When it comes to berries, Strawberries are definitely one of my favorites. To me, a strawberry that has been ripened to ultimate sweetness is a heavenly experience.
I used to think I would never have enough strawberries, that is, until I had over 300 different strawberry plants, which range across different cultivars and kinds.
I have at least 5 different kinds of strawberries currently growing in my yard. By request of AngelsGarden, I thought I would share which are my favorite and some of my experiences with them.
Overall, I like having a mix of everbearing and junebearing strawberries. The benefit of junebearing strawberries is that they have a whole lot of strawberries that all ripen about the same time over a few weeks. This makes it easier to be done with picking them. I like to freeze them for use over the months that fresh strawberries aren’t available. The benefit of everbearing strawberries is that their season is extended longer, allowing you to have fresh strawberries over a longer period of time. If it was possible to have everbearing strawberries year round, I wouldn’t need junebearing ones.
I have preference for different kinds of strawberries depending where they are planted. The way I look at it, there are normal garden strawberries, alpine strawberries, musk strawberries, ornamental strawberries, and wild strawberries.
Garden Strawberries I believe that when people think of strawberries they are likely thinking of garden strawberries. These are the kind you see in the store and usually see offered in nurseries and have the recognized traditional strawberry flavor.
Everbearing Garden Strawberry I am growing Tristar strawberries. At one time I thought these would be enough, that with their longer season from June until the fall, I wouldn’t need any other strawberries. However, this hasn’t proven the case in my situation. The strawberries are average in size and the plants spread their season over a longer time, with a slower rate of berry production than the junebearing varieties.
In my experience, they require full sun, fall/winter work in cleaning up runners and dead foliage, and watering during dry times. Of all my strawberries, these tend to be the ones that struggle the most with insufficient boron, which is evident by misshapen strawberries that look more like mutant red growths than something you buy in the store. So, this is something I watch for and occasional have to supplementally feed the trace nutrient of boron for.
Junebearing Garden Strawberry I am growing two different kinds of junebearing strawberries, Seascape and Whopper.
I got the Seascape plants on a sale that I just couldn’t pass up. The plants tend to be a little bigger than my Tristar plants and the berries also tend to be a little bigger. The first berry of the year on that particular plant tends to be the biggest one of the season.
I ordered my Whopper strawberries from Gurneys. I was really intrigued by their description of them getting almost as big as peaches, which has proven to be true. The first berries on these plants are huge, almost as big as peaches. Their size requires some special care though. I’ve found that if the berries sit on the ground that sometimes one side of them could get over ripe while the other side is still ripening, so if you can, you will want to try to raise the berries up off the ground. Since I don’t have the patience or time to do this, I tend to not wait for these berries to get a dark red for this reason, but pick them when they are still a light red color. The taste is still pretty good.
The plants are also some of the biggest strawberry plants I’ve ever seen, with them reaching over a foot in height. This year I’ve had some problems with the weight of the leaves and runners laying down on top of the berries, hiding the berries pretty well under the mat of foliage.
In my experience both cultivars require full sun, fall/winter work in cleaning up runners and dead foliage, and watering during dry times. I do sometimes see some problems with boron deficiencies, but not nearly to the degree as I see in my everbearing Tristar plants.
Alpine Strawberries Personally, I believe Alpine strawberries are all around the best strawberries for landscaping. I’ve written a lot about them in a previous blog entry, so I won’t go into so much detail today, other than to say that this week I was pleasantly surprised to see a stray alpine strawberry plant producing berries in a spot that never gets direct sunlight.
I am growing two different kinds of Alpine strawberries, Rugen and Yellow
In my experience, alpine strawberries can grow in full sun to full shade. They do require watering during dry times to continue producing berries, but seem able to recover even if allowed to dry out pretty bad. Very little fall/winter cleanup required of dead leaves.
I had these berries planted in full shade with just diffused light to grow with and yet they were still producing a lot of berries and spreading like crazy via a whole lot of runners. If you want strawberries that spread fast, require little light, and don’t mind that the berries are smaller than garden strawberries, then I’d recommend musk strawberries. One thing to be aware of is that musk strawberries require more than one variety to be planted, since they do need pollination.
These have a nice pink blossom, which is a nice change from the usual white blossom of other strawberry plants. They also grew much shorter than all my other strawberry plants, so would make a good low growing groundcover if you didn’t mind that their berry production is less than other strawberry plants.
In my yard and landscape I like having a balance between the wild of nature and an ordered structure to things. My favorite parts of my yard are the areas that are a little more on the wild side. I think of it as being a kind of structured chaos or Japanesque style of landscaping.
An example of this is the garden rock steps my wife and I put together a few years back.
These are by no means the symmetrical steps you would see if done by brick or wood. If you tried hard, you could almost imagine that they had somehow by pure chance fallen in this arrangement on their own. Yet, they serve their function as being an easy access way from one level of the yard to another.
To give them an even more organic and wild look to them my wife picked out and planted various herbs in the nooks and crannies with exposed soil.
Plus there is a stray ostrich fern and some strawberries that voluntary joined the party.
The low growing Corsican mint and Thyme plants are great for things like this, since they can withstand some foot traffic and give off some wonderful smells when rubbed against. Both are fine in some shade. The Thyme is a bit more drought tolerant than the mint, though the mint has a stronger and more pleasant scent.
This weekend soaphouse asked me if I knew of any organic solutions to ants in veggies, which is a GREAT question! I love questions that get me to thinking and push me to learn more.
Since I have an edible yard, where my kids have been encouraged to freely graze at will and pets are unable to understand warnings about not eating things, I am very careful about using any kind of poisons. This means I stay away from not only toxic synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, but even various “organic” pest or weed controls, since some would also be toxic to my family. In most cases, this means plants are often left to fend for themselves beyond any kind of manual labor on my part.
So to be totally honest, I really haven’t paid that much attention to ants in my veggies, berries, or fruit, unless I start seeing damage. Last year I saw some actual aphid farms on my artichokes and fava beans, which was being tended by ants. It was amazing to watch the ants moving among the patches of aphids, as if they were caring for livestock. But I quickly got past my fascination since my poor artichokes and fava beans were suffering. I solved the problem with some non-toxic and organic soap spray, which wiped out the aphid farms via suffocation due to the soap layer temporarily stopping air exchange.
Soaphouse’s question prompted me to do some more study on ants, which led to finding some interesting ways that other people have gone about dealing with them. The way to deal with them depends on how much information you have. I am going to focus on organic solutions, since that is what soaphouse asked for. A combination of methods would probably be the most effective way to go.
Attack their home If you can figure out where the ant nest is, you can attack it directly. One idea is to poor boiling water on it.
Starve them If possible; remove what they are feeding on, usually sweet things. Since in the garden this can be veggies, fruit, or berries, this might be difficult. I was able to do this in my garden by killing the aphid farms they were living off of.
Destroy their means of communication Ants communicate with scent trails. If you spray or powder strong smelling things on those scent trails, like vinegar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, baby powder, mint, it will disrupt them and the ants will be lost as to where to go. You could even try spraying/powdering your plants with these things to see if it will stop the ants from finding them.
Fill them full of holes Some have reported that dusting food-grade diatomaceous earth along the ant’s pathways will cut through their exoskeleton and they will dehydrate and die.
I find it kind of funny to see the parallels of fighting ants to medieval warfare, though this happens to be with ants rather than knights fighting castles.
When it comes to ants in my home and walls, I am not against using poisons. It seems like almost every year I have lived in my home, about this time of year I get an encroachment of carpenter ants.
These are nasty big black ants. They can bite really hard, as my Mom can attest to from the time when I was a kid and one went down the front of her shirt. As a seven year old kid, it was a kind of scary experience seeing my Mom running around the living room screaming and tearing at her shirt while some ant was biting her. I have no truce with these ants.
With carpenter ants I have no qualm about using poisons. I prefer using borax based bait, which they carry back to their nest and queen, and within a few days kills the nest. There are bait stations that are designed to keep kids and pets out of them. I look for the borax based bait stations, since many others kill the ants so quickly that they don’t get the stuff back to their queen, allowing her to bear more eggs to replace to ants killed, which I don't want.