Clearing the Way for Strawberries by the Patio

Just off of our kitchen through a patio door sits our 16’ x 16’ patio. This area has a turtle sandbox and a container on wheels with my kids’ swiss chard and carrots. In the mulched area surrounding the concrete, the previous owners had planted two variegated dogwoods, two daylilies, a rhododendron, and four rose bushes. There are also a few small variegated hostas beneath the dogwoods. The patio is a pleasant area, but not the most practical use of space.

When I gaze across the yard to our vegetable garden, I often think how nice it would be if it could change places with the patio garden: the perennials could be across the yard and the fresh fruits and vegetables could be right outside our door (if only our patio had full sun). Not only would it be more convenient, but the rhododendron and roses weren’t looking so good. When we moved in last summer during a drought, the rhododendron leaves turned a reddish-brown color and curled up into claw-like hands. The roses may have been chewed down by rabbits, and all that remained were thick sticks poking out of the ground with sharp thorns.

Some of the former rose bushes along the west side of our patio, as seen last summer.

Some of the former rose bushes along the west side of our patio, as seen last summer.

I’ve never been a fan of roses (more on this later), but when my son accidentally stepped on one with his bare feet early in the spring, I started mentally dreaming about replacing the rhododendron and roses with something edible. As the weather continued to warm, the rhododendron started to grow new leaves on one side and I appreciated it’s fight to survive. A couple of the rose bushes grew a few paltry leaves, but during strawberry season, I knew I would much rather have berries in that garden space than roses. Should I need a rose, the previous owner of our house had planted plenty more in the front yard.

It was gratifying ripping out those four rose bushes. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been a fan of roses. For the 10 minutes that I pulled up those patio rose bushes, I almost felt like a superhero, fighting the malicious desires of society for superficial beauty. Roses, with their bright colors and large perfect swirls, are flamboyant, showy, ostentatious… luring people in with lustful desire. And then what is beneath those flowers? The rose’s true self: devil-tinted leaves, sharp pruned-back sticks, and poking thorns. Pushing a shovel into the ground and torqueing out the rose bushes, roots and all, I was on a crusade to replace evil with edibles.

The area that the four rose bushes occupied is on the west side of our patio and is about 2 feet by 18 feet, bordered by landscape timbers. It receives only partial sun, being shaded occasionally throughout the day by a large honey locust tree in the middle of our backyard. I read that it’s good to prepare the soil a year ahead of time for berries, so I intend to loosen the soil and work in some manure or compost this summer. Then I’ll have some time to research which variety of strawberries to select. My hope is that next spring, some young strawberry plants will enjoy making their home here.

Picking fresh strawberries at Appleberry Farm, just outside of Madison, WI.

Picking fresh strawberries at Appleberry Farm, just outside of Madison, WI.

It makes sense to grow strawberries at home. Strawberries are a good source of antioxidants, but they last only a couple days in the refrigerator. Buying organic strawberries at the grocery store can be expensive and non-organic strawberries have high pesticide residue. We enjoy going to local u-pick farms (like Appleberry Farm) to buy strawberries, but then we need to process them all in the same short timeframe. It would be nice to have some available right in our backyard, to be even closer to our food and to pick them when we want to eat them.

If you have any advice about preparing soil for strawberries or a good variety for partial sun, I look forward to reading your comments!

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3 thoughts on “Clearing the Way for Strawberries by the Patio

  1. Pingback: Digging a Swale | SimpliCitySoil

  2. Pingback: Updates in the Vegetable Garden (September 27, 2013) | SimpliCitySoil

  3. Pingback: Planting Strawberries | SimpliCitySoil

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