Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Garden Week: Surprises & Delights in the Strawberry Patch!



So, do you like strawberries?  Does your family?  Would you like to go to your own back yard to pick this beautiful crop, eat all you want while you pick, then run them into the house, clean them and make the freshest ruby red jam there ever was?









Strawberry season turns into a celebration of its own.  One of the first delights of the summer--right around the time the peonies bloom, and school lets out!








Home grown are sweeter, but will probably not be as large as commercial crops like you find at the U-pick.  But that's okay.  At least you know what went on your strawberries.







You won't have to worry about wonderfully fresh desserts and beautiful treats ...you'll have the makings of them for several weeks or so!  From an elaborate dessert, a strawberry pie, or to use in a beautiful salad with grilled chicken for dinner, strawberries crushed over ice cream, or just a bowl of fresh ones with a spare sprinkling of sugar, they are delightful!




Even Mama bunny thought so....she decided to have her babies here in a little hole in the center of our strawberry patch.  We will never forget watching them grow up and leave...in the meantime, mama learned to trust us!  She stayed with her babies when we came to pick and just kept her eye on us.  

We marked the spot by driving in a small stake nearby, tied a small ribbon to it so we wouldn't step on her or the little ones while we were picking.





And one year, we found...




A most beautiful nest with these amazing eggs inside.  We left those alone, too.  Part of me wanted to steal the nest and the eggs-- to keep them, they were so beautiful...!





Putting out blooms and forming berries.


It seems there's just a whole other world down there beneath the canopy of leaves in that strawberry patch!







And also this miracle...that puts joy in a farm girl's heart. 


 :0)








  • STRAWBERRY BASICS from 1001 Hints And Tips For Your Garden
  • Buy more plants than you think you need if you want to have enough to eat and to make jams.   For a family of four, two to three dozen plants if you want to eat them fresh and use them in the freezer or in jam.  (Or start with a few and add to your patch with the runners the plants will produce.  Just make sure you allow EXTRA room in your patch if that is how you plan to expand your number of plants.)
  • There are two kinds:  June-bearing and ever-bearing which produce to late summer. (We have June-bearing.)
  • Each plant can yield from a cup to a pint per year.
  • When choosing plants, check the plants:  especially the neck,  a healthy stem, a rot free crown and spotless green leaves with whitish roots.
  • Strawberries like rich, acidic soil, well-drained, well tilled, weeded and fed with aged manure or compost.
  • Before planting, blanket the strawberry patch site with a sheet of black or clear plastic to have the sun "solarize" or heat it up so that patch of soil will stop weed growth.
  • To plant, slash crosses in the covering you laid down 12-18" apart and set plants in.
  • Best time to plant?  Overcast days before rain.  Soak roots in water before planting.
  • Don't plant too deep or too shallow.
  • Don't fold the roots under the plant, it's better to cut the extra off with scissors than to bend them.
  • The first year, you are to pluck off all the blooms and not allow the fruit to come on the plant, this leads to a healthier plant and a better crop for next year.  This will be hard to do, but it will be better in the long run.
  • Strawberries need a morning shower:  evening showers are not good for them because the moisture stays on them and is not good for the berry or the plant.
  • Strawberries like to be fed in the summer:  compost mixed with blood meal and hoof-and-horn meal, or a little nitrogen-rich fertilizer if you notice that the leaves are yellowing.

(**We did not know what the heck we were doing with strawberries when we put them in, and ours are doing fine. We didn't do the plastic, and because of that, we fight the weeds choking out the plants, do I sure wish we'd known to do that first.  I do know that as soon as the plants start greening up, my husband throws down a nice, thick blanket of good fresh straw BEFORE the buds come on and the berries form:  you DO NOT want your berries to touch the ground.  This causes rot and mold and makes them more susceptible to pests that will eat them, like slugs or snails.)



You should know that strawberry patches can be a lot of work.  Sometimes you need to get the runners off (the plants reproduce themselves) and transplant them into another row.  We have always thought the work was well worth the fresh fruit we have in abundance.  


Strawberry patches can spread, and can age and need to sometimes be replaced and/or moved.  Our patch is almost to that point.  We still would not want to be without them.


Peonies for you...I like to share them.  They smell SO GOOD!!



Thanks for stopping by the farmhouse today, and remember, if possible, pay a little extra and get the plants from your local grower!  He or she will likely have good planting/growing/feeding advice for you, too!
xoxo
Joni



16 comments:

Teresa@oursoutherncountryhomeandfarm said...

Oh the jams and fresh fruit sound wonderful, and we went to get plants to set out last week only to find that each small plant was $2.89! for one plant. Maybe we will set some out eventually, but that was a lot for a single plant.

Falling Leaf Woodworkers and Primitives said...

oh my gosh, it is worth the work of the strawberry patch just to see the bunnies and that beautiful nest... I think my daughter would love to have her own patch. Maybe we will give it a try this year.
Thank you for all the info
Sabrina

lil red hen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lil red hen said...

Home grown strawberries are so much better than store bought. But, having said that, they don't taste like the ones we used to raise in the 1940s. We grew strawberries to sell and I can remember one season the buyer wanted the berries stemmed, so we sat in the shade of a big cedar and took off the stems. Really doesn't seem like a good idea to me. I'd love to raise berries -- without grass and weeds.

lil red hen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
lil red hen said...

Home grown strawberries are so much better than store bought. But, having said that, they don't taste like the ones we used to raise in the 1940s. We grew strawberries to sell and I can remember one season the buyer wanted the berries stemmed, so we sat in the shade of a big cedar and took off the stems. Really doesn't seem like a good idea to me. I'd love to raise berries -- without grass and weeds.

lil red hen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patty said...

Thank you for your gardening postings and I hope you will continue them. I have planted a garden for the past couple of years with some tremendous successes and some dismal failures. Strawberries were a failure so I am excited about your advice. Thanks and I enjoy your blog! You are a blessing...

Patty said...

I have planted a garden for the last couple of years with some tremendous successes and some dismal failures. Thank you for your advice on strawberries (they were one of the failures). I so look forward to your column and wise advice. You are a blessing!

Kathie Truitt said...

Great article! Strawberries are my favorite. I want a piece of that strawberry cake, too, by the way.

Susan said...

We all love strawberries. I usually go with one of my granchildrens classes to a strawberry farm. Of course I come home with a few buckets. We love them fresh, jelly, cobblers, on top of ice cream and any other way you could think of. The Peonies are beautiful. I have never had much luck with them, but would welcome any advice on growing them. Zinnias (Old Maids) are my absolute favorites.

Kathleen Grace said...

We have a small patch that we planted 2 years ago, we have a hard time keeping the bunnies out of them! How did you keep mama bunny and her little ones from eating them?
Your post is just the essence of spring and early summer. I know you are looking forward to warm sunny days just like I am here in Michigan Joni:>) Glad to get around to visiting you again!

Parisienne Farmgirl said...

Dang girl - there is a ton of information here!~ I am gonna need it when my 75 new plants arrive! I can't wait to harvest for than a couple scrappy berries!!!!
Amitiés,
Angela
ParisienneFarmgirl.com

Donna said...

I remember when you found those baby bunnies! We frequently found them in our country garden too! They are just too cute for words.

Deb said...

I have a well established strawberry patch, but I have issues with the birds getting to them before I can. Any tips on that?

Kari @ Fresh Cut Quilts said...

This is great information on the planting and care of strawberry plants. I have some that have been in the ground for a few years but have never taken the fruit from them. Usually the birds and the slugs eat them which is fine. I like the look and smell of the plants enough to let them. I was thinking I would move the plants this spring and make a proper bed for them-- so this is terrific info! Thanks so much for posting it.