Garden On, Vashon

Gardening, cooking, building, designing, dreaming…

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Them’s MY Berries…

May 30th, 2014 at Fri, 30th, 2014 at 3:29 pm by Karen Dale


Strawberries are here! Hubbie brought home an overflowing quart box of Burlington strawberries grown by Sakuma Bros. They were red all through, thoroughly ripe, and oh SOOOO good in our breakfast crepes. Keep ‘em comin’, Thriftway.

But the ones I’m drooling over are those slowly reddening in my own backyard. You long-time blog readers know the travails I’ve suffered with my strawberries: home-cobbled cages only Homer Simpson could love, succeeded by quonset hoops of bird-netting I THOUGHT were thoroughly pegged down, the coon trap with the rotting chicken carcass that sat, broadcasting its stink for a customer, for three disappointing weeks. Meanwhile the four Bros. Chipmunk and their pal Rocky laughed in my face as they nibbled their (my) strawberries on the top of my garden wall, leaving me only strawberry scalps to taunt their triumph. The little buggers…

Not this year (I hope). With all this spring’s moisture, I have a lush crop of berries coming on. And as of yesterday, the crop’s completely screened from varmints.

Strawberry Cages

These are my new “Fort Knox” strawberry cages. The idea is like a banana box: the lids slide tightly over corner pegs rising from a wooden foundation. The corners are lap joints, pinned with brads; the short side panels were made first, then connected into boxes with stretcher bars screwed into the lap-joint corners. Each side is screened with the new, easier-to-handle bird-netting available at our local hardware stores (and because I ran out of netting, the side most favored by rodent invaders is screened with 1/4″ grid hardware cloth. Let them gnaw through THAT…)

construction detail

It helps to have a workshop to create these things, time to do it, and years’ worth of helping the hubbie build projects inspired by “This Old House” and “The Woodwright’s Shop. I would feel like quite the woodworker if lap joints and screws weren’t so very Homer Simpson…

I also have a very small patch of ‘Marshall’ strawberries that I bought from Patty Hieb at the market. These are the strawberries that made Vashon famous, way back in early 20th century—but today, the variety is very rare. So when I saw one single berry turning red yesterday, well, I did something to make sure that I got it and not Red Robin.

First Marshall Berry

And these are the raspberry screens. Birds have been more of a problem with the cane fruits, so months ago Hubbie built some frames out of bamboo, jute, and compressor-driven brads. Late this winter, I covered them with the better bird-netting. Amazing how a skin of fabric stretched over a rickety, racking rectangle will stiffen it right up and keep it true. To access the raspberries, I just pick up and move aside a screen. If I’m lucky, nobody else with opposable thumbs will learn to do the same.

Berry Hill

Two days ago, I pushed down the last of the strawberry lids. Being mostly of cedar, they’re pretty light, and it’s a bet that a varmint may try to nose his way in. But just in case he does, I put a strategically placed brick right on the above corner. Like the practical joke of water bucket over front door, if he tries too hard to get inside — BONK!  Rocks on HIS head, stars in his eyes—and I’ll be the one laughing as I gobble down the Berries Mine.

Fingers crossed…

gardens on the south end of Vashon Island, on a sandy hilltop overlooking Quartermaster Harbor. "Garden On, Vashon" shares what the Island has to teach us about gardening HERE—from making soils to sowing seeds to raising plants to harvest, cooking, preserving, and designing new ways to cultivate your little chunk of Vashon Island. To contact me, email, or leave a comment.

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