29 August 2008

The Secret to Organic Strawberries

In a previous post, I posted a photo of a small bowl of freshly picked strawberries just before I handed the bowl over to Hubby so he could enjoy their juicy yumminess.

Since that post, I've thought a lot about strawberries and how they start in this world--as a humble non-assuming little white blossom. And if they get pollinated correctly by the bees and other flying critters, those blossoms become strawberries.

I've also thought a lot about the use of the word "organic" that has become so popular in describing how food is grown or produced. After maintaining an organic kitchen garden (potager) for over 7 years now, I have to let everyone in on a big secret. "Organic" is really easy! It was the non-organic method that was much harder.

Early on in my foray into growing organic fruits and vegetables for our own consumption, I read an article about the centuries old method of companion planting that is now gaining a resurgence starting as a grass-roots level. The premise is that certain plants are planted next to one another so they benefit each other based on what bugs they attract or repel, what nutrients they use, they're growing habits, and even the essence of their pollen in the case of companions like basil and tomatoes (tomatoes take on a wonderful taste with the essence of basil if planted next to it). This concept means that a vegetable and fruit garden not only looks better with flowers intermingled in it, but it is healthier.

My own experience has been that I have not needed to use pesticides for 7 years. That's right... NONE! Why? Because of the flowers and plants I purposefully planted in the vicinity of the strawberry plants that grow in pots right next to the 1200 gallon pond in the near center of my garden (you can see the strawberry pots in the background of the photo below).

Now what are these "magical" plants that grow next to the strawberries? Simple bright red canna lilies, lemon balm, and fennel. Well, those don't seem all that special, right? But they are to the strawberries. Here's why...

The bright red canna lilies and fennel attract lots of large predator insects that eat the smaller insects that would otherwise dine on the strawberries. The red canna lilies also attract hummingbirds. Hummingbirds, although partial to the sugary nectar of flowers, get most of their calorie intake from small insects like spiders, mites, gnats and mosquitos. The strawberries benefit again. The lemon balm that's great on sauted chicken breasts, also helps in the same way and gives off a strong enough odor that it camoflages other more vulnerable plants around it. A lot of herbs do this.

See how easy "organic" can be? I just plant things next to each other, water them, and they take care of each other. Really amazing, isn't it?!?! Don't let all the hype or the higher prices of "organic" fool you into believing that you can't grow things this way yourself. If you haven't, just trust me a teensy bit and take the plunge... grow some of your own produce. It's easier on the pocketbook, tastes phenomenal, and it's good for you.

1 comment:

Pumpkin said...

I'm always so jealous of your garden! I live in a balcony-less apartment building, so I just have to dream about the day we'll have a house (or at least a patio) for me to have a little garden!

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