Today it is strawberry harvesting time.
Here, I will be sharing a bit of a garden blog update, mostly describing information about the strawberries I am growing.
The little patch in my companion plant garden has lots of ripening strawberries, and runners are also beginning to sprout up in new places.
Time to harvest the best ones, and do a taste taste.
These strawberries are called Ozark Beauties.🍓
This variety is easy to find for sale at Lowes or Home Depot. They are ideal strawberries because they are large, not mis-shapen, and have a good sweet strawberry flavor. Also very fast growing, big leaves, and hardy in extreme temperatures. They grow so fast, if a slug or caterpillar eats the new green leaves, it just grows more leaves, runners, and berries.
Here I picked my three best berries. A little bit of pink on the back is ideal for picking the berries, as long as most of the flesh is full red. Of course, I rotate the unblemished red sides on top for the camera. 😁
Wait a day too long to harvest and something else will eat them first. Four or five other berries I found ripened on the stems were partially hollowed out. Eaten by birds, squirrels, or slugs. I pick them off anyway, and toss the remains on the soil to spread the seeds and feed the bugs and birds. Decomposed remains will feed the worms, and enrich my soil. Sometimes I toss the inedible ones in my compost bucket to make compost tea.
The Ozark Beauties are my current favorites in flavor. Much better than the flavorless strawberries they ship to Oregon grocery stories from California.
It is always a mystery to me why we do not sell more Oregon strawberries in Oregon grocery stores. They do sell local grown Oregon berries on the roadside though, and they are inexpensive and delicious. Many of them are grown at migrant camps. I have visited a few to donate clothes and food, so I appreciate the hardships they endure to make a living as immigrants without permanent homes. And these Mexican garden masters with our fertile soil do grow the best strawberries in the world! Sorry California, but the strawberries we grow in Oregon are much tastier than yours.
One of the Ozark Beauties I ate today was very tart and sweet. I tasted like green apple candy, backed by a lingering classic strawberry flavor. Oh! Can I have another? The other two Ozark Beauties I ate were less sweet, and more watery. Not ripe enough.
The fruit flesh retains its shape when I bit through it, and it does not turn into mush. That would make it very ideal for dipping in chocolate or topping with whipped cream. A firm flesh makes the flavor better, in my opinion.
Not all strawberries from the same plant or variety will have the same flavor. Primarily the level of sweetness and intensity of flavor can vary quite a bit.
Amount of red color in the ripeness can affect flavor.
Time of day when picked can affect flavor. Morning is supposed to be best.
The frequency and amount of water has the strongest affect on the flavor of the berries. Berries ripen into the best full flavor when the plants are watered as minimally as possible.
I also grow Hood Strawberries and Ft. Laramie in my front yard. Those ones are always smaller and less flavorful. They mostly taste of water, and are softer flesh than the Ozark Beauties.
Hood berries seem to always have a weird indent, like it's been pinch into the tip.
Ft. Laramie tends to a elongate and stretch away from the crown of leaves before the rind forms seeds.
Neither one is very uniform, and I think they are more conditioned for arid climates with less water, because I know they can get better shape and flavor, just not in my front yard.
All strawberries will benefit from a rich organic soil. Even rotten kitchen scraps and manure will enrich the plants in Spring to yield better fruit in Summer.
Some of my best strawberries are volunteers that grew from discarded berries, or from bird droppings.
The runners that grow into new plants often land naturally on areas of soil with good light and ideal drainage. Let them grow wild, and the best runners will survive to produce strong plants and better fruit.
One strawberry plant of mine sowed itself into a soil-less gap in our cement block wall. It likes growing on a vertical surface where it only catches rain run-off and receives full evening sun. So let strawberries grow in hillside landscapes. The roots will grow deeper to cling to the rugged terrain.
My dad wanted it transplanted away, out of the wall, thinking it looked like a poorly planted weed. I generally ignore his gardening advice. He means well, but he sees the garden as more of a decoration than an ecosystem as I do.
Remember, strawberries are companion super plants! Well, I call them that, because they benefit nearly all other plants by providing ground cover and shading the soil to hold in moisture.
Leaves will compost quickly to add nutrition to the soil.
Bugs that eat tender shoots will be drawn to the thicker strawberry leaves. Let's just say it slows down the pests.
Curled leaves that form often provide dark, cool shelter for ladybugs.
Rain that gets trapped in the crown will feed beneficial insects.
I grow corn, beans, peas, lettuce, radish, carrots, pumpkin, melon, turnip, and onion nearby strawberries with great results. Companion flowers such as nasturtiums, nicotania, marigold, sunflower, morning glory, and borage combine well near strawberries.
Strawberries tend to have a very small localized layer of roots only under the crown (central growth stem), whereas other plants like to grow deep taproots or roots that spread out under the foliage.
Under the shade of other taller plants, strawberries will still grow healthy and strong. In fact, they will do better on hot summer days, benefiting from warm temperatures, but able to retain more moisture in the shade. This makes them especially ideal to plant under tall trees.
Fruit trees benefit the most from having strawberries planted nearby. Strawberry leaves shade the soil, allowing more moisture to be maintained. Runners will add aeration to hard-packed top soil. Dead leaves will also improve the fertilization of the top soil layer and add soft organic matter. This moisture rich, compost rich top layer of soil is ideal, and it is where most trees form a network of feeder roots.
Bonus Flowering Plants
Circular flowering head on a radish.
English Thyme has been blooming all month.
Yarrow is starting to appear. It blooms best once the last Summer rains finish and things become hot outside. Earliest flowers are actually slightly pink in the center.
Perfumous roses. This variety develops painted white center streaks I enjoy, especially when the afternoon light almost shines through the petals.
Coreopsis has arrived!
This is one of the signs I watch for. I grow these in partial shade behind the house, even though they prefer full sun. When they bloom, it means anything goes!
Especially their larger yellowy cousins, the sunflowers that I struggle to grow in Spring with all the slugs around. Those slugs are not going to last much longer in the dry heat. All of the warm season crops can be planted directly into the soil now. This is a great time to direct sow or transplant practically any vegetable into the garden areas.
#strawberry #red #berry #berries #harvest #garden #companion-plant #companion-planting #companion-plants #flower #flowers #rose #yarrow #lavender #radish #coreopsis #thyme #english-thyme #gardening-tips