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Grow Your Own Organic Strawberries

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Saturdays in the garden picking strawberries with the kids remind me of all the years my folks grew strawberries back at home in the Ozarks.  Mom and Dad always kept a patch of berries, either on the hill behind the house or across the road in the vegetable garden.

Girl picks strawberry

Dad was proficient at strawberry farming because he’d grown up with it himself.  The earlier generation of the Brock family had tended a large strawberry field atop an arid hill on what would eventually become part of the family farm where Mom and Dad raised cattle for over four decades. Apparently when Dad was young, people would either come to the hill to pick berries for themselves, or the family would pick pint after pint to send by rail to places like Kansas City or St. Louis.

Strawberries can be an economical crop for a small family garden today since they propagate so easily by extending new runners each growing season.  I’ve purchased perhaps 3 tiny strawberry plants in the past few years, and they’ve spread to fill a large raised bed in our little kitchen garden.

Strawberries in Basket

Of course, the challenge and the motivation for many of us gardening these days is to use organic methods that avoid the most toxic pesticides exposures to our food and our own health.  As mentioned in this guide by Cornell University, even farmers using certified organic methods may still resort to some pesticides (although not anything to the extreme of what’s allowed in conventional farming).  While I will buy organic strawberries if needed, I prefer to grown my own because of even lower exposure to any synthetic chemicals.  Honestly, this is does take some time and attention, and yes, pests can take advantage of a little organic garden.  Many strawberry gardeners use a layer of dark plastic around them, but I prefer not to.  Here are some methods we’ve tried through the years:

  • Keep the soil around the plants from being too damp, not overwatering.
  • Mulching with pine straw.
  • Use diotomaceous earth (finely crushed shell) on the ground around plants to deter pests.
  • Spraying with neem oil (this can be harsh, should be used with caution).
  • Spraying with soapy water to knock of pests.
  • Luring slugs away with a container of beer.
  • Picking just a little early before the pests discover an overly ripe berry.
  • Hand picking pests.
  • Sharing with pests.

How is your organic gardening going this summer?  It can take some effort, but picking your own and knowing exactly how it was grown is extremely satisfying, isn’t it?

I hope you’ll join me each week this summer for Saturdays in the Garden!

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