Happy Birthday, America.
In keeping with the spirit of this occasion, let’s harvest a little red, white and blue - a few red strawberries, some blue blueberries and … hmm, I’ll have to put on my thinking cap for the white.
Strawberries were originally cultivated in Europe, yet wild species could be found growing in America, Chile and Russia. The species was first cultivated in America around 1835. Today, strawberries are grown in every state. In fact, according to Stella Otto, author of “The Backyard Berry Book,” strawberries are considered one of the most widely grown fruit crops in the United States, second only to apples.
These tasty little morsels were called strewberries because they seemed to be strewn or scattered among the leaves of the plants. Over time, they became known as strawberries.
Whether you have a large garden plot or a small container, anyone can grow strawberries. Their only requirements are plenty of warm summer sun, well-drained soil and a bit of food.
Plant them where they can bask in the sun for at least six hours. If your soil is too heavy (cold and wet in the spring and cracked and dry during the summer), you might consider growing them in raised beds. A 4x4-foot bed 1 foot deep will work just fine. If space doesn’t permit even a small bed, try planting a few in a whiskey barrel or a strawberry pot.
Strawberries seem to thrive in acid soil. Since our soils tend to be more on the neutral side, fertilize with a sulphur-based fertilizer, such as ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) or cottonseed meal. Since animal manures tend to be more on the alkaline side, it’s best not to use them in berry beds.
Fertilize AFTER they have finished producing, or in the case of everbearing and day-neutral berries, around the first week in August. Fertilizing in the spring can cause lush vegetative growth and small, soft berries.
Strawberries fall into three categories: June-bearing, those that produce one crop a year such as Hood, Shuksan, Rainier and Benton; everbearing, those that produce a crop in June and again in late summer, such as Quinault and Ogalalla; and day-neutral, those that continually bear fruit such as Tillikum, Tristar and Selva. If you can’t make up your mind, try a few of each. In fact, strawberries are ripe right now at Green Bluff, just waitin’ for the pickin’.
The blue in our berry patch is the native North American blueberry. It belongs to the heath family and is a close relative to the cranberry. It thrives in moist, rich, acidic soil.
There are four types of blueberries, but only three that concern us: highbush, half-high bush and lowbush.
The most important cultural requirement of blueberries is maintaining an acid soil. Dig the planting hole only as deep as the container in which the plant is growing. Mix wet peat moss with the backfill from the hole. The mixture should be 50-50. Not only is peat moss acidic, but it retains moisture which is also necessary for successful blueberry production.
Fertilize blueberries twice with a 10-10-10 acid fertilizer, once as buds begin to open and the second application one month later.
Water regularly and enjoy - that is, if the birds don’t beat you to them.
As for the white - that’s easy. What could be more patriotic than red and blue berries topped off with fluffy white whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (or both)? Add a spoon, dig in and have a great holiday.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Phyllis Stephens The Spokesman-Review
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