JMMDS welcomes our first Guest Blogger, Christine Jonas Labich. Christine is an accomplished artist, mother, and landscape consultant living in the Pioneer Valley, as well as Julie’s niece! Her website is: www.christinelabich.com. Keep reading for Christine’s suggestions on home strawberry growing and how to get the most out of strawberry season!
fresh-picked local berries
photo: Val Khislavsky
It is June, and time for strawberries–those first jewels of the summer fruit season. In my never-ending quest to transform the land surrounding my house (some call it a “yard”) into a space that marries beauty and practicality, I have dabbled in growing these beauties so that my family could watch them grow and eat them still warm from the sun. But I have learned that the satisfaction of growing strawberries at home doesn’t come from a bountiful harvest, and that strawberries are another good reason to support your local farmer.
The reasons for growing strawberries at home are all sound. Locally grown berries have little in common with those that you can buy packaged at the supermarket. Their delicate, melt-in-your mouth sweetness is like an extra prize for making it through another winter. The plants are also easy. Give them some sun and good soil (even in a pot), and strawberry plants will prosper and multiply. But don’t expect their vigor to translate into lots of berries in your own backyard planting unless you are willing to invest some careful attention. The plants continually send out runners, which must be removed to encourage berry production, and they are sensitive to competition, which means lots of weeding and mulching. As I’ve found out, you will also be competing with other animals for the small ruby prizes. You can fight this one out with nets and small dishes of beer, but birds, slugs, and ants always seem to get there before I do.
finding that perfect berry!
photo: Val Khislavsky
Despite the care they require, I never want to discourage you from planting edibles. It is good for the soul to watch the miracle of how fruit springs from sun, earth, and seed. So, plant strawberries as a quick and efficient ground cover and share the fruits with your creaturely neighbors. Watch the flowers bloom, fade, and turn into rough yellow-green nubs that swell until they reach some mysterious tipping point and blush into red. Pick a berry that was hidden from the birds and too high for the slugs and feel its soft flavor in your mouth–the flavor of sun and earth at your home. Then, get yourself down to your local organic strawberry farm where they have done all of that thinning and mulching for you, and pick up a few quarts to freeze or share with friends. Welcome to the bounty of summer.