Friday, May 12, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/12/06

(Horrifying) Realization Of The Day:
The very first bite of the very first ripe strawberry of the season was not taken by me. Damn turtles!

Okay, so here's the deal with my strawberries. I actually have two strawberry beds right now. The photo above shows the older bed--it's on the right side of the photo. Yes, that's it--where that super tall, lush, if-this-were-in-my-fields-I'd-be-farmer-of-the-year orchard grass is flourishing, and you can't for the life of you see a single strawberry plant. Pathetic, I know. On the left are the strawberry plants that jumped out of bed and are attempting to grow in the hard, unfertilized, black plastic and wood chip covered pathway. There was no way I was going to pull them up. I take my strawberries wherever I can get them. This is where the first ripe berry of the season was found.

This is the strawberry bed I planted last year with 24 locally grown "Super Strawberry" plants I bought at the spring Garden Club Plant Sale for $3.00. I had high hopes for them, but I obviously did something wrong (I believe it had to do with neglect and weeds) because as you can see, there is probably more volunteer dill growing in it than there are strawberry plants. (Do note my happy spring garlic sprouting up along the left edge of the bed. I stuck those cloves everywhere.) At least I like dill. Though, as I mentioned the other day, I don't have a single cucumber plant in the ground yet. But that happens every year so I am used to it.

Okay, back to the berries. You may have read that I have a problem with voracious, strawberry-loving turtles coming from (what I am sure is) miles around to feast on my prized, luscious red bounty. Actually, it's usually luscious, half-red bounty, and that is part of the problem--the turtles don't care if the berries aren't quite ripe. It wouldn't be so bad if they just stole a berry or two, but no, they take a bite out of one, move on to the next and take a bite out of it, and the next, and just keep going until they are so stuffed they cannot move. Then they nap, digest, and wake up hungrier than ever.

Turtles are sly creatures, and I rarely catch them in the act. But I have on occasion, and that is how I know they are the culprits. (Although last year I came upon a red-mouthed, full grown possum plopped down in the middle of my strawberry bed during broad daylight. My mind still refuses to completely believe that experience.) Anyway, I think the turtles have gone one step further toward total occupation of my strawberry territory. Because, you see, last year I didn't do a single thing differently in that strawberry bed than I had done in previous years. There was absolutely no reason for that orchard grass to show up and take over like it did.

The other evening Joe and I were out in the garden and as we walked by the grassy strawberry bed, he made some comment, and I said "I bet there's a turtle hiding in that grass right now." I mean, my dog can lay in there unseen. And then it hit me. "I bet the turtles planted that grass so they'd have a place to hide!" Joe laughed and gave me that "Okay, honey, whatever you say" look. But really, think about it. Birds build entire complicated nests by carrying around bits of grass and twigs in their beaks. How hard would it have been for a turtle to pull out a hunk of orchard grass last summer, carry it in his mouth over to my strawberry bed, and shake the seeds around? Voila! Come spring--instant, shaded hiding place right next to the berry buffet.

I know. You are probably rolling your eyes and wondering if there is something strange in our water. Or that maybe I've been getting too much fresh air and sunshine, as I have obviously lost it. But that is the curse of the dedicated foodie gardener. We'll do anything to hold onto our harvest, and we'll make extraordinary excuses to explain things--even if it means losing our minds in the process. Or perhaps it's just me.

I did manage to nab and devour two fully ripened strawberries out in the garden this morning. They were absolutely divine, and I plan to enjoy many more--whatever it takes. (Oh my. I just caught myself about to let out an evil-sounding laugh.)


  1. isn't that just like a freeloading turtle!!! don't even save the first bite for you.

  2. Hi Steven,
    Do they make turtle spray? Is it organic? Send me some!

    Hi Stella,
    I know. Turtles have incredible nerve. : )

  3. We grow strawberries in containers, no turtles up on the 6th floor of an apartment block. But we do have pigeons!

    I reckon those turtles pooped grass seed into your strawberry bed knowing full well that they'd have a forest to hide in after a while ;)

    I know its not visually appealing (and you might be anti-plastic) but on my dad's farm in Africa they used to lay black plastic sheeting on the ground under the strawberry plants (with apertures cut into them for the plants), and then cover that with a layer of straw. It keeps the warmth in and stops the weeds taking over. Plus, when its wet, you can still walk into the strawberry beds to get the berries.

    A turtle deterrent might be to do like they do here in Holland, and plant your berries in raised beds at waist height. Takes a bit of planning and engineering, but they're off the ground and easy to pick (and unless turtles can climb) turtle free!

  4. Hi Ash,
    Love all your international gardening info. Pigeons? Well I guess there are garden varmints everywhere, LOL.

    Ha, I didn't even think about the turtles just pooping out the grass seed. That's probably what they did. No effort at all. They really are sneaky little things.

    No, I'm not anti-plastic. In fact, the strawberries that jumped out of the bed and are growing in the pathway are growing on top of plastic and wood chips. But that solution didn't work so well for the pathways, as the rain can't obviously get through the plastic and so it makes a bit of a mess. I bought some of that weed barrier fabric stuff last year, and the plan was/is to clear out the pathways during the winter (so that would have to be next winter, LOL), put down the fabric, staple it a few inches up the sides of the raised beds so nothing can poke through the edges, then mulch with wood chips. I think it will be wonderful if it ever actually gets done.

    Growing the strawberries like that makes sense (and I do believe I even have some packages of special red 'grow' plastic I bought once on super clearance somewhere and never used), but now that I think about it, how does the water get to the plants?

    Now I really like the sound of a waist-high strawberry bed (oh geez, I actually just typed 'turtle bed' by accident). THAT is a super idea. I could just get my handy raised bed builder to make one several boards high. We actually used to stack one on top of the other when we first started the garden--it was like an instant cold frame, giving us room to cover small, tender plants, keep cats out, etc. Anyway, I figure if I can get him to make me this bed now, I can just start filling it with manure hay from the barn all summer and by next year it should be full and ready to plant.

    Thanks for taking the time to write!

  5. unfortunately turtles can climb very well too. Even relatively flat surfaces.


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