Strawberry Fields

We’re going to be in a pie!

– Ralph Wiggum

We only have about a quarter of the lawn left that we had when we bought the house, and I’ve got my eye on the rest. We’ve replaced it with decking and terraces and perennials and vegetable beds and ground cover — anything but the weedy hick grass that we started with. We hate to mow!

The house sits up and back from the street. There’s a set of steps from the sidewalk, then a path to the front steps. I wanted to use a stretch of the same groundcover over the “courtyard” area between the two sets of steps.

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I’d planted strawberries in one of the raised vegetable beds, and they went bonkers…they were healthy and pretty, and they spread like crazy. Why couldn’t they be a ground cover? With a berry-based bonus!

Strawberries

Even though our strawberry patch is small, and the squirrels and birds take their share, we took in about 34 pounds (that’s over 15 kilos) of strawberries last summer.

I transplanted all the returning strawberries the next spring, and added new mail order plants (you can usually buy a bag of 25 roots). For a while, I knew which varieties were in different sections of the patch, but they’ve all grown together now. Every variety I’ve planted has been very successful and productive. I picked self-pollinators with good disease resistance, including:

The strawberries face east, but get strong light well into the afternoon. I mulch them with straw (partly because the pun amuses me) but even without mulch, the strawberries have grown in so thickly that they keep down all but a few weeds or grass shoots.

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The downside, if any, is that strawberries put out runners. For the first couple of years, I would take the new plants and direct them into bare spots in the patch. Then I would weigh down the runners until the new plants rooted. Later, I would clip off the new plants and replant them or share them with neighbors.

Runner diagram from Port Kells Nursery, which has a great page about strawberry care.

Runner diagram from Port Kells Nurseries, which has a great page about strawberry care.

Now, whatever the neighbors don’t take and I can’t donate to plant sales and community gardens, I pitch in the compost pile. Happy strawberries are prolific reproducers — they are the rabbits of the plant world! You needĀ to stay on top of the runners to avoid the patch taking over adjacent areas. This isn’t hard — you just pull them up as and when — but it is maintenance. If you want a completely maintenance-free groundcover, strawberries are not your plant.

But the maintenance is pretty minimal, and it’s so worth it. Flowers, berries, weed suppression — some leaves even turn red in the fall.

strawberries growing

It also gives the nephews another reason to like being over here.

The towel proved inadequate. That is Bruce Lee getting dowsed in melted ice cream on the littlest nephew's teeshirt.

Bruce Lee dowsed in ice cream on the littlest nephew’s teeshirt: “Don’t look at the ice cream!”

We mostly eat the berries fresh, but to prep them for strawberry shortcake, clean, hull, and halve a bowlful, then sprinkle a couple of handfuls of sugar over the top, stir, and refrigerate overnight. Next day, you’ll have strawberries in a light syrup to spoon over cake and top with whipped cream.

Berries will be at peak ripeness this weekend. I can’t wait!

 

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One Response to Strawberry Fields

  1. Yummy! I just harvest our first raspberry of the season. Can’t wait to munch my way through them all!

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