell me I am causing them more transplanting shock.  I haven't found this to be a problem.  I trim the roots down to about 4 inches and then re pot spreading the roots out in a fan in the pot.  I am very careful to watch the placement of the crown.  At this time I also deflowered the plant.  (Notice the flower which had popped up since the 26).  You want to pick all flowers off the plants this first year.  You want the plants to put their energies into growing and making runners for more plants.  (The dirt which I shook off the plants is not going to be relagated to the compost pile.  I will use it to repot some banana plants and house plants.)
Left is the strawberry plant re potted in it's new dirt which has been fortified with bone meal, Epsom salts, and dried manure in a mixture of rice hulls and peat moss blended with dirt which was the remnants of a compost pile (equal parts). 

After it was potted I submerged the pot in water laced with fish emulsion.  Use a receptacle that is 3 times the depth of your pot.  Fill 3/4 full of water and then emerge your pot in it till the surface of the pot  is under the water (don't worry about the crown of the plant getting wet at this point).  You will see bubbles rising from the pot.  Do not remove the pot till the bubbles stop (keep the surface of the pot under the surface of the water by at least 1/2 inch).  Then place on a rack to drain.  If you are new to gardening,  all plants, when re-potted should be submerged in water to drive the air pockets out of the pots and settles the dirt around the roots. 

I am hoping this potting will hold them at least another 6 weeks before they need new and larger home.  (I'm smiling, I had a thought.  My strawberries are like hermit crabs, when they outgrow their shells they move to a larger one.)

I used homemade fish emulsion which I need to write a blog about, it was not an unpleasant endeavor.  Right now I am learning how much to use of my homemade stuff.  I am not too concerned about too much because for this year I want to get as much lush green growth as I can.  I want these plant strong so they will give me a robust crop of their little red gems next year.

I hope my blog has inspired you to get some strawberry plants this year, even if you don't have the area prepared for them.  You can pot them and get your beds ready and plant in the middle of summer (I will be updating this blog with every step I do with the plants.)

I have another blog about strawberries:

For more blogs by me visit at:

A blog mostly about quilting, but cooking, poetry, prose and a little gardening,
New blog, tutorial on how to make 5 panel Boxer Shorts.
New Blog about dolls.
Not a garden blog.  There are articles which have nothing to do with creating or gardening. 
There are blogs on the new born baby kittens we found and mothered.  It is a blog where I voice my opinions which will always be environmentally friendly.
As always, any pictures or writings are my own. 
Credit has been given to contributions not my own.
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  1. Your information has been so helpful! Thank you for the time you take to share with everyone!

    1. I am so glad the information was helpful. We did transplant the Strawberries today (28). They are in their larger pots and looking very happy. I'm glad I have another reprieve of time to get the beds ready. Please google and read everything you can. choose the information you feel will work for you.

      Something I forgot to mention, In planting any plant....If it doesn't thrive where you've planted it, it may not like where it is, so relocate it. Sometimes it is the location when you have fed and watered the plant properly and it doesn't thrive.