I love strawberries! All kinds. But the strawberry that really grabs me is the delicate heirloom alpine variety known as Fraises des Bois. The elongated conical pointed fruits grow on mostly runnerless crowns, making this an ideal plant for containers or window boxes. I have grown mine organically for 10 years in two window boxes outside my kitchen door opening to my garden, and they have weathered unbelievably capricious summers and cruel winters without blushing. Each Spring they begin their unending offering of red, intensely flavored sweet, piquant fruits — it takes only a few to brighten a morning bowl of cereal. The fruiting lasts until the first freeze. The crowns are evergreen and regenerate themselves each Spring as if by magic. I give them an occasional shot of Espoma Organic Grow fertilizer, and remove any tired leaves but that is all I do and they repay me with such treasure!
If you have a medicinal herb or ayurvedic garden, you should add Fraises des Bois for their remarkable and little known health benefits. Not typically associated in the modern mind with medicinal use, Alpine Strawberry was historically part of the pharmacopeia and used in many different ways: the root for diarrhea; the stalks for wounds; the leaves as astringents. Today, teas made from the leaves are wonderful for digestion (and diarrhea) and to stimulate the appetite, and recent study indicates a high element of ellagic acid, a known cancer preventative. The crushed fruit is very soothing to the skin and has antibacterial properties, AND can be applied to teeth (with baking soda) or skin to “bleach white.” The berries are an excellent source of Vitamin C and recent studies show them to be high in antioxidants, making them one to add to your cancer protection diet.
I have harvested and sold the seed for this wonderful fruit for many years, but this year decided to offer a few plants at Farmer’s Market. So this Saturday you can pick up one of these rare heirlooms and start your own back porch strawberry patch! It is easy to do with just one or two plants. Hurry before they are all gone!
- Chlorine can kill your seedling. Your seedling has been raised with non-chlorinated water. So please, don’t kill it with tap water. You can de-chlorinate tap water easily by letting it sit, open, for 24 hours at room temperature.
- Please harden off your seedling by giving accelerated exposure to full sun and warm temps in baby increments, starting with 1/2 hour a day up to a full day. They have probably already experienced this, but better safe than “fried.”
- Tomatoes can be planted VERY deeply — up to their uppermost leaves — to encourage maximum root development. And all tomatoes, peppers and eggplants LOVE this side dressing: Grind up clean eggshells with used coffee grounds. This provides the magic formula that will keep the dreaded Blossom End Rot at bay.
- When planting, dig a $100 hole for a $10 plant. My cardinal rule. Your seedling has been grown in special organic potting soil. If you stick a 4″ seedling in a similar sized hole in a clay soil, guess what happens? It’s not pretty.
- Ideally plant on a cloudy, cooler day, or later in the day if it is hot and sunny. And water in very well. Keep an eye on it — any sign that it is stressed calls for immediate protective action. If thunderstorms are in the offing, cover it with a pot or cloche so it is not annihilated.
I love offering you these seedlings. They have been coddled, yes. But the result, if introduced appropriately to your garden, will be a healthy, organic producer of fruit and flower. Don’t forget that you can easily clone your CherryGal tomatoes, peppers and eggplants for next year’s garden. I’ll teach you how in a subsequent post.
I spent the day yesterday in the garden. It felt so good. Although I saw my first robin weeks ago, it has been below freezing most nights until this week. We finally had a sunny, warm day without strong breezes and a decent rain during the night. So, I took advantage of the soft soil to lift two roses that had succumbed to our cruel whiplash weather winter, and to move two others that I think will do better in their new bed.
It always brings such joy to my heart to see the peonies pushing up through the earth, and the Major Wheeler honeysuckle has fully populated its part of the fence with its red buds ready to open. I take inventory of my perennials and shrubs. My bay laurel, which I harvested a bit too heavily last fall for seedlings and my kitchen, took a hit from our 20 to 80 to 10 to 60’s winter. I pruned the dead branches while my chickie girls bustled around me clucking their concern. Adversity, if it doesn’t kill you, does make you stronger, and my Laurus Nobilis will be fine once the weather settles into Spring.
So much new growth. The girls have been enjoying lush patches of Chickweed for weeks now. My Bee Balm Oswego carpets its area, ready to send up stalks soon. It is one of my absolute favorite May flowers, brilliant full fluffy fragrant red blossoms that attract bees in droves. If I’m able to keep it deadheaded, I get a second, less vigorous but still pretty, blush in August.
I greet my yellow lilac with joy! The flower heads are forming fully and it has suffered no loss to its foliage. It will perfume the girls’ coop soon. My dwarf cherry which I installed in a huge pot at the center of the chicken compound has some buds blooming! My apple tree espaliers are leafing out which means they too have survived! The yellow daffodils are done, but my whites that grace the front of my white house are in full bloom and lovely. The prolific sweet violets are sprinkled everywhere. I love them! The cowslip and red primrose are starting to bloom. And a few surviving Judith Leyster tulips (always such a risk here in NC) are ready to open.
So much to do. Today I’ll move another rose and a small shrub and the hawthorne, which all need better situations. Sometimes when I am rushed or tired I will “park” a plant inappropriately, but now is the best time to give them better quarters. These are the days when I steal time from sleep and other chores to be in the garden. I’ve been sleeping all winter. Now, we will have a beautiful warm Spring. Hello!