Sunday, April 19, 2015

The strawberry bed

Here is a pic of what the strawberries looked like last fall:
Strawberries gone wild

This is what happens when you don't cut any of the runners -which you should!  Strawberry plants will stay very productive for about three to four years - if you cut the runners off!  These baby plants weaken the mother plant, so that is why you cut them off as soon as they form.  However, when you are ready to start a new batch for the following spring, you let them go.  if you have the room, you can just let them run and take root.  but I wanted to be a bit more intentional.  so I took the runners and let them run over the side of the bed to pots that I had filled with good soil and put on either side of the bed.  By end of September they were well rooted.  I cut them from the mommy plants, gave them another week, then potted them up into 4" pots.  some had developed such large root systems, I had to use gallon pots!

All these babies went into one of the tomato beds after the plants were all  pulled up for the fall, covered with row cover, and given a good dose of fertilzer and water about every 3-4 weeks.

The old strawberries were pulled up in November and composted.  Then the beds were filled with compost for the winter.

Baby Strawberries ready to plant

With our warm winter, I needed to plant out the new strawberries by the end of January - a bit sooner than I planned, but they were becoming root bound.  when I saw lots of new growth, and a flower bud or two, I knew it was time.

I topped off the beds with about 5 inches of new soil (planting mix from Highway Fuel in Salem) which is a combination of compost and top soil.  I did a soil test, which put the soil right about neutral PH.  since berries like it slightly more acid than that, I mixed in some of my blueberry fertilizer which helps to lower the ph.

 I only planted five plants per section - I don't know what variety these are - they are all from about 10 that a friend gave me 4 years ago.  The variety I had purchased at the nursery were not doing so well, and when she asked me if I wanted some of her humungous, everbearing strawberry plants, I jumped at the chance.  (this is where it is helpful to have lots of gardening friends).

 A thick coating of well-rotted sawdust ( about 18 months old) with some good old Sluggo around the edges...
 Up go my hoops and lots of bird block netting (to keep the cats out)...
 And then the row cover.  It is after all still winter.  About a week after getting this all done, our three weeks of sun and warm weather ended and we had about a month of cold, with a few nights dipping down below freezing.  The row cover kept everything nice and warm.  I did have to unclip it during the day when it was sunny so it wouldn't get too hot.  Plus, that darn Puppy (one of our cats) figured out how to get past the netting and under the row cover.  He is very aware of how warm it is under the row covers on a cold sunny day!

If I take the row cover off before going to work, he won't get in there.
 First strawberry blooms opened mid-March - and now in April I have lots of blooms and many little strawberries ready to grow and ripen.
The great thing about saving all the strawberry plants the runners put off is that I had a total of over 90 starts that survived the winter.  I only used 25.  the rest went to two families in Washington and three families here in Salem. 

When you grow your own berries, you not only feed yourself, family and friends, you also have plants that you can share with others.  I dig up all the starts of berries around my patch and give them away.  2014-15 I have given away over $100 of berry plants to friends and neighbors.  So remember that when you are planting this year.  All those volunteers next fall can go to a good home and help to feed others. 

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