Strawberry Cultivation

Jeff Taylor schools himself about strawberry cultivation and graduates with some of the best fruit of the season.

| April/May 1994

They call the last months of winter the Hungry Gap, which should answer any questions you've had about the names of small towns all over the United States. It's a time when you almost recall what fresh food used to taste like, eaten outdoors in the warm sunshine. You begin to smell an odd smell, doubtless only your air freshener or something equally prosaic, but for some reason it reminds you of strawberries. With the walls pressing in from the weight of a crushing winter, you cannot remember the last time you tasted one.

By early spring, you want, by God, you need a bowl of fresh strawberries cut up into small pieces with a light sprinkling of sugar. And just this once, aroint the cholesterol, you want those suckers smothered in cream. Maybe a few bananas slices, too. And some blueberries....

Sure, you could go to the supermarket and buy some out-of-season cardboard pink fruitoids, partly ripened; but they wouldn't be real strawberries.  

All right. Patience is a virtue. You can wait until they return again in the strawberry beds of the garden—they're perennials, aren't they?

For several years, our strawberry cultivation efforts produced a bloody riot of berries in our backyard. One would assume these hardy plants would be good for yet another season. But it's not that simple; gardens have rules of their own. Upon investigation—meaning when I ask my wife, Joy, the master gardener and chief horticulturalist on our little acreage—I find that many of our old runner plants are somehow all used up or have reverted to outlaw. We will need new plants, apparently.

In gardening, the most obvious facts do not necessarily mean anything. An obvious fact: Strawberries are studded with thousands of visible seeds. "So" I ask her, "can we just grow some new strawberry, uh, cultivars from seeds?"

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