June 2, 2021
With everything that has been going on health and the weather wise I have been neglecting my garden. The rains seem to be in a lull this week and the temperatures are overcast and cool. While this is not normal June weather, it is perfect for a return to my garden. The first thing I decided to tackle was my vegetables. The peppers are not liking the cool and rain and have barely changed since they were planted three weeks ago. The tomatoes are a different story. They have all sprouted to around three feet and are sporting flowers. Last year I got caught in the determinant/indeterminant debate about how to prune my tomatoes and they did not produce well. I have again caged the plants and return periodically to brush the foliage up to the next level of the cage. Today I cut the bottom stems and leaves off the main trunks. They had started turning yellow, and when they lie on the soil, they become susceptible to fungus and rot. This year I have a more minimalist approach toward pruning.
When I checked online it said strawberries (Fragaria spp.) grow as a perennial in US Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10 (we are in zone 7) and as annuals elsewhere. It further mentioned they do not usually require much care to produce tasty fruit. That was good as I have been neglecting mine. However, the plants and the fruit are susceptible to damage from several sources, including neglect (oops!). The ripe fruit needs to get off the vine before it starts to rot. That means picking the ripe ones every two to three days. The harvest season for June-bearing plants lasts about three weeks and the ever-bearing plants that I have should produce until it frosts. When in season, you must get the ripe fruit off the vine (oops!) before it starts to rot so it does not spread disease throughout the plants. You should also pick the berries by snapping them off at the stem instead of pinching the berries below their green leafy caps. Any pieces of berry left on the plant will again rot, and the rot can spread to other parts of the plant. I use a pair of garden scissors which does the same.
With the tomatoes prepped I turned my full attention to the strawberries. Two weeks ago, there were a dozen or more of the berries on the vines along with flowers. I had seen flashes of red and knew they needed to be picked, but never got around to doing so. When I tackled the weeding today, I found few ripe berries. There were some that had been eaten by the birds, but most had shriveled up and died on the vine. Despite my plants suffering this disaster (according to the online site), they seemed to be doing well. I discarded the shriveled berries and weeded around the plants to give them better access to the nutrients of the soil. I am going to get some fruit yet.
Thoughts: What amazed me while weeding my strawberries were the number of earthworms that came out of the soil along with the weeds. I had mulched the plants with straw last year and dozens of worms were living just beneath the mulch layer. While I returned the worms back to the soil, I began to realize I may not have to buy worms this year. I could just go to my strawberry patch, collect what I needed, and then return any unused worms to keep them alive. I like the idea of creating sustainable bait along with perennial strawberries. Like my worm supply, when we are forced to look at life in new ways during the pandemic, we have found new opportunities. We need to hold onto these sustainable patterns even as we try to innovatively make new ones. Finding and producing sustainable resources is a necessity, not a luxury. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.