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Add Strawberries to Your Garden

The beginnings of a strawberry patch

The beginnings of a strawberry patch

 

We all have our favorites in the garden. For me, it’s all about the tomatoes. I can’t get enough of them.  If left to my own devices, I’d probably waste all our gardening space on heirloom tomatoes of every variety! For my husband, his favorite is the squash.

This year we’re adding the kids favorite to our Survival Garden.  Yes, we are planting strawberries.

My kids love strawberries. Fresh; right off the vine. I think they eat more straweberries than actually make it into the bucket. Last year we visited a really awesome local strawberry farm on more than one occasion. (What can I say, I like to make lots of jam!) While the prices weren’t ridiculous, it wasn’t cheap either, even with picking your own berries. I vowed then and there to research how to grow my own strawberries at home.

Buckets of berries!

Buckets of berries!

There are numerous ways to grow your own strawberries at home.  You can opt for a smaller harvest, and plant some strawberry plants in a traditional strawberry jar. Or, you can plant them in pretty much any container that is well-drained.  You can plant them directly in the ground, like pictured above at the strawberry farm. Strawberries are easy to grow and are very forgiving. They do not require a large amount of space to yield an abundant harvest.

After researching, I decided to plant 25 strawberry plants in our Survival Garden. They really don’t take up that much space, and my “go-to-guy” at the local farm & garden store assured me 25 plants would give us plenty of strawberries. I may still want to visit the local Strawberry Farm if I get crazy with jam-fever, but at least I will have a little crop at home for the kids to pick and eat.

I’d like to share some of my strawberry growing tips with you. Go ahead – take the plunge and plant some strawberries at your house. I think you will be pleased.

Growing Tips for Strawberries:

1.  Get your plants or seeds from a trusted grower.  Commercially grown strawberries you find in the grocery store or through commercial suppliers aren’t known for their flavor as much as they are for their firmness. They are bred and sometimes genetically engineered to be hardy enough to be transferred over long distances. In short, they aren’t nearly as flavorful and sweet as they could be. For the at-home gardener, there are much better heirloom options out there. You can grow strawberries that literally taste like they’ve been coated with sugar straight off the vine! I recommend these strawberries at Heirloom Solutions.

2.  Don’t pick them til they are ready. Commercial growers pick the berries before they are really red and ripe enough. Again, this is to guarantee they survive the transit, which is sometimes hundreds of miles away!  In doing so, they sacrifice the flavor of the berry at its best. You don’t have to do this at home. Wait and pick the berry at its peak redness and eat or use them right away. You will experience ultimate flavor when you do it this way. If you’ve only ever tasted strawberries from the grocery store, you will be shocked at what you’ve been missing.

3. Give them full sun and well-drained, healthy soil. While strawberries are easy to grow, they do have a few requirements. Strawberries grow best in full sun and with slightly acidic soil. Provide them a sunny location and healthy, organic soil, and they will reward you richly.

4. Mulch and fertilize. I used a very thin layer of straw for my new plants. This gives them a natural mulching and also a cover from late frosts. Strawberries can tolerate a light frost, but the straw is an extra layer of protection. I fertilized my strawberry patch with ProtoGrow which is all-natural, organic, and safe.  I will fertilize again (side-dressing application) in a month or so, as the plants begin to produce flowers and eventually berries.

5.  ENJOY your berries! While it’s tempting to eat all your strawberries just as they are, try some new things. Slice them up for a neat compliment to your spring and summer salads. Make a strawberry vinaigrette. Try a strawberry pie!  Or do what I love to do most – make an easy freezer jam. (My homemade freezer jam makes excellent Christmas gifts and I’ve even used the jars of jam as a barter for other produce!)

Happy growing. I promise to share more photos with you as my berries begin to grow.

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