Indoor Strawberries

Indoor Strawberries (Photo Credit ccharmon at Flickr.com)At $5/lb and fairly dubious growing techniques I would rather grow my very own indoor strawberries! In the northeast, strawberries tend to be trucked for 3,000 miles, their soil fumigated with a chemical that’s prohibited for practically every other agricultural use, and – is it possible that they’re “picked fresh”? A side by side comparison demonstrates home grown strawberries the clear champion. Having two voracious berry eating children, it is difficult to keep them in seasonal fruit in the middle of winter. Here’s how you can easily grow your own indoors, and have fun doing it!
At $5/lb and fairly dubious growing methods I would rather grow my own indoor strawberries!

In the northeast, strawberries are trucked for 3,000 miles, their soil fumigated with a substance that’s banned for almost every other agricultural use, and is it possible that they’re “picked fresh”? A side by side taste test shows home grown the clear winner. Having two voracious berry eating youngsters, it is hard to keep them in seasonal fruit in the middle of the winter months. Here’s how you can grow your own, indoors, and have fun doing it!

Go Local, Grow Local
For some interesting reading, go to “After Methyl Bromide:…” , and Methyl Bromide and the Strawberry Growers Lobby.

Last year I’d bought about Fiftystrawberry plants, most of which are outside dormant in the mulch and snow, but inside, they are starting to blossom again (it’s now January). I’d have had more luck with them if I’d watered and fertilized them more frequently, but occasionally life has other ideas. If you’d like to grow some for yourself or your family, they’re not just tastier compared to the ones trucked for 3,000 miles, they are also a nice decorative plant.

Indoor Strawberry Patch

photo credit: ccharmon at Flickr.com

Preparing for your Indoor Strawberry Patch
You will need to plan out just how much area you are going to provide for the plants, and what you or your family’s appetite may require.

Yield Factor – approximately thirty plants should keep a household of four well supplied, and if you’re buying them as plants, it’s alright to put the unused plants into a root cellar as long as you put them in some moist sand or sawdust and keep them cool and moist. This won’t be a problem if you decide to plant from seed, but you’ll also have to wait longer. So, for a typical person, eight plants will work fine, sixteen for two, etc. You can buy special pots that have holes in the sides which are specially made for strawberries, permitting you to group more plants within a given area. If you are doing them on a table or in flats, you’ll have to give each plant about 6″ of room – so one “personal patch” will take up about an 18″x18″ area if you plant them like this:
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Here’s a link to some of the space saving pots specifically made for strawberries:  Clay Strawberry Jar Planter

What strawberries grow well indoors?
Ever-bearing or “day neutral” strawberries are best, generating strawberries as long as the warmth, nutrient and water conditions are favorable. There are also alpine strawberries that are smaller but pack a lot of flavor. Alpine strawberries also come in yellow and white, though I’ve never tried them. We’re blessed with “wood strawberries”, a close cousin that is the size of a pea, and the girls are experts at finding them. Alpine strawberries don’t send out runners, but rather rely on their seeds to reproduce abundantly.

Soil needs
Strawberries like a slightly acidic and sandy soil with plenty of loam. What does that mean? Essentially, it is one part fir bark or mulch, one part sand, and two parts potting soil. Almost all potting soils are coming with slow release fertilizer mixed in, so do not add any more if this is what you have.

Get certified disease free plants if you can, and cut the roots to 4-5″ (mine came with the roots precut). If you’re bringing the plants in from an outside garden, monitor them for aphids, and rinse as much of the soil as you can to keep the insects from invading your home: out in the open, they had lots of predators – inside, it is like a holiday for them!

Cut off any brown leaves. Soak the roots in a weak fish emulsion for about three hours. Overnight is okay but do not let them go any longer than that. Spread the roots out and cover them with soil but keep the crown above the soil! Soak them well, but be sure that there is no standing water – they just like moist soil.

From Seed
There are some full “kits” on the market from Amazon.com, (Buzzy Porcelain Strawberry Grow Kit) and you can also find more seed sources at the bottom of this article.
Essentially, you’ll be placing germinating mix (a very fine screened mix of compost and peat or coconut coir) in a seed tray, making certain it’s moist but not soaking. Plant the seeds, then cover with 1/4″ of additional moist mix. The seeds will require sun or light as well as moisture to germinate. In about six to eight weeks, if they are kept moist and in a sunny/lit spot, they ought to begin to germinate. Once four or more leaves appear, remove the plastic and move them to their new home.

Plant Care
After they’ve begun to grow (about three or four weeks), you can begin to fertilize them if they need it. Only use about 1/2 the suggested fertilizer, since the fertilizer in the potting mix is still there. I suggest 10-20-20 mix at half strength, but you can check with the nurseries and explain to them what you are doing, they should be happy to make suggestions.

Indoor Strawberries aren’t difficult to care for, just remember:

  • do not overwater the plants – they like moist soil, not soaking or standing water. This may mean that you’ll have to water more regularly, but it will be worth it.
  • Your plants will need at least six hours of light per day to produce. I tend to have the lights on for about fourteen hours, since I have other plants growing and it doesn’t hurt them by any means.

In the coming weeks, you may begin to observe some blooms – snip them off – yes, you will have to hold out a little bit longer if you really want them to establish, but don’t worry, there’ll be more coming shortly. Don’t let them flower for at least five weeks. You will need to pollinate the flowers yourself using a soft bristled paintbrush or even a q-tip. I keep the same q-tip for several weeks, and the strawberries set really well.

Once they’re red, it is time to pick and enjoy!

Strawberry Diseases: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_strawberry_diseases that will show you a lot of of the diseases strawberries can aquire.

Sources of Strawberry Plants
Be sure to ask your local nurseries if they have any strawberry plants that you can purchase immediately, and let them know you’ll be growing them inside. Some online sources include Gurney Seed and Nursery:

Our Choice Everbearing Strawberry
Fort Laramie Everbearing Strawberry

Eversweet Everbearing Strawberry

or Amazon.com
STRAWBERRY DECK & PATIO PLANT

Sources of Strawberry Seeds – I’ve never started them from seed, but Amazon.com has some kits that look like they are worth a try:
50 Rare RED + 50 Exotic Yellow Wonder Alpine Strawberry Seeds
Everbearing Picnic Strawberry 40 Seeds/Seed
Strawberry Seeds – Alpine Mignonette Heirloom
You could also try a hanging “Topsy Turvy” plant kit:
Felknor Ventures TT041112 Topsy Turvy Strawberry Planter

Books on Strawberries:
North American Varieties of the Strawberry. with a Bibliography of North American Literature of the Strawberry

Grow the Best Strawberries: Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A-190 (Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin, a-190)

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