25 April 2010

Strawberry Fountains Forever

Yesterday was planting day. Our shipment of fruit plants arrived on Thursday and we had to get them in the ground as soon as possible. I ordered 75 strawberry plants to begin my strawberry fountain, which I hadn't yet constructed. I planned to build it from 2" x 12" non-treated boards that were 12' long. With the outer box measuring 6' and the inner box measuring 3', there would be no waste. The idea behind the fountain is that you can better reach the berries to pick them, raise them up so they have warmer soil temperatures and separate them from other crops so you can give them nutrients separately.

Building it was a cinch and all of my corners squared up perfectly except for one where the wood was warped into a minor "C" shape. Kevin purchased a new Makita drill and driver for me and I love it! Not having to change out the drill bit and driver all the time made the job go really quickly. We decided to fill the bottom half of each level with 6" of composted wood chips and chicken manure. The compost was filled with worms and would be a nice layer of nutrients for the greedy strawberry plants when their roots grew through the topsoil. They should also help to hold some moisture in and break up the clay soil for better drainage. If we have another frost, I can sprinkle a blanket of straw on them for the night. Once the plants are larger, I will keep the straw bed on permanently to reduce weed growth and let the decomposing hay add nutrients to the soil.

The three types of strawberries we are growing are early glow, sparkle, and sure crop. Fortunately, while we wait for these to grow and blossom and produce their first crop (most likely next summer), we can still pick strawberries at our local apple orchard to make strawberry jam for the year.

Preparing the raised beds were a family affair! Savannah got her shovel and bucket to play in the soil and William fancied himself a backhoe, digging and pushing soil around. Perhaps he'll own his own landscaping company one day since he adores mulch, soil, and sand. Of course, now the hard part is going to be keeping him out of the strawberry fountain now that all 75 plants have been rooted there. I must begin building the kids' playset and sandbox so they have a safe place to play but I haven't even purchased lumber for it yet!

Poor Kevin, his job was to plant the new raspberry canes, of which I believed I had ordered 4. Turns out, I ordered 3 each of 4 types, 12 total! He had been working hard to prepare a small row for them by hand, which is very hard work considering how thick our rocky clay soil is and he nearly passed out when I told him about the mix up. Fortunately, his dad has lent us his tiller this year which is so heavy duty it does a decent job on our soil.

All in all a good day on the farm - 75 strawberry plants in, 12 raspberry canes in, 4 blackberry canes in and 1 additional blueberry bush. I also planted two peony clusters from my neighbor who thinned her beds and am really looking forward their lovely blossoms.

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