The Backyard

The Backyard

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Strawberry Patch Maintenance

When I first contemplated growing strawberries, the maintenance necessary to keep the patch productive gave me second thoughts.  But the love of strawberries and the dislike of the cost to to purchase a quart (local berries are being sold for $4.50 a box) outweighed the work involved, so we made the investment and started 100 plants in 2009.  A year later, I was questioning my gardening skills and had a strawberry mess because I didn't conduct the required maintenance. I realized then, if I want strawberries, work is involved and a bunch of it.  After the matted mess in 2010, the entire patch was dug up and replanted in two tidy rows.  In 2011, fewer berries were produced because of the transplanting of plants, not knowing if they were original plants or offspring. But this year, I harvested 36 quarts and it has everything to do with maintenance post-harvest.   Each season, when the plants are done producing, the first thing we do is give the entire patch a haircut with the lawnmower.   The patch is then thoroughly weeded (I tend not to weed during fruiting because it damages the berries - I'm a sloppy weeder!). Plants are given a good feeding of compost and fresh straw is put down to keep weeds at bay and moisture in the ground.  And this is the important part: as runners are produced (each plant can send out as many as 5 runners and they are quick to root), they are snipped off to keep the plant producing berries and not putting energy into new plant production.  Last year, I left a handful of runners grow new plants to prepare for future need of new plants in a year or two (a plant lives about 5 years).  This year, we expanded contemplating the life of the original plants may be coming to an end.  I dug up the plants started last year and planted them in a new, third row.  When this row is in full production, the original rows will be dug up and replanted with new plants that we'll let grow next season.  This rotation will continue until we're old and tired.  And that my friends, is what is required to grow strawberries.  I would highly recommend starting with the standard 25 plants if you are contemplating growing berries.  Hubby says I went a little overboard with 100 plants, and he's probably right.  It's a bunch of work, but oh-so-worth-it.


The Happy Hippy said...

Looks like a lot of hard work, but I'm sure it will be worth it : )

gardenlifejapan said...

Great article....I'm in my second year of a huge strawberry mess! Next year proper maintenance will be done!