Sweet strawberry shortcake, crispy strawberry cobbler, ripe juicy berries with whipped cream just about any time of day…bright red strawberries officially usher in the spring season around here! These brilliant berries are a delight to the eye and the tongue! You could ask our littlest gardener– who ate his weight in berries when we had the opportunity to go and pick berries last week. He was so excited that the green tops were devoured along with the berries. I daresay he got his daily intake of fiber.
Our family recently planted our own strawberry plants, and a fun field trip last week to Putnam Farms gave us a great opportunity to see strawberry growing done well. In fact, our kids were so fascinated by the tour of the farm and picking strawberries that they came home asking if we could also be farmers. Afraid not kids. Our 3/4 of an acre in town probably won’t cut it… and your father won’t even let me have a few chickens. Dreams crushed, the kids carried on and consoled themselves with some Sweet Charlie strawberries.
This particular farm seeds and grows strawberries every year. And the big bonus is that they don’t use pesticides on any of their produce. The owner shared with us that he wanted his son to be able to go out into any field and eat whatever he picked…talk about fresh! We’re sold on getting as much produce as we can from this farm, and if you’ve seen the PBS series A Chef’s Life, then you may have also seen Chef Vivian out at this farm learning all about tomatoes. Back to the berries…Putnam Farms grows several varieties of strawberries including:
- Sweet Charlie (heirloom)- these have a high sugar content and are softer, so not ideal for recipes, but perfect for eating. And isn’t it cool to know that this variety of strawberry has remained unchanged for generations?
- Camarosa- Better suited for recipes, and when ripe, will be a deep red, almost burgundy.
So, we focused on picking more of the Camarosa variety, because I knew I’d want to use them in a few recipes. We did sample a few Sweet Charlies, and they were delicious! Perfect for strawberry shortcake or sliced on a salad. Along the way, I managed to pick up some tips on growing berries that will help us all have better yields, even if we’re not planning to host a U-Pick strawberry patch in our backyards.
Tips for Growing Strawberries
- Don’t pick the flowers- While this may seem like a no-brainer, the blooms on a strawberry plant are actually the strawberries themselves. So leave them be, and roughly 21 days later you’ll have a ripe berry.
- Mound it up- Growing berries in a raised bed is wonderful for drainage, but if you’re planting in a traditional row (or in a random bed like us) then be sure to create a mound for your plant. This helps keep the berries from sitting in water, which could lead to rotting. And if possible, use drip irrigation to keep from spraying down your strawberry plants with water.
- Cut off the runners- We’re not talking about those folks who jog past your house in short shorts, but rather those long shoots that come out of your strawberry plant looking to create a sister plant. Sister plants are great if you’re primarily looking to create more plants for next year, but if you want a higher yield, then cut those runners back so your plant focuses its energy on making berries.
- Watch out for visitors- These visitors can be of the weed variety or the bug variety. Strawberries do tend to be susceptible to weeds and pests, so be sure to keep your bed weeded and keep an eye out for ground-loving pests who love strawberries as much as you do.
So tend those strawberry plants like a pro and see a higher yield this season. I’d love to know if you’ve had success growing strawberries in your own back yard, and what is your favorite thing to do with them? Happy Gardening!