All this last week while I had been away from the farm, I was afraid that I would miss a good time to get my little baby strawberry plants into the ground before winter really took hold. The dry and cold pattern made me hold off most of October and well into November. I did not want to try to plant the tender little plants while the ground kept freezing at night with lows in the 20’s.
These plants were the runners that I had coerced into trays of potting soil after the berry season had ended. I was able to keep the tender tips moist all summer and most of them sprouted roots of their own so they could be cut away from their mother plants and survive on their own.
I had driven home in the dark after several days away from home and the weather was still dry, so first thing in the morning I got the rototiller out into the garden and revved it up. I could already see little leaves of those dreaded buttercups poking up through the soil that choked out the last patch. I made a couple of sweeps through the garden and parked the rototiller at the edge of the patch thinking that I could give it one last go-over the next day. But showers had moved in overnight. Ditching the idea of the perfect tilling job, I planted two rows of plants.
Now I will sit back and watch Mother Nature put the little starts to rest for the winter and hopefully they will perk back up in the spring in enough time to have delicious strawberries in June.
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Strawberries are in full swing. We have been enjoying strawberries on pancakes in the morning, mixed into green salads, sliced and marinated in balsamic vinegar for spinach salads and in the evening on a scoop of ice cream. Oh, and several times throughout the day, a walk through the garden for a handful to eat as I go. Continue reading
The garden produced many meals of spring greens, radishes and green onions and delicious rhubarb for pies and cakes over the last month. Now it is starting to produce a greater variety with larger quantities.
The chive plant was about to go to seed so I chopped the whole plant off about 2 inches above ground level, removed all the stems that had begun to develop the beginnings of seed heads, and snipped the rest into tiny pieces. Left overnight in the dehydrator at the lowest settling dried them out nicely and I will have enough chives for recipes throughout the winter. Continue reading
Last fall when I wanted to work up the soil around the strawberries I could not get the rototiller running. All winter I fretted over the weeds and buttercups that threaten to strangle the life out of the strawberry plants. Once winter set in there was little I could do with the soil until spring. Continue reading
The strawberries are in mid-season and we have been trying to keep up on picking them before the birds get to them.
Between fresh eating and sharing with friends and family I have been starting to freeze small batches of the extras.
I do not like to add sugar to the deliciously sweet berries that I freeze, but there are a few tricks that I use on a regular basis. Continue reading
The daffodil bulbs have broken the surface and can be seen near the front of the driveway.
I always look forward to seeing the bulbs start to send up their foliage. It gives me hope that we will be seeing other signs of spring soon, and it also reminds me that I need to attend to the strawberry plants before they start coming out of hibernation. The berries need a light coating of fertilizer on one of these rainy days so that the nitrogen can soak into the root system before the leaves start growing.
Cleaning up the garden the other day gave me a chance to pick a bucket of strawberries.
No, these aren’t the sweet berries that we enjoyed so much during the beginning of the summer. These are the rock decoys that I had painted and scattered throughout the strawberry patch in hopes that it would frustrate enough birds to ensure a crop of berries for me.
I’m really not sure if the theory that I put into practice works. Birds seem to peck along at the leisure when there is a decoy laying around or not.
I have noticed however, that humans are drawn to the decoys as they step into the patch and I constantly have to answer for my odd display. Seems to me the birdbrains have the upper hand on this game of confusion.
I had been attempting to get the hoe in and around some of the strawberry plants. The buttercups are really a nuisance and the strawberry plants are getting too big to get around them well but I wanted to chop enough of the interloping ground cover so I would still get a good crop of fruit.
And to make matters just a little more difficult, the barn cat Boaz decided that he needed to keep a close eye on me and the long stick I was using around HIS strawberry plants.
Boaz would snuggle in and around the bushes as close as he could. Most of the time he was right where I wanted to hoe. This task was short-lived. It wasn’t long before I set the hoe by the garden bench and spent some quality time snuggling the mangy barn cat.
He acted surprised that I chose him over messing around the berries, the purring proved that he was appreciative.
With the strawberries in the garden in full bloom I once again took up my crafty skills and painted some rocks to look like strawberries.
Many of you may recall the last two years where I have been putting out these ‘decoy’ rocks around the plants in the strawberry patch when the blooms come on.
In theory, the rocks are supposed to attract birds early on before there are any real strawberries to be pecked on. The decoys make the birds disgusted with what they perceive as a delicious morsel to be a ruse. Then, when the real berries start to redden and ripen they remember how crappy the painted rocks were and head off to pillage someone-else’s garden.
In reality, the strawberries are a good conversation piece as visitors walk through the garden and lift a leaf only to find a decoy grinning at them. As for the birds, I think that the decoys do work to an extent but not in the way it was described to me. I believe those birds are so busy laughing at my silly decoys they forget to go eat my berries.
All in all, I count this as a success.
The strawberries are blooming!That is a sure sign of spring. I have also noticed that the birds have started swooping around the plants with hopes of a berry or two.
I have been working on the decoy berries and will be giving you the full details of the process. I plan on ‘planting’ the decoys in the next few days.
In the meantime, my right hand helper took a look at my work in progress and remarked that they may look a bit like strawberries but also looked like eggplants. I think that my work in progress needs a little more touch-up.