Tuesday, March 15, 2011

train them up (or down, or sideways)

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."-- Proverbs 22:6

I thought of this verse today while walking through my garden boxes and looking over the strawberries that I planted about a month ago. My fruits and vegetables are also my children, and even better because they don't talk back or try to sit on and flatten the cat. Although I'd never trade my real kids for an insect-free organic row of lettuce, I swear it.

Strawberries are unruly and don't like to do what they're told. They need to be trained, just like children, although I have a hunch that training strawberries is a slightly easier task.

We have tiny wild strawberries growing all over our yard. For the past couple of years I've fought with the ones that grow through my daylilies. Every couple of months I go out there and yank them up (guiltily), and before you know it they are back again as if nothing ever happened (they are very forgiving, to put it nicely).  That's because strawberry plants grow from a bottom crown, and they send out long runners in all directions to make more little plants. When you pull them up, you have to get them at each crown section. Even then, there are always more lurking under the bushes just waiting to creep around the corner.

Those wild strawberries have been a good lesson for me on how to keep the "domesticated" ones under control. (Disclaimer: this advice cannot be applied to marriage.)

So here's what I did:

I made a corral for my berries by using the holes in concrete blocks (I got them for free on freecycle.org--I love that website!).

Three on one side, and three on the other:

I filled the middle of the box with some peat, compost, and top soil to help the drainage issue (when it rains it turns into a muddy pool, since our soil is mainly reddish-colored clay).

Here they are a month later, a little larger, the ground a little greener.  I get so used to the brownness of winter that I don't think of it as dreary until I see a side-by-side comparison.

Some strawberry blossoms:

As they grow and send out runners, I plan to turn the strawberries in toward the center of the box to keep them from taking over my yard (although choking out the rampant unstoppable Bermuda grass and wild onions might be a benefit to letting them go crazy!).

I've read that it is best to lop off the flowers the first year so that the plants can spend their youth growing rather than reproducing (sounds like good advice).  But I want fresh strawberries this year, if only a few!  Call me greedy.  And hopefully by next year I'll have a box full of yummy strawberries to pick in the spring and summer!


troutbirder said...

Good luck with your strawberry project. My garden still has some snow. Grrrrr.

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