Saturday, March 13, 2010

Strawberries: The small green house

Strawberries are an incredibly hardy plant, and year after year they can fruit. Three years ago I bought a small strawberry plant on a whim and had several garden strawberries that season. Store-bought strawberries are picked early, so the fruit's sweetness and flavor is not fully developed. The difference between store-bought and ripe-picked is like night and day.

Another great thing about strawberries is that they can produce fruit a couple times a year. Typically strawberries will produce fruit in the warm summer months. However, if you can keep the temperatures right, a winter crop is also possible. In fact, this past February I was able to pick a winter strawberry. (only one, sadly)

To keep the strawberries warm in the winter, I bought a plastic greenhouse for them. The strawberries sit atop the air conditioner and the greenhouse fits right over the planter and A/C unit as you can see in the following picture.

Yesterday we had very strong winds which ended up breaking some leaves on the broccoli, but the strawberries were just fine inside the greenhouse.

I didn't expect it so soon, but the strawberries are flowering! Each flower can become a fruit with care. For such a delicious fruit, strawberry flowers are very plain.

The yellow area in the middle, if properly pollinated, will grow into the strawberry fruit. The small yellow parts sticking out are full of pollen and are waiting for some nice bee to spread the pollen around. Unfortunately we don't have bees here, so I use a soft makeup brush ("borrowed" from my wife) to manually pollinate each mature flower.

My experience with these strawberries has been that they are not very prolific and the fruits are quite small. I think this may be related to soil quality, so this season I'll be keeping a close eye on this particular aspect.

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