When Where and How to<br>Plant Strawberries

When Where and How to<br>Plant Strawberries

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When Where and How to<br>Plant Strawberries

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When Where and How to<br>Plant Strawberries

When Where and How to<br>Plant Strawberries

When Where and How to<br>Plant Strawberries
When Where and How to<br>Plant Strawberries
When Where and How to<br>Plant Strawberries

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When Where and How to
Plant Strawberries

By Robert Laurence

Strawberries are best planted in early spring as early as the ground can be worked in all sections of the country except the South, the Southwest, and coastal areas of California, where they should be planted in the fall. In the South, especially in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, they can even be planted in early winter.

Choosing a Planting Place: Sites and Soil

In selecting a site for your plants, be sure not to choose an area where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, or any member of the Solanaceae family has been grown within three years - for strawberries can contact the soil borne disease verticillium wilt left by these crops and become stunted or die. It isn't really wise to plant strawberries where any crop has grown for the last three years, as such land often contains troublesome pests (especially perennial weeds, insects, and nematodes) as well as soil borne diseases. If you plan to replace a lawn with a strawberry bed, turn the sod over at least a year beforehand to rid the area of grubs that may have been feeding at the grass roots and would harm the plants. Where grubs are a minor problem, just turning the soil over and allowing winter cold to kill most of them will be enough. In really infested areas chemicals like chlordane will have to be used.
Strawberries should ideally be grown on newly planted land, but since this is usually impractical, try to pick any plot with a good supply of organic matter that is relatively free of weeds. Definitely avoid soils infested with perennial weeds like nutgrass, quackgrass, or bindweed unless you can entirely eliminate these pests. Strawberries need full sun to do their best, but in selecting the site also try to consider air and water drainage, land slope, and direction of land exposure. Where late spring frosts are frequent, choose ground higher than the surrounding areas, there being less danger of frost damage on high ground because cold air flows to the adjoining low ground. While bottom lands can produce higher yields because of greater soil fertility and moisture, the frost hazard is greater in such locations, too, a slope of only two or three feet in a hundred giving some protection from frost. A gradual slope is preferable to a steep one because it is less liable to sod runoff. Strawberries on southern slopes ripen a few days earlier than those on northern slopes, so choose a site that slopes to the south if you want berries as early as possible and choose one that slopes to the north if you want to delay ripening several days.
Any good garden soil or soil containing an ample supply of organic matter will do for strawberries. Ideally the soil's pH should range from 5.5 to 6.5, moderately acid, but the berries aren't too particular about this. Extremely light and heavy soils aren't as desirable as sandy, gravelly, or silty clay loams. Growers desiring early fruit generally prefer sandy soils, although they are usually more infertile and subject to drought. It is important that strawberry soil be well drained (moist but not wet), as plants can die when wet ground freezes in the winter, especially if the soil is clay or fine sandy silt. Wet soil also inhibits plant growth and can lead to damage by red stele root rot.

To he sure that the soil is fertile, work in compost or cow manure at a rate of one bushel for every 50 square feet. Chicken manure or hog manure should be used at only one third this rate, as it contains too much available nitrogen. Another way to make certain the soil is well supplied with humus is to plant a green cover crop like clover, rye, or vetch the previous year and turn it under before setting out your strawberries.

If manure isn't available, other organic materials can be dug into the soil. Sawdust, wood chips, or crushed corncobs can be applied at the rate of 10 pounds per square yard. Mix in about 10 ounces of fish meal or 14 ounces of cottonseed meal to provide nitrogen to help break them down. Shredded, composted leaves need no nitrogen added and are applied at the rate of 6 bushels per 100 square feet.

If you want to use commercial fertilizer, which we don't recommend for long term soil fertility, fertilize with about 2 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet well before planting. Generally, the more peat moss, compost, and well rotted manure you can work into a strawberry patch at the onset, the bigger and better your crop from year to year.

Spacing the Plants

Before doing any actual planting, decide which strawberry spacing system you want to use. The four most popular follow, each with its own particular assets and liabilities. Remember that in all these systems, plants are set out in spring and flowers are removed from the plants the entire first growing season so that they can build up strength to yield a bumper crop the next year. This is the case with all varieties except Everbearers, whose flowers are removed up until the latter part of July, the plants allowed to blossom and fruit thereafter. Strawberry plants set in the fall can be allowed to fruit the next spring, but yields won't be as high as when they, too, are deblossomed. There are, of course, numerous variations you can make on any of the following spacing methods, many of which often go by other names.

" This method requires the most work and yields the biggest berries. Under the hill system plants are set out 12 inches apart in rows 12 inches to 2 feet apart. No new runner or daughter plants (long, green, string like growths which produce new plants at their tips) are allowed to form from the mother plants; any runners are snipped off or cut off with a hoe before they can root. Runners can also be prevented from rooting by planting the mother plants in holes made in black plastic spread over the strawberry patch.

All plants are set 12 inches apart and runners are allowed to develop. In what is called the double row hill system the plants are set out in two rows 12 inches apart from each other, with the plants 12 inches apart in each row. A 24-inch alley where nothing is planted separates each double row from the next double row. In the triple row hill system three rows of plants are set 12 inches apart from each other, again with the plants 12 inches apart in rows. There is also a 24-inch "alley" separation here between each set of triple rows. A four row hill system can also be used. Obviously there is more bending and stretching the more rows you plant in the hill system, which somewhat offsets the space and productiveness gained.

Plants grown in any hill system are turned under after 2 to 3 years, when the plants lose their productiveness. This first crop will be best and later crops successively poorer. Some growers even replant every year, either from new plants or plants raised from runners. The triple row hill system referred to is used by those California growers who produce 50,000 quarts of berries an acre. The California plants are Everbearers that do not set fruit on runners the same season and they are grown in raised beds, which you can simulate by enclosing your patch with railroad ties, filling in good strawberry soil between them, and then setting your plants in the triple row system.

Double row Hill. Here the plants are set out in 2 rows each 12 inches
apart; between double rows there is a 2 foot alley for walking.

Some growers try to renovate hill system patches after the big bearing year by mowing and fertilizing the plants immediately after harvest. In any case, the following year's yield is never even half of the prime crop.

Here, in the exact opposite of the hill system, the mother plants are set out 2 feet apart and all runner plants are allowed to root, making for small berries. Use varieties that form many runners. Everbearers that fruit on their runners the same year should always be grown by this method or the following one. The beds formed usually have 2 to 3 inches between plants and only enough plants are cut off to allow 11/2 to 2 feet between rows, each row kept about 2 feet wide. This is the easiest way to grow strawberries, but yields are not great and the quality of the fruit is not excellent. The yield is only greater than the single row hill system, all others topping it. New beds are started anywhere from 2 to 4 years after planting.

This is a compromise between the first two methods. Plants are set as in the matted row system above and 4 to 6 runner plants are allowed to root from each mother plant. The runner plants form a circle around each plant and are 6 to 8 inches apart from each other. The next year these runners will produce a bumper crop and send out more runners. Let all of them root except any that extend into the alleys between rows. Allow the plants to grow for another year or two as if they were planted in a matted row and then turn the bed under, starting a new patch in a different place. It's a lot of work keeping the runners thinned so precisely the first year, but in the second year this system will yield more and better berries than the matted row system or hill system. Berries will be bigger the second year than in any method but the hill system. After the second year you'll obviously get the same kind of crop as from the matted row system. Earlidawn, Red Rich, and other varieties that form few runners should be used here.

Rows of plants are set one foot apart, with plants three feet apart in each row. Two of the earliest runners to appear on each mother plant are allowed to root one to the left of the mother plant down the row and the other to the right of the mother plant up the row. (These runners can be set in place with a hairpin to keep them straight in line while they root.) When they root, they are severed from the mother plant, which is destroyed the second year, the runners replacing it. In following years enough runners from plants are allowed to root to maintain a bed with plants set a foot apart, eliminating all need of replanting.

Care of Plants Before Planting

Strawberry plants are usually sold bare root in bundles of 12 to 100 and sent to you at the time you indicate. Each plant should have a good, healthy, vigorous mass of roots, not a few thick, straggly roots. Soak the plants in water or "puddle" them in a mixture of mud and water for several hours if they arrive in a very dry condition, storing them in the shade.

Heeling Strawberry Plants in a V shaped Trench

To heel in plants place them in a trench with a crown at ground level. Then firmly pack soil about the roots. If you expect 2 to 3 days to pass between receiving plants from the nursery and planting, they can be stored in the refrigerator unopened. But if any longer time is involved, it is best to heel them into the ground individually by placing the plants in a V shaped trench deep enough for the roots to be spread out when the crowns are at ground level. Place the plants one next to another along a sloping edge of the trench, taking care not to let the roots of adjacent plants get tangled. Then pack soil firmly about the roots. New roots may form if the plants are heeled in more than several days. Take special care not to damage these when removing the plants from the trench for permanent planting. (See the illustrations on page 24 and 25)

How to Plant

Dip roots of the plants in water or a mixture of water and mud while planting and keep them covered so that they aren't exposed to air or sunlight. Space plants apart from one another according to the spacing system you have chosen for your strawberry bed. When planting, remove all but one or two small bright green inside leaves from each plant, trim dead or broken roots off each plant, and prune the roots so that they are no more than 5 or 6 inches long. Make a slit in the soil by inserting a broad bladed garden trowel about 6 inches deep and moving the handle back and forth. Planting depth is very important the plants must be set at the same depth they grew in the nursery, not too deep (causing them to smother and die), or too shallow (causing them to dry out). The crown or thick portion in the center of each plant must be just below ground level, half of it buried and half above the soil: the roots shouldn't be seen. Keeping this in mind, set the plants in the slits or holes you have made and spread out their roots in fanlike fashion. Be sure to pack the soil around the roots of each plant to avoid air pockets. One way this can be done is by stepping on each plant - place your instep over the crown of the plant and step firmly. Any plant that can easily be pulled up by a quick jerk on a leaf hasn't been set firmly enough - the leaf stem should break.

Planting Strawberries - Make a hole with a trowel. Firm each of the sides. Spread roots with your fingers as you place the plant in the hole; fill with soil.

The proper planting depth for a strawberry plant.
Two people can set a large strawberry planting much easier than one, and with much less bending. One person inserts a spade in the soil and the other places a plant in the hole made. The first person then withdraws the spade, firming the soil around the plant roots with his foot.

Water your strawberry plants thoroughly after planting if the soil is dry. The bed won't look like much that day, but within a week the first set of three new leaves will begin emerging from the crown on each plant.

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