I’m trying to restrain my hopefulness levels, but last week’s strawberry planting endeavors have me very excited.
When we moved to our new home at the end of March last year, one of the beds in the wheel-shaped garden next to the house was planted with strawberries. They were so overcrowded that the babies at the ends of the runners were sitting on top of other plants, and I worried the strawberry bed might not do well. So, with my mother-in-law’s help, I dug up about two-thirds of them and transplanted as much as we could fit into the next bed over (and gave away the rest to friends, thus sparing my conscience some pain). They seemed to adapt to their new space, but they didn’t produce as well as I’d hoped they would.
This year, that original bed was nearly as crowded as it had been last year. I decided to entirely renovate it. This time I paused to do a little research. I discovered that younger plants — the ones at the end of the runners that mature plants send out — are the ones that should be transplanted. They’re supposed to produce better than the older ones, which might be nearing the end of their productivity.
So I dug up the entire bed, lifting out all the plants and keeping them covered with burlap in a big feed container so they wouldn’t dry out. When I finished, Aaron tilled the bed for me, and then I used my handy bulb transplanter to make perfectly cylindrical holes. Niko helped me fill them with compost (a step I missed last year), and in went the babies. I’m hoping that the combination of fresh tilling, composting, and selecting the youngest plants will yield better results. I was a bit worried that they might have dried out too much while waiting for about a week for our family to recover from the flu between digging and transplanting, but now, a week after planting, they’re looking green and putting out new leaves.
But that wasn’t the end of the strawberry saga. Last year we discovered, via farmer’s markets and roadside stands, the most delicious strawberry: the Hood River strawberry. In the fall, in hopes of finding some to plant this spring, Aaron prepped two more wheel bed sections with mounds of compost covered in landscape fabric. And find some we did! We ordered them from a nearby company called One Green World and picked them up from their Plantmobile, and last weekend I planted those babies out, too.
Planting the new ones in the mounds Aaron had made was a little trickier than planting them without landscape fabric. I cut evenly spaced slits in the fabric, scrabbled around through the slits with a tiny spade to make a hole, and then attempted to place the babies into the holes. Their roots spread out, wormed upward, and made themselves into octopus-like tentacles that refused to stay put. Finally, I tried winding the delicate baby roots in a spiral around my fingers before fitting them into their small new homes. That effectively tamed them, and I was able to push the soil back over the roots without leaving any exposed. They’re looking green and perky now, putting out new leaves as they peep up above the fabric, so I think I did just fine.
The instruction sheet that came with our strawberries suggested waiting a full season before harvesting fruit, pinching off the blossoms all through the first summer. This helps the strawberries establish stronger roots. I thought that sounded like a terrible idea. Wait an entire year to enjoy fresh, juicy berries? I turned once again to my faithful friend, Google. Only one article I read mentioned waiting a year to harvest, and it was written by a nursery owner who said that she herself never does this even though it really is best. Who can resist the temptation of a crop of strawberries? Not her, and certainly not me. I haven’t that kind of fortitude. No, I have every intention of enjoying those strawberries as soon as possible.