This is what I picked out of my organic berry patch today. Sarah, 11, helped only until her legs got sore. Berry picking is hard work. This is my second bucket and it is only June 13th. I am predicting I will need to pick at least two more times.
Today, I will wash through them all. The ones with defects, I cut off their tops and the defects and put these in a container. I then slice the remainder of the berry into a 2 cup size bowl and add maybe a 1/4 cup sugar. This will be topping for shortcake and angel food cake, and some of us just eat it out of a dish.
The container of berry tops and bad parts will be shared between the rabbit and the chickens.
A small portion of the rest will go in another container for fresh eating.
I will freeze the remainder. First, I pull the tops off — not cut them off — then I set them in a single layer on cookie sheets that I’d covered with wax paper. These cookie sheets will be placed in my freezer. In a couple of days, I will then bag the frozen strawberries into freezer plastic bags. Frozen strawberries are used in my house in fruit smoothies, strawberry margaritas and as snacks. All of my kids have always eaten frozen berries as a snack.
My strawberry patch is about 20 feet long by 10 feet wide. It is a raised bed made from recycled railroad ties (recycled in that they were pulled off other people’s yards) and we filled the strawberry side of the bed with sandy soil. My berries are both June-bearing and everbearing and I planted many varieties. I probably have about 150 plants. The spray I generally use for pests is Neem oil or other organic pest sprays and I fertilize my berries using the all natural Spray-n-grow products.
The strawberry patch is combined with our blueberries and blackberries and it is fenced with also 2′ of chicken wire running along the bottom. Steel hoops were placed over the top and the entire area was covered in a netting that in its former life was used in a pond to keep the leaves out in fall. The netting has holes large enough to allow the bees in and out, but small enough to keep the birds out.
We did run a water line out to the patch, the spigot can be seen in the left front corner. I do water my berries once weekly, if it did not rain enough. It is especially important to keep well-watered new strawberry plants their first summer.
Strawberries are very easy to grow. This year, I grew Borage from seed and placed several of these plants in the strawberry patch to help repel pests. But pests have not really been a problem in the berry patch.
I am making strawberry shortcake tonight — with homemade whipped cream!