Last year we had a meager picking of strawberries, but this year has been the best year ever. To our delight, the strawberries are back, better than ever.
Two springs ago, I moved the strawberry patch. The process of digging and disturbing the soil necessary to move the strawberry plants, also sent an invitation to all the sleeping weed seeds in the soil to awaken and grow. Weeds of all sorts sprang up. Annual weeds are not a problem, simply pull and discard. The perennial weeds like nutsedge, dandelions, violets and clover, enjoying the newly loosened dirt, grew abundantly and are not so easy to remove. Violets particularly, had taken over the patch. I love violets, they are welcome in the lawn, but not in the strawberry patch.
The weeds particularly enjoy growing right up next to the strawberry plants, making it challenging to remove them without disturbing the strawberry plants. After trying to dig and remove these weeds over the summer, I realized it was futile. I wasn’t getting all the roots, and I knew they’d be back even bigger and better. In my experience, I’ve noticed if I don’t get the whole root of a weed with a tap root like a dandelion, it will regrow with a double root and emerge as an even ‘nicer’ plant.
That fall I resorted to using weed killer to try to win the bed back. Unfortunately, some of the strawberries plants which were tender from being moved and from spending a summer crowded out by weeds, also died in the process.There wasn’t much snow cover during the winter, and in the spring the strawberry plants that survived emerged small and sparse.
So there was a slim crop last spring. A handful of small berries. My two year old self proclaimed Berry Boy who had been reading Jamberry was highly disappointed.
Over the summer I kept the weeds down with grass clippings applied thickly to the bare spots. I laid rock stepping stones at various spots to aid in reaching the berries – a preparation done in hope, the hope of the abundant berries we hope to be picking one day. Right now it looks like a far off pipe dream.
Last fall I spread fertilizer – chicken ‘fertilizer’ – meaning, all that good ‘stuff’ you get after cleaning out the coop. I scattered it over the berries like fairy dust – or more like fairy clumps. The winter snows melted it in.
This spring we heavily mulched around the plants with needles from our white pine tree. The strawberry plants began to grow thick but not quite thick or fast enough to beat all the weeds. As we mulched we pulled any and every weed even the smallest violet and dandelion. I’m paranoid about those violets getting a foot hold again. The strawberry plants filled in and are the tallest I’ve ever had.
Chickens also like strawberries, so the fence is to keep them out of the strawberry patch.
Rain at the right time- early. If it is too rainy and cloudy when the berries are ripening the berries become mushy. The sunshine ripened the berries into firm, big, sweet, juicy, heavenly berries of goodness.
We’ve frozen them whole, made strawberry shortcakes and pie, and strawberry sauce which we canned for winter.