Seedling, Strawberry, and Potato Hints

Garden to Table

Garden to Table: A Grow Your Own Food Q&A with Jim Hankins of the Fauquier Education Farm

March 2022

In this ongoing series, we hope to help current gardeners as well as inspire beginners to start. Fauquier County has so many resources to support gardeners, and a lot of people with a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Jim Hankins, executive director of the Fauquier Education Farm, is our local expert, and he is answering questions from our readers.

I’ve purchased strawberry roots from Home Depot, can I get them started now indoors in pots so they can get a head start? Or should I wait to plant them directly in the garden?
Your bare root strawberry plants can be planted in late March or early April. The plants will be just fine if you plant them before the last frost. It would probably be better to plant them directly in the soil where you want them to grow, rather than putting them in a flower pot first.

The seedlings I’ve started indoors are teeming with little flying gnats. Are they harmful, or just annoying?
The tiny gnats on your new seedlings are likely whiteflies, a common pest on indoor vegetables. A good organic pesticide would be really helpful, I most often suggest Pyganic. It works really well as is safe and easy to use if you read and follow the directions. We are having a whitefly problem at the Education Farm right now with some lettuce in the greenhouse. They can be very harmful to your plants if left alone.

Some of the seedlings I’ve started indoors have a purplish tint to the stems and leaves. I’m using artificial grow lights, could this be the cause?
I wouldn’t worry too much about the purple tint. Seedlings can often be a very different color than the mature plants. It may be the lights or the type of soil you are using. As long as they are growing you’ll most likely be good. It can be a good idea after the seedlings are a couple weeks old to feed them with a mild plant food in their water about once a week.

What seed starting mix do you recommend?
You can purchase quality potting soil at any good garden center. It’s not a good place to try to save money. The better quality, Miracle Grow or Peter’s potting soil is worth the extra cost.

Can I cut up and plant grocery store potatoes that have sprouted roots in my pantry?
You can certainly plant potatoes from your pantry. A day or two before you intend to plant them just cut them into chunks that each have at least one “eye” or little sprout starting to form. You can plant the ones with big sprouts too. It’s really easy!

Jim Hankins is the executive director of the Fauquier Education Farm, located at 8428 Meetze Road in Warrenton. The Fauquier Education Farm offers agriculture-related education through demonstrations, classroom instruction, on-farm workshops, and hands-on learning. The farm also supports the community by contributing all of its agricultural products to local food banks and by providing volunteer opportunities. Learn more at

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