Care of Strawberries

Care of Strawberries

Online Magazine

Care of Strawberries

Free Garden Tips 

Care of Strawberries

Care of Strawberries

Care of Strawberries
Care of Strawberries
Care of Strawberries

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Online Magazine

Care of Strawberries

By Robert Laurence

Mulching Strawberry Beds

Mulching is strongly recommended for strawberries, as it helps keep down weeds, conserves moisture, feeds the plants, and keeps berries clean. It also protects plants against low temperatures and soil heaving. The plants should be mulched right Care of Strawberriesafter planting, at least before really hot weather is expected - unless black plastic film is used, in which case the plastic is spread over the patch, anchored down with soil or stones, and the plants are set in the ground through holes cut in the plastic. Good mulching materials include clean straw, salt marsh hay, pine needles, very strawy manures, leaves, cottonseed hulls, peanut shells, bagasse (sugar cane fiber), grass clippings, and even old newspapers and rags. Apply the mulch to a depth of 3 to 4 inches after the ground has been thoroughly watered, covering the soil all around the plants, but not the plants themselves. About the only trouble you'll have all season will be with runners sent out by the mother plant. These new plants will find it hard rooting in a mulch, and if you want your plants to multiply you'll have to help the runners by moving the mulch aside a bit so that they make contact with the soil and root. By the approach of winter most mulching materials will have about rotted out. At this time, after the temperature reaches 20' F, completely cover the plants, as described in Winter Protection. This winter covering can be used as next year's mulch when it is pulled off in the spring.



Weeding

Nothing is more important in growing strawberries than keeping weeds down in the bed. This can be done by mulching (see above), but most growers don't practice mulching the first year and many never mulch their plants. If you don't mulch the first year or any year thereafter, constantly keep after the weeds in the patch. Hoe, rake, or weed by hand as often as is needed - at least once every two weeks - to clean out all weeds between plants otherwise the planting will become a disease ridden, inextricable mat that is almost impossible to cultivate and bears very little quality fruit.


To cut down on weeds strawberry plants are sometimes planted in clear plastic and watered with a soaker hose. Plastic is later covered with a bar mulch to prevent overheating in the sun.If you cultivate strawberry plants with a hoe or tined fork, be careful not to cultivate too deep. Strawberries are shallow rooted plants, with 95 per cent of their roots in the top 9 inches of soil and few roots penetrating deeper than 12 inches. Hoe toward the plants when cultivating, to keep the roots from being killed by exposure to air, and keep the crowns of the plants at ground level at all times.
It goes without saying that weeding will be much less of a problem if a proper site for the strawberry patch is chosen - one with few weeds - and if any weeds present are eliminated before planting (see Choosing a Planting Site).



Thinning Plants and Removing Blossoms

Strawberry plants and runners should be thinned according to the spacing system used (see Strawberry Spacing Systems). During the first growing season, all flowering stems on the plants should also be removed so that no berries can form. Steel yourself to do this, even though it hurts, for it will greatly strengthen the mother plants and increase the number of daughter or runner plants, which bear the most fruit the following year. In other words, by pinching off the first year's blossoms, you are assuring a large crop next year instead of two meager crops. Entirely remove the flower stems as soon as they appear, preferably before the blossoms atop them open. Do this by pinching the bottom of the stem between your fingernails or snipping them with shears never try to pull the stem off or the plant might be pulled out of the ground. Ever bearing strawberries are the only exception to this rule. Flowers should be removed from them the first year until the end of July. After that let fruit form to be picked in the fall.


Fertilizing and Watering

There are two schools of opinion about fertilizing strawberries. One holds that if the strawberry patch is prepared properly and the plants are growing vigorously with dark green leaves, they have enough fertilizer. Others feed each plant with about a pint of half strength balanced liquid fertilizer immediately after planting, and fertilize a second time in late summer by scattering 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer around the plant at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet, working it into the soil or spreading it atop the mulch and watering it in. Still other gardeners fertilize every two weeks until the end of August with a balanced liquid fertilizer or liquid manure. After the first year, strawberries should never be fertilized in the spring prior to fruiting - this leads to excessive green growth at the expense of fruit set. If a patch is renewed after a year or so, it should be fertilized as above.
Strawberry plants usually require more water than they get from the average rainfall, although some varieties like Dunlap and Robinson do very well even when drought strikes. Commercial growers generally irrigate once every 3 to 4 days. Take a tip from them and see that the plants are watered deeply once a week if possible, especially if you don't mulch. An inch of water a week will produce fine, large berries.



Winter Protection

Strawberry plants don't have to be protected in the South, where winter temperatures are normally not low enough to hurt them, but in the North they should be covered as soon as a temperature of 20' F has occurred and the plants have hardened off. This is about November 16 25 in the New York metropolitan area, earlier as you go farther north. Some varieties (see the main variety list) do withstand temperatures of 40' below zero, but covering plants in winter not only protects their sensitive crowns, it prevents alternate freezing and thawing of the soil that heaves plants out of the ground or breaks their roots, and often kills them. Cover the plants with about a four inch blanket of either clean straw, salt marsh hay, pine needles, or leaves (which aren't the best choice, for they tend to mat and make it hard for the plants to push through in spring). Leave the covering on until the plants begin to grow in early spring, when it should be removed so that the plants aren't smothered. The covering can be pulled into the alleys between rows or stored for use again the following winter.



Spring Frost Protection

Strawberry blossoms are killed at temperatures below 31" F and unexpected frost can ruin an entire spring crop. If a spring frost is predicted after you have removed the winter covering from your strawberries, cover the plants with it again. Or use plastic film held down by rocks or boards, old blankets, burlap bags, old sheets, whatever you have handy. Another method is to spray your plants with a fine spray of water from the garden sprinkler, which will often keep frost off the blossoms by raising the air temperature around the plants. Leave the sprinkler on until the temperature rises above freezing and any ice on the plants disappears.


 
 
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Care of Strawberries