The strawberries came in with unprecedented abundance this year, and husband Steve once again proved his worth, this time by whipping up batch after batch of shortcake. As my younger son says on occasion (usually an occasion that features chocolate in large quantities), “Now I know why I keep you.”
We have never before had nearly enough strawberries. Until this summer, husband Steve maintained that one never will, unless one has acres and acres to devote to the project. His dim view of strawberry plants (mentioned elsewhere) results perhaps from overexposure at a young age, when his plant-pathologist father ran a pick-your-own strawberry business on the side, with his three sons as primary labor.
Year after year, the minimal pickings from my plots have borne out his dismal view. (I might mention that husband Steve is the optimist in this marriage, and for him to take a dimmer view than I of anything suggests either that my expectations are way out of whack, or that his personality is undergoing some terrible reversal.)
Perhaps the plants produced this year because I actually fertilized them. True, that didn't happen until they were already in flower, and the web positively bristles with warnings not to fertilize at this stage; doing so will supposedly encourage leaves, not fruits. I put an extra scoop of bone meal, which contains lots of the potassium needed by flowers and fruits, in my fertilizer mixture for the strawberries, so that may have made the difference. Also, I use only slow-release organic fertilizers, so the plants weren't hit by a sudden surge of "Grow!" stimulants, as happens with liquid fertilizers (organic or not).
Beyond digging in fertilizer here and there this once, I have done little for these plants save keep them in bounds, so it's hard to take much credit for the bumper crop. But at least I avoided some errors of the past.
A couple of years back, I tried to encourage early fruit set by covering a couple of rows with plastic. I did remove it on warm days so insects could pollinate fruit, but left it on as the fruit started to set. The result? Lots of mouldy fruit. Perhaps if I'd taken my master gardener class earlier, I'd have avoided that one; we were warned that air circulation is important to prevent diseases in strawberries.
Then there was the year that the birds got all the fruit. Since then, I've covered my strawberries with bird netting. It's a royal pain to deal with, but it does save the strawberries
This year, the oldest strawberry plots produced prodigiously; those I planted two years ago did fairly well, and the most recent ones (planted just two autumns back) gave us a few stray berries.
This is, on the whole, encouraging, as it suggests that the other plots should do better next year…and the year after…and as for the year after that….
I would not go so far as to claim that we had enough strawberries this summer; we ate them all, leaving none for jam. But for several weeks, it was close.