Friday, May 16, 2008

Strawberry Blues

I used to be able to grow strawberries. I have the pictures to prove it. Pictures of big, HUGE, lovely, red, ripe, plump, juicy strawberries. It just hasn't happened in the last couple of years.

Two years ago, I had some kind of mold infestation in the patch and lost more than half the berries. Then again last year, sad to say, the yield was down-right wimpy. Even though we covered the whole bed as usual with a heavy layer of mulch over the winter of '06-'07, we lost many plants to winter-kill. So in the spring, I ordered new plants to fill the empty spots, plus put in another double row of new plants. That gave us a total of about 110 plants. 'Course, the first year, you have to pop the blossoms off new plants so the strength and growth goes to the plant which will give you a much better berry crop in succeeding years. But even the older, established plants didn't bear as they should have. What gives? Strawberries are Roy's favorite fruit so he was not happy. We ate several pickings of fresh berries, but I didn't have enough of a harvest to make even one jar of jam.

When we uncovered the bed this spring, we were glad to see that it looked like every plant made it over the winter. But, oh, what a matted mess to deal with. I'd obviously not given the patch the attention it needed late last summer and fall as the runners from the mother plants were allowed to run rampant (along with the proliferation of too many weeds --- dandelions with huge, healthy, humongous roots growing smack in the middle of the berry plants, of course) and I was faced with an enormous clean-up job.

I started in on the worst looking of the four double rows and was soon mumbling about getting out the tiller and turning under the whole patch. This so frightened my strawberry-loving husband that he offered to work with me until the whole bed was done. (Bless his kind, kind heart.) It's now two days later, and both of us have sore backs, knees, wrists, fingers, shoulders, and maybe a few other body parts, but the strawberry patch is pristine! All I have left to do is mulch with sawdust around the individual plants and lay a straw mulch between the rows. We've been getting enough rain this spring so if the warm weather will come soon, maybe we'll be back in strawberry jam this year.

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