DIY Strawberry Beds + My Love Affair with the Outdoors

Dear Friends,

The weekend is over, but remnants of garden soil cling magnetically to the crevices in my fingernails. The rain has been falling since Sunday morning, but Saturday was a warm, sunny, perfect day to be outdoors. After weeks upon weeks of cold and rainy weekends, I was beyond grateful for this beautiful Saturday…and since it was my son’s 11th birthday it was a special day beyond measure.

Logan spent his birthday at his dad’s this year, since his big day fell on his dad’s weekend, so I didn’t get to spend it with him. I have, however, been fortunate enough to spend most of his birthdays with him while his dad has had to miss out ever since we divorced, so I was okay with forfeiting the time with him so his dad could have that opportunity, and am planning a party to celebrate with him this coming weekend. I instead spent his birthday finishing up a landscaping project and getting some important components of my garden planted.

I’ve been planning this landscaping project since last year, and finally completed it on Saturday. I installed 26 landscape edging blocks and around 1,200 pounds of rock in the new bed I mapped out beside my patio. My lilac bush, which is filling up with buds threating to burst open in the coming weeks and fill the air with their romantic scent, is right in the center of the bed. There are some lilies in the back that were already in the ground when I bought the house that I transplanted to their new location, and I added a couple of creeping phlox for a pretty pop of all-summer color.

The rest of the plants in the bed will be in pots, and will be grown to feed my family. I bought jalapeno, green bell, and yellow bell pepper plants, put them in pots, and placed them in the bed. The tomato plant selection is still sparse, so I’ve only purchased an Early Girl so far. I still plan to buy a Roma plant for making salsa, and an Heirloom Brandywine plant, because those are my absolute favorite tomatoes. I also planted some cilantro, sage, gerbera daisies, and dahlia’s in various pots around my back yard.

My other weekend project, one I’ve been wanting to do since I bought the house last Spring, was a strawberry bed. I first started growing strawberries at my house in the country the summer after my divorce. I had a large yard, almost one full acre, and I planted a massive garden and a large strawberry patch. After a few years I left that house and bought my starter home in town with a smaller yard, but I still kept a large garden and started another strawberry patch. I was only in that house for two and a half years, so I left right as the strawberries were getting ready to produce their second crop.

When I bought my current house, I knew starting a new strawberry patch was a must. The question was where to put them. While my yard is devoid of trees, with the exception of the Dogwood out front and the Crabapple that borders mine and my next-door-neighbor’s yard, all of my neighbors have large, mature trees that threaten my yard with too much shade for summer vegetables and strawberries, except for right in the center of the back yard. That is why I’m container gardening, so my plants will be mobile and I can place them where I need to in order to get enough sun. So the solution to my strawberries: DIY planters!

I grew up an only child in the country, my home bordering my grandpa’s hundred acre farm. My closest companions were my cocker spaniel and the nature that surrounded me. I spent countless hours outside exploring, cultivating my connection with nature from the time I was old enough to venture outside on my own. While this is undoubtedly to blame for my introversion and love of solitude, it’s also where my love of hiking and gardening began. It’s also why I turn to the outdoors as therapy during stressful times.

Our house bordered the farm’s large pond, which had a little island in the center and a bridge connecting it to the pond dam. My grandpa eventually sold the farm once I was grown, my parents were divorced, and my mom and aunt had both moved out of state. The bridge came down so the island could be leveled and the pond re-worked to serve as a centerpiece to the real estate development that took the place of the family farm — something I was not, nor will ever be, happy about.

My grandpa saved several sections of the bridge to use as pallets in the shed at his smaller 64-acre farm, and it was these sections and a few extra boards, all treated wood that is resistant to moisture and rotting, that I took to build my strawberry planters. The boards were the same length as the sections, because they had once been part of these bridge sections themselves, so I didn’t need to cut them down.

Using two-inch wood screws, I secured a board to each of the open sides of the bridge sections. This created a box out of the two sections. I then stapled landscape fabric into the boxes, and filled them with a mixture of peat moss and garden soil. I planted three strawberry plants in each one, pinched off the blooms, and gave them a little drink of water to help them take root.

I love how these turned out! They look great in my new rock bed, they’re in the part of my yard that gets all of the sun, and it will be easy to control their spread and keep their blooms pinched off for this growing season because they’re confined to these boxes.

Pinching the blooms will strengthen the plants, so next year I will get a bountiful crop. I also chose the everbearing variety so I will get multiple crops of strawberries in one season. This does, however, mean their lifespan will be somewhat short – about three years. So during their second year of producing berries I will buy new plants to start among the existing ones so I can keep my strawberry crop going. Since I will be living in this house for the long haul, I am super excited to have a strong and lasting strawberry bed!

I had a ticket to go see the play A Raisin in the Sun that evening, but I was so stiff and tired from working hard all day that I ended up skipping it. Instead I met a friend for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, then had a few friends over for some drinks around the fire pit on my patio. It was the first evening of many like it to come over the next six months, and I am SO glad that warmer days are here again.

Now it’s back to the weekly grind, and prepping for a party fit for a brand new 11-year-old this weekend. I hope you all have a lovely week, and I’ll talk to you again soon!

Love,
Loren

2 thoughts on “DIY Strawberry Beds + My Love Affair with the Outdoors

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