It just wouldn’t be summer without strawberries (and in New Zealand it really wouldn’t be Christmas without strawberries). Last year I was really pleased with myself that I had grown enough strawberries (and kept the birds off them) so that I had enough for a handful of berries almost every day for months. I was enjoying them on my muesli or in smoothies for breakfast. Sometimes I had enough that I could share some with a friend for dessert. But if I wanted to do anything else I would have to buy some.
This year I decided that I needed to grow a reasonable number of plants to make sure I had plenty of strawberries to try different recipes with. I have 2 big planter boxes of strawberries (about 12 plants in total) next to the house at the edge of the veggie/herb garden there. I also planted a new patch of strawberries this year with about 18 plants in an area of the garden that is now mainly berries and fruit trees.
The main thing is to keep the birds away from the red succulent berries. No matter what you do they will try their hardest to get to them. Even when you think that you have cunningly draped them with bird netting, the birds always seem to find a way in (and then of course you have to let the panicking (but gorged) bird back out because it can never seem to do that itself). I have now devised a system using posts in the corners, wire-netting over the top and then bird netting tied all round with twist ties. I use metal pegs or bricks etc to weight down the edges where necessary. And so far, no birds inside although there are still some very devious ones on the outside that manage to keep working the netting so that they can get close enough to peck that tantalising fruit.
And I am very pleased with the result. Instead of a small handful a day, I am picking at least a punnet-size amount a day on average. I even had enough that I didn’t have to by an extra fresh strawberries for my Christmas Day strawberry dessert creation – more on that later. I had never frozen strawberries before, but they are very easy to do: wash them, hull them and free-flow freeze them on a baking tray before transferring them to a bag. Frozen strawberries are fine for anything you are going to cook or process. I have been trying out lots of different recipes – so watch out for further strawberry posts. Just a few to whet your appetite:
I also have another small patch of strawberries on the edge of another veggie garden that mostly provides runners for new plants for me and friends. It also provides some bonus berries as even though I don’t net it, the birds don’t seem to go for this patch (but slugs do).