Tuesday, July 19

Can you ever have too many strawberries?

As regular readers may remember, this year we created a new strawberry bed.

We previously had three small beds of strawberry plants but these had really come to the end of their productive life and the beds had become impossible to keep weed free.

The old beds had been left in place just in case we could eke another year of berries from them but they have only managed to produce a few very small fruits which haven’t even been worth netting to protect from birds. They have welcomed being allowed to forage amongst the weeds. 

The old beds are very overgrown - one problem was trying to keep weeds - especially couch grass - from strangling the plants and taking over. It’s now difficult to find any plants amongst the thick weed growth and the beds will soon be cleared. We could just do with a bit of help from some decent rain to soften the hard clay baked soil.
We were determined to try and avoid letting our new strawberry bed suffer the same fate. The new bed is divided into quarter sections with a different variety of strawberry planted in each section. Each plant has been allowed more personal space to ease weeding in between plants. I should be able to hoe without causing damage.

As mentioned in an earlier post we have used a biodegradable mulching fabric around the plants to try and prevent weed seedlings germinating both from under the black mulch and from the seeds deposited by the layer of straw. Ideally I would have liked to avoid using straw altogether but the mulch is too light to stay in place without some sort of cover. I didn’t want to use a permanent weed suppressing fabric as I want to be able to get to the soil during the non-fruiting part of the year. More about that here.
The mulch is working very well although weeds still find their way through the gaps alongside the strawberry plants. I’m trying to keep these in check by pulling them out before they become established and hopefully we will be able to remove the straw before the mulch fabric disintegrates to avoid spreading too many new weed seeds in amongst the plants.

Another problem in our old strawberry beds was that the different varieties of strawberries became mixed up meaning that it was impossible to propagate new plants with any certainty about the variety. The idea of keeping each of the four new varieties in a separate section means that shouldn’t be a problem in the future.

This year my intention was to cut off all the runners sent out from the plants before any plantlets formed. In this way I’d hoped that all the vigour would go into building up the plants strength so that next year we could look forward to a bumper crop. That was my plan but the plants had other ideas and have been so desperate to reproduce that I just haven’t been able to cut the runners off fast enough and some of the runners had managed to produce babies in spite of my efforts to stop them.
As plantlets had managed to sneakily develop it seemed silly not to make use of them, so when I last went around the bed removing runners I collected the ones that sported plants that looked as though they really wanted to grow. I worked on each of the four strawberry varieties separately and tied each batch of runners into a bundle, each named with a plant tag.

These were popped into a bucket of water to bring home to plant. Getting them home should have been the easy part but we left the bucket outside the shed and had to go back for it. 

Once home each batch of plantlets was set into a module tray cell, watered and left on the greenhouse floor.
The plants already had embryonic roots and so with any luck should soon start to grow.

I’ve never followed what is supposed to be the correct way to root plantlets which is to peg them down into a pot or into the ground and allow them to root before removing them from the parent plant. It’s always worked my way. I figure my way takes less energy from the parent plant and I can’t really see how the young plant can get much benefit from being attached to a parent that is sending our runners like there is no tomorrow. 

If they grow the young plants will provide a back up to fill any gaps in the bed that may be created should a plant not survive winter. If they are not needed for this then we will pop them in tubs and keep them in the garden alongside the two tubs, of a fifth variety, that are  already there. More strawberries can’t ever be a bad thing can it?
We didn’t expect lots of fruit from our new strawberry patch this year. There seems plenty of unripe fruit on the plants but each variety has already produced enough for us to know that all five varieties produce delicious good sized fruit.

We carried out a taste test to try to decide which variety has the best flavour but it’s almost impossible to split them. They’re all absolutely delicious!
If you are interested there’s lots more about how we grow our strawberries here.

16 comments:

  1. More strawberries are always welCome here. Its always good to have back up. I always forgot to cut the runners as well. Yum juicy strawberries!

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  2. That's a lot of strawberry seedlings!
    I use to mulch to avoid grass too!

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  3. yes Iv'e potted up a few runners with the bent over wire method a bit tricky when there crammed together in an old bath. Might give your method a shot seems much more practical

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  4. Lovley post. I passed this year's runners to the man next door. He lives next door AND has the next plot to me at the allotments.

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  5. It's more a case of being quick enough to snip off the runners rather than forgetting Diana. I cut them all off and the next a lot more have shot out.

    Just hope this biodegradable mulch works Malar

    Hope it works for you too Captain

    It cuts down on the number of people that you can give courgettes to though doesn't it VH

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  6. You can never have too many strawberries in my opinion, the more the better. I never got my new strawberry bed set up this year, the new plants are still in pots in the garden, but they've still produced well this year. They'll be planted out ready for next year. I'm just about to start digging my old bed up. The plants have done ok this year, though the fruit has been smaller than in previous years.

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  7. Looks really good Sue, excellent idea to split the bed in to sections one per each different type, will have to remember that. Will be interested to see how the mulch + straw approach works for you, I'm personally tempted to use thick permanent membrane for as and when we have a proper strawberry patch, even though it cuts down the options for feeding the plants via mulching rather than a liquid feed. as for the idea that one can have too many strawberries - ridiculous!!

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  8. Our old patch was just totally past it really Jo

    We thought about a permanent mulching fabric Janet but I worried that the soil underneath would become stale, it would harbour slugs in winter and also that from what we have down around our fruit trees weeds do root through it from the top.

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  9. lols - lots of lovely strawberries! I've only gone and ordered some Marshmello seedlings when I haven't even had the courage to uproot my old patch! We've had rain - so much so that the slugs ghave moved in and polished off the strawbs. All the same, next year will be strawberry central!!!

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  10. In answer to your question - if anyone can, YOU can! You have enough to run your own commercial nursery.
    I might have a go at Strawberries next year, because you have inspired me. I did try a few years ago, but the yield I got was not great, and I lost many of the fruits to birds and squirrels. It was also at a time when there were a couple of Pick Your Own farms near us, so it was easy to get them, but the farms have closed now, so we have to buy strawberries from the supermarket, and these are seldom nice.

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  11. No such thing as too many strawbs, ours are finished now and I already miss them.

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  12. Marshmello is a great choice Mal. Marshmarvel is also by Marshalls and is really good. They are supposed to be an earlier fruiter but this year being new the plants haven't got into the swing of timing correctly.

    Not exactly Mark - we just love fruit and we do freeze a sort of strawberry compote to use over winter.

    The varieties also all fruit at different times BW so the idea is for strawberries for a longer season!

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  13. After fruiting each year, I take off every little bit of foliage down to the ground. A new set of leaves quickly develop which feed the crown for next year. It is now, after the haircut that I let the runners grow.

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  14. So do you just shear yours down Matron? I just leave the new young shoots growing in the centre.

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  15. Definitely no such thing as too many strawberries. I've begun rooting a few runners from mine and will repeat again next year - hopefully I should have enough new plants to totally renew the strawberry patch for the following summer.

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  16. In future this is how I will replace my strawberries SVG. I didn't this year as I couldn't be sure which variety was which!

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