My book Edible Landscaping has finally gone off to the printer! After countless revisions and checks, this is a book that we are all really excited about. Books should land in the store by October, with an official publication date of November 1, 2010.
I thought my days as a temptress were long gone not realizing that when I filled the front border of my streetside raised boxes with strawberries I would be back in business. Years ago I attracted the boys at the school dance, today it’s just about everybody. I know because I watch my delivery folks and joggers from behind my front curtain as they debate, “Should I or shouldn’t I snag a berry?”
I want you to know I had pure motives when I chose this perfect spot; as strawberries grow best in full sun, in fast draining soil, and the cascading berries would be safe from slugs and various rots.
Twenty years ago before I created edible landscapes I grew them discreetly in a backyard vegetable garden. Early one spring I had chosen a sunny patch about 10’ by 10,’ enough for our family of four, and added lots of aged manure and compost, plus soil sulfur to create a slightly acidic soil. (Gardeners with very acidic soils add limestone instead.) I added stepping stones to make weeding and harvesting easier. As I live in an arid climate I also installed a drip irrigation system. Two strawberry varieties were perfect for our area: ‘Sequoia,’ a June bearing variety and ‘Quinalt,’ an everbearing one. I placed bare-root plants a foot apart and spread out their roots. To prevent rot I placed the crown at soil level and covered the roots lightly with soil, tamped them down, and watered them well. When the soil warmed up I added two inches of clean straw to prevent weeds. To boost productivity, I pinched off all the June flowers and the constant crop of summer runners and kept the slugs at bay by hand picking. That fall the ‘Quinalt’ plants gave a small harvest, the next spring both varieties were spectacular. With only a spring fertilizing, mulching, and runner trimming the next summer crop was great too. At the end of the season I allowed runners to develop, and used them when I planted a brand new patch. I harvested from the old bed until the new one was producing and then turned under the old one. For eight years I had great harvests of berries for the kids to pick, pies, and extra for freezing and jam.
As the years went by I needed fewer strawberries and had less time. Fortunately, I then discovered Alpine strawberries. These perennials produce all summer, have no runners, produce fruits on top of the plant out of reach of slugs, take light shade, and reseed themselves. With little maintenance we could harvest great berries for cereal, or even a smoothie, from June through October. Ten years later I still have small patches of Alpine strawberries but lately I had a longing for a bigger harvest and that’s when I discovered the new day neutral strawberries–and thus became such a garden temptress. I found the plants produce mostly berries, not runners, so are easier to control in containers and garden beds and for six months at that, so only a few dozen plants were needed. I had room in the front of my planter boxes and last spring, with only some added compost, planted the day neutral ‘Tristar’ berries. They didn’t need the flowers and runners removed and they started producing in late May–then ooh la la. Those perfect lipstick-red perfumed berries were tempting all but the most steely individuals. The neighborhood children help themselves on the way to school, I offered them to visitors who couldn’t get over how much better they taste than the ones from the store. I still have plenty for myself. Lots of berries to savor, and lots more to share, what fun!
Strawberries in Your Edible Landscape
Growing Salad Greens
Spring is a great time for growing salad greens, the weather is cool and damp, just what they love. Plant edible flowers along with the greens so you can enjoy them in the garden as well as in your salad. Greens fit into your landscape, be they baby greens or grown to mature heads.
The easiest way to start to grow your salad greens is to grow baby greens, which will be ready to harvest in about 6 weeks.
- Order seeds for baby salad greens under the name mesclun mix or make your own mix by purchasing individual packages of
seeds of 3 or 4 types of lettuces and a few types of greens such as: spinach, chard, mustard, rocket, or finely curled endive.
- A garden bed about 10′ by 4’ provides a generous amount of baby salad greens for 3 or 4 people.
- Harvest your baby greens by taking kitchen shears and cutting across the bed about an inch above the crowns of the plants. Cut only the amount you want at each harvest.
- If the weather is cool, in the 40 to 70 degree range, if you lightly fertilize with a balanced fertilizer like fish emulsion and keep the bed moist the greens will regrow and you can harvest baby greens again in a few weeks.
Mesclun is a French Provencal term for a salad that combines many flavors and textures of greens and herbs. The object is to create a concert for your mouth by including sweet greens, slightly bitter leaves, and peppery greens like arugula or mustard. Greens like crispy romaine and velvety bibb lettuces give textural excitement contrast.
Pick enough salad greens to serve 6. Six large handfuls is usually a good measure. Use a seasonal selection from your garden of many varieties of lettuces; add young leaves of greens such as spinach, mizuna, arugula, mache, radicchio, sorrel, and frisees; and a few leaves of herbs such as Italian parsley, chervil, or mint. While its not very traditional, when in the garden you could pick a few blossoms of edible flowers such as nasturtiums, calendulas, and Johnny-jump-ups for a garnish too.
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic or wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
5 to 6 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Optional: 6 or 8 edible flowers for garnish
Wash greens and dry in a salad spinner. Refrigerate until serving time. In a small container, mix the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper and blend in oil to taste. Just before serving, toss the dressing gently with the salad, garnish and serve. Serves 6