Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tips for growing strawberries

Our current EarthBox strawberries - six plants

Strawberries are one of the most complimented plants in our garden, and when you try to reduce extra sugar in your diet as much as I do, they become your homegrown candy supply. I just love being able to give them to little kids any time they pass by the garden so I want to grow a lot of them.

If you love strawberries too then they may be a great start for your own edible garden. Conventionally grown ones tend to be heavily sprayed with unhealthy pesticides, and home grown ones taste remarkably better. Strawberries multiply on their own so if you're lucky enough, you'll have new plants on an annual basis. We grow the popular Sequoia variety.

According to Tanya L.K. Denckla's book; The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food, you should, "Plan about twenty-four plants to feed a family of four strawberry lovers." We are a family of two and have nine mature plants. We are struggling to establish ten more. Last year we started with six plants and we successfully started three more off of those in the fall.

Strawberries picked last Thursday, we are getting about this many, two times per week from our nine established plants.

Fellow area gardeners seem to complain about strawberries often, and I am not complaint free about them either, but we are having some success. Some of the things I have learned are:
  • Strawberries will do best with a minimum of 8 hours of sun, the more the better.
  • They need a lot of water, especially to get established.
  • They like food for acid loving plants, such as FoxFarm's, Peace of Mind, 6-4-4 - but not too much.
  • Slugs and snails seem to be the most prevalent pests that I see messing with our strawberries. I control them by hand picking and Sluggo when the problem is really bad.
  • Earwigs can also be a problem. I set out shallow dishes with cheap vegetable oil, (because I certainly wouldn't want to eat it or cook with it). The nasty critters crawl into the nasty oil, drown, and are there in the morning for easy disposal. I tried many techniques last year for controlling earwigs and the dish of oil was the most effective. So far we haven't seen many earwigs this year, which I'm thankful for.

An earwig in one of last year's strawberries.
We are growing strawberries in several ways.

Hanging basket with coconut lining.

We have two hanging baskets with strawberries that produce good fruit. The baskets do require more water than average but they are pretty and slightly less susceptible to being bitten by bugs than the ones on the ground.

A current photo of the one strawberry we just planted straight into the ground
I rest the fruit on top of a leaf as it ripens whenever possible, this seems to help the fruit get less bug bites than if it were directly on the rocks.

Same strawberry as above from a year ago

The strawberry we put in the ground is our best preforming one. It even requires the least amount of water and fertilizer so that's an extra bonus. The area it is in, is full sun during the spring and summer, but loses much of that sun during the fall and winter, the strawberry seems fine with that. During the off season, this plant put off more shoots with new plants than any of the others combined. I was able to propagate 3 plants from those shoots by placing a shallow pot with good soil under the shoot and using a landscape clip to secure the new plant on the soil until it rooted.

Our newest strawberry area - a 2x3 foot bed made of 2x8 untreated lumber

We had some topsoil and lumber left over from our recent garden projects so we decided to put it to use with a small bed for strawberries. Our other raised beds are 12 inches tall where this one is only 8 inches. That is enough depth for the strawberries themselves but I am finding that this bed is not retaining water as well as the others. We have lost several of these plants several times because I was not watering thoroughly enough to get the babies established. We hope these plants will make it now that we are watering them enough. One of the best ways to help retain moisture in a situation like this is by adding mulch. I plan to do that this week. Any material used to cover the soil is considered mulch, I will be using compost as mulch here.

Gidget is going to hide out and wait for the compost as it's one of her favorite smelling things.

We may have to cover the bed with bird netting for awhile after adding the compost because it is a cat attractant and we don't want to make her think we are creating an outdoor litter box for her. Bird netting seems to be one of the best methods for keeping the cats out of our beds.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful strawberries! But those earwigs...ugh! They're such nasty creatures! Thankfully, I don't have an earwig problem in the garden, though I do find them on my daylilies now and then. The worst problem with our strawberries was catbirds, who would fly right in and snatch them while I was standing there! Bird netting kept them out, and now that the plants are much bigger (two years later), the berries are well-hidden under the leaves, and the catbirds are no longer munching my strawberries!

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