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Transplanting Strawberries: How to help them thrive!

Strawberry plants

When the school program where I work was preparing to move to a new building, I heard about the abandoned garden in the schoolyard– and the strawberries. Another teacher expressed dismay that the strawberries would be left behind, that is, if they had survived. Since I was returning to the building another day, I brought along a shovel, gloves, and a couple of planter– just in case. I haven’t grown strawberries myself, but the thought of transplanting strawberries to the 20 minute garden and giving them a chance was very attractive.

My first foray into the school garden area yielded nothing. The roughly 15 x 20 foot area that had been tilled under and mulched was almost completely foliage-free. A followup message from the teacher led me to a little patch, about a 3 x 3 foot mulched bed where the strawberries had been planted. There were no strawberry plants in the bed however; instead, the strawberries had migrated out of the bed and into the grass around it. Still there were enough plants to make my retrieval efforts worthwhile.

From experience and Master Gardener classes, I know a few tips for successful transplanting. One is to be sure to dig deeply enough to get all of the plant’s roots. You want to avoid breaking them or cutting them. Once the plants are freed from the ground, you can gently remove excess dirt and any weeds; in this case there was a lot of grass that I didn’t want to transplant too, so I gently pulled the grass and roots from the strawberries. You don’t want to take off too much dirt however. For one thing the dirt will help to keep the roots moist until they get to their destination. Another reason is wanting to preserve the fine root structure. Those tiny hair-like roots that you can barely see are important to the plant’s health.

Later at home, I prepared a whiskey barrel container for the strawberries. Our yard plan is in flux this year, so we decided to give them a perhaps temporary home. I weeded the container well and then mixed in a couple shovelfuls of homemade compost. Strawberries are reputed to be heavy feeders so it’s best to add some organic support to the soil when it’s so easy to do.

Then I arranged the strawberry plants evenly in the container and tamped the dirt firmly around the plants. I also watered the plants well. They may be a little crowded, but they seemed happy. Within a couple of days, the transplanted straweberries had perked up and looked ready to grow. I’m sure the “light snow” we had today will not slow them down much — at least I hope not!

Strawberry plants in whiskey barrel

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Gardening as Protest: Activists Planted Tulips in Potholes in the Ukraine

Tulips in Potholes

Reports from around the internet say that activists in the Ukraine launched a unique protest on the terrible condition of roads. Unknown protesters planted tulips and other flowers in potholes along major streets.

I haven’t been able to track down the original source for this report. I note that our roads are pretty terrible too after our long, hard winter. Could a protest of this type bring attention to our potholes?

Sure, it’s a shoop, but what’s the most unpredictable place you can think of to squeeze a little more gardening into your life?

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Pop-up Rain Barrel Workshop from Project Grow

An example of a rain barrel

An example of a rain barrel

Local gardening heroes Project Grow will host a Pop-up Rain Barrel Workshop on Saturday, April 19 from 12:30pm – 2:30pm at The Yellow Barn located at 416 West Huron in Ann Arbor. The cost of building your own take-home-and-install rain barrel is $65.

Participants will assemble their own rain barrel with help from Project Grow and Mi Rain Barrel. The workshop will provide all the supplies, volunteers to help, and food-grade recycled barrels. Profits from this event support the Children’s Gardens at the Leslie Science and Nature Center site.

To register to participate, please visit and click “store” to learn more about the finished product. Cash & checks with valid ID will be accepted at the door. Please contact lucas (at) if you have any questions or would like your barrel to be assembled by PG volunteers.

Rain barrels have many advantages for gardeners and for the environment. In the 20 Minute Garden, we use water from our barrels to water the vegetable garden between rain showers. That reduces our water bill. Rain water has not been treated with chemicals so it’s better for our plants, for the soil, and for the environment. Rain barrels catch water that would normally go through the sewers to the water treatment facility and therefore save water treatment costs. For Ann Arbor residents, rain barrels entitle you to a water bill credit.

If you are interested in adding a rain barrel — or another rain barrel — to your property, this workshop sounds like a fun and educational way to get one.

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5 Reasons to plant a vegetable garden this year… even if you’ve never done it before!

Pea seeds to plant

If you’ve ever wanted to have a vegetable garden, this is the year you should begin. No matter what scale you embark on — and we advise small to start — you’ll get satisfaction and more from gardening. Here are 5 reasons you should plant a vegetable garden this season:

1. Appreciate your food more
Growing something from seed or seedling will give you more appreciation of the work it takes to produce the food you consume. You’ll get to witness first-hand on a small scale the time and care that goes into cultivating the plants we eat.

2. Exercise
A small garden or container garden doesn’t need to be a lot of work, but the physical labor of preparing a planting area, watering, weeding and generally maintaining a garden is a way to burn calories. We all need more reasons to get outside and move around.

3. Love the earth
Gardening is an act of love. It’s a chance to participate and get closer to nature. In the garden, we can explore and be part of the circle of life– germination, growth, harvest, and putting the garden to bed.

4. Apply that science you learned
Growing a small garden is a chance to learn new things or put the information you learned in science class to use. Remember photosynthesis? How about transpiration? Gardening reminds us of the source of energy on earth — the sun– and the wondrous ability of plants to convert carbon dioxide into the oxygen we require.

5. Fresh food is different
Even if you only grow several kinds of herbs to use, you’ll gain new understanding of what is meant by fresh food. Food picked fresh from your garden and prepared immediately or even eaten raw will taste better. If you’ve never had a tomato or basil right from the garden before, you will be delighted by the taste and quality of your home-grown produce.

Not every garden attempt can be guaranteed to be 100% successful, so beginning the season with a sense of adventure and an open mind is the best approach. As we’ve noted before, a garden is an annual opportunity to learn and grow as a person as well as a way to grow some of your own food.

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Festifools 2014: a great day for a great parade

Parade Big Heads

It was a grand day for FestiFools 2014. The sun was shining, no wind, no rain, and a boisterous crowd turned out to watch giant puppets circulate the Main Street route in downtown Ann Arbor. Such a large crowd was on hand that people were standing 5 or 6 deep in spots, which made getting around the area quite a task.

Parade Preparation

20 Minute Jim and I are no strangers to the FestiFool Parade. In 2011, we made a giant puppet of our own, of Jack and the Beanstalk. We had a great time with our puppet, but the weather was really lousy that year. Rain, wind, and a lot of blowing took a toll on many of the puppets that year; there was an emergency “tape squad” stationed in the middle of the route, but Jack, Jim and I stayed more or less dry and whole throughout the event.

Parade Big Mouth

Perhaps the organizers should look into expanding the route an additional block. Everyone– no matter how small — deserves a good view of the parade. A slightly longer route could do just that.

Parade Flaming Drums

Parade Ukeleles

FestiFools was a blast nonetheless, and we’ll be back next year to welcome the Fools of spring!

Parade Pterodactyl

Parade Another Dragon

Parade Red Dragon

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