Berry Season Wrapping Up
I love berries. Perhaps because a really good berry at the peak of sweetness and flavor, is such an ephemeral thing. Berries are delicate and fragile and too often when I buy them they are sour and hard, clearly not ready yet even if they are close to the red, black, or blue hue they should be when ripe. Even picking here at the farm can be a challenge, chores need done, the mosquitos are horrible, a storm is coming, someone needs to be picked up from work...In a rush I often dump my berry bucket in the kitchen and feel remorse for any criticism of other berry growers, I mean how did I miss the white underbelly on this strawberry!
We planted raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, and strawberries three years ago. The farm had naturalized elderberries and blackberries as well as two fairly large mulberry trees. I am still learning how little I know about growing berries well. The plants that the farm came with are doing great, they have migrated to where they grow best and continue to produce abundantly when there is adequate rain. My berries, the ones I picked out and planted are not doing so well. I planted the strawberries too close together and they grew into an impenetrable mat that allowed for maximum mold growth and pest development while still allowing for plentiful weed penetration. I put the raspberries and blackberries on a depleted, compacted, clay laden edge of a former cornfield on a slope that drains four acres right to their water sensitive roots, oops. The blueberries are in slightly better drained part of that field edge but the diminished soil quality is doing them no favors. The elderberries are basically weeds so they are okay though you'd be hard pressed to notice since they are buried in actual weeds. Argghhh!
Each year I visualize a super tidy and well maintained berry patch that has yet to materialize and unless I get the various nutrition and pest issues under control my harvest is never going to hit peak productivity. All that being said we have enjoyed berries by the handful when they are each in season and I have almost twenty gallon ziplocs of mixed berries in the freezer so maybe I should stop whining. The learning curve is steep on the farm and learning to live with the consequences of my ignorance is humbling. I do have to say though nothing beats a sun warmed, perfectly ripe, heavenly scented strawberry or a juicy sweet blueberry that is still so firm it pops in your mouth. So all the stress, work and mess are worth it, definitely worth it.