Strawberry plants – Totally Tubular or Growing Bags

When I spotted the Park Seed Company’s Growin’ Bag filledwith strawberry plants I had to order the bags and give them a a try. I’d grown strawberries in the past but the plants always suffered from some sort of leaf spot and insects or birds ate the few berries that were produced. Park’s Seed catalog had a gorgeous picture of the bags filled with large, red, ripe strawberries and the temptation of plant ripe berries was overpowering. My order came with two10-hole plastic bags and 25 bare root Park’s Whopper strawberry plants to fill the bags. All I had to supply was the potting soil and tender loving care for the plants.

Mature strawberries in tube

Within a day or two of the plants and bags arrival I had my strawberry bags hanging in the greenhouse.  All I needed was a recipe for shortcake and the patience to wait for my strawberry bonanza.

The plants were healthy and grew well. I added a little water soluble fertilizer once a week and, unfortunately, picked and ate the few ripe strawberries that happened to appear while I watered. There would be no strawberry shortcake this spring unless the berries were purchased from the grocery store.

I also had a problem with the bags. They seemed to dry out really quickly and I found myself having to water daily. That would be okay if I had harvested strawberries every day but I wasn’t. Also, the bottom of the bag didn’t have drainage holes so a couple of the plants near the bottom died and I finally poked a couple of holes so the water could drain out.

Although the Growin’ Bags didn’t quite fulfill my strawberry growing dreams I was intrigued by the hanging plant principle and that got me to thinking. Certainly dark green plastic bags can’t be the friendliest of growing environments in Tucson’s hot climate. A little sunshine beating on the bag all day and the temperature inside is going to rise. I also had fear that when the 100 degree temperatures arrive the plastic might soften and the reinforced handles would gradually soften and give way sending the plants to the ground. The bags are quite heavy when thoroughly watered.

Making My Own Hanging Tube for strawberry plants

On my next visit to the neighborhood home store I wandered around the plumbing department looking for possible solutions to make a hanging plant tube. What I found was some 4-inch diameter plastic drain tube, two different kinds of end caps, chain, screw eyes, and a set of hole saws. Everything else I figured I already had in my tool shed. I ended up using a hack saw to cut the plastic tube to length, an electric drill for making holes, a Philips head screwdriver, tape measure and pencil, and some clamps and scrap wood to hold the tube in pipe in place when I drilled the holes.

The most difficult part of the project was deciding on the spacing between the holes for the different sized tubes I constructed and actually putting in the plants. The best method was to carefully fill the tube to the first hole, insert the plants, add soil, tap lightly with a stick to keep the plants firmly in place and then add more soil. Repeat the process until plants fill the plastic tube.

Since strawberries in a plastic bag were the inspiration for the project my first tube was about the same size as one of the hanging bags and Sequoia strawberry plants were used to fill the hanging planter. With plenty of left over pipe three different sized planters were made and one was filled with a mix of Portulaca. Another planter was filled with a mix of summer growing dwarf Periwinkle. (If the plants do well in the grow tubes, pictures will be posted on these pages sometime during the summer)

As with the original plastic growing bags the plastic tubes still need to be watered almost daily. There are a lot of plants in a relatively small amount of potting mix. The black plastic is ribbed and has a white reflective covering so the tube shouldn’t get as hot as the green plastic bags. Also watering is easier because the tubes hang upright. The plastic bags had a tendency to hang at an angle making it difficult to get the water to run down the center.

Whether or not I’ll get enough ripe red strawberries from either hanging garden isn’t yet known. Certainly the spring crop from both systems was meager and how to propagate new plants from the runners the plants are beginning to send out has yet to be decided. I think it’ll take a little experimenting to see which plants grow best in the tubes. I’d like to try one of the tubes with some of the trailing herbs like sage and oregano and maybe a few chives growing out of the top. We’ll just have to wait and see or you can try making your own grow tubes and experiment on your own. 

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