Thursday, May 23, 2013

Is there a Secret Strawberry Society?

Because I may need somebody to get me in.

Last year my Mom graciously gifted me with a bucket o' strawberries she mercilessly ripped out of her raised beds.  I, being a cheap skate frugal minded person thought "Yahoo!  Free plants!" and went to planting them in our berry garden (very fitting, eh?).

The weather last summer was brutal and I lost some of the berry plants to the heat.  The ones that did the best were the ones that were in the middle section where I did not weed.  Apparently the weeds helped cool the plants whereas the weeded section of berries just shriveled up and died.

We didn't get more than a dozen berries last year although I wasn't expecting any.  After I heard all my other strawberry-growing blogging buddies talking about mulching their strawberries for the winter I figured I should probably be doing the same thing.  But I'm too cheap to buy straw or mulch, so I just heaped liberal amounts of fallen leaves over everything.  Not sure if I really had to because our winter was very mild this year, but everyone else was doing it so I figured I should be doing it.

This spring I picked all the leaves off the bed and transplanted several plants to the scorched area and the area where I had peppers last year in order to fill the entire bed with strawberry plants.

There were tons of flowers and soon, tons of little tiny berries!  Then about a week ago, I started to pick a handful of berries every day.  But now when I go out there, the berries are already half rotted! Some of them look as if something teeny-tiny buggy thing has been nibbling on it, but most of them are just black/brown & smooshy on the side touching the earth.  Is there something I should be doing?  But I'm telling you right now that I am most definitely not going to put individual teeny-tiny little blankets underneath each berry or anything like that.
The ones that made it into the house; not quite ripe on the left,
eating berries in the bucket, chicken scraps on the left.
Too many icky parts for my liking and not enough in the eat'n bucket.
Also I was wondering if I shouldn't be waiting so long to pick them.  Can you pick almost-ripe berries and then let them ripen in the house or in a paper bag or something like that?  We were picking berries tonight and probably every third berry was flung over the fence to the very appreciative goats & chickens.  And then even then, the ones that did make it into the "for human consumption" bucket were still not quite perfect and I did a lot of strawberry triage before they made it into the "for eating" bucket.

So, oh growers of strawberries, what am I doing wrong?  I'm not an herbicide / pesticide kind'a gal so that's out of the question.  Or is this just the way non-commercial berry growing & picking happens in real life?


  1. So this is the first year for these plants? 2nd tear is better. Keep in mind they don't like wet/soggy soil it makes for mushy berries that don't keep well. I cap mine and pop them I the freezer till I get enough for jam or what ever. After following a few posts from MamaPea over at mine are doing much better & this is the second year for them. Good luck!

  2. Mine were doing fine until all the rain this week. I just posted a "whine" about it too.

    Hang in there!

  3. I've spent the last two days hand picking roly poly's from around the base of each plant. I think my leg is forever messed us from squatting! I used leaves like you did and that proved to be an excellent home for the damn bugs. Anyways, I was thinking about putting sand around each plant to dry the little bastards out like a desert. But I'm not sure if that would hurt the berries.
    The berries that have turned an ugly shade of purple while waiting on me to pick more are the tastiest in my opinion. So yes they do ripen in the house ☺

  4. I always defer to Mama Pea for all things gardenish. I mulched mine this year and one end pretty much died, while the other end is doing fab. My biggest problem are the GD chipmunks. This year, too, I have completely mulched around the plants with sawdust. This seems to keep the berries dry and stifle 'some' of the weeds. Nothing, NOTHING, about gardening is easy.

  5. I have always had a hard time growing strawberries too. I have tried them in two different beds and I end up with almost the same scenario as you. Last year I decided to give up and took the remaining few plants I had and planted them in a large container, put them on my deck, and told them, "Good luck." I have ignored those babies to the point where I forget to water them. Low and behold, I have strawberries this year. I haven't received enough to can, though I could probably freeze them until I have enough, but we have been eating several everyday as a snack and they are still producing.

  6. I have mine in long pots, with straw all around each plant them up to the base of the plant and then I've covered them with birds netting. This has prevented the snails, slugs and birds and the harvest has been healthy and sweet. I don't use any kind of bug spray at all. I have also been clipping some of the runners to provide more strength in the main part of the plant.

  7. Strawberries want a slightly acid soil and I agree with Susan above, they need mulch, Wood chips or saw dust works well, when I was young my mother used the shredded wood from a swamp cooler. If you can find a woodworker they would most likely be more than happy to give you shavings or saw dust. Just make sure you leave room for water to penetrate the mulch.

  8. My strawberries actually do pretty good here in the high desert, never had any problem with mushy spots BUT I have to get to them before the stinkin' lizards! LOL!!