March 14th, 2008
Strawberries, $5 a Bite

On March 12th, we harvested our first and only strawberry.

Last fall I read an article that Austinites could grow strawberries as annuals, planting them in the fall, pinching back all runners, and picking off flowers until mid-February. We were not to expect them to survive the summer but must be prepared to replant each fall. So when Margaret and I were at Gardens last October, I was so excited to see strawberry plants there that she bought me five plants (at $1.99 each).

Seeing the catalog prices for strawberry plants since then has made me realize these strawberries were quite expensive. However, they were the plants that were available here last October, ‘Sequoia’ variety grown in Texas at Gabriel Valley Farms.

So from our tiny strawberry patch of 5 plants, we just harvested our first strawberry. A $10 strawberry. (The more we harvest, the more the price will drop, but for now that is the cost of this harvest.) I waited until evening when AJM came home from work and we harvested it together. Then we carefully cut it in half with our sharpest paring knife. We each popped our share into our mouths and simultaneously exclaimed, “Mmmmm!” Wow! I think fresh from the garden strawberries might even be better than fresh from the garden tomatoes.

I hope our silly little strawberry patch graces us with more fruit. Now I have wild dreams of expanding my planting next fall but I will have to find a cheaper source of plants.

by M Sinclair Stevens

17 Responses to post “Strawberries, $5 a Bite”

  1. From vertie (Austin):

    I planted some strawberries in the same way last year, some from Gardens as well. The taste was great, and it was wonderful to eat fresh strawberries. But I didn’t grow any this year because I just never got enough berries to do anything more than savor one or two a day. And I had 10 plants.

    I hope you have a bigger harvest. Maybe I’ll try again in the fall.

    I’m glad to compare notes with another Austinite. I don’t think there will be much but what there is will taste great. Savor…I like that word. — mss

  2. From Frances:

    That seems like a lot to pay, but deliciousness is priceless, right? We planted strawberries for the first time this spring, unnamed variety sold in a six pack at the big box store. They already were in flower, were we supposed to pinch those flowers off? I think they will survive our summers here in TN, there are lots of pick your own farms around us, but I know zero about how to care for them. I am awaiting the first bite though, your little ritual was sweet.
    Frances at Faire Garden

    Austinites were instructed to pick off the flowers before Valentine’s Day for two reasons: one, so that the plants could focus on developing good root systems and two, so that any fruit that set wouldn’t be damaged by late freezes. — mss

  3. From kate:

    That is a wonderful photograph and makes me want to reach in and pluck that strawberry right off the plant. Wait, it’s already eaten and enjoyed. It was worth the cost … I suspect there will be more to harvest too. At least it wasn’t eaten by any enterprising birds. That happens to my neighbour’s strawberry patch and he has spent hours rigging up various netting to keep the birds away. Then he discovered that squirrels were getting into his netting and dipping into the strawberries. So, I’m curious to see what he’ll be doing for strawberry protection this summer.

    I’m worried about squirrels and birds, too. I’ve covered the plants with floating row covers. I hope that helps. — mss

  4. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter (Chicagoland):

    That sounds like me and the pepper plant. I coddle and fussed over it all summer and what was my harvest? I measely pepper. I’ve given up.

    Or like me and beans. Anytime I plant beans, I end up planting more beans than I ever end up picking. So far lettuce greens have been my most successful crop financially. I’m definitely harvesting more than what the seeds cost and so beating the green grocer’s prices. And fresh greens taste so good. — mss

  5. From Rachel:

    I’ve heard (though obviously I haven’t confirmed yet) that it’s sometimes possible to perennialize strawberries in Austin by planting them where they’ll be shaded in the heat of summer. We’ve got several strawberry plants that we installed in our raised beds in the fall. Some have bloomed, but I haven’t seen any berries yet. I didn’t pinch off the runners, which probably contributes, but everything seems to grow more slowly in my garden anyway.

    Well I have plenty of summer shade, so I’ll give it a try. If we have another cool, rainy summer like last year, I bet it would work. Besides, I’ve never had the discipline to pull out plants when they’re growing. — mss

  6. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    Well, can I gloat for just a minute that here in my zone 5b garden I can have strawberries as perennials? I planted a new patch two years ago, and enjoyed many sweet strawberries last summer, though they were small-ish. I am hoping for a bigger harvest this year, BOWLS of those juicy fruits. But I will have to watch out for rabbits and birds trying to get them when I’m not watching. Thanks for letting me gloat for just a minute.

    You guys have lots of stuff we can’t. Crocuses, tulips, and daffodils. Lilacs. Raspberries and other soft fruits. Apples, cherries and pears. And best of all you have a summer that you look forward to. I think you have us beat. — mss

  7. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    It looks delicious, and I’m glad that it was, even if it was a pricey little thing.

    Well fanatic record-keeper that I am, I promise to tally up the entire harvest report back at the end of the season. And, if as Rachel suggests, I can keep them growing through the summer, maybe there will be more next year. (I’m such a dreamer!) — mss

  8. From Anna of RavenCroft:

    Do you have a local farmers market? If so, you could check them out to see what types of strawberries are being grown successfully by others in your area. There’s nothing more luscious than fresh picked strawberries, even little ones. 🙂 You go girl!

    I frequent two different farmers markets nearby. I’ve found Sweet Berry Farm near Marble Falls where I could try picking my own. (Quite a long drive, though.) According to their website, they grow ‘Sweet Charlie’, ‘Chandler’ and ‘Festival’. I didn’t have any choice in the variety I chose. I just took what Gardens was selling. The problem down south is finding stock at the right time of year for us to plant–which is the fall. At least their stock was grown in Texas. — mss

  9. From Libby:

    I feel privileged to have seen this very special strawberry in situ. The amaryllis photos remind me of Georgia OKeeffe painting; they are so dramatic.

  10. From Marie from Norway:

    WOW! A strawberry!

  11. From Jenny - Las Vegas:

    How romantic that you waited and shared the experience. It looks so juicy and delicious!

    It wouldn’t have been any fun if I’d just eaten it alone. Besides I want to share with the person who finances these wacky garden schemes. — mss

  12. From Kimberley @ The Life of A Garden:

    That is the catch 22 of growing things – not getting caught up in overspending!
    I’ve already way overspent this season and I have yet to see a single primary leaf!

    I find, however, that I’m sometimes penny-wise and pound-foolish. I think I should think bigger. — mss

  13. From Iris N California:

    Can any of you wonderful gardeners tell me how to keep pesky squirrels away from my strawberry plants? To think I used to buy peanuts for them until, my neighbor behind me complained to the health dept. Of course they could not stop me feeding them, but I was a good neighbor and quit.

    Last fall they took one bite out of our apples & then left them to rot on the ground : ) Today I noticed my young oranges are being taken off the tree and left on the ground also.

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    I cover my strawberries with floating row covers to keep the squirrels and the birds off them.–mss

  14. From Annie:

    Having tried growing strawberries in the past and losing my money on them, I had little expectations last Spring when while shopping at several locations over a few months time I bought 14 plants about $4 each.
    They were Quinalt, Sequoia, All Star and Everbearing. With little preparation, as I was just filling in between new blueberry plantings, we plumped them in the ground. Tried to keep the weeds away, and picked a delicious handful every few days all summer and a few into the fall. Today Feb. 1st I went out to see what was going on i n the garden plot and cranked up the little tiller. Well, surprise is an understatement. I separated out over 30 plants from last summers strawberries and rebedded them. Several of them have blooms and some have baby fruit. Please God a good crop this year. So the moral is try again if you first failed with your strawberries.
    Oh yes and none of them were recommended here and were the only ones I could find.

  15. From Annie:

    Oh yes, an additional thought. They make garlic sticks to hook onto your plants, but don’t work nearly as well as moth balls in old socks hung around in keeping the deer out of the muscadines. Also hanging aluminum pie pans help keep birds away. A few quarts of human urine helps keep all kinds of critters away from the orchard and garden. We live in the deep woods about 45 miles north of the coast in Mississippi. Have a great gardening season. We surely hope to.

  16. From Yehudit Vinegrad, Israel:

    Hi Everybody,
    I have a few strawberry plants in my garden (on the Golan Heights in Israel) and if i don’t pick the strawberries just as they are getting red, the birds get them before me.
    I cannot put a net over them as i have created a mixed garden with all sorts of flowers and edible plants. I thought of laying an open glass jar or bottle over the ripening strawberries (I need several jars, obviously!) and perhaps this way I’ll get a taste before the birds get there. However, I am wondering if this will bad for the strawberries because of the condensation in the jars ?
    Is this a crazy idea, of is there sense in it? I suppose time will tell, but if any of you out there have some advice for me, I would be very grateful.

  17. From Louisiana jones act lawyer:

    Oh yes, an additional thought. They make garlic sticks to hook onto your plants, but don’t work nearly as well as moth balls in old socks hung around in keeping the deer out of the muscadines.