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Planting strawberries makes eating fun for kids

Are you tired of the endless attempts to persuade your children to eat fruit?

Are you looking for a healthy snack that is almost guaranteed to appeal to the kids – and the whole family?  And that will be very affordable?

Why not enlist your children’s help in the garden and plant strawberries for the summer.

Strawberries are high in vitamin A and C, can be used in snacks or smoothies and kids love to eat them! And if you plant them now they’ll be ready for Christmas!

“Growing strawberries is a great activity for all the family and now, while the soil is moist and the plants are dormant, is the perfect time to plant,” says Henri Ham of Awapuni Nurseries.

Strawberries can be purchased from most garden centres, nurseries or supermarkets and the parjero variety, which is packaged in bundles of four, are great to start with.

“They are fantastic producers of medium to large sized strawberries, and will last all summer,” Henri says.

A well drained plot in full sun is essential for growing great strawberries for summer. But for those with limited space, strawberries can be planted in large pots, hanging baskets, or roof spouting nailed to your fence.

“They are adaptable and grow well in most sunny situations but they do not tolerate wet soils.”

Not only does growing strawberries provide great eating, but by involving children in the planting, it can also be a fun learning experience.

Children can help to test the pH of the soil is at the right level (pH 5.0 – 6.5 for strawberries) by using an easy-to-use pH test kit, which are readily available from most garden centres.

If the pH is too low, spreading garden lime over the garden will help return it to the right level.

Once the soil pH is correct, the soil must be prepared for the strawberries.

Mix compost and blood and bone fertiliser to the garden until you have created a mound 300mm high and 400mm wide.

“Strawberries are traditionally planted in mounds because the mounds improve drainage, increase air circulation around the plants, prevent the spread of disease and give shallow soils more depth,” says Henri.

“And the fertiliser will provide a great boost of food as the roots spread out.”

Plant the strawberries as normal but make sure the crown, the part just below the leaves, is just above ground level.  Also, remember to keep the soil evenly moist.

To add some winter colour to your garden and to keep kids interested while the strawberries are growing, Henri recommends planting winter plants amongst the strawberries.

Awapuni’s Pop’n’Grow range has several varieties that children can plant, at this time of the year, easily and with a minimum of fuss. These include pansy, polyanthus, lobelia, and primulia.

Pop’n’Grow is a revolutionary new seedling range that is simple to plant and quite literally guaranteed to grow. The range includes over 120 different perennials, herbs, flowers and vegetables, and special kids’ fun pack products and is available from supermarkets, The Warehouse, Kmart and Bunnings stores.

To save extra work and weeding around the strawberries, Henri suggests placing a weed mat or straw around the base of the plants.

This will save having to weed the plants but also prevents the strawberries from sitting on the ground and rotting.

And for sweet juicey strawberries during the holiday season, fertilise the strawberries with a high potassium and low nitrogen content liquid fertiliser.

Lastly, and most importantly, Henri advises setting up bird-netting over the strawberries.

Bird netting is simple to use and can be found at any local garden centre.

Drape the netting over the plants, in baskets or in the garden, and secure with stones or cloth pegs.

“This will ensure you have big and tasty strawberries for toppings on Christmas pavlovas, dipping in chocolate or for low fat summer smoothies during the hotter months!”