Guest Post: How to Make a Strawberry Ball

Here in Central Texas, we’ve just had the Poteet Strawberry Festival–complete with ‘berries AND “bull riding action,” but in other parts of the country, there’s still time to get some last minute plants into your yard or patio.

This post from Julie explains how to make a decorative strawberry ball. (I actually saw a few strawberry starts at a local nursery, so if you get lucky–fellow Texans–you might be able to pull this project off.)

Recently, a friend’s Facebook status mentioned the lovely day her family enjoyed, hiking, playing baseball, and eating–fresh strawberries. What?!?!

It’s still early! Where did she find strawberries? Were they from her yard? Did she mean “fresh” Florida strawberries from the store? Surely, that’s what she meant. Our plants are full of blooms, but not berries.

Trust me. I check them daily.

My friend replied that one of our local SC strawberry farms offered their first berries of the season at their ice cream shop. A small supply, but still…

The first strawberries have arrived!

I’m slightly strawberry-obsessed. To me, strawberries herald spring—lazy days, eating gorgeous fruit in the sun, sitting outside, daydreaming, without a schedule.

Then reality hits, and our hour of bliss is interrupted by work, soccer practice, horseback riding lessons, homework…life.

Still, once strawberry season hits, we know we’re in the home stretch. The kids start the official countdown for summer vacation. And so do I.

Since the kids were itty bitty, we’ve headed to the local strawberry farm to pick gallons of berries.

But last year, we just walked out the back door.

A few years ago, in a fit on gardening confidence, I decided to plant strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries. The plants border the kitchen garden. They fill the kids’ raised bed garden. Last fall, I added a new strawberry bed by the greenhouse.

And they’re organic.

Organic strawberries are tough to find. And when you do find them, they’re pricey.

Now, we find them in our backyard.

How fabulous is that?!

When you look at the perfectly organized rows of plants at the local farm, mulched with straw, runners creeping through the black landscape plastic, planting strawberries seems intimidating.

And sometimes, the helpful information found online about planting strawberries makes the most seasoned kitchen gardener decide to keep buying pesticide-rich Florida strawberries.
Hilling. Runners. Pests. The growing information sounds a bit like armed combat. Or like you need to own a 10-acre farm.

(Which we don’t. We live in the suburbs. On .8 acres that are mostly forested.)

Still, even the most land-challenged gardener can grow fresh, organic strawberries…

It’s easy. It’s quick. It’s pretty.

It’s a Berry Ball.

(Hmmm. That sounds a bit like a poorly organized southern cotillion.)

What’s a more perfect snack for the kids than strawberries dangling within reach—while they ride scooters in the driveway or climb trees? What’s more refreshing than savoring a strawberry snack as you toil away in the garden? It’s a perfect reward for your labor.

Plus, this is a really fun project to do with your kids.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 12” round hanging container with removable coconut fiber liner.
  • Organic potting soil.
  • Scissors.
  • 10-12 small strawberry plants, ever-bearing variety.

A quick note about berry types: You can use standard strawberry varieties, or you can try something a little special–Fraise des Bois. These are tiny, trés sweet, adorable alpine strawberries that produce fruit all summer until the first hard freeze. I grow both Red Wonder and Yellow Wonder varieties–and I think the yellow berries are even sweeter than the red.

Steps:

1. Remove the coconut (sometimes called “coir”) liner from the hanging basket.

2. Using scissors, make a total of six small, evenly spaced holes around the lower and mid portion of the liner circumference. (I staggered the height of the holes a bit.) Do not make the holes too large or your plants will fall through and soil will spill.

3. Next, take a strawberry plant and insert the plant into the hole. Carefully pull the flowers and stems through the hole to avoid breakage.

4. Fill in the lower holes first.

5. Add soil to the liner to help support the roots. The plants will be hanging somewhat upside down.

6. Now, fill in the next tier of holes with strawberry plants. These plants’ roots will be placed horizontally in the basket. Add additional soil to cover the roots, and firm the soil to prevent plants from slipping out of place.

7. It’s time to move to the top–you know, the place where we normally plant flowers in hanging baskets. Place one plant in the top center of the basket and evenly space four additional strawberry plant along the edge of the basket. Add additional soil to cover the roots and firm it into place. These plants will fill in the top of the container and spill over the sides as they grow.

8. Carefully, lift the liner with the soil and plants into the basket. Gently insert the plants through the metal design of the basket to ensure they hang freely.

9. Untangle the chain from the hanging basket. (This was, in my experience, the hardest part of the entire project, because I somehow managed to twist the chain. Lovely.) Make certain the chain’s placement won’t break any of the plants.

10. Hang the basket in a spot that receives six to eight hours of sun. This is, normally, a pretty sunny location…just not at 9 p.m. when I finished both baskets. (Friday nights are very exciting around here.) Water well.

Remember, containers need consistent watering. Check your container daily—and when it’s hot, you may need to water twice a day. A good rule of thumb is to insert your finger one inch into the soil. If it’s moist, you’re all set. If it’s dry, water your babies. Strawberries, especially, need adequate water. (Hmmm. I guess that’s a “rule of finger” instead of a “rule of thumb,” huh? HA! Sorry.)

Now, wasn’t that easy? Soon, your strawberries will begin growing and spreading and filling in the gaps so that your container will be one, big blooming ball…and your pretty little flowers will turn into delicious, tasty treats.

Mmmm…are they ready yet?

Enjoy!

Julie

Julie Thompson-Adolf is the owner of Garden Delights, an heirloom plant nursery. She writes about growing gardens and growing kids at Growing Days.

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3 Comments

Filed under Homegrown Kids, Soil to Plate

3 responses to “Guest Post: How to Make a Strawberry Ball

  1. I am going to try this! I love growing strawberries but in our garden the critters like them too and get to them faster than I do! This should keep them pretty well out of reach!

  2. Reblogged this on The big picture view for Tisha and commented:
    A very cool way to grow strawberries that I am going to try out!