As a young lad, there were few things I looked forward to more than strawberry season. I can still smell the sweet fragrance of the ripe fruit, most pronounced on a warm sunny day. Why hasn’t anyone made strawberry scented cologne?
Strawberries still are my favorite fruit to eat fresh. Strawberry picking is at its peak now and I’m in seventh heaven (Is there really more than one heaven?) They are coming on fast and need to be picked every day; blink and another berry ripens.
When harvesting, pinch off the stem about a half inch above the berry rather than pulling the berry free from its husk. Strawberries keep a little longer if a piece of stem is retained.
However, they won’t keep long, so eat ‘em up quick or freeze the surplus. They’re easy to freeze: wash and dry the fruit, remove the husk, and toss the strawberries into a freezer bag.
For those unfortunate folks who do not have a strawberry patch, toss the family in the buggy and trot out to the nearest pick-your-own farm.
After the harvest season, make plans to start your own strawberry patch.
Start this summer by working in lots of manure or other organic matter into a section of the garden. Then plant a cover crop of buckwheat for the summer and winter rye for the winter.
Next spring, turn under the rye and set out new strawberry plants. It will take about two years to get a significant harvest.
After a treat of strawberry shortcake, get on with these weekend activities:
n Place wire cages around tomato plants. I prefer this method to staking. For one, the yields are greater -- though the fruit ripen more slowly -- and the fruit are less susceptible to blossom end rot. I make my cages from concrete re-enforcement wire.
n Leave broccoli plants in place after harvesting the large central head. Smaller but equally good heads will continue to develop from side shoots for many more weeks. For a fall harvest, start more plants from seed this week.
n Water garlic and apply some fertilizer since the bulbs are starting to develop. Also, the plants will produce larger bulbs if the scapes (flower stalks) are removed. Put the scapes in a large soup pot along with bay leaves, sprigs of parsley and thyme, some peppercorns, chopped onions and carrots, and stalks of celery to make a delicious tasting broth. Freeze the broth in quart containers for use as stock for soups.
n Shear back the stems of catmint (Nepeta) when flowering is completed. With its gray-green leaves, catmint makes an attractive foliage plant in flower borders. There’s also a good chance that the shearing will result in repeat blooming.
n Prune boxwood and privet hedges or shape individual specimen plants. When pruning hedges make sure to leave the top narrower than the bottom. This prevents shading and leaf drop along the bottom of the hedge.
n Don’t be alarmed to see the leaves of Virginia bluebells, bleeding heart, and Oriental poppies die back. There’s nothing wrong with the plants; they just go dormant after they bloom.
Tickets for the 16th Annual Pittsfield Garden Tour went on sale last week.
The actual tour takes place on Saturday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, July 15, noon to 4 p.m.
This is a great opportunity to see some of the finest gardens in Pittsfield while also helping finance community projects.
For more information, visit the Tour website: www.pittsfieldgarden tour.org.