strawberries are divas.
Let’s talk about how this strawberry plant is like my life. I mean, look at it. It needs a vacation, better style, and a beer. When I bought it, it was a beautiful pile of cascading runners that flowed like the long, luxurious locks of a Disney princess. The leaves were a bold, deep, dark green, the runners boasted their health with a bright green hue, and the baby strawberries were vibrant and red. All were holding the promise of new life, or maybe even a shot at being the lead centerpiece plopped on a fresh puff of whipped cream covering a strawberry shortcake. This plant was headed for good things; it was going places.
It was going somewhere alright, right into my greenhouse where it would die a slow, suffocating death because I have the gardening skills of a mothball. I desperately covered the pot with foil to “keep it cool” like the lady at Lowe’s told me to. After a few days, it was clear the foil wasn’t doing anything but shielding my plant from succumbing to alien mind control. It just looked like a sad plant whose inept hairdresser walked out leaving the foil still resting on a crappy color job. I ran to my phone to text Jessica, because I have always called her in times of crises—which at one point in my life was for pretty much every decision I ever made.
“Do you know what zone you’re in?” Jessica asked. “That will help quite a lot.”
“The Twilight Zone,” I said.
“They’re probably heat stressed. Give them some mulch around the pots to trap the moisture, one-inch deep,” she said. “Go remove some of the roof panels.”
“But the structure isn’t that solid,” I said. “One thunderstorm with strong winds and that thing will be over in Missouri.”
“They need air flow, STAT! Quit feeding your children and GO!”
“But the birds, what if they get in through the roof?”
“Everyone’s got birds; they have no time for your tiny garden. Birds are opportunists they eat what’s there, not what’s a challenge.”
I had no idea. I guess I had pegged birds for less lazy animals. To me, it seemed natural to assume a bird would fly through the open roof panel because there was food. I never actually thought about the fact that it was trickier getting back out and it might require some level of strategy and effort. Of course, I hate to cook, but love to eat, so, I get it.
“Go take the temperature in there,” she said, “85-degrees where you are, inside a greenhouse, that’s like a hot car on a 100-degree day. You wouldn’t leave your dog in there, or your kids, or a helpless gallon of milk.”
And it was true. I would never leave milk in a hot car; I love milk. I told her I would remove roof panels, but she had to replace anything that blew away with a storm. Except for the strawberry plant. At this point, if a gust of wind were strong enough to carry that thing off, I would take it as a sign that we weren’t meant to be.
“So, should I toss the plant and try again next year?”
“No,” she said. “If you give it your all, and stick with it, it’ll grow back next year and flourish. Strawberries are hard to get going after transplanting. It still loves you; it’s just heat stressed. It’ll be back. It will take time, but those strawberries will be back.”
That was the same speech she used to give after everyone I dated broke up with me.
The next day, I clipped the brown, crispy parts off the plant—which was pretty much the entire plant—added some mulch, said a Hail Mary, and went to find some ice cream, because let’s face it, I don’t have the power to revive this thing. I didn’t do much with it over the next few days—just gave it water every time I went into the greenhouse because it seemed like the right thing to do. Mostly, I ignored it and tried to act like I didn’t care it was turning on me.
Then, the other day, I went outside and saw this happy strawberry.
And then three days later, he was a sad strawberry.
So, what have I learned? Strawberries are divas—the J.Lo of plants requesting to be watered four times a day—not too much and not too little. Don’t soak us, but don’t be skimpy on the H2O. We want to be damp, but not too much. Make sure it’s bottle water you are using—sparkling, and be gentle when you cut our runners using only clean, white sheers made out of polished diamond; wear white gloves when you do it. Don’t let any other plant within 12 feet of us, especially the lavender because it’s drying leaves are so ugly, blerg. I have a reputation to keep up, I can’t be seen near that thing. Maybe take it in your house, it would go well with the mess in there. Keep the temperature comfortable, and no wind, please. Also, where’s my beer?