Over the past 30 years I have grown strawberries in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Edgewood all to varying degrees of disappointment.  I have tried all sorts of methods, amendments etc and always come up short.  I will start out by planting correctly and carefully caring for the plants through our miserable spring weather. By May I am starting to see the reward , the first white flowers!  I know that a month later I will be eating fresh, juicy and tasty berries to the envy of all my friends and family.  I have visions of them still being forced to pay outrageous prices at the store for tasteless and cardboard textured strawberries while I am wondering what to do with my excessive bounty.  By mid May I am reveling in all the runners being produced giving me free plants and even more strawberries next year!  I finally get my first berries which while they taste good enough (not great but good) there doesn’t seem to be enough of them.  I rarely have enough to make it from the garden to the house before they are all eaten.  No matter though, I know this is the first year and the next year when they have matured I will be hauling them out of the garden by the wheelbarrow full.  I continue to care for them with occasional weeding and a lot of watering.  They grow large and rapidly fill in my allotted area with the new plants from runners.  All is well and next year can’t come soon enough.

The next year comes around and the strawberries are one of the first crops to show signs of life.  They start flowering and we soon get our first ones.  Strangely enough we don’t seem to get nearly as many as I thought we would and they really aren’t very large.  If I do get one that is an inch long it is one of the bigger ones. So I end up picking and waiting for them to improve but they never do.  The amount I get at a picking is never enough to do anything with like make a pie or make some jelly.  If I get half of a cereal bowl that’s a bountiful harvest and the flavor, while better than grocery store isn’t really all that great.  Pretty soon they have stopped producing for the year and you move on to other things deciding it just isn’t worth all the trouble.  Sometimes a bed will make it to year three but never through the year before I give up in disgust.  I end up realizing that is why the major strawberry industries are in California and Florida and not in New Mexico.  After all this is a desert that goes from hot to cold to hot to hotter while always being windy. Not exactly a garden paradise.  After a year or two without growing any strawberries the disappointment has worn off and I try again.

By now my readers are thinking that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.  Let me assure you I have tried a lot of different things. I have flood irrigated, watered with a hose, used sprinklers and tried drip irrigation.  I have grown in full sun, half sun, filtered shade and full shade.  I have used commercial fertilizer, organic fertilizers and no fertilizers.  I have amended soil with sand, manures, peat moss, used topsoil gathered from under pinon and oak trees all the way to using top soil only purchased from Home Depot.  I have tried bareroot plants and live plants. I have planted as early as March and built a plastic tunnel over the bed for protection. I have planted as late as June.  I have grown in the ground, on raised beds, in planters and in wooden raised beds. About the only thing I haven’t done in the past is swing a dead cat at midnight or use a crystal pyramid.  In the end the result is always disappointment.

When we purchased the current land for growing fruit, my partners all wanted to grow strawberries.  With my past history of various strawberry failures I cringed inside.  However I figured after a year or two we could get that out of their systems and use the rows for trees or something else when strawberries proved a disaster.  I tried to talk them out of it but they reminded me of our company mission statement about developing varieties of different fruit that can be grown in New Mexico.   I decided to spend some research time to see if I could improve on my mistakes of the past. This season we grew strawberries and the first year crop was an unbelievable success.  We grew strawberries, more strawberries and even more strawberries. Better than that they were by far bigger than any I ever grew with a taste that was unbelievable.  Finally it looks like growing strawberries can be something other than a disappointment in fact they can be an unbelievable success.  From speaking with many of you this summer, I know you also have had the poor results I have had in the past.   Next post I will tell you what we did that turned things around for us.