Story telling from Australia
It’s mid autumn here in Broken Hill, the leaves are turning on the grapevine and the grass has slowed its growth but the strawberries just keep coming. Three weeks ago I thought it was all over, we’d had our fill and the plants were picked clean—the last of several bumper harvests. There were no more flowers and no sign of any fruit, just a tangle of runners trying to put out new plants and a mess of soggy undergrowth where the spent leaves had rotted down. The beds looked exhausted.
Over a series of early mornings, with the temperature hovering around 12 degrees, I got down on my hands and knees and tidied up the beds. It meant peering through a jungle of foliage to scrape away the mulch of dead leaves and in doing so I uncovered the places where slugs and snails hide, waiting to emerge at nightfall to feast on whatever they can find. I tossed away the snails, gathered bucket loads of yellowing leaves and the plants looked better for it. Then I patiently snipped off all the runners, potted on a few for next year and the strawberry beds looked set for winter.
Winter’s a way off yet and autumn in Broken Hill is more like summer in England, so I took a chance. I sprinkled sulphate of potash, watered with seaweed and now we have another crop of strawberries coming, not as prolific as the bumper crops we harvested in summer but enough to top a bowl of muesli most days. And because I cleared away the rotting vegetation there’s nowhere for the slugs and snails to hide. Broken Hill looks set for a run of bright sunny days in the mid to high 20s and we’re looking forward to a daily harvest of ripe berries.