One of the many things I love about gardening is that it is an activity that lets your mind wander while you work (most of the time). I like that.
I have plenty of time to think while I am out here trying to find some strawberries in my very weedy strawberry patch. The grass is slowly taking over and, as I understand, it would take some pretty powerful chemicals to eradicate the grass and not hurt the strawberries. I am not going to do that.
This is only the fifth year with this patch so it is unfortunate to have to give it up so soon.. But the berries did have a pretty good run. I planted them in a 40-by-3 bed in 2012. I prepared the soil well enough, but did not consider that there was no barrier to keep the lawn grass from invading the patch. Unless I had painstakingly pulled the grass as it began invading, there was no way to keep it out.
If you recall, 2012 was an extremely dry spring and summer. I purchased strawberry plants in early April and started my patch. While I watered them off and on I could not make up for the lack of rain, and it appeared that many of the plants didn’t make it. I really wanted this patch to be a good one so I replanted several times that spring. I know I planted Jewell strawberry plants, but I also planted several other varieties in an attempt to establish this new patch. Eventually the rains came and my poor plants started to come to life.
With more typical rainfall in late summer and fall, I made the realization that far more strawberry plants had survived the drought than I thought. By the following spring I had a patch of numerous plants from about four different varieties of strawberries. Even as I thought my plants didn’t live through the drought, the roots stayed alive and grew new plants when the rain finally came.
I think at its peak I probably picked 30 to 35 quarts of berries from this patch in a season. However, by 2015 the production dropped off considerably and I knew the patch was about done for. I prepared a raised bed — two cement blocks high about 14 feet by 3 feet — for my next strawberry patch. Raised beds help stop any ground weeds from creeping in. Into this raised bed I planted 25 Honeoye strawberry plants in 2015. I am hopeful they will produce better than they did this year as they continue to mature and propagate.
Right now I am in my old patch digging through some grassy weeds and finding what berries I can. I am getting about a quart every other day, and that is enough to keep us in fresh supply. With the kids grown and gone, we are finding out that we don’t preserve near as many fruits and vegetables as we used to.
Beyond whatever gardening success I generally have, my talents are a little more hit and miss when to comes to growing other types of backyard food. The apple trees I grew for a number of years never seemed to like how I pruned or sprayed them and never gave up many edible apples. In their place now are two sour cherry trees. We have had some good cherries from these trees, but the worms and the birds like them too.
We also have black berries and red raspberries established and enjoy them for a while when they are in season. The blackberries had to reestablish themselves after I planted them too close to a walnut tree (now deceased), that killed a few plants with the chemical juglone that the tree produces. Of course, the asparagus and rhubarb give us enough for several months every spring.
But I really like to talk about the one peach tree that sits in the side-yard. This tree started its existence on my property about 15 years ago when I ordered some ginkgo and red bud trees from a co-worker. At $3 each I bought several of both varieties. It turned out that the one red bud was actually a peach tree. I found this out a number of years ago when my wife mentioned that she thought the flowers looked strange for a red bud tree. Later in the spring while mowing around it I could see the miniature peaches forming on the branches. This peach tree has provided us with lots of small delicious peaches and many preserved quarts to enjoy out of season.
We can’t all grow prize winning fruits and vegetables, but if we can provide something for our table that we have helped plant and nourish, that really is a special thing. When you can provide sustenance for your body while at the same time providing for your spirit through gardening, that is a task worth pursuing.
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