Imagine opening your medicine cabinet and finding a pile of dirt sitting peacefully next to your advil, hair gel, shaving cream, what have you. Now imagine that you find this to be completely normal, and you even take a pinch of it in your fingers and rub it on your arm at the start of every day. It seems doubtful that this will become a regular routine across the globe, but did you know that soil has a neuro-chemical effect on the brain similar to Prozac? I certainly didn’t. Apparently, soil contains a bacteria that activates brain cells into producing the brain chemical serotonin, a mood booster also stimulated by antidepressants. If you were thinking about breaking into gardening and/or food growing this summer, consider this some extra motivation. And if I might focus in on one delicious option, let’s talk strawberries.
In my opinion the most delectable fruit there is, strawberries are finally available in bulk during the spring and summer months. But sometimes store-bought strawberries can be a disappointment, that fantastic strawberry taste you had in mind being unrealized in the bland and mushy thing you hold in your hand with disgust, momentarily blaming it for all of life’s troubles. The key to avoiding such dramatic episodes of strawberry discontent seems to be the act of growing your own. The summer is a good time for Seattleites to make a run at this due to the fruit’s need for sunlight. I tried it once a few years ago, using a small patch of dirt in my parent’s backyard. Due to my immense lack of gardening skills, my efforts only produced two eatable strawberries before the plant’s demise. I can say, however, that they were the best strawberries I’ve ever had. Here are some steps to getting your future strawberry haven going the right way (read: the way that will give you more than two)
- To start growing strawberries in the summer months, you’ll want to buy ever-earing or day neutral berry types. Such strawberry plant varieties include: Albion, Quinalt, Seascape, Tristar, and Tribute
- Try to nestle your strawberry plants in the most fertile soil you can (if soil feels highly sandy or clay-like, it’s probably not fertile. Ideally you will find soil with a nice mix of these two textures). The more compost and organic matter in your soil the better.
- Make sure to keep weeds as far away as possible.
- While your strawberry plants are still new, they’ll only need about an inch of water a week. Once they’re growing and producing fruit, you can give them a little more, but still keep it below two inches a week.
- Netting is helpful in keeping birds from pecking at your growing strawberries. Not cool birds.
- Watch out for slugs! If you don’t, they could end up consuming your fruit as well. Not cool slugs.
Of course, starting with a quality plant is crucial to the hope of growing quality strawberries, so a trip to the nursery nearest you is the necessary first move. Below are a few nurseries around the Seattle area known to be top-notch:
Swansons Nursery (no, not Ron’s)
To see strawberry plants in progress, visit SPU’s SPACE community garden, located on Fourth Avenue and Dravus street.
And if you end up failing as hard as I did and still need to satisfy your strawberry craving, you might check out the Fremont farmer’s market.
Have you ever grown strawberries before? Are you itching to give it a try? Here are a few images that might encourage you forward.
Also, the daily dirt-on-arms revolution begins now.