Wednesday, March 26, 2014

::getting started with strawberry's::

Who: Pure heaven on earth.  Kids love doing the eater egg hunt for ripe strawberry's.  I almost never get to eat any because the shorties go over them like a swarm of locus.  I keep two beds that are 4foot by 8ft each and we have never had enough to take them into the house.  I plan to add a new 4 ft by 18ft bed this season to try and meet my own demand, but I think the supply will just increase to the demand.  I have read and researched about these guys for awhile.  I have my own way of managing them.  Don't be intimidated!  It's not complicated.  This plant is worth the little bit of set up it takes. 
What:  Their are two basic kinds of strawberry's - June bearing and Everybearing.  Depending on the exact variety June bearing usually given you one larger harvest.  Guess when?  You got it!  About June.  Everbearing gives you less fruit ripe at the same time but has fruit ripening through out the season.  My kids like Everbearing the best so they can always be on the watch for fruit.  Read the tags on the plants to check when the fruit becomes ripe.  There are one billions different fruit varieties to pick from.  My personal favorite is Quinault.  Mostly cause it has the word Quinn in it.  Seriously though - these guys have big flavorful fruit.  We eat them the day they turn red when they are still warm from the sun.  I prefer to buy small started plants, cheap as little guys from Lowe's or Walmart.  Then you can plant them easily.  You can buy them as a bare root plant and plant those crowns.  It is just a little bit more complex that way.  Here is a link that explains planting crowns better than I can.  
When:  Plant these after the last danger of frost has passed.  

Where:  You want to pick a spot that gets good sun.  Straws love sun and they drink it up. You need a spot with no other ground cover plants growing.  Things like ivy and grass will be too much competition.  Strawberries need their own space.  A blank spot in your flower bed would work well.   Strawberry's are very short in height, so they work really well in a landscape as a ground cover.  Are you asking "what is ground cover?"  Ground cover plants are plants that are short that are used to cover blank areas in beds.  Why not make your ground cover plants something you can eat?  They are pretty enough to have in the front of your house, worked in on the ground around foundation bushes.  Better yet rip out those boring old ever green bushes and replace them with blue berries.  That's a blog post for a different day.    

Where ever you do plant them, don't let the bed of strawberries be any wider than four feet.  You want to make sure that you can reach every spot of the bed with out smashing any other plants with your knees or feet.   If you can only reach into the bed from one side, like your house flower beds, I wouldn't make it much more than three feet wide.  You can make it as long as you have space for, but just think about how you will access it. 

photo credit

Keep in mind that strawberry's spread.  The mother plant is the one you are planting now.  She will send out runners, or daughter plants that will form into new plants.  After the mother plant is about three years old she doesn't produce as much fruit.  She will come back every year, but her fruit production goes way down.    You will need to rip out the whole bed eventually or just give it a little yearly maintence. 

How:  You can buy little bareroot crowns really cheap or still fairly inexpensively you can buy started plants from your local nursery.  Plant your plant or crown as directed.  I give them about a one foot circle of space around each plant.  This will seem like over kill for the little plant but don't worry.  She will spread.  The first year you are supposed to pinch off any runners or baby plants, that she sends out.  It helps her focus on getting her roots set before she starts having babies.  Then keep her watered and let your kids start searching everyday for fruit.  When late fall rolls around buy a three dollar or less bale of straw and cover up those ladies with a thick layer of straw.  Your could use dead leaves or dried grass clippings too.  You want this mulch layer to be at least three inches thick.  Come spring rake it off and let the pretty girls go crazy.  If she starts sending runners into places you don't want them to go, then push them in the right direction.  If they refuse to listen then pluck them, Mamma will just send out another runner in another direction.  Mulch them all up again come late fall (around mid October).  Year three - repeat as you have been. 

Now year four is when you need to start doing some yearly loving to your strawberry bed.  Nothing crazy.  Don't get scared, you got this.  Mentally take your little bed and divide it into sections.  Let's say it is six feet long and three feet deep.  Divide it into sections that are one feet long.  You have six sections now.  In early spring grab your shovel and dig out all strawberry plants that are in section one and four.  Buy a bag of compost at the hardware store and fill in the area that is currently plank.  To help discourage weed growth on that blank soil cover it will some mulch (like straw, grass clippings, or dead leaves).  Then let your remaining strawberry ladies go crazy!  They will quickly send runners into the open area.  As the weather gets cold mulch as you have been.  The next spring dig out two other sections that you have not dug out before, like three and six.  It is important to add compost to the areas you are digging out.  You will be removing the top layer of soil with the plants and you need to replace that soil with a high nutrient place for the babies to grow.   
Potentially you could make this strawberry bed last forever with out having to replant it. 

Extra Credit:  Strawberry's do nicely in raised beds.  They look so pretty.  Pintrest is loaded with ideas.  Investigate and make that blank spot in your yard into a little strawberry patch.   

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