Monday, May 21, 2012

adventures in strawberry farming

"This is why I eat your strawberries, Mama!"

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've recently been having trouble keeping a certain varmint out of my strawberry patch. That varmint is an 84-pound, strawberry-loving greyhound:

Gravy freaking LOVES strawberries. Now let's face it, he's a dog - he will pretty much eat anything (only exceptions we've encountered to this rule are spinach leaves and snow peas), and he loves fresh veggies, but he seems to have an insatiable appetite for strawberries. He takes after his mama in this regard, (I could seriously eat a bowl of strawberries 2-3 times a day, every day) however, this is one trait of mine I wish he didn't have!

I'm kind of an accidental strawberry farmer. I have a notoriously brown thumb. When you forget to water plants, they tend to die. (See my yard, all of it.) In 2010 though, I became obsessed with the idea of growing my own veggies. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to walk out into the yard and harvest our dinner moments before we ate it? So Larry and I built a little square foot garden:
I planted bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, and lettuce. When I saw the little strawberry plants at Home Depot, I couldn't resist. I bought 4 plants and plopped those in my garden, too. I sort of knew that strawberries were perennials and figured if I didn't kill them that first year, I would just dig them up and relocate them the next year. I disregarded the instructions that you're supposed to plant strawberries in mounds. (I've also since learned that you should put down a layer of straw/stones to protect the fruit. This makes sense because I've had a lot of strawberries that sit in the wet soil end up rotting from the dampness before I can pick them.)

I guess what I'm saying is, strawberries don't belong in veggie gardens. Oops:
Anyway, my veggie plants grew and grew that year... (Especially the jerk zucchini which grew to humongous proportions and killed the neighboring plants.)
garden 2010
garden 2010
Give me a few months and I can ruin just about anything!

There were a few surviving plants that produced a few veggies, but here's who ate the fruits of our labor:
1. Squirrels (bastards took one bite out of every singe tomato!), 2. Raccoons, 3. Birds, 4. Bugs, 5. Gravy. Notice something missing from that list? Me. Arrrrghhhhh!

I think this was the extent of what I got out of the garden that year: one pathetic-looking cucumber and a few lettuce leaves. Perhaps a few zukes.
DSC_1007 ES crop
I did harvest a whole pile of stunted carrots, but they accidently got thrown away:
The next year, I said screw gardening. Why grow all that stuff just so the critters could eat it? We got our produce from the Farmers Market that year, and my once-cute little garden fell into disrepair. However, the strawberries were taking over. What started as four little plants was now this:
garden 2011
strawberries 2011
As it turns out, strawberries reproduce by growing runners. Baby plants can pop up anywhere. Digging up and relocating those once-compact little plants that are now crazy sprawling vines would be impossible. So I decided that that the veggie garden was now an accidental strawberry patch. Fine by me.

Larry and I began building an enclosure to keep the crits out of my shit garden, but while we dilly-dallied around trying to build the damn thing, Gravy ate all the strawberries. The little wire fence I put around the garden did not stop him - he just reached his pointy head and long giraffe neck right through, snarfed up all the strawberries, and ran back into the house licking his chops. Jerk.

I was pretty much done with the whole gardening thing this year. So imagine my surprise when I checked on the remains of the garden this spring and found this:
strawberry patch 2012
Evidently, strawberries thrive under neglect!

The progression of the garden through the years:
garden 2010
strawberry patch 2012
But back to the strawberries:

Every day or two I get a harvest like this: (Gravy eats an equal amount. He eats them right through the bird netting I put up to keep him out, and as an added bonus, flosses his teeth at the same time!)
It certainly isn't enough to bake with, but it's nice to have a handful of homegrown, just-picked strawberries with my breakfast/lunch each day. It also just goes to show that you'd need a lot of square footage to have a strawberry patch capable of producing a real bumper crop of strawberries.
The sad news is that strawberry plants are supposed to be replaced after three years. This is year three. Wop wop.

A more fruitful option? Next week I'm going to head to a local U-pick farm. They grow, I pick, I eat.

(I won't be bringing Gravy with me!)


Jane @ The Borrowed Abode said...

Ok, seriously? We both posted about accidental strawberries today? Insane :)

Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

How did you ever get your pup to balance a strawberry on his nose like that? Your garden is so lovely! And those strawberries look so good! I can't wait to see what else you get out of it.