Strawberry Fields Forever

A tangled mass of strawberry plants and mother of thyme after a couple of months of inattention.
A tangled mass of strawberry plants and mother of thyme after a couple of months of inattention.

I grew up hearing hints about the hidden meanings in Beatles songs like Strawberry Fields Forever. But for me the literal imagery of strawberry fields forever is a tantalizing and worthwhile goal. Fields of pickable strawberries for jams, pies, pancakes, juice, maybe even dye, sounds like heaven to me. Adding to that idea is my recollection of a piece of information from somewhere that the island of Manhattan, under the stewardship of its original inhabitants had been described by them in similar terms. Just imagine Central Park as strawberry fields… Essentially, I just don’t think that you can grow too many strawberries!

Strawberry plants sending out runners.
Every year, after the strawberry season is over, the plants send out shoots that root into the ground. If you divide them and replant the young ones, you’ll never have to go to the store again to replenish your old plants…

I am now heading into my third season after making the decision to specialize in berries. I have a few of the ever bearing variety of strawberries, but most of them had finished producing by June. I had a respectable harvest, although I shared about half of it with the roly polys. In an effort to discourage them I planted some mother of thyme starters around the strawberries. I had started the thyme from seeds in late winter. Those starters spread aggressively all summer long. I hadn’t paid much attention to the thyme or the strawberries since June, except to turn the sprinkler on.

But the strawberry plants were busy. They were sending out runners in every direction. The thyme had run amok as well, covering many of the strawberries. So last week, at the end of September, I had a mass of strawberry plants tangled up with thyme and no room in between to tend to them. I set about creating rows again by following my feet. I had them spread about hip length apart and proceeded to dig up all the newly rooted plants in the path of my feet as I walked forward. I extended each row of strawberries with the starters that I had just pulled up. I cut back the thyme to create a border around the strawberries and hopefully limit the bugs come springtime.

A strawberry patch in a garden.
Gardening has its rewards but it’s dirty work. I do use a trowel, but sometimes I just dig with my bare hands, pulling up the roots of pesky weeds. These strawberries have been sending out shoots and need to be thinned out. You can see on the right that I cleared the first of several rows still yet to be done.

After I was finished (that took me two mornings of working for a couple hours) I sprinkled some organic fertilizer over everything and watered. So this week, the first one in October, I plan to shovel a big load of dirt from the chicken coop and spread it over the whole area. And after that I will leave them to spread their roots over the winter and then bare beautiful strawberries, the harbingers of spring.

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