For the past 17 years I’ve been waking up early on the Father’s Day weekend to trudge out to a strawberry farm to pick strawberries to make my year’s strawberry jam with. Because that’s what Laura Ingalls would do. And I’m nothing if not exactly like Laura Ingalls, minus the braids. Plus my horse is a car.
Actually l did that whole pick your own thing for 10 years or so until the only pick your own strawberry farm left in the area was too far away for me to be bothered driving to. At that point I switched to buying pre-picked pints of strawberries from a roadside stand or my local farmer’s market. My preference is the farmer’s market because as luck would have it they also sell another Laura Ingall’s favourite, organic, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice, Avocado Coconut Lime frozen Paletas. So there’s that.
Last year I started to grow a few of my own strawberry plants, because really you don’t need a lot of berries to make quite a bit of jam. Jam’s mostly sugar with a bunch of berries thrown in for colour as far as I can tell. Which I’m fine with by the way. I don’t want pectin free jam, I don’t want freezer jam, I want 100% full of sugar, bad for you jam.
I got the strawberry plants from a fellow community gardener and they were great for making jam, but they were pretty tart which made them not as great for sitting in the dirt and eating them straight off the plant.
A neighbour had told me about some strawberries they were selling at the local market that were really sweet so I ran down and bought a bag. And they were sweet. They were great. They were a “day neutral” strawberry that had that nice sweet taste you hope for in a strawberry but don’t often get. The market vendor told me the variety was “Albion” and I found the next type of strawberry I was going to grow! Yay! I had done it! I found my next strawberry variety! Then I spent the rest of the summer researching strawberries just in case there was something better out there.
Strawberries, like David Sedaris, are a funny little fruit. You could read for hours and hours about them and still not entirely understand all there is to know about all of the varieties. Not only are there a billion different varieties, they can be put into 1 of 3 categories.
Charlotte. Is the strawberry I went with. And it wasn’t easy. At the moment Charlotte is only available from one distributer in Quebec (who has the rights to them) in North America. It’s a strawberry that was developed in France and is a cross between the wild type of strawberry, the Mara des Bois and a Californian Cal 19 strawberry. What that ends up creating is rumoured to be the sweetest, most fragrant strawberry in the world. The Charlotte. The Samantha on the other hand isn’t all that sweet and more of a tart.
You can see why I went with this as my strawberry of choice.
Update: This post isn’t even 45 minutes old and I’m updating it. I forgot to mention that one of the GREAT things about Day Neutral berries is their ability to give you fruit the first season. With the more popular June Bearing strawberries in the first year you’re supposed to pinch off all the flowers so the plant will spend all of its energy on growing bigger and stronger as opposed to making fruit. You don’t have to do that with Day Neutral berries. You can pinch off the very first flush of flowers, then get strawberries for the rest of the first year. No year long waiting period!
I took delivery of 100 strawberry plants (and 50 asparagus plants just for fun) on Monday and by Wednesday morning I was up at my garden creating the beds to plant them in.
- Strawberries like to grow on a hill with good drainage. To accomplish this, dig yourself a bed that’s around 8″ high. In that bed dig out as many holes as you need for your strawberry plants. They should be at least 12″ apart.
2. Fill each hole with a few handfuls of good compost.
3. Take a look at your scraggly little strawberry plant. People call this whole thing a crown, but really the crown is the top portion that grows above the roots. THAT is how deep you plant it to. No deeper than the crown. You want the soil to land at the crown line where the roots meet the actual plant so all of the plant and leaves are above ground.
4. Shape the soil in your planting holes into a dome shaped mound.
5. Place your plant over the mound so the roots are spread out and facing down. Make sure there’s contact between the underside of the crown and soil. No air gaps. Basically it’s like a bra on a boob.
6. Fill in the hole with soil and press down slightly with your hands.
7. At this point you should water in the plants. My community garden doesn’t even have the water turned on yet, so I’m going to have to count on some rain soon instead.
It looks sparse now but in a couple of months it’ll be bursting with strawberries. Or chipmunks. Or birds. One of the those things anyway.
I planted two beds like this for a total of 44 strawberry plants. I saved some to give to my 6 year old niece who holds me in the greatest disdain, and gave the rest away. Spreading Strawberry Love is the number one way most people get into heaven. And porn.
That’s it. You planted a strawberry patch and you’ve earned your Laura Ingalls Bonnet Badge.
You get an extra long ribbon if you did it while wearing calico.