Plotting the Perennials: Strawberries and Friends

The more things we got settled into place with the perennial planning on Sunday, the more changes we had to deal with. The tricky part about things like berry bushes and grapes is that once you plant them, that's where they need to stay. Forever. So we really didn't want to rush.

Once we got the grapes and herb combinations figured out, we were left with some (imaginary, as yet unplanted) displaced strawberries. As you may recall, we thought they would be in the same bed as the grapes, but that was not a viable combination.

We knew we wanted another big, long bed for them (the side of one quadrant, somewhere), but we didn't want to take any of the long stretches down the center paths. We think that (in the future) the beds along the brick paths will be ideal for a strong-but-portable greenhouse structure--preferably one we can walk into, but still break down in the summer and rotate around to different areas each fall. That's another tall order, and something we don't actually have planned yet, but we wanted to try to leave our options open for it.

In the end, that left us with a few choices, and we ended up going with what probably seems most obvious; that is, planting the strawberries in the bed that runs parallel with the other berry beds:


This is the plan for the left quadrant that is closest to the house — the one that has the patio in the center. Not pictured are the berry beds that run vertically along this quadrant even farther to the left. As you can see in the drawing, the bed to the left is for strawberries and is divided into quarters. 

The reason for that is because strawberry plants lose their strength after the third or fourth season, so our plan is to plant and replace them in a rotating manner. We'll plant one quarter of the bed this spring (the section that is labeled and closest to the house in the foreground), then plant the next quadrant the next spring, and so on, until the bed is filled. Then during the fifth spring, we will replace the spent plants in the first quadrant, and so on in a rotating fashion. This way we'll have at least 75 percent of the bed producing in any given year once it is all planted out. 

For the first quarter of the bed we chose a day-neutral variety called Tribute. These (according to The Backyard Berry Book, an absolutely indispensible reference) are disease-resistant, which should get us off to a good start. Being day neutral means that they aren't sensitive to the amount of daylight they get, and will therefore have berries not just in June, but throughout the summer (or at least again closer to the autumn). We thought this would be a gratifying starter, since we will be able to harvest the fall berries this year, instead of waiting a whole season for them to get established as we would with June strawberries. 

What goes with strawberries? Rhubarb, of course! Since we have the front bed of this quadrant free now that we moved the herbs to be with the grapes, we decided to create a bit of a decorative area of perennials around one of the patio entrances. This means that we are keeping the lavender we had planted on either side of the entrance to the patio from the house:


They are much bigger now than in this photo, and you can see them in bloom here. My vision for them is that they will create a nice, low little hedge that will smell good as people brush against it coming and going from the patio. 

Radiating out from lavender (on both sides — more mirror-images here) is the rhubarb. It gets big, so just one plant on each side will be enough. We chose Valentine, and the red stalks should be pretty when it fills out. 

If you look back at the plan, you can see there is one more plant on either side before the beds turn at 90 degrees. We decided that these would be roses. Obviously they are pretty, but we are busy researching a good, old fashioned one that we can grow for fragrance and for rose hips. That will mean that it only blooms once in the spring, but we can use it the way they would have long ago to harvest petals to make rose water and the hips to eat in jams and sauces. These will be our culinary roses (another experiment, for sure, but even if we decide we don't like eating roses, they'll still be a lovely addition to the garden). I'll let you know what variety we plant when we finally decide.

Comments

  1. My strawberries are going into their 3rd season. I was giving some thought about what to do with them as they age, but it's not likely we'll be in this house for another 2 years, so I stopped worrying.

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  2. I'm interested in how they age for you and if you notice a difference this year or next. Do you keep the new runners trimmed back, or do you let them start new plants on their own? From what I understand, *not* letting the runners take root gives bigger berries but weakens the plant sooner...but that's how we were planning to go, and maybe in the last season before they'd get replaced we'd let the runners take roots and see if the new plants could replace the old ones for free. That's all pretty far away, though, and $12 a year for new strawberries might be much less of a hassle than trying to keep a less productive bed going.

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