Strawberry Harvest

Returning from any vacation is always a little bittersweet.  While there is an excitement to be home again, with all the creature comforts, there is the sadness of leaving behind the romantic notion of foreign travel.  With gardeners, there is also a fear in the back of the head that makes us worry whether our plants will be alive when we come back.  Ironically, I have found that most of my plants do better when I’m not around.

Yes, it’s true – with the help of automatic irrigation, my zucchini plant has done better in the two weeks I’ve been gone than in the entire summer I’ve been here.  I came home to 3 large zucchini just waiting to be harvested, and mounds of opal basil shooting up lilac-colored flowers (eek! better pick those!).  Purple pesto, here we come…

Perhaps the best gift from my garden upon returning from Europe, however, has been the bounty of ripe strawberries.  There is so much to say about this, I don’t know where to begin.

First of all, I’ve never had enough strawberry plants to produce what could even be considered a harvest.  I’ve always had 4 to 6 plants that gave a strawberry at a time, at best.  Mind you, these were little plants struggling along in a strawberry pot that constantly dried out and shed soil like cats shed fur.  This year I was determined to do better.  As you might recall, this spring I planted 16 organic strawberry crowns and crossed my fingers for the best.  This leads me to the second point:

For the first year after planting, gardeners are supposed to pinch off the flowers to prevent fruit from forming, thus allowing the plants to develop strong roots.  About half-way through the summer, I just couldn’t do it anymore.  In fact, my husband chided me for being so weak-willed, and would perform the strawberry flower decapitations right in front of me as I’d cringe and cry out, “Nooo!”  So much for ruling with an iron green thumb.  (We laugh about this, by the way).

Fast forward two weeks and four countries, the first thing I noticed when I got home was a plethora of bright red, shiny, plump berries tucked into the foliage.  I grabbed a sieve and got to work.  Imagine my delight as I completely filled a 7″ diameter sieve with these beauties.  Bringing them into the house to wash was a highlight of my day – nay – month!

I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture of them, and believe me, they were picture perfect and perfectly sweet.  What did I do to achieve this?  Well, I can’t say I did much, except start with a great plant: Seascape organic strawberry crowns from Seeds of Change.  Add plenty of water and organic matter and go on vacation.

Have you had great success with strawberries this year?  Share your stories here.

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