The strawberry is the most popular and incredibly fussy berry. Like a spoiled child, it reacts painfully to any misstep in cultivation. However, if one observes the conditions required for strawberries, it is possible to harvest buckets of annual production on an area of 50-100 square feet.
“Fragaria × ananassa” (Called garden strawberry by some ancients) is a favorite of berry growers, and its yield and longevity depend on some characteristics of its cultivation. In this article, I will share the experience of a farmer who has growing strawberry plants for many years.
In my garden plot, I have been growing strawberries since 1987. In that time I have only changed where it is planted (i.e. transplanted) three times, although there is an opinion that it is more appropriate to transplant strawberries after 3-4 years, or even to grow them as a seed or rotational crop.
The main points when planting strawberries are variety, lighting, soil and irrigation.
The best strawberry varieties are the old and mature ones. For propagation, it is best to ask neighbors to share some bushes, tendrils, and berries from which you can grow your favorite varieties from seeds. I recommend buying strawberry plants only from absolutely reliable sellers or specialized companies. For a long time, various varieties were mixed and collected together, and they were fruitful until now.
LIGHTING AND SPACE FOR STRAWBERRIES
Strawberry worships the sun. She bears fruit even in the shade, but only if it is an appropriate variety that does not react to changes in photosynthetic conditions with a sharp decrease in palatability. Strawberries do not grow and fruit well if placed in lowlands where cold fog accumulates, and in high places where they can be burned by bright sunlight.
Strawberries have a shallow root system that reacts quickly to any change in weather conditions. Therefore, the plot should be flat, sunny, windless, and well-lit. In my country, I have allocated a flat area for strawberries with the most sunlight, away from garden plants, but close to an irrigation source (artesian well watering). The water for irrigation must be heated in the sun.
SOIL FOR STRAWBERRIES
Strawberry grows quickly and does not form large berries and big yields on though fertile soil, peat soil, light gray soil. The most suitable for it is fertile, airy, and permeable soil: black, maroon, dark gray soil. On my plots, the northern part is common, fertile enough, but heavy and dense for strawberries.
To meet the requirements of the capricious berry, I prepared plots with an area of 32×10 feet (10x3m) from the fall before planting seedlings, beards, and individual shrubs.
SOIL PREPARATION AND PLANTING OF STRAWBERRIES
Since the fall, I applied 1.5-2 buckets of organic matter mixture for each 11 square feet: humus, semi-decomposed manure, compost, and poultry manure. I rake it evenly over the entire plot and then re-till it. Weeds sprouted lushly.
I tilled with a hoe in 3-4inch (8-10 cm) and sowed rape (mustard or other crops) as green manure in the third decade of August. After about 30 days, I weeded, harvested, and added compost.
I trimmed the root residue of the green manure by deep loosening up to 3-4inch (8-10 cm) and watered with a working solution of a “certified organic microbial inoculant” soil conditioner. I use it to increase the number and activity of effective microorganisms in the soil.
In the fall and winter (I live in the south), the soil organisms (earthworms, other soil inhabitants) process most of the organic matter into a form that the plants can use. In addition, oilseed rape and mustard are great botanists, ridding the soil of fungal-bacterial infections and a host of pests.
Green manure improves soil structure and suppresses weed growth. It is a good ground cover for dacha planting (garden, berry, vegetable, flower crops).
The soil becomes more permeable after green manuring becomes looser and significantly reduces the adhesion of soil particles in heavy wet clods. In addition to rapeseed and white mustard, green manures such as oil radish, buckwheat, oats, and phacelia can be sown.
Each of these crops, in addition to improving soil structure and controlling weeds, adds nutrients to the topsoil. Legumes (vetch, lupine, peas) nitrogen, buckwheat, potassium, white mustard, phosphorus, oilseed rape, phosphorus and sulfur. Therefore, it is necessary to use glycosides before planting strawberries.
In the spring, before planting strawberries, I again loosened the soil with a small spade. At the same time, got rid of the top layer of weeds that germinated in the spring. Under the loosening, 50 grams of nitro phosphate was made on 11 square feet and agricultural vermiculite was added.
The natural soil structure amendment loosens the soil well and can accumulate water and nutrients and give them to the plants gradually when necessary. It does not have any negative effects on the soil or the plants.
The strawberry field is divided into narrow ridges and wide roads. The ridges are slightly raised to rake the soil away from the paths. Double rows are planted on the ridges. The distance between rows was 12inch (30 cm) and 8inch (20 cm) between rows of plants. The path between the ridge’s left width of 50inch (1 meter).
After planting the strawberries, I poured about 0.1-0.13 Gal (0.4-0.5 l) of rooting agent solution under each bush from a watering can without a nozzle. The soil was covered (sprinkled) with a mixture of humus with coarse sawdust and soil between the plants and between the lines.
After 2 weeks, I watered between the rows with a solution of poultry manure, using a dilution of 1 part manure to 10 parts water. A coarse mulch was laid on the roads. Watered the strawberries for the rest of the first growing season to moisten the soil under the mulch. Weeds were removed from the road and between plants on the ridge, and all beards were cut off. Cut weeds with a hoe through the mulch without harrowing the ground.
CARE OF STRAWBERRIES
In the following years, the soil under the strawberries was still kept moist, but without too much water. After each irrigation, I covered the open areas of the soil, including the paths, with mulch. During the growing season, I fertilized 2 times, the last time being the 3rd time before the plants retired.
My first fertilizer application was at the bud stage – the first flower – with an organic matter solution. I poured the nutrient solution exactly, through the wide channel under the plant roots, so that it would not get on the flowers, buds, and leaves. Consumption – one bucket of solution for 6-12 strawberry gardens.
Organic fertilizer (manure or poultry manure) is diluted at a ratio of 1:10 – 1:12. Sometimes at the first feeding do 40-50 grams of nitro amino phos per 11 square feet. After feeding, I necessarily water.
Mulch in some shallow layer of mulch 0.8-1.2inch (2-3 cm) to raise the leaves. A wide path was covered with chopped straw, green stems of annual weeds, and a cobweb of mowed bundles of green blocks.
The soil was covered with a layer up to 2inch (5cm) high. Covering the bushes should be obligatory when the strawberries are blooming in large numbers: on the ridges and on the sides the berries will lie on a clean ground cover.
After the first berry collection, the strawberries were fertilized for the second time. For every 11 square feet of irrigated area, 1.5-2 cups of ash were sprinkled under the bushes from a wide path, or an infusion of ash was poured (200 g/2.5 Gal of water). In other years I apply Kemira or a mixture of trace elements.
In the first two years, ripped out all the beards, allowing the strawberry bushes to root well and form healthy plants. From the third year on, I cut off the beards on the side of the wide path. From the bush, 2-3 strong beards were pulled out pointing to the middle of the row. When the rows of strawberries close and become dense, thinning is done in the spring or after the fall harvest.
I dig out early strawberry bushes with low yield, ugly appearance, and formation of small berries. On a meter, I leave 3-4 bushes. Such thinning is carried out every 4 years. Sometimes, after disinfection with 1% manganese, I planted (guided) a healthy developed beard in a free place.
The fertilized area of the remaining bushes was increased. Larger berries formed on the strawberry bushes and the ground was lush.
The third fertilization of the strawberries was done in late September. I brought in a phosphorus and potassium fertilizer (no more than 60-70 grams per 11 square feet) with the last watering. At the same time, I tried to cut off the old, dead, diseased, and stalky leaves from the ground. If there is no time for this procedure, I try to cover them with mulch, where they will rot until spring.
During the growing season, the main thing for adult strawberries is adequate watering, but not excessive. Otherwise, the roots will become rotten and the bushes will die and infect the bushes growing nearby. And the second condition is sparse planting. It is necessary to thin out unnecessary shrubs, especially if the initially planted shrubs are thickened – more than 4inch (10 cm).
Around the 4th-5th year, I left the most developed strawberry beards with normal internodes, not elongated, and led them to a wide path. 1-2 years later, a row of young strawberry bushes grew on the edge of the wide path, and I cut them off from the old row in autumn. The old 2 rows were overtopped. Did a full mineral fertilizer under the digging.
Needed to quickly decompose the remains of the mulch, which is applied every year under the strawberries on the ridge. The arrangement scheme of strawberries was changed from two rows to one. The distance between rows was about 20inch (50 cm) and 15-20inch (40-50 cm).
The whiskers are also torn off in this period, leaving 1-2 of the most developed ones, guided along the rows. Strawberries bear fruit for another 4-5-6 years, forming a high yield of large, healthy fruit.
METHOD OF REPLANTING STRAWBERRIES
If you need to replace a strawberry plot with a new plantation, you can do it in the following ways.
- Occupying a new plot.
- Planting a new plot, improving the old one, and planting young strawberries in the same plot.
This plot can be replaced by another one, carrying out all the preparations and planting the same or other varieties of strawberry material.
It is possible to restore it and plant new planting material in the same plot, without changing it in a year or two.
It is possible to leave 1/3-1/4 of the plot for harvesting. The rest of the area is excavated in the fall and prepared for planting young vegetation in one to two years. Some of the plots under the strawberries are prepared for winter as usual. On the remaining plots after the last harvest, the strawberry bushes are pruned at the level of the root neck.
When the bush dries out, it is necessary to introduce the organic matter, to re-till it, and sow green manure. You can leave it unpruned and leave it until spring, or prune it but leave the furrows in place.
In spring, put the sardines in the soil and in the warm season, until autumn, sow 2-3 more times with different sardines, when they reach a height of 3-4inch (8-10 cm) (before germination), embedding them in the soil.
They will improve the structure, reduce or eliminate weeds from the plot and replenish the supply of nutrients. In the second autumn, carry out the whole cycle of work to prepare the soil for planting strawberries. At the end of August in autumn, you can plant a new strawberry garden, or leave the planting until spring. Planting materials should be prepared for planting.
I sowed winter garlic in wide row spacing in order to keep strawberries from burning and getting sick in the hot time, and sometimes I didn’t remove it for 2 years. Strawberries did not get sick at all. After treating the ground cover with grass ash, it got rid of slugs. May beetle larvae have not appeared on the plot for many years.
It is possible that a layer of mulch prevented the eggs from being deposited. I shaded the strawberry bushes from the summer sun by sowing bromeliads on the wide path between the strawberries and garlic. You can use (as gardeners suggest) tall bougainvillea, marigolds, cosmos, or plant a row of corn and garlic together.
In winter, don’t cover your strawberries with anything. In colder areas, you can use spunbond or other materials for mulching during the frosty days in May and early June. In the morning, they should be removed. Otherwise, the ovaries and flowers may die due to overheating under the cover.
Therefore, following basic agronomic techniques, you can grow large and healthy strawberries without the need for frequent replanting. The main thing is to choose zoned varieties of healthy planting material. Prepare the soil carefully. Using timely irrigation, fertilization, and thinning, you can grow strawberries in one place, not for 2-3 years, but up to 7-8 years, or even 10 years.
Please share with us your experience in growing high yield, methods of preparing soil and caring for the strawberry garden, and conditions for replanting.
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