STRAWBERRIES, STRAWBERRIES, STRAWBERRIES!

Strawberries-at-market

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.

 

varieties-of-strawberries

 

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!

charlotte-strawberry

 

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-longpin

 

  1. 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.

 

unplanted-strawberry-beds

 

2.  Fill each hole with a few handfuls of good compost.

 

strawberry-plant

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.

 

strawberry-hill

4.  Shape the soil in your planting holes into a dome shaped mound.

 

strawberry-plant-2

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.

 

 

filling-strawberry-hole

6.  Fill in the hole with soil and press down slightly with your hands.

 

strawberry-patch-planted-2

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.

 

strawberry-patch-planted

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.

 

 

 

66 Comments

  1. Debbie says:

    I’m commenting so I can be first. Impressive rows of strawberry plants.

  2. Debbie says:

    Can I be second, too. I’m never this lucky. It must be because I love strawberries. In fruit salad. With grapes. And tangerines. Yummy.

  3. Sandi says:

    “Like David Sedaris”….best thing I’ve read all day!

  4. Karen says:

    LOVE him. LOVE HIM. ~ karen!

  5. Karen says:

    Good job on being first! ~ karen

  6. Paula says:

    I did the same thing last year, but I chose ‘Kent’. The first year you are supposed to pick off the flowers so that the energy goes into the roots and that was tough to do. This year, I expect to have many strawberries; I await my reward!
    I planted some Alpine Berries, and I also transplanted some wild berries (they are tiny but sooo tasty).
    Yesterday, I finished building a frame for the bed and covering it with bird netting because I have no intention of sharing my bounty with the birds.

    Btw – I *love* strawberries.

  7. Karen says:

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention the most important part about Day Neutrals! I’ll go edit my post right now. You don’t lose a season with them. The first time they flush with flowers you pick them off, but for the rest of the first season you get strawberries. There’s no waiting period of a year like with June Bearing strawberry varieties. ~ karen!

  8. Kathleen says:

    I don’t like strawberries. There I said it. I find them disappointing… it’s like reading a really good review of a movie and when you watch it, you wonder what all the hype was about! 🙂
    I do however thank you for an informative post. 😉

  9. leo muzzin says:

    you did not mention the “straw” part about strawberries?

  10. Mark says:

    You have the most interesting and glorious posts, Karen! And I even learned a new word today: proliferic! 🙂

  11. Mark says:

    Unfortunately, most of the many “commercial” strawberries I have had over the past three years have been extremely disappointing.

    I think the path to true enlightenment and strawberry joy are described in this column… buy local or grow your own.

  12. Marla says:

    Karen, what is your stance as regards slug prevention on strawberries – sand, straw, eggshells? I do realize that you could probably get your chickens to do the job, but for those of us poor chicken-less folks, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

  13. Paula says:

    I did not know that. I find June bearing to be the best tasting, though. I am sure you will keep us informed on the taste of this new prospect, “Charlotte”. I am now craving strawberries.

  14. Paula says:

    You are also supposed to snip the runners, but I kept them and planted another bed 🙂

  15. Debbie says:

    Pure luck. Still doing laundry – and dreaming of strawberries.

  16. peg says:

    try “Pomona” pectin so you can find a balance between sugar and fruit. 😀 I try to buy from the farm stand,picked red not green,ripe. sAlso love my strawberries dipped in melted dark chocolate. thank for info ,wish I had room to grow them. 🙁

  17. Alisa says:

    Finally! I’ve been waiting for the strawberry post! (I need Charlottes. I wonder where I can squeeze them in….)

  18. JulieD says:

    Great post Karen, very informative! I finally planted my own just this past fall. Day neutral so I can be a jammin’ fool all summer long! I went with a tried and true for this area-Tristar. A safe choice, but I figured I need all the help I can get for my first time growing strawberries. Charlotte sounds great- something to look forward to finding and trying.
    This year I’m trying the green beans you wrote about -Emerite.

  19. Gayle'' says:

    This is the summer of renewal–tearing out the raised beds, leveling and terracing (building tiers), and then starting over next summer. But berries are high on my list of plants to get in.

    And my mom taught me how to buy fruit (well, most kinds, anyway). It’s always worked for me. If that fruit doesn’t smell fragrantly of what it’s supposed to be, it most certainly won’t taste like it’supposed to. No matter how pretty they look, if strawberrirs don’t smell strongly of strawberries, I won’t buy them. Lots of little tricks to get what you are paying for at the market.

  20. Lindy says:

    Brava brava, well done. Mara des Bois is what my strawberries are crossed with here. But I do have some Mara des Bois as well. They are not profilic – but they are my rewards for weeding sweets. Brilliantly sweet. They never make it as far as the kitchen. One thing the old folks do here (and that’s me too now) is to plant a row of leeks right next to the strawberries. Don’t ask me why and no one knows but it seems to increase both the production of the strawberries and the leeks. It’s worth a try doing it down one side of the strawberry bed to see if your yields increase. You have the room. Golly you are extravagant with your strawberries. At least you will have room for the runners in autumn.

  21. I agree. Homegrown strawberries are the best. Only thing is you’ll never buy store bought again unless it’s at a Farmer’s Market. Well that’s what I do. My husband has been growing strawberries for decades now and they are a completely different kettle of fish to the ones you will buy in the supermarkets. Oh my God they are gorgeous straight out of the garden. We used to move around a bit and the first thing he would do when we moved to a new place was check out the garden to see how much he could grow. He even grew Jerusalem artichokes by mistake one time (we thought they were turmeric) and they were so good. Tip. Said jerusalem artichokes may cause extreme flatulence:-) But yes, strawberries, wonderful little things..

  22. Jani says:

    Just had a little bowl of the strawberries that I sliced yesterday. Of course had to drown them in shipped cream. Hope you do your next story on planting the asparagus. I love it! Probably more than strawberries.

  23. Jani says:

    Should of been whipped cream…damn auto correct!!

  24. Tiffany G says:

    David Sedaris is one of my top 10 faves! If you ever get a chance to see him do a reading live – jump on it! He’s hilarious & very though provoking!

  25. Renee says:

    If you like jam, you should cross the border and visit Hurd Orchards. It’s in Holley, NY. They make so many different and unique varieties of jam which all taste delicious. Hurd also creates fabulous lunches, delicious bake goods and an adorable market.

  26. Patsy says:

    Just loved picking strawberries in June in Milton, near Toronto ( in the past)…Now I get my strawberries in Prince Edward County..buy local. Love the squishiness, redness, and juiciness on a summer’s day. I make great jam with them. My strawberry plants don’t thrive but my rhubarb plant does!!! Strawberry rhubarb jam is made in my home all year round.
    Every try ground black pepper on strawberries??? Fantastic!!

  27. I don’t know how I morphed into sweet potatoes (did you mention them in this article somewhere?) but I started looking through old posts on them and saw that you were going to do an article on planting sweet potatoes in a bin. I was thinking of doing the exact same thing this year and wondered if you ever got around to writing that article or even trying it out.

  28. Kelly says:

    Seascape are a fantastic variety too. You get big, juicy berries that aren’t seedy like some kinds. And as a coincidence, my son is eating some of the last of my frozen “me-picked” strawberries from last year in his cornflakes. Can’t believe I hoarded them for this long!

  29. If there is an award for most imaginative garden writing I’d like to nominate your instructions on planting: “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.” Totally makes sense but I can’t imagine anyone else coming up with that analgoy. Genius comes in all forms 😉

  30. Erin says:

    Happily, we still have one U-pick strawberry farm near Sauble Beach. It’s a great family outing and a nice way to support local farmers. I’m starting our own small patch so we can have organic production year round here at home. The plants arrive today, so great timing with your post!

  31. Karen says:

    THAT’S because you haven’t had a good strawberry. They taste the way you think a strawberry is going to taste but never does. Enter … the Charlotte strawberry. 😉 ~ karen!

  32. Karen says:

    LOL. No. I did not. This year mine may be strawless berries unless I get my act together. Too much to do! ~ karen

  33. Patricia says:

    Unfortunately it looks like we lost a bunch of our strawberry plants over the winter. Not having the normal harsh winter I think had a lot to do with it. When we recently uncovered them, we saw that the mice took up residence in our strawberry patch and had one heck of a buffet. Eh, that’s the way it goes. If it was easy everyone would do it. New load of plants is on its way.

  34. Karen says:

    Oh, my strawberries are far, far away from my chickens Marla. I hate slugs. I think the only thing that truly works is trapping them. Just digging a small dish into the ground so it’s lip is level with the soil and filling it with beer. Slugs slink in, then drown. You can get a LOT of slugs that way. But it’s super-gross. ~ karen!

  35. Karen says:

    They’re GREAT green beans! My absolute favourite. You’ll love them and never go back to another bean. ~ karen!

  36. Karen says:

    Thanks Linda! Yes, I got a whole other 20′ x 40′ community plot. So I’ll be filling it with strawberries, asparagus, garlic and flowers. I’ll give the leeks in in one of the berry beds a shot to see if there’s any difference. Thanks! ~ karen

  37. Karen says:

    As a matter of fact I do have a post on planting asparagus coming up. 🙂 ~ karen!

  38. Ev Wilcox says:

    Thanks Kathleen! I was wondering why I was reading this post, as strawberries and I don’t like each other one bit! I do not like them at all, and my fingers tingle when I prepare them for my husband. They are beautiful little things, but ewwww!

  39. Karen says:

    I’d love to see him speak live! And he does so much of it, I’m not sure how I’ve missed him. ~ karen!

  40. Karen says:

    Hi Linda. I’ve planted sweet potatoes in just about everything. They do really well in really large planters. Black planters are best because they retain so much heat and it’s never too hot for a sweet potato. ~ karen!

  41. Karen says:

    Oh, lol. Well thank you. Yeah. It’s just the way my brain works. 🙂 ~ karen!

  42. Codi says:

    Is it the porn that gets you into heaven, or the strawberry love that gets you into porn? I want to make sure I do this right.

  43. Leslie says:

    Great post! I inherited a dozen strawberry plants from a neighbour last year and they didn’t do much the first year in their new bed. This year, however, they are teeming with flowers. Exciting!

    Will you please do a post on your asparagus experience? We have a local asparagus farm up the road and absolutely gorge ourselves for the months of April/May. I’d like to try growing my own, but don’t know a whole lot about it. Plus, I just love reading about your gardening experiences!

  44. Linda in Illinois says:

    I too am disappointed in the flavor of the strawberries you buy in the stores. They are sour and bitter and most the time they are rotten. I must invest in the Charlotte to try in my own garden. As space is a issue in mine, I can only invest in a few and will have to have a way to contain them so as not to spread too far. Any thoughts on that ?

  45. Marta says:

    Thank you so much for this research, Karen. I live in the high desert where temps can dip to freezing any night of the year, so day-neutral would normally be out of the question here. BUT this year I’m planning to build a floating garden (a la BioHaven) and plant strawberries and rhubarb. The effect of the floating garden will be greater temperature control, so I think the Charlotte may be a contender. The only trick will be making sure the wicking bed doesn’t soak up too much water.
    Also love your sense of humor. 🙂

  46. Leisa says:

    Just a general thank you for the wealth of info you provide and for making me laugh so hard. You’re kinda like Martha Stewart’s (much younger) bad ass sister. Don’t know how u do it all … I just moved and I’m literally running from job to job to get the garden ready and I don’t have to write a blog as well!

  47. TucsonPatty says:

    I quit eating strawberries because you can’t tell how good or bad (rotten/moldy/sour) they are going to taste, until you take that first bite! I guess I’ve just been “molded and soured” too often and am very leery now. There is a perfect tasting berry out there that I do like, but it makes me so squeamish to try them, in case it is a bust of a strawberry.
    Anyone have any hints on this? I guess I just must not love them enough to go through the pain of discovery!

  48. Carole says:

    In Florida the strawberry season is December through March. Even though I have lived here most of my life, strawberries still belong to SUMMER.

    Good luck with yours.

  49. rktrix says:

    Thanks for all the helpful instructions, Karen. I’ve never heard of planting a root system “like a bra over a boob” but yeah, it makes sense. Mother earth. Wow!

    I await your prognoses on the Charlotte. This may be controversial, but do you find that fruit and vegetable breeders (is that the right term) tend to value a sweet flavor over all others? I’d like my strawberries to taste – yes, sweet – but also fresh, a little tart, maybe a little grassy, a little like pineapple, and deep dark red juicy. By going for sweet (and this applies to corn and carrots, as well as plums and other fruits) are we missing the essential flavor of what ever it is?

    Just sayin’. Happy harvesting!

  50. Anne says:

    Great info! What was the L’Oreal Mascara that you and your readers recommended? Mine is now discontinued and need a new one.
    Thanks.
    Anne

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