I recently wrote about gardening with the kids as part of the Kids Outdoors post. One of the finest things about having an oversized strawberry patch is having kids to go with it. Happily this weekend our strawberry patch burst into life.
The strawberry patch is my favourite part of our madcap veg patch as it requires minimal effort and always seems to yield massive amounts of fruit. Plus it is a huge lure into the garden for the kids to get them out in the fresh air and away from the TV.
This weekend we had lots of friends over so the timing couldn’t have been better. My daughter proudly picked strawberries to share with everyone and loved dragging the other kids down to the veg patch to grab some for themselves. My two year old son looked like a mini vampire with red streaming down his face and all over his hands and clothes.
I’m always reading tips on gardening and how to do stuff. I love watching Gardeners’ World too, but the thing is, most of the stuff I try is an epic fail. This is why the strawberries are my fruity BFFs. I’ve always had a go with gardening and I do really love it. I work a desk job and any chance to get outside is a bonus as far as I’m concerned. However, my efforts often only result in lungfuls of fresh air and a good work out, but no flora. The first time I tried to grow carrots my husband nearly fell over laughing. I was so excited when ‘something’ grew and then even more excited when I scratched back a bit of soil and caught a glimpse of an orange carrot top. I pulled it out and that’s all it was… a carrot top with no actual carrot. He said, well we are almost self sufficient now! Sarcastic ***.
Anyway back to the strawberries. Yum!
Our strawberry patch is the gardening Wild West. I read up on loads of stuff about how best to do this and how best to do that, but with a job, two young kids, lots of horse riding, dog walking and vast amounts of work to do on the house (I’m sooooo tired of painting), the chances of me having time to do anything properly are pretty slim. However this is what we do for the strawberries. It is pretty minimal, quite good fun and the fruit is consistently brilliant.
- We have a largish space to start with which helps, but you can grow strawberries in pots, raised beds, whatever. The ground we use is well mulched and established so very nice soil (why oh why does everything else fail)?!
- I try my best to weed, but as it turns out, I am VERY good at growing weeds and they just keep on coming back bigger and badder than ever, so the patch is pretty crowded, but this doesn’t seem to matter.
- When the fruit starts forming this happily coincides with the village scarecrow competition, so after that I stuff all the straw from the scarecrow under the fruit to give it a little cushioning. I try to remember to get more from the yard but inevitably forget.
- I water them if we get a spell without rain. The kids also love this and will happily wield the hose pipe over the strawberries and anything else that gets in their way.
- Once all the fruit ripens we all stuff ourselves with strawberries until there is none left. Happy days.
- I let suckers drift about so the patch spreads a bit and we get new plants (for free), but if it gets too much like Little Shop of Horrors I pinch some off. There is a little plant on the end of its lifeline and usually you can see some little ‘rooty’ style legs. These can be potted on and used in the patch as ‘fresh blood’ or given to friends.
- I often find stray plants here and there and dig them up to plug gaps in the main patch
- After everything has gone over I prune the big plants back with garden shears and then rake everything over with a lawn rake which is a bit lighter than a soil rake. Then all the clippings and old straw can go in the compost bin.
- Then the patch goes to sleep over the Winter and it all starts again the following year.
After trying to grow lots of stuff down at this end of the garden and of course always involving the kids. The best advice I can give is to let stuff slide, it can work. There’s no way that everything will be perfectly weeded. No way that the kids will go strawberry picking without trampling a few plants, fruits, each other. There’s no way that they will water without drenching you, each other and the dog and having a fight over who’s turn it is with the hose pipe. Let it all slide and have fun. Our patch is a perfectly, imperfect feast and everyone loves it.