Monday, December 11

Strawberries Grow Them Yourself

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 Strawberries are easy to grow, and full of great nutrients. If you have some space (you need about 10-20 plants to get a decent crop), give it a try. Also, if you grow your own, you don’t need to worry about what is on them, and it is usually cheaper than the store. They also taste much better.  And they are really a cool red.

First, you need to decide what kind of strawberries you want to grow. Generally, there is a choice between ever-bearing and the one crop type of berry. Ever-bearing means that you get more than one crop of berries all season long. These berries are really great now, and full size. No reason to not pick these, especially if you are growing them just to eat. The one crop type of berry is exactly that, you get one bloom and your done. This is not bad for strawberries that you might want to preserve, either by freezing or canning. A couple of weeks and your done with all your picking for the year.. Some people say that the one crops have more flavor, but it really depends on you. If your just starting, you might want to try several different types to see what you like.

 I have never planted strawberries from seed. Normally, I go to a nursery or plant area and scout up the strawberries starting about March or so. Choose your plants, buy them and bring them home. You will need to get the ground ready for them. Dig up a space that will allow about 6 inches between plants. It is good to mix some plant fertilizer with these plants. Strawberries have a crown or center of the plant where they grow from. You can’t bury this part or they will die. You will not be planting these plants too deep, just a couple of inches. You can get this at the garden center, or make your own. I would suggest not making your own unless you plan to get into gardening more than just strawberries. Strawberries like to be flat, but they also do well growing down slopes. Remember when you plant these things you will have to pick them, so you might want to leave a path or too to get to your plants. You don’t want to step on your berries.

Strawberries like heat, but also need daily watering. During the summer, morning and night watering is not unreasonable. Starting out in the spring, you can probably just water once a day. Your berries will grow in size, and eventually flower into white blossoms. These will be come your strawberries. Some people pick some of the flowers to get bigger berries, you can experiment with this. I don’t pick flowers off the ever-bearing ones because they bear all season long, but it is up to you. Also, the first year crop is usually not as good as the second or third year crops.

Around the time the strawberries bloom, it is good to surround your plants with a grass mulch (stuff from your lawn is just fine) so that the berries will not lay on the ground. This keeps them cleaner and makes it harder for the bugs to find your berries. This also makes them easier to pick, for it keeps you out of the mud and dirt.

 Your strawberries have natural enemies. These are birds, slugs and snails. So, you want your patch in a clear area. Don’t leave weeds or grass near your patch for these things to hide in. It is up to you what you want to use to reduce these pests, but remember you want to eat these things. Some people leave a section just for the pests in separate area. I am not sure this really works, but you can try it. The best solution is to pick your berries before they are fully ripe. They will ripen just fine in the house, or in a bowl left in a window. The time to pick them is about just after they are half to ¾ red. You also need to note the temperature. Strawberries will ripen fast during the heat. So, in July and August, you will need to pick them twice a day if it really gets hot, say over 90 degrees. And, you will need to water them too. Just to make clear, pick and then water, unless you like mud.

 Strawberries due another fun thing, they grow runners. These guys are outgrowths from the main plant with a really long stem. Let them grow during the summer. At the end of the summer, say August, you can plant these things lightly in the soil. If all goes well, you will get a new plant. Once these things start to grow, cut the connection to the mother plant. Its okay, this will actually happen in nature anyway. Don’t bury these too much, these things have a crown which must be above the surface of the ground if they are to grow.

 Well, that’s it. Your plants will last 2-3 years, but you should be somewhat replenished by the runners. If your strawberries look worn out, simply plant some new plants every few years. Enjoy.

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