Strawberries, Super-Sized.

It’s that time of year again, when we start sharing with you what we’ve got growing in our gardens!  For me, growing our own gardens is one of the greatest gifts of the season, and I revel in the joy of it!  So I am anxious to chit-chat with you in all of the gardening-related posts coming up, as we update you on this year’s fruits of our labors, and sharing with you all of the photos I’ve been taking as well.  I love to talk about gardening, so I hope you’ll all join me in interactive conversation, in the comments section throughout the season!

What we’ve got up today to share, is our strawberries.  Some of you may recall that last year and the year before, we were attempting to grow both Ever-Bearing and June-Bearing strawberries.  They each had an end of the bed.  Well we decided that we just weren’t happy with what we were getting from our Ever-Bearing crop, in terms of the size of the berries, or quantity.  So at the end of last season, we ripped them out!  That gave room this year, for our June-Bearing plants to spread via runners from last year, and fill in the vacant space.

 

As the June-Bearing variety does, the berries seemed to come fast and seemingly all at once.  We had to go out and pick every day or 2 for awhile there, picking the just-ripe ones, and letting others go another day or few.  It’s definitely the best crop we’ve had since planting.

We used hay as mulch this past winter, and left it on when spring came, as the plants seemed to push right through the hay and pop up.   We figured it would be a nice bedding to help keep the soil cooler, and give the berries something to rest on, with a little ventilation and protection, instead of sitting in dirt and beginning to spoil.  But we’re confused, because we keep reading about being sure to remove the mulch come spring. (?) Yet we know the some runners we leave, instead of removing to keep some growth control, will need soil to plant in.  So, like many new gardeners, we are kind of learning as we go here. Researching, trial, researching, error, but we are learning! And I am enjoying the process thoroughly! Mistakes and all.

 

We must be doing a few things right, because we’ve gotten some beautiful strawberries along the way.  Not all are beautiful.  Some are downright funny looking. Some didn’t get picked in time. Some weren’t not sure ‘what happened to that one’.  But the beauties are beauties indeed.

 

And we’ve gotten a good plenty!  For a strawberry bed the size of ours, anyway.  I’d say we’ve gotten little more than 2 bucket fulls like this, from our 4′x8′ bed.

 

Now, we would have had a little more, but like last year, we had a little problem with ants this year. So the bad news is, we lost some to that issue. We started finding berries with holes in them, and upon further investigation, discovered a couple major ant colonies beneath the hay.  The good news, we found our  all-natural ant weapon this year!  It’s called Diatomaceous Earth.  The food grade variety. It’s a white powdery substance, that is safe for edible gardens, and kids!  (We still advise them to not let any powder get on their skin or hands, and we wash our picked berries.)  Sprinkling this powder around the perimeter of the beds will keep the ants out! But it was too late for that for us, as we found our ant problem already in the beds.  Sprinkling the powder all over the ant colony and where ants were, kills them immediately. It’s great for a number of insect and pest matters, so Google it for more info. .I had more fun than is probably right, watching them slow right down, to death.

The next day, my 8 year-old daughter, {O}, found me poking around the powder piles with a stick, and she asked me, “Um, Mama?  What are you doing?”.  Truth time. “I’mmm, well…I  want to see all of the skeletal remains of the ants?”.  Her eyes grew in wide, and I saw in them disbelief and amusement, all mixed up together.  She was quick to spread the story throughout the family, before I even got back in the house.  I have to admit, I found joy in it.  My strawberries would be safe again.

 

Michael’s hand-built strawberry bed cover has proven to be the protective guard we have needed, from all kinds of critters & birds.  It’s kept everything out. Except of course, ants. : )  But now we have a prevention method.   We are considering adding another strawberry bed, when we start over with new plants for this one.

Our June-Bearing strawberry production has seemed to slow right down to an almost stop now.  Maybe because it is July? ; )  But that’s o.k., we’ve got lots of other gardening to share with you.  And in the freezer, is a couple freezer bags full of strawberries.  I don’t know how much I’ll get out of it, but I am going to make strawberry preserves with the berries!  This is something else I have never done before. But….I have gotten some great tips from good friends, and I’ll rely on my usual method for the rest: research, trial, and error. It will still be fun, and I have high hopes it will indeed be delicious too.

That’s all for this post. But I hope to have a more 2-way chat in the comments below. Please share any tips you have that you think we may benefit from, your experiences, trials and errors, and any other gardening chat you have to share!  I’ll do my best to respond to any and everyone.


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Comments

  1. Rene says:

    Those are some gorgeous berries! My mouth is watering! LOL Enjoy the “fruits” of your labor. XO

  2. Paula says:

    I believe Ruth Stout is the woman who praised the benefits of never removing the mulch. Just pile it on and on and on. Non of our strawberries came up this year. Too much c.r.a.z.y weather.

    • Laura says:

      A ha, really Paula? We truly have seen the benefits of leaving the hay/mulch, in a few different ways. For one, it keeps the the moisture in the soil, and keeps the berries from sitting on the dirt if the stem hangs. It’s also a prettier bed. lol. It’s worked out fine this year thus far. But come time when we start over, and put in new plantings, it seems the mulch will really be an interference for allowing some of the runners to establish new plants in the soil. So, perhaps leaving the hay or not, all depends on what year it is. Or maybe if we plant enough plants, we won’t need the runners help.

      Is your strawberries plants you put in? Or wild? Did they not come up at all, or just not produce? If you put in the plants, what has been you experience of how many years you can get fruit from them, before you need to replant? We are contemplating trying to get another year out of them, or starting a new crop next season.

  3. same here no strawberries for us! I might have to the bed cover next time!Thanks for the idea!

    • Laura says:

      Oh really Crissy? Do you suspect they were eaten by birds or other critters? Our bed cover really has been a perfect solution. We can easily see what is going on in there at all times, and when the plants need tending or the berries need picking, the cover just lifts off. It does take 2 people, but even one of my littles can help me.

  4. Alison says:

    None yet for us but we have tons of cucumbers! Lovely photos!

    • Laura says:

      What variety are you growing Alison? Our first cukes are just ready. What do you use them for? We put them in salads, have them in a light sauce as side dish (got to blog that recipe), and then we also just eat them plain or dip them in dressing. Our kids will eat them any old way!

      • Alison says:

        You know something, I can’t even remember! My son picked them out at the garden center. This is our first attempt at gardening. The kids have their own garden boxes and I have one too. I will get some pictures up on my blog in the next couple days. They are growing like weeds which is great for us because our kids love them any way too! We do a tomato/cucumber salad with a little extra virgin olive oil and a sprikle of dill. We’d eat this everyday in Kazakhstan, they use dill in everything! Please post some cucumber recipes!

        • Laura says:

          Hi Alison : ) – In case I confused you, I was asking what variety of strawberries you were trying to grow. It seems to me maybe you thought I was asking what variety of cucumbers? (Which is interesting to know too! lol). But anyhoo, how wonderful that your kids have their own garden boxes!! My kids love to help in the gardens. Esp my little girl. We’ll have to try that tomato/cuke salad w/ ex virgin olive oil and dill. Sounds great! I will post that cucumber recipe. It’s so simple and light > perfect as a summer side. I just need to find the photos I took! First time I lost photos-but I think I must have used my daughter’s camera and they are on her card. I’ll need to pay some visits to your blog too. Thanks for the gardening chat today! : )

          • Alison says:

            Haha! I’ve been making silly mistakes like this so much lately!! Must be the hot weather :) The strawberries we have are Allstar. Does that make any sense to you? Sorry, I really am quite new to gardening, but that just makes it so much fun when the plants actually bear fruit!! I think I get more excited than my kids and then I run and call my pro-gardener mom to tell her the good news. Hahaha!

            • Laura says:

              That’s quite alright. I wasn’t clear. I am have not been familiar with Allstars, but as I always do, I just Googled it! :D They sound awesome! They are of the June-Bearing variety (our are June-Bearing too…), and are described as follows…“produces consistently large, light colored strawberries year after year. Allstar is very disease resistant and extremely hardy. Allstar strawberry plants bear in late midseason and produce large, sweet and juicy berries. The best strawberry for canning and freezing. Frost resistant. Excellent flavor with fruit that is big, firm, sweet, extra juicy and red.” So…I am not sure when ‘late in midseason’ is? #rd week of June? So maybe there is still hope you’ll get some fruit.

              This is only our 3rd year of gardening. Funny you mention your pro-gardener mother. >> As a background, I’m not sure I have ever been the daughter-in-law my MIL hoped for. Back when me & my husband) her son got married, I could not understand why anyone would labor, sometimes in the sun, weeding and working in a garden…as she and my FIL did MUCH of. Their yard was like Better Homes & Gardens. Once, she really pushed 4 Hostas on us, that we finally took and put around a tree. Years later, we broke them up and now we have a ton of HUGE beautiful, vibrant Hostas. And she CANNOT EVEN BELIEVE my gardens….or my passion for gardening now. She really finds it comical, as I show her this & that in our gardens, and talk her ear off with gardening-talk. So now, at least I have that going for me, in the connection dept. ;) I only see her but twice a year now, as she lives long distance after retirement, but when she comes here, she is full of helpful hints! I really do adore her, and always have. We just haven’t always been on the same page, for sure.

              Honestly, I find gardening SO rewarding. Even if a season is not particularly an enormous fruit-bearing one, in terms of quantity, it’s really fun to tend to your gardens, and watch it all grow. I learn more every year, sometimes from mistakes, and that’s the fun of it too. So keep going! Gardens can be like tattoos. Once you have one, you want more and more! LOL

              • Alison says:

                Oh yes, I never understood my mom’s hard work and hours spent thinking about, talking about, planning, and shopping for plants. Then to come home and spend hours in the sun with bugs, sweat and dirt, yuck! I loved seeing her flower gardens so perfectly arranged and lush, and honestly was a bit jealous. I’d even take my kids to her yard for photo shoots :) When we were in Kazakhstan for 7 weeks adopting our first son, my mom came over and planted lilies as a welcome-home surprise. They were gorgeous but I was a little annoyed because now I have this new baby and flowers to care for, I was stressed. I look back and feel so bad that I was not more grateful! Now, that baby is almost 6 and he goes out once a week to cut and arrange beautiful bouquets! It’s nice to see the flowers grow as your child grows too. Hmmmm, perhaps I need to get out there and plant a bush, tree or plant for the other two kiddos… I think I will! :) I think the best part of gardening is having the kids learn how we get most of our food and the responsibly of being consistent in caring for something other than yourself. It’s been good for me too since I’m not very consistent. Wow, even as I write this to you and think about this, gardening is a much more powerful tool in our lives and our kid’s education than I even thought a couple months ago when we started. Pretty cool! :)

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