By Sean Conway
Strawberry jars are great for growing just about any plant that thrives in well-drained soil. This one is planted with violas
Yesterday I potted up one of my favorite spring container plantings: violas in a strawberry jar. I have been collecting strawberry planters (often referred to as strawberry jars) for years. These odd shaped, often cylindrical planters have numerous openings in their sides and one large opening at the top. The side openings, called pockets, are perfect for plants that like good drainage and lots of sun.
Some people use strawberry jars for their originally intended purpose: to grow strawberries in. They are indeed well suited for this, as the fruit is kept off the ground, making it is both easier to ripen and pick. My preference for planting strawberry jars however is for growing violas in the early spring and succulents later in the summer.
Violas are available in myriad of colors, and like their larger cousins, pansies, thrive in cool weather. They like well-drained soil and bright sun. The cool temperatures of early spring keep them growing and blooming well into the heat of late June and July. But once the heat of summer arrives, they fizzle out.
My collection of strawberry jars has grown over the years and includes quite a few glazed jars in a variety of colors. I now have them in yellow, cobalt blue, green, red, white and of course several in traditional terra cotta clay. The variety of colors the pots come in are perfect for matching up with the vibrant often bi-colors of viola flowers.
Here are a few tips on how to plant your own strawberry jar, whether you choose to plant colorful flowers such as violas or stick to the traditional strawberries.
Start by making sure your jar has a hole in the bottom for adequate drainage. If it doesn't, drill one using a sharp masonry bit. Next, choose a well drained potting soil. If you use regular potting soil, adding a few handfuls of either non-treated sand or small pea gravel (often sold in bags at aquarium shops) will ensure your soil will not get waterlogged.
Especially if you choose to plant succulents in your jar, or if your jar is large, try this tip. Save the cardboard tube from the inside of a roll of paper towels. Stand up the tube in the center of your jar before you add any soil. Add a handful or two of soil around the tube to hold it in place. Leave the tube in place while you complete the next steps.
Next, add soil to the level of the jar's first pocket. Remove your chosen plant from its container and gently push the root ball through the pocket from the outside so the roots are gently resting on the soil inside the jar. Cover the roots with soil and add soil up to the next pocket and repeat. Continue the process until you reach the top of the jar, being careful to keep the paper tube in the center of the pot.
Next, pour pea gravel or sand down the center of the paper tube until it fills the tube or reaches the top of your jar. Fill the jar with soil to just below the top. Plant several plants around the top of the jar. Next, gently remove the paper tube, leaving a core of gravel or sand in the center of the pot. This core will insure you have good drainage.
Now place your pot in as much sun as possible and enjoy the fruits of your labor. The bright colors of my viola filled strawberry jars now brighten the front door to our house and are a welcome sight after a long gray winter.
Sean Conway's book is "Sean Conway's Cultivating Life: 125 Projects for Backyard Living" (Artisan Books, 2009), describes 125 projects for backyard living.
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Copyright ©, Cultivating Life by Sean Conway