|Strawberry shortcake with our
We’ve been eating strawberries fresh picked from our backyard garden—first just plain berries—then on cereal, pancakes, and waffles—on shortcake with milk—and under vanilla ice cream. We’ve made a batch of freezer jam too. We’ve given a bowlful to my brother in return for asparagus he shared from his garden. We’ve given more to our daughter—for her own table and to share at work.
Yes, we have strawberries—plenty of them. They’re all from the 25 plants I planted and blogged about in April 2012. There I revealed the radical idea that I would “follow directions” rather than plant them “my way” as I had in the past.
What’s my evaluation after the first year?
The Allstar plants are beautiful and healthy. I haven’t noticed any disease or major pest problems, though I did take precautions and sprinkled slug bait (iron phosphate pellets) twice since the plants began to fruit. Ants nibble holes in two or three berries a day. A family of catbirds has adopted the berry patch as their breakfast bar, but their damage hasn’t offended enough for me to install netting. I have not sprayed the strawberries with anything—organic or synthetic.
Berries have been more plentiful than I anticipated. I picked the first three berries on May 21. Soon I was picking by the handful, then bowlful, and then bowlfuls. Production peaked last week, when Ellen and I picked at least four quarts on Monday and five quarts on Wednesday.
This morning I picked before the catbirds arrived and came in with three bowlfuls, probably four quarts, which I weighed on our kitchen scale: 8 pounds, 9 ounces. At that rate, we estimate we’ve harvested about 50 pounds so far. To this Frugal Gardener that’s a good deal because at the current you-pick rate at Butler’s Orchard, a large farm in nearby Montgomery County, our berries, at $2.59 a pound, would have cost $129.50. The plants last year cost $26.50.
The individual berries are bright red, firm, medium sized. They hold up well after picking, even if not refrigerated immediately. Plop one into your mouth and you’ll say, “Strawberry—yum.” I am slightly disappointed in that I felt compelled to end the previous sentence with a period and not an exclamation mark. The reason is that of the scores of varieties in the catalog, I chose Allstar, a variety that is not super sweet.
|Allstars make 18-inch borders of
two of our raised vegetable beds
And there is another slight disappointment that I probably shouldn’t mention—but will. These plants hunker so close to the ground that this Ancient Gardener finds it increasingly difficult as he bends, stoops, and stands while picking. Second thought, the problem here is not “short plants”—but that of aging bones and muscles.
Yes, we have strawberries—plenty of them—and look forward to fruitful pickings of Allstars for another four or five years.