Thursday, June 9, 2011

Strawberries

My strawberries are ripe, and this week, I've been spending hour after hour on my knees in the hot sun (temperatures approaching 100°F) picking them - and then until midnight each night cleaning and preparing them in freezer bags.

Well, they're worth it. I don't pick them until they're dead ripe, and they're absolutely delicious! And they're a lot less work than most of my fruit. But still, I'm glad it's raining today, because I really need a break!

Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow here, requiring no spraying at all. I have to net them, to keep the birds off, but I have to net everything. And strawberries are easier to net than anything else I grow. I've got a low-powered electric wire to keep the squirrels out of them, and although that doesn't work well for anything else (squirrels quickly learn to avoid the wires), it does work for strawberries, at least so far.

You see, I put strawberry juice on the wires. They seem to learn pretty quickly from that. Heh, heh. So even when squirrels get into the yard, they don't touch the strawberries, not anymore. (Sadly, this tactic doesn't work for peaches or any of the other fruit I grow. I don't know why.)

I give away the early strawberries, since they're always the nicest. I give them to friends, relatives, neighbors, and even sometimes to people just walking past, when they express interest. After that, I like to freeze the rest, so I can eat strawberries on my oatmeal all winter. (I finally used up the last of last year's strawberries in April.)

I tried growing ever-bearing strawberries to extend the period when I'd have them fresh, but a long bearing period doesn't work for me on any fruit. It's hard to keep netting up for such a long time, and when birds do get inside the net - which happens occasionally, no matter how good a job you do - it's helpful if there's too much for them to eat all at once. Also, insect damage keeps increasing the longer fruit is available.

So I grow June-bearers (Earliglow is the exact variety), and they've been great. True, this year, one of my strawberry patches didn't do too well - the berries, right from the start, were really small, and that made them an even bigger job to pick and to pick through. I'm wondering if I didn't water them enough last summer - strawberries are very shallow rooted, and it's hot and dry here in the summer. I don't know. I guess we'll see what happens next year.

I do tear out half of the rows each year, after they finish bearing, and let runners fill it in with new plants. So far, that's worked well. My newer patch is along the north side of the house. Unlike most plants, strawberries will fruit well in partial shade - not as abundantly as they would in full sun, but still quite well. And they don't dry out as quickly there.

It looks like a poor year for the rest of my fruit, though. I had apricots - for only the second year ever, since they bloom too early here - but the squirrels destroyed the whole crop more than a month before they would have gotten ripe. (They don't eat the fruit of the apricot, but they chew them up to get the pit.) And I didn't spray enough this spring, so my apples, pears, and plums look horribly, disgustingly infested with bugs. Well, that's entirely my fault.

But some things just didn't set on fruit. For some reason, I don't have a single nectarine on the tree this year, and one of my pluots (a plum/apricot cross) doesn't have fruit, either. And only a couple of my gooseberries have fruit, and not nearly as much as usual. My peaches look OK, but I had to cut out a lot of dead branches this year. And I had a lot of winter kill on my black raspberries, though I still should get a good crop.

Admittedly, the grapes still look very good. Like strawberries, grapes seem to be very easy to grow here, even without spraying. Most of the year, I can just ignore them. (But they do have to be netted, and that's a real pain!)

Well, I just give away the vast majority of what I grow, so even in a bad year, I'll have plenty of fruit for myself. But strawberries are always the first fruit of the year - unless you consider rhubarb a fruit - and one of the most welcome. And since I try to freeze a bunch of them, a good strawberry crop can make up for lots of disappointment elsewhere.

Plus, they're really, really tasty.  :)

2 comments:

Chimeradave said...

I wish I could come see your garden. Can you take some pictures?

WCG said...

I wish I could give you some strawberries, John.

Unfortunately, I don't have a camera to take pictures. And I don't think they'd turn out well, anyway - especially this time of year when things are getting a bit overgrown.