My 11 year old daughter’s birthday wish was to harvest strawberries in our apartment. 🙂
It would not be a hard wish to grant if we were living in a temperate climate region, but we are living in Singapore, a tropical country.
Right from the start, we were met with disbelief and skepticism when we tell friends what we want to do. They all think I was crazy!!!
Our impossible mission began March 2015, after watching a few videos on how other people grew strawberries from seeds.
Most of these how-to videos were from Europe or United States. There were none from South East Asia, at least not the English speaking ones that we could find.
The first strawberries germinated on April 4 2015, from a packet of seeds from Far East Flora, a local nursery near home.
It took 10 days to see our first strawberries seeds sprouting! There was no going back after this point.
A week later, we decided to see if we could harvest seeds ourselves and germinate seedlings from store bought fresh strawberries.
We discovered that matured seeds from ripe fresh fruits had a faster germination rate of 2 to 5 days instead of 10 days. This is Summer’s video on how to choose the matured fresh strawberry seeds for germination :
However in late December 2015, we were advised by American growers that harvesting from fresh strawberries was not a good idea. All our supermarkets’ strawberries are hybrids, they would not grow true to parent plants. Our own experience with these seedlings showed they did not last long. Most of our seedlings from fresh strawberries died at 5th month or after they were transplanted to deeper pots.
I hope this excitement of discoveries and spirit of learning led them to research in fields of their interests when they grow up.
We created our group on Facebook, ” SG Farming in Apartments”, to share our experience on May 1 2015.
More pictures on how we began to harvest day’s post is pinned at the top of this group. Our link is at : https://www.facebook.com/groups/866039746800973/
Please follow our post “How to Germinate Strawberry seeds” for tips ! 🙂
By mid May 2015, we had 60 strawberry seedlings thriving in our bedroom. The kids and I are now strawberries “farmers”!!! 🙂
From these tiny sprouts, more leaves appeared. They were such pretty seedlings, and this was the first time we seen strawberries’ seedlings!
The question of whether our strawberry plants can really really bear fruits troubles me constantly 🙁 I told my daughter we would take them as far as we can, not wanting to disappoint her with false hopes.
As we would be away during the June holidays, and not wanting to bother my elderly parents too much, we decided to give half of our 60 seedlings to seasoned gardeners in Singapore.
Due to over-watering, pests had invaded our soil when we returned home after the June break.
I decided to change the soil instead of applying pesticide, and took the opportunity to look at strawberry’s roots.
Please follow post on “How to Transplant Strawberry Plants” for tips!
By the 4th month, strawberry plants became hardier.
They are drought resistant and need less water. At this time, the soil should be more acidic. Yeh Gerald from Urban Farmers (Singapore) Facebook’s group, advised to add used ground coffee to the soil.
As the strawberry plants grew, space to grow them at my only sunny window in the apartment was running out.
Vertical garden seem the only solution left.
All our vertical towers are recycled from used plastic water bottles and painted white to reflect heat away from the plants.
I am guessing that my daughter is the only kid in school who can say she is sleeping and studying in a strawberry garden in tropical Singapore!
On Sept 20 2015, when the strawberries were five months old, flowers buds were found on our the strawberry plants. A couple of days later, these flowers bloom.
We were really happy to see them. Fruiting seem possible at this stage.
Two legged bees were put to work, pollinating these flowers with a paint brush. A friend from our gardening group, Ms. Regina Fok, send us a link with information on how to do this.
Summer presented a video in YouTube to show how we pollinated ours.
This is my theory. In Singapore, because of high humidity, we cannot relied exclusively on natural elements like wind or bees (which we don’t have in our room) to pollinate strawberries’ flowers.
The best chance to see fruits is to lend a human’s helping hand.
When pollination is successful, the petals dropped the next day and its head started to droop downwards.
Fruiting process start as soon as petals are dropped and the flower’s bud drooped down. This happened within a week instead of months as we expected.
Strawberry plant baby is really ugly!
This story shared on TEDx stage on May 28 2016. 🙂 Thank you, TEDxPickering Street for the honour to share our story.
All the videos here are written and presented by children, using their own words.
Summer is 11 years old and she is our spokesperson for the English communities. Shona is 8 years old, and she is presenting in Japanese. (Year 2015)
They both enjoyed making these how-to videos and sharing our experience.
We hope you enjoyed them too.
PS. This is how we grow 50 -60 strawberry plants at home !! :))
August 7 2016 – We harvested our second variety of strawberries. The children and I love these Heirloom Pineapple strawberries even more than the red variety! 🙂 Check out why they are so special at the link.