I've always had good luck growing strawberries up here in Minnesota. (Knock on wood.) This possibly has a lot to do with the fact that wild strawberries are prolific in our area. Something obviously is right for strawberry growth.
Last year, as some of you will remember, seemed to be a bumper year for my strawberries. At least I think it was. What I mean is that this was the first year ever that I actually weighed each and every bowl and/or bucketful I brought in from the garden. The grand total when I quit picking for the season . . . yes, there were still some small berries out there but I was TIRED . . . was 174 pounds and 6 ounces. I honestly don't think this was an extraordinarily huge harvest because I didn't can, freeze, dry or give away many more strawberries than usual.
What do I do with all my berries? We eat as many fresh as we can while they are in season. And I mean we eat them every day, sometimes more than one serving. No one has ever turned me down when I offered them a bowl of fresh picked strawberries, so we give quite a few away. We have sold some to a restaurant in town. I freeze the bulk of them to use in our kefir/yogurt smoothies during the year. I dehydrate a certain amount each year. And I make a lot of strawberry jam much of which gets gifted at Christmas time.
A few years ago I had some kind of mold in the strawberry patch. It wasn't a particularly wet year so I don't think I can attribute it to that. But it was indeed disheartening as I picked as many moldy berries as I did ones that were edible. After the season was over, I followed the same procedures I always do (I'll detail that further on down), crossed my fingers and was absolutely elated when the mold was gone the next year although, truth to tell, I remember that year's harvest as being a bit less than usual. The plants must have suffered some stress from the mold disease and needed time to bounce back to their usual vigor.
Other than the above described mold problem, I've never had any big problems with the strawberries. Some springs I've found a few plants that are deader-than-doornails which I suppose can be attributed to freezing or winter kill.
I plant my berries in double rows with three feet between each double row. The berries within the double rows are spaced one foot apart in all directions and staggered so they aren't directly across from each other. The double rows could be as long as wanted, obviously, but mine are about 16' long. (I have four double rows of plants.)
There are approximately 145 plants (give or take a few) in my strawberry patch right now. Two-thirds of them are five years old and about one-third of them will be three years old this year.
When I put in new plants I always pop off all blossoms the first year so all the strength can go to the new plant. It is the second year the plant is in the ground before I'll get any berries off of it.
Heavy mulching of strawberries during their growing season is essential for me. They are not happy if weeds are allowed to grow in or around them. My biggest weed problem is the dandelion. We grow mighty healthy dandelion plants up here and they have a penchant for growing right smack in the middle of individual plants! Also prevalent is quackgrass which will choke out any berry or vegetable if allowed to go unchecked.
With sawdust (strawberries like an acidic soil, somewhere in the range of 5.5 to 6.5) I mulch around and right up to each and every plant. If I have access to enough sawdust, I spread it to cover the three foot wide paths between each double row, too. If sawdust is not available, I use straw. Usually the sawdust right around the plants will hold up for the whole season, but I often have to do some hand weeding and reapply a new layer of mulch between the wide rows.
Although it takes a lot of time, I'm vigilant in keeping the weeds out of my strawberry patch and I do think that contributes to the good harvests I'm able to get.
I'll stop here (this is getting pretty long) as the first installment of how I handle my strawberries, and continue on next post.
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