Spring is coming to a fast end and the spring crops are starting to show their wear. Strawberries came in and we started picking, they are big, sweet and very juicy. From what we've read you can only harvest strawberries after the morning dew has dried. If it rains that pushes off harvesting even further, unfortunately strawberries don't know to stop ripening. Rain or shine if it is warm enough a strawberry is going to ripen.
We've love strawberries and have grown them every year since we moved in. Strawberries are one of those two year plants, like asparagus or grapes, meaning you put all this labor upfront but you don't get anything until the second or third year. For grapes it is even longer and if you have as steep of a learning curve as we tend to have it might even be extended still. I think our first bunch of edible grapes came in the sixth year, by that time we had experimented with every organic fungicide and insecticide there was. We still don't produce a sell-able amount but I do get a few every time I mow the land around them.
It is May 30th, we hadn't picked strawberries for close to six days now and a neighbor came up to buy a couple quarts. So we left him in the shade and went out to pick them. What we found in the patch was a lot of black furry berries, huge ripe bug eaten berries and the bed seemed like a total waste. Once again the learning curve bent around to slap us silly. We picked the best we could and gave him a good two quarts, it took longer than expected but they were good strawberries and he didn't mind the wait. After the days work ended we said goodbye to everyone and set about learning what we did wrong with the strawberries and what was that little black bug eating all the huge ripe fruit. The nerve of the intruder, I mean there were plenty of small ripe berries, but no they'd eat some of the biggest and go onto the next one. I can see them, setting up little daiquiri bars, inviting their friends and family over then for the heck of it they find a bigger sweeter berries and move to that one.
Well it didn't take long to find out what went wrong and why, first was water, second was air, third was lack of harvesting and fourth was not harvesting everything. Strawberries like dry beds that are airy and allow rows to dry sooner than later. We had let them grow to close to each other over the years so that had to be fixed and we didn't pick the berries that were infested or blackened by fungus, I mean they are nasty looking and when you pick them they mush in your hand. The sensation of slime and stickiness the berries had on my hands just gave me the willies.
Everything we read pointed to management of the crop and letting fruit sit on the ground. When we had a smaller garden we didn't have these problems, the small size allowed for more air which kept things dry and there was less to pick, so everything did get picked. We found that the strawberry sap beetle was the insect that was doing the greatest damage and the population was growing bigger because of the environment.
As we read we came upon a few sentences that made us cringe, and that was that the sap beetle will move to corn and tomatoes after the strawberry harvest. Being one who lives for fresh tomatoes and corn I went into panic mode. I swore as long as I was alive those bugs would not get to my corn and tomatoes. The deer, rabbits, raccoons and groundhogs may but I was drawing the line at the strawberry sap beetle, it was on and I was ready to put a hurting on the population.
My wife was reading about how to manage the infestation of insects and molds; we were going to have to mow rows through the patch to get air circulating through and pick up every last nasty berry. Talk about fruitless work, we pulled gallons and gallons of bad berries but on the bright side the chickens got to eat strawberry sap beetles and we started to make inroads and turn the beds around. No word on the taste of the eggs but we are waiting.