No, don’t go plant your fall crops now; we planted ours a couple of months ago, but I’m just now getting this post put together. When we got our gardens ready for the fall crops several weeks ago I posted about it here. Benjamin Horevay helped us actually plant the crops. My mom started a few things from seed; kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower to name a few. We planted what starts came up and were ready, then we direct seeded to fill in where the starts weren’t enough volume for our needs. There’s not a lot very particular about the planting instructions for most of these crops. Kale and spinach can be planted much closer than cabbage or broccoli of course, but strawberries take a little more care.
Here’s our garden (in our front yard!). Benjamin and I are laying out the rows with stakes, string, a hoe and a rake. In this picture, we’ve already planted the winter crops and we’re laying out the strawberry rows. In the past we’ve planted triple rows: 3 rows 12″ apart, and the plants 12″ apart down the rows. This year we’re expanding the spacing to see if we can make more berries per plant by giving each plant more room to grow; we’re planting double rows 18″ apart with the plants 18″ apart in the rows.
We order strawberry starts each year. It’s difficult, if not impossible here in Bermudagrass heaven, to keep a patch of strawberries from year to year. We’ve opted to pay a relatively small fee for fresh new plants each year rather than fight Bermudagrass. It breaks into pieces when you weed it, and any shred of root comes back with little help, so we let the Bermuda win the battle each year, but we win the war when we apply our Kubota tractor and a tiller attachment to start fresh each fall!
Strawberries need a bit of care when you plant them. The crown must be right at the level of the dirt; not too deep, not too shallow. Too deep and the crown smothers and can kill the plant or retard it’s growth so you won’t get any berries, too shallow and the tender roots will struggle with drying out on the surface of the ground.
Everybody was busy planting while Ellie watched over the plants.
Herrick Kimball has written quite a bit about a man named E.P. Roe. In Herrick’s gardening book, he quotes E. P. Roe talking about strawberries, saying: ‘Strawberries have three needs. The first is water. The second is more water still. And the third is yet more water!’ Technically speaking, the strawberry is like a sub-aquatic plant; so if you love fistfuls of ripe, red berries come April, keep the water flowing to your strawberry plants.
Strawberries also like a nice mulch. Pine straw is free for the raking around our neighborhood, so we’ve opted for this free mulch and it has worked very well. We tried wood shavings one year, and they functioned alright as mulch. But the wind blew the fine wood shavings up over the crowns of the plants and smothered many of them, so that was a flop. I would imagine oat or wheat straw would work as well as pine straw if you don’t have pine straw to rake anywhere.
Another idea we tried several years ago that worked well has been planting crimson clover between the rows of strawberries or any of the winter crops. This holds the soil in the winter rains, fixes nitrogen from the air into the soil, and keeps the mud off our boots come springtime for berry picking! This year, the clover germinated quickly and grew so fast it needed trimming. So, shooting for two birds with one stone, we’re cutting the clover by hand and using it around the strawberry plants as mulch. So far so good; we’ll see how well this experiment works come April.
These are the strawberry plants just a week ago; this is before we’ve cut the clover and used it as mulch.
And here’s two shots of us cutting the clover and laying it down as mulch.
Do you have any strawberry plants in the ground? Nothing beats frozen strawberry smoothies in the summer heat or a cold bowl of strawberries, cream, and honey…