Tuesday, April 21

Strawberry beds are not forever.

Some of you rightly guessed that the fruit to which I was going to devote its own post was the strawberry. 

Our existing strawberry bed was planted up in 2011 and has served us well but all good things come to an end and the expected lifespan of a strawberry plant is about three years. Last year productivity was down and some plants were rather weak looking.
As you can see above - photo taken last June - growth was variable. The plants on the left made reasonable growth but then again they haven't been a particularly heavy cropper. 

In October last year the bed looked like this:
This year the bed looks as bad, distinctly miserable, confirming our decision to start a new bed.
A suitable bed was chosen - its one that we know is affected with brassica club root which shouldn't affect the strawberries. The next step was to select and order some strawberry plants. After much deliberation we ordered ten plants of each of the following varieties: Cambridge Favourite, Cupid, Elsantad, Fenella, Royal Sovereign, Malwina, Marshmello and Vibrant. At the time I queried whether  the bed would hold eighty plants and Martyn said of course it would. I deferred to his better judgement as after all he is an engineer and they know about calculating quantities.

The plants arrived in February:
When new strawberry plants arrive they don't look very promising - in fact a friend who we ordered plants for along with ours thought that his were dead. From experience we were sure that the plants would pick up and planted them in pots to grow on. Interestingly the variety that fared the worst was Elsanta - the one favoured by commercial growers. A couple of the plants died and some others haven't yet put on much growth as shown by the plants on the far right.
The bed on the plot was prepared, the soil tilled, fertiliser applied and then - of course - covered with weed control fabric. The fabric was mulched with wood chippings and was ready for planting up.
The plants were spaced at about 48cm (about 18") giving plenty of space for air to circulate. This was the same distance as we used in our old bed and seemed about right. A cross was cut in the fabric through which to plant.
So far the first bed has been planted up. Did you notice the word first? As it happened calculating the number of strawberry plants that will fit into a given area isn't quite the same as calculating how much building material is required to construct a bridge.
The new plants already have some flowers so maybe if we don't have any frosty weather we will have some early strawberries.
A second area now needs to be prepared in which to plant the rest of the plants.

You can't have too many strawberries can you?


28 comments:

  1. There's no such thing as too many strawberries. I want to start a new strawberry bed next year, it was such a pain last year trying to get netting over the plants to cover them, and then taking it off again each time we wanted to pick any fruit, they're in such an inconvenient place. You should have a great harvest with eighty plants at full production.

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    1. Martyn is hoping to make some moveable cages that will just lift off a section at a time. Jo

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  2. We have been redoing the strawberry bed this last Sunday. I poured on Monday which should give them a head start. I am afraid they are not lovingly planted like yours and they have not been mulched yet.

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    1. Ours were mulched before planting to hold the fabric down Alain. We gave wood chippings delivered free which is why we use them

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  3. No, you can't have too many strawberries.
    But who has decided on the number of courgette plants?

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    1. No decision has been made with regards to courgettes, Jessica

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    2. One good strong plant, combined with good growing conditions, is enough for anyone. Two plants are enough to supply the whole community!

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    3. Oh dear in that case we usually grow enough to supply a small city. :)

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  4. Nope, no such thing as too many strawberries. I'll look forward to seeing how all of the different varieties do, and what you think of the flavour. I've planted a new strawberry bed through weed control fabric at the allotment, but the plants seem to be struggling to find their way through the holes. And my new strawberry bed at home isn't looking too good either, I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Gardening is a long learning curve isn't it. I'm laughing about Martyn's engineering calculations. Good job you've got lots of space...

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    1. We grew the plants on in pots first CJ and that does help. Martyn was sucked in by tempting collection offers

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  5. I wondered if last year was a good year for diseases affecting strawberries, because after a successful summer, I suddenly lost a whole patch of one variety and my other mixed varieties just about survived - they looked just like the ones in your autumn picture. I've nursed the survivors through the winter, but I think it will be a good idea to replace the lot in a new bed next season.

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    1. I think ours had just worn themselves out Sand D

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  6. No you can never have too many strawberries. Well maybe if you plant so many you don't have time to pick them.

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    1. We'll definitely find time to pick them, Daphne,

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  7. Wow, 80 plants, that'll be a lot of strawberry compote! Yummy. I made two new strawberry beds last year (spare plants from an allotment neighbour who has amazing strawbs) and got rid of my old one this winter. I've also planted some runners from the old strawberries under my plum tree and have some under two of my dwarf apple trees to make the most of the space. Hmm I wonder how many I have actually, quite a lot too!

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    1. I wonder how many you have, Lou? - Sounds as many as us.

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  8. Just love the Lennonesque title. I'm mean with strawberries and grew ours from runners. The Marshmello I did buy in - and they have not impressed after two years bedding in. This year is their last chance.

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    1. That's strange, mal as Marshmello has been a good variety for us which is why we are planting it again

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  9. I only grow a variety that adabtable to our warm climate. I grow it on the planter box, and have never thought to grow it on a bed. I think it's to much risk. As I see their growth are not so optimal

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    1. Many people in the UK grow them in planters too Endah

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  10. That's a fine looking strawberry bed...I think I might put weed membrane down when I have to re-plant my strawberry bed although thankfully I still have a couple of years yet.

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    1. We are addicted to weed control now, Tanya as it has saved us so much work,

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  11. Now those do look like healthy plants....and not long to wait for strawberries either! Most of my strawberries died this year too, the only survivors are in the greenhouse, I'm still hoping for some fruit.xxx

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    1. We may have early fruit, Dina as long as the frosts don't damage the flowers. Fingers crossed for your plants.

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  12. do you find the mulch keeps the slugs off the strawberrys ?

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    1. I'm not sure blancmaison but ine tip is that if a siug has nibbleb a strawberry, leave it in the plant as the slug will return to a fruit already started, If you remove it, it will move on to another berry

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  13. The old chap on the neighbouring allotment pots up the runners every 2/3 years then detaches them from the mother plant once they have rooted. I had a go with a few and produced healthy new plants.

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    1. I've often taken runners to create new plants, L This time we wanted a fresh start with some new varieties. I must restrain myself from doing this with the new plants or we will need a field.

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