Thursday, 3 July 2014

Lackadaisical Strawberry Gardener

I inherited my strawberries when Dierdre Ruane had to leave town in a hurry. I came home with five troughs of plants rescued from her top floor balcony which I parked on my patio and neglected until I found a pile of brightly-coloured containers in a pound shop. I picked up three, then picked up five, then bought them all, and they're still in my garden now, although the strawberries are the great grandchildren of the original plants.

It's fair to say that they don't always have the crimson perfection of the strawbs from the supermarket. The lopsided shapes and random sizes may, I have heard tell, may be because my bees aren't professionals (commercial growers bring portable hives to their fields) and pollinate wrong, or unevenly, or too late in the day. They still taste good though. I failed to photograph the devil strawberry (below) when it was ripe because the urge to eat it straight away was nigh-irresistible.

Growing strawberries in these small dry containers is a bit marginal. They don't fruit heavily, but they're supplemented by the alpines (a benign and vigorous weed in the garden ) and taste delicious, if we can beat the slugs to them. Between the low crops and the slugs, I never get a glut, and I'm always prickled by the thought, I could increase the yields. But then, I get enough for my purposes. They look good. That's enough, and more than enough.

Above: the pound shop pots, when they were first installed; an inadequately pollinated strawberry; making strawberry daquiries from scratch; too little water and insect damage = comedy strawberry.

I was picking the crop (about enough for two people to eat with yoghurt of an evening) and left the pot on the table while I went for the watering can. In the moment my back was turned a cheeky blackbird had joined them on the table. I yelled in outrage but she just flew off into the laurel tree, laughing.

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