Summer fruit: strawberries

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.


6 Responses to Summer fruit: strawberries

  1. Love to hear about your strawberries as we got ZILCH! Poor location and it killed em flat! (too much heat!)
    On the other hand, the mountains provided us with our bounty this year: huckleberries, currants, and thimbleberries!

  2. Congrats on your strawberries! This is the first year that we’ve grown berries, and we planted two types, Tristar and Tribute. The Tribute plants all died after a wet and cold spring, but the Tristars are healthy and producing berries. It definitely is a learning process….

  3. Maybe you can ship some berries next year? Ahem? I remember dealign with netting as a kid on my own personal strawberry plot of maybe 10 square feet–a freaking nightmare, and honestly, the birds still won.

  4. Yummmy! Sounds like you got great mileage out of your crop this year. Strawberry shortcake was my favourite cake as a child.
    I’ve started growing strawberries hydroponically as they can then be grown in greater numbers and all year round. Have you considered hydropnics? There are some great “hydroponic strawberries” websites and videos all over the net.

  5. I had terrible problems with strawberries last year. The year before that the ones that came up were small, sour and got eaten by the birds before I ever had a chance to see them. This year they were nonexistant because of the terrible drought in my area. But i have had zero problems with blackberries.

  6. The Manic Gardener

    Hi, Heather! How sad for the berries! Is there a cooler site you can try?

    Thanks, Judy, how’s the fiber world? Good to compare varieties. Hope you had enough of the Tributes…

    Don’t push your luck, Benjamin. And yes, it’s a nightmare, though I do feel I have it more or less under control now. If you can control a nightmare.


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