March 6, 2013 in Fruit
Strawberries are a tricky crop to get really really right. They seem easy. Plant a few plants, watch them grow, harvest berries and then they go nuts. They send runners everywhere and those runners make berries. Pretty soon you go out into the garden and are never heard from again because the strawberries grabbed you by the ankles and smothered you.
Three years ago I put in about 50 strawberry plants in a few areas and they overtook everything. This was great for a strawberry harvest. I would get more strawberries than I knew what to do with. We would get tired of harvesting strawberries (it was an every day thing) and they would rot. Rotting strawberries in the patch is a very very bad thing.
When strawberries are allowed to rot on the vine they create what is called a “mummy berry.” That fully moldy berry hidden under the leaves. That mold then works its way into the soil and the fungal spores fester there and infect the leaves and the future fruit. My multitude of strawberry patches had become victim to this fungus. I could have sprayed my strawberry patches with Lime Sulfur during the dormant season (and I did a bit), but it was time to replace the plants anyway.
Strawberry plants really only have a lifespan of about 3 years. After that they get tired and don’t produce as well. You can collect the runner plants and replant those, but since mine were so diseased I decided to rip out every last strawberry plant I had and start new. It was sad. We’re talking thousands of strawberries. Oh well, it had to be done.
I had a blank slate for strawberries. I selected two containers of bare root plants from my shop. I started with one Ever Bearing and one June Bearing*. I will need many more plants to get back to what I once had.
At my shop we sell both bare root strawberries and potted plants. In my opinion it is more cost effective to plant bare root plants. The only problem is that you can only get them at one time of year and they are available in limited quantities. I have ordered plants from Rain Tree Nursery in the past and that was my intention this year, but it was less expensive to get them from my shop.
Inside of the box there is a paper bundle. Pull off the paper and you’ll find a peat covered group of bare root plants.
The bundle of 15 plants is held together with a rubber band. Remove the rubber band and separate the plants into individuals.
I prepared my strawberry bed with compost and put down a layer of Dr. Earth Tomato & Vegetable fertilizer. Ideally I would have used Rhododendron fertilizer, but I was out of that.
Work the fertilizer into the soil. This particular fertilizer works best with soil contact.
Use your hand or a tool to dig a small hole to place the individual plant into.
Take the individual plant and place it in the hole (roots down) and then firm the soil around the crown. You may or may not be able to see the plant when you are finished. The top of the plant should just be at the top of the soil. Water the plant in and wait for it to grow.
In the “real world” you would remove all of the flowers the first year. Really? Who wants to wait a whole year for yummy strawberries? I have a hard enough time waiting until June.
Any tips? What do you prefer? Bare root or plants?
*Ever Bearing strawberries produce smaller sweeter fruit over a long period of time. June Bearing strawberries produce larger not as sweet fruit all at once in late June. Ever Bearing are better for fresh eating and June Bearing are better for jams (generally speaking).