Sunday, July 1, 2007

Strawberry Planting Guide

Growing Strawberries is fun, easy, and inexpensive. To help you get started, here are a few growing tips and variety descriptions.

Location: Strawberries do best in a spot with full sun, good air circulation, and good drainage. Avoid areas with known nematode and root weevil problems, as well as old strawberry beds and spots consistently planted with potatoes or tomatoes. These beds may be infected with verticillium wilt or a number of other fungi or viruses that can trouble your new crop.

Soil: Soil for strawberry beds should be rich and well draining. Most soil in this area improves by thoroughly working in a thick layer of compost and about 4 lbs. of bone meal or Territorial's Complete Fertilizer per 100 sq. ft.

Planting: The most popular ways to layout the growing area are the ''Hill System'' and the ''Matted Row.'' In the ''Hill System'' plants are set 12'' apart in raised beds usually with 2 rows each. Runners may grow into the planting row but not the aisles--or area between the beds. This method produces premium fruit. To use the ''Matted Row,'' plant every 2 ft. in rows that are 3 ft. apart. This spacing allows rows to fill with runners while keeping an aisle for picking. Whichever method you choose, plant the starts with care. Fan out the roots in the planting hole leaving topmost roots below soil. Don't bury the central leaf bud! Replace and pack the soil firmly around plants. Be sure they are kept moist.

Growing: Blossoms on June-bearing plants should be pinched off during the first year. Pinch off blossoms on Everbearers only during the first 2 months they bloom. Blossom-Pinching diverts energy to plant development, making a good strong plant with a large healthy yield. Pinch runners of both types of strawberries for as long as possible to establish stronger mother plants.

Cleanup: Fall cleanup and fertilizing are highly recommended. A thorough cleaning of the beds reduces the chance of fungus or disease problems and makes the area less suitable for insects that winter over in this area. Use a power mover on large plantings with the blade set on high. On small plantings simply use shears to clip off old foliage. Fertilize with a side dressing of Territorial's Complete Fertilizer or steer manure and bone meal.

Final Tips: As hard as it may be, you should destroy the patch after the fourth year. Beyond this point plants will usually lose vigor and become very susceptible to damage caused by fungus, virus, and root weevil. Plan ahead and plant a new crop the third year in a different location. This method provides you with a continuous harvest.

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