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!