The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Summer strawberry bed renovation

Strawberry bed before renovationWhen I first got strawberries, I thought that since they were perennials, I could just eat fruits every year and mostly ignore the plants.  So I just picked off runners now and then, mulched, and weeded.  Along came the plants' second year of bearing, and the berries were not as tasty as I remembered.  What happened?

The problem turned out to be multifaceted.  I suspect that heavy rains last spring washed away some of the soluble minerals, resulting in a micronutrient deficiency.  But it didn't help that I'd let the beds become matted masses of plants and hadn't given the berries a good top-dressing of compost to make up for their hard work the year before.

Strawberry bed after renovationI've now tentatively settled on a three year cycle for strawberries.  At this time of year, I pull out any beds that are three years old or older, then renovate the one and two year old beds.  Renovation consists of ripping up any runners I've let set between the parent plants and breaking off new runners starting to form.  Add a little manure and some grass clippings, and the plants are ready to soak up the rays in preparation for next spring's harvest.

Summer strawberry transplantWhile I'm renovating the middle-aged beds, I take a little care to dig up the best-looking runners and transplant them into new beds.  Transplanting strawberries in the heat of summer is a bit dicey, but the payoff is large --- you gain enough growth that you can eat plenty of berries from the beds next spring rather than picking off all the blooms and waiting until the second spring to taste the crop.  I've found that if I dig the roots up carefully enough, my transplants will wilt in the hot sun but will be putting up new leaves within a week.

My hope is that this three year cycle will keep me sated with my favorite fruit for years to come.  Only time will tell if this method needs more work, but strawberry yields this spring were heavy and delicious.  The proof is in the pudding --- strawberry shortcake.

The British use the word "pudding" to mean "dessert", in case this isn't clear.

Save up to an hour a day with our homemade chicken waterer.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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