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Strawberry Sorrows

 

The two berries toward the top started molding just as they were getting ripe.

The two berries toward the top started molding just as they were getting ripe.

A few posts ago, I wrote that for every good strawberry we were picking, there was one bad one.

Now, the vast majority – hundreds of them – are getting moldy before they get ripe. I have given up picking them, until the latest baby ones, which are above the plants rather than on the ground, begin to ripe.

What went wrong?

I’m pretty sure I know what went wrong…or, perhaps, what I did wrong.

  1. We’ve had no end of rain. Strawberries lying on wet, rotting leaf (from last year’s strawberries) mulch have little chance of maturing before going bad.
  2. The strawberries that have the fortune to lie in dirt instead of in mulch are eaten by pill bugs (otherwise known as “roly-polies”) as soon they start to get a little sweet.
  3. I didn’t cull out the strawberry plants to give them more space. I actually did this on purpose, knowing that next spring I would have ample space to for more plants. I didn’t want to cull them out and just throw two-thirds of the plants away.

But maybe I would have ended up with a much larger harvest of ripe, good fruit if I had.

What I’m going to do to get a better harvest next year

I’m not beating myself up. I knew that allowing so many strawberry plants grow so close together might cause a problem. And I can’t control the weather. Besides, I have been able to harvest at least twice as many strawberries so far this year as last, even though last year I didn’t lose that many strawberries.

But next year, when I have more space (above and around our earth-sheltered house) to grow strawberries, I am going to keep a few inches between each plant. In addition, I had Jerry look up alternative ways to build strawberry towers. The most common way is to use wide PVC piping, set up vertically, but I refuse to eat food that has been absorbing the chemicals from PVC.

Jerry found instructions on how to build a terrace. They call it a “strawberry tower” on the website, but I’ve seen something like it before as a means of growing any number of crops that don’t get too large in order to save ground space. This method won’t necessarily make the fruit grow dangling down the sides, as with other vertical towers (although I plan to locate the plants close to the edge to better the chances of that happening), and yes, there is ground for pill beetles and slugs to walk around.  However, if I mulch with rock, the slugs will not go near it, the strawberries won’t end up sitting in rotting mulch, and the pill beetles will probably be confused.

The plants that I keep on the ground I will probably mulch with wood chips, since wood chips take much longer to rot than either leaves or hay. I suspect that strawberries sitting on top of wet wood mulch will have a better chance than those sitting on rotting leaves. Or, if I want to shell out a little extra money, I may put gravel on top of the hay.

I’ve gotten the basics of gardening down; now I just need to get proficient at growing fruit. But developing self-sufficient skills takes time, and I know that every year we will get a better harvest of everything until one year, we will be giving away the extra!

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