Sunday, March 20, 2011

Life Is Just a Bowl of Berries

Okay, let's finish up this lollygagging in the strawberry patch.

Something that enables me to keep my strawberry plants bearing well over many years is that I never let any runners grow from the mother plant. This allows all the energy to stay in the original plant. As I'm picking berries, it's easy to snap off one to two inch runners as they start to grow. Every now and then though the runners can get a head start on me and I go out to the patch with my pruners and spend an hour or so cutting off any and all runners.

I don't replace plants until the first season that I notice a marked reduction in the size of the berries. That signals me that the plants are getting tired and it's time for some new blood. By not replacing all the plants in the patch at once, I've always got a certain amount bearing.

Each summer, after I've stopped picking strawberries, we mow down the whole patch. Mow as in run the lawn mower over the plants. We do this with the blades set high enough as to not damage the crown of the plant. After giving the plants this buzz cut, it's amazing how fast they put out new growth. I like to think they go into winter stronger this way with new , strong growth. By the time we cover them for the winter, they are lush, bushy, green plants.

Now to mulching the plants for winter. I did a post last November ( which details my method for doing this.

In the spring, the mulch doesn't come off the strawberry patch until we're no longer having freezing temps at night. Again, I don't want the plants to have to experience the repeated thawing during the daytime and then freezing at night.

Once uncovered, I go through the whole patch trimming off all the dead stems and leaves of each plant left from last year, pulling out any newly sprouted weeds and generally giving the whole area a good cleaning. Then I let the patch soak up sunshine for several days. The plants will start to send out small, new green leaves almost immediately. I wait until I see this new growth and then apply the sawdust mulch around the plants and heavy mulch between the double rows.

Once the patch is prepared for the growing season, all I have to do is keep the weeds under control until harvest starts. Here in our location, we typically get the first ripe berries right around the Fourth of July.

GOL-ly, I didn't expect this explanation of how I grow strawberries to be so long. But cultivating strawberries is intensive requiring a lot of time and attention if you expect to get good harvests. They grow low to the ground so most work you do with them is done in a bent over or on-all-fours position. But the taste and nutritional value of home grown strawberries is hard to beat and, I think, worth the effort.


Ruth @ Hope, Joy and Faith Farm said...

Boy, your timing is perfect. I just put in some new plants, as I pulled all mine last year because they had pretty much stopped producing. After reading your post, I realize it's because of all the runners I just let grow. I will make sure this year to not let that happen. Thanks!

Patty said...

Thank you SO MUCH, Mama Pea!! You are an amazing wealth of knowledge!

Mama Pea said...

Ruth - I really do think it makes a HUGE difference to keep all of the runners snipped off. I'm guessing the plants you were given might have been been from runners that the gal took out of her strawberry patch? I don't know if they will act the same as mother plants or not but keeping the runners from zapping the strength of your plants sure won't hurt!

Patty - I sure don't feel like I know that much. I just do what works for me after years and years gardening.

Erin said...

You are really on top of things! Getting all those runners isn't easy, they must keep you very busy, but it's obviously worth it!

Mama Pea said...

Erin - Some years the runners are worse than others! Last year they weren't too bad. (Did I just jinx myself for this year?)

Kelly said...

Ooh, great post. I moved many of berries into the garden last Fall, hoping with bird netting I may actually get to eat some this year! (Normally it is me against the birds, bugs, slugs, dogs, and rodents.)

Melissa said...

Great info Mama Pea! We planted a bunch of strawberries last year, but we let them runner to fill up gaps. Hopefully they will be ok this year. So are you using soft wood sawdust? Thanks for all your great tips:)

Mama Pea said...

Kelly - Surprisingly, the birds don't seem to bother the strawberries too much here. In the past we've had trouble with chipmunks running off with a huge berry in their mouths but I think the dog has sufficiently scared the bejeezus out of the little chippers now.

Melissa - Our sawdust is usually a mish-mosh of different woods. Sending you good luck for a great harvest from your berries this year!

Susan said...

I have to move my strawberries this spring and add new. I am going to bookmark your how-tos and hope to have one iota of the crop you do! Thank you for sharing a tiny portion of your knowledge.

Mama Pea said...

Susan - That tiny portion I shared? That's all I know! A tiny portion. Hee-hee!