The challenge was simple enough. Grow three strawberry plants in a creative manner that maximizes space and produces lots of of berries. Then blog about it. The grower/blogger best following those requirements with the largest number of comments and questions wins an iPad.
Of course, I have to say that this challenge was presented to the garden bloggers that attended Garden2Blog this spring by the Corona Tool Company. They sent us 3 bare root Tribute Strawberry plants from Stark Bros (the fruit tree people), a Corona Trowel and their best wishes for a spirited competition, all meant to bring awareness that even the smallest of places can be put to use for a delicious treat.
It's been fun to see all the different approaches by all the bloggers involved. Jenny Peterson, The Mulch Maven down in Austin, Texas planted hers in a hayrack windowbox decorated with wine corks and a mystical looking ceramic mushroom, Chicago's Shawna Coronado of The Casual Gardener repurposed lighting fixtures and built a futuristic Strawberry planter, while Jackie d"Elia placed hers in edgy steel wall planters. You can see everyone's progress on the Corona Strawberry Fields facebook page.
Of course I think that Shawna will win because beyond her great garden solution she has a gazillion facebook friends to vote her through!
Me? I started behind since I do live in Minnesota where we had a wet, crappy, cold, did I mention crappy, spring followed by a spate of blistering 103 degree days in June. Even the commercial growers have thrown in the towel according to a local news report about the short and so-so strawberry season here up north.
I guess I don't have any competitive streak when it comes to gardening, my style's a little lazy and definitely laissez-faire and by default, organic. My approach is usually low-key and simple.
So I used an old wooden box I found laying around the garage that was labeled Dow's Vintage Port. Remembering an old world recipe for strawberries macerated with sugar and soaked in port, I felt it fitting. Kind of like coming full circle with a touch of recycling too.
I planted them in a mixture of potting soil and compost along with Jobe's Organic Fertilizer. And then I left town for two weeks.
My strawberries sulked through the cold weather, then sweated the heat and actually sputtered out a few berries. I figured that was the end.
The rules said grow them "naturally", so I refrained from giving them a shot of Miracle-Gro, and brewed up a bucket of Moo-Poo Manure Tea made by cattle rancher Annie Haven (we grew up a mile from each other in CA but only met in Arkansas as fellow garden bloggers, small world, huh?). That seemed to perk them up and put on more foliage.
Next up on the weather menu: torrential rains, and then mind-boggling heat. A week of tropical, dew-point busting, humid, hot weather the likes of which had never been seen or felt with heat indices over 110 in Minnesota! I watered the berries with that rainwater saved in trashcans mixed with some Herb & Vegetable Plant Food that the nice folks at Bonnie Plants sent me to trial.
Meanwhile the Japanese beetles thought they looked pretty tasty too. I plucked them off into soapy water and then sent them to a grisly death in the garbage disposer.
And well, wouldn't you know...the plants are not only producing runners, but flowers and baby berries. I love how they are draped over the table and dangling like jewels from the vines. I just may have a bumper crop of berries after all!
Vote for The Garden Buzz by leaving a comment or question on this blog post if you like my interpretation of small-space food-growing. Who knows, Mama might win an iPad!