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 (http://www.ahomegrownjournal.blogspot.com/2010/11/okay-it-can-snow-now-.html) 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.
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