John called me this week, wanting me to help plant new strawberries–75 of them. When I got to his house, he already had 50 in the ground, so I helped with the rest. Nothing more local than your own strawberries, so I was eager to learn how it’s done (as you know I am a novice <understatement> gardener and have a paralyzing fear of growing things).
The first thing you must do is buy strawberry plants. John orders his from Burpee and they arrive complete with instructions for planting. He paid about $43.00 and was pleased to mention that shipping was free. On another economical note, each plant has “runners” that will eventually branch out on their own and become new plants. So it’s like three for the price of one–each plant will eventually turn into more.
With plants in hand, John and I headed to the plot where other strawberries already grow. After tilling up the rows with his handy-dandy motorized roto-tiller, John put me to work. I watered the newly planted strawberries while he dug holes with a post hole digger. This is not easy work. I tried it and had a hard time getting the hole deep enough. My hands are unreasonably tiny, so I’m blaming the level of difficulty on that (not my complete lack of upper body strength). Each hole was about six inches deep with a foot in between (measured precisely by John’s ruler). The rows themselves are about three feet apart, giving the runners plenty of room to make new plants.
As John finished each hole, I scattered a handful of holly food in the bottom. This food is for acid-loving plants and looks a lot like grape nuts cereal.
The grape nut-like plant food isn’t enough. John wants to give his plants a good start so I filled up each hole with some of John’s amazing compost.
John works hard to get his compost rich and dark and more importantly, full of nutrients. When I told him I have a bucketful of coffee grounds, egg shells, and other scraps at home just for him, he acted like I promised to wash his car everyday for the next year. He was thrilled and thankful!
After filling each hole with compost, I took the strawberry plants and cut the roots to three or four inches.
I settled each newly trimmed plant into the compost-filled holes; it was like tucking them in for a long night of cozy sleep. I tamped down the soil and compost around the roots, making sure the crown of the plant stayed just above the ground.
Water is essential at this point. Luckily, John being the conservationist that he is, keeps water barrels on his property for use in the garden. What a great way to recycle and conserve! John is big on recycling, even when it comes to the items he wears. He proudly showed me the shoes he bought for $2.00 at a local resale shop–trendy plaid slip-ons. What a bargain!
I gave each plant a good soak with the watering can. This only happened after walking to the water barrels, filling up the can, walking back to the strawberry plot, and repeating five (or more) times. By the end of it, I was convinced of my need for a set of free weights. Strength training is in my future.
I hope to see the plants take root and grow green leaves like the other plants already popping up in the adjacent bed!
Once the plants start to flower, John and I will pluck off the buds to promote growth. Next year each plant should bear fruit. And I will make strawberry tarts. Ooh, and strawberry shortcake. And maybe save some for salads.