Posts Tagged ‘strawberry’

First Strawberries of 2012

I finally collected enough red strawberries to make a quick shortcake for dessert tonight.  I had hoped to have far more strawberry plants by 2012, but the dry weather last year killed many of them.

At any rate, it was a delicious treat, because we only eat fresh strawberries in season.  That’s white sugar on top of the berries.  I’m a confessed sugar addict.

Crowded Seedlings Need Replanted

Crowded Seedlings

I have been neglecting my seed starting room!  I need to get this jungle tamed soon and then start some more things!

Meanwhile, the weather man is forecasting a low of 37 [edit: 35!] with possible frost tonight!  I guess I’ll be covering as many flowers (strawberry, cherry, apple, berries) as I can with old sheets and blankets.

Strawberry Plant

I took a set of photos in my garden this morning with my “real” camera…as opposed to cell phone photography. It takes a few extra minutes, but the results are so much better!

This is a close-up of a strawberry plant that seems to be doing a great job recovering from an easy winter under a bed of chopped leaves.

2012 Strawberry Propagation

As I cleaned the winter cover off last year’s strawberry patch–raised beds whose soil had dried as hard as a rock through August’s heat wave–I found many unrooted runners. The mother plant had long enough roots underground to find water, but the baked soil was too much for the baby plant roots to penetrate.

They survived this easy winter while the vine connecting them to the parent strawberry died, so they needed to go into dirt, and soon. Instead of directly planting them in the garden, I’m going to baby them along in these 2 cup containers for a while. In a few more weeks, I’ll be able to see the havoc that the dry soil played on the strawberry patches and fill in empty spots where necessary.

Yard and Garden work – March 2011

This was a busy weekend. In addition to lots of family stuff I was able to get outside for several hours to work on things that must be done before Spring.

  • Built the new raised center boxes for 3 more beds
  • Bought the lumber for three more trellises
  • Transplanted a bed of year old strawberry runner plants
  • Sowed a 21 foot row (perimeter of a 4×8 bed) of spinach seeds
  • Created a second compost pile and filled it with the last of the fallen leaves and the soil from last year’s containers.

No pictures, but it was satisfying to get more work done.

Strawberry bed plan – long term

I have been reading that Strawberry production declines after a few years and that there is some maintenance that can keep a patch of berries going longer.  I have come up with a long term plan that could keep my 6 ft x 8 ft bed of strawberries going for quite a while.  It’s completely untested, but give me a few years and I’ll let you know how it’s going.

  1. Spring 2009- I planted half the bed with strawberries (4 x 6) and half the bed with peppers.
  2. Spring 2010 – I realized that strawberry runners had increased the size of the patch, under cover of pepper plants, to 6 x 6 ft.  I added a few new bareroot strawberries to fill in the rest.
  3. Summer 2010 – After production slows down and stops I will just mow the strawberries off (probably by hand with hedge clippers) about 1 inch above the crowns, weed the bed well, and let them grow.
  4. Summer 2011 – When this year’s crop stops producing, and after I mow the foliage, I’m going to till up and destroy two-thirds of the plants, in two long 2 x 8 foot sections, leaving only the middle 2 x 8 foot row.  I will add lots of compost to the tilled area.  Throughout the rest of the summer and fall I will let the plants in the middle of the bed send out runners and grow me all new plants in the tilled area.
  5. Summer 2012 – Let the bed crop, mow the leaves off, and then till in the center third of the bed that had been planted since 2009.  Add lots of compost to the tilled area. Runners will quickly fill the area back in.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 on alternating years.

Does that sound like it will work?  I’ll constantly be destroying the oldest plants and growing new ones.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jamtasmagoria

I got some local strawberries already!  Last year we didn’t get our hands on any until mid-June. I also got a whole mess of rhubarb from my boss’s wife.  It was time to make JAM!

Last year I made one batch of plain strawberry and one batch of strawberry rhubarb jam. With two boys eating jam on breakfast toast and PB&J lunch several times a week, we went through all 16 half-pint jars, plus a couple other flavors too. I made the same two batches Monday night.

Making jam really couldn’t be much easier. Cut the green bits off the top of strawberries and crush them. Measure according to the directions in the recipe.  I got both recipes from inside the pectin packet.

Get the jars sterilized and reuse the same boiling water for the water-bath canning. Warm the lids and jar rings to a near-simmer.  Bring the berry-sugar mixture to a boil rolling so hard that you can’t stir it down. [Adding a half-teaspoon of butter keeps down the foaming.] Add the pectin packet (which is a jelling aid to firm up the finished product) and boil for exactly 1 minute longer. Remove the jam from the heat and ladle into the hot jars. Clean the jar rim, put on the lid, and put the jar into the water bath pot. After all the jars are in the boiling water, time 10 minutes and you’re done.

Remove the jars to a counter to cool.  As they cool, a vacuum forms, sucking the lids down firmly with a PING!

Let the jars cool overnight and then put them in the canning pantry. Don’t laugh, you’ll turn a closet into a canning pantry eventually. It happens.

Repeat after me:

Canning looks easy

“Canning looks fun”

“I CAN do that”

Okay, now go get a dozen jars and get started!  The quality of the product you will be making rivals the best top shelf black label jar of $9 jam you can buy.  When considered at this price point, I saved hundreds of dollars doing just this one night of canning:

Year One:

  • Dozen new canning jars that come with lids – $11.00 (8 jars needed)
  • Four cups crushed strawberries from about 2 pint containers – $7.00
  • Pectin – $3.00 (Contains enough for 2 batches)
  • You already have a pot big enough to can half-pint jars in…just use any stock pot
  • Set of jar funnel, lid lifter, jar tongs and headspace measurer – $10.00

That comes to $31.00 for your first 8 jars of jam, or less than $4.00 each, with extra jars and pectin let over and tools that will last several years.

Year Two:

  • You are reusing the same jars
  • Package of 12 new flat lids – $2.50
  • Four cups crushed strawberries from about 2 pint containers – $7.00
  • Pectin – $1.50 (Enough to do just one batch)
  • Use the same stock pot as last year
  • You are reusing the jar funnel, lid lifter, jar tongs, etc.

That comes to $11.00 for 8 jars of jam, or less than $1.50 each for stuff the same quality as the best you can get at any store.

    Kid’s Garden Planner

    I am adding two new 4 ft x 8 ft garden beds this year, so I decided to let my kids each plant one.  I’ll also let our wonderful friend and neighbor, M., plant one of my existing 4×8′s.  These children are 8, 6 and 6 years old, so I made them up a planning guide that you see above (and in color below).

    I helped them cut out the plant rectangles that are sized to cover 1, 2 or 4 square feet in the bed, and then let them arrange them any way they pleased.  So far, two of the three are finished:

    Kids' 4 x 8 foot garden plans

    Feel free to take this idea and run with it, but make your own.  Absolutely all of the pictures in mine were “lifted” gently from Google searches, so I have no permission to use them.

    Strawberry propagation by runners

    …is so easy a caveman could do it.

    Actually it usually just DOES itself.  If left unattended, strawberry plants will send off runners which will root near the parent plant and become self sufficient, removable, separate strawberry plants.

    However, we are planning on moving our strawberries this fall to a different place in the yard, so I’m going to try to keep things orderly in the strawberry bed until then.

    I don’t see any reason to waste perfectly good potential plants, so instead of cutting off the runners, I’m rooting them in containers.

    Rooting strawberry runners in a pot

    Rooting strawberry runners in a pot

    The sticks are just helping to hold the vine in place until the roots grow.

    Strawberry propagation.  Ugg.

    Strawberry propagation. Ugg.

    There is an excellent book that you can get from Amazon for (at the time of this writing) only $4.00.

    Grow the Best Strawberries: Storey’s Country Wisdom Bulletin A-190 (Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin, a-190)

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