Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Berry Patch: 'Thou shalts' and 'Thou shalt nots' of strawberry planting



Delivery box of strawberry plants
As my bundle of 25 Allstar strawberry plants sat in our refrigerator while I waited for our rare but frigid weather to warm to my liking, I studied up on strawberry planting. As I leafed through the Indiana Berry & Plant Co. “Planting Guide” and the company’s catalog I started jotting down a list of “Thou Shalts” and “Thou Shalt Nots” that I thought important. 

1.  Thou shalt open the box and follow directions.  That’s where I found the “Planting Guide.”

2.  Thou shalt not plant strawberries in a shady, wet bed.  “Strawberries can be grown in most soil types; however, a good, well-drained loam soil will consistently produce a better crop.  Select an area that will receive full sun most of the day.  Avoid shaded areas and any place where water will stand after a rain as standing water can greatly increase the chances for disease.  Also avoid areas prone to spring frosts.”

Bag of plants fresh out of the box
3.  Thou shalt keep the plants in a cool location if you’re not going to plant them immediately.  I planned to plant them in three or four days because our weather was unseasonably warm but frost was forecast.  I stored my bundle of Allstars in our refrigerator.

4.  Thou shalt not keep your plants in the freezer.  Strawberries survive winter weather once they’re planted in the garden bed, so what’s the problem?  The problem is that the plants in the bundle have bare roots and have been stored at 32°F at Indiana Berry.  The 0° temperature of your food freezer will damage the bare roots.  If you can’t plant immediately, relax, because the “plants will keep up to 4 weeks if kept at 35 degrees,” which is the approximate temperature of most refrigerators.

Bundle of 25 Allstar plants
5.  Thou shalt “plant when weather is cloudy and cool to prevent roots from drying out.”  I planted late in the day, during the last hour of sunlight, and the weather was cool.

6.  Thou shalt “use a trowel to make a hole by pressing it back and tipping to both sides.  Spread the roots carefully and firm soil around the roots, leaving no air pockets.”  I made a furrow with my Warren hoe and then spread the roots and firmed soil around them.  “If soil is dry, pour a pint of water around each plant.”  I sprinkled with a hose.

7.  Thou shalt “set the plants at the correct depth.  Do not trim roots and do bend roots to fit the hole.  The base of the crown should be at the level of the soil surface.  Plants too deep will smother, … and plants too high will dry out.”  The guide and the catalog both illustrate proper planting depth.

8.  Thou shalt not fertilize at planting time because the fertilizer can damage the few tender roots.

Two weeks after planting
9.  Thou shalt “see new green growth in 7 to 10 days.”

I planted the 25 Allstars on April 3 and watered them most mornings because we’re having an uncommonly dry spring.  Within a week, they started putting out new leaves, and at two weeks all plants had leaves.

Over the next few months the Allstars will be establishing themselves and I’ll be caring for them according to “the directions.”  When they start flowering and putting out runners, I’ll post again about what I’m doing—and why.

2 comments:

  1. FYI, we've been growing strawberries in our shady Prince George's Co. yard for several years, and they do very well. They get almost no direct sunlight. We don't get a huge crop, but we get a some tasty snacks!

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  2. Bob,

    My instructions from Nourse Farms read almost identical to yours. I'm getting some flower buds right now which my directions say to prune out so that the plant's strength goes into foilage and runner production.

    My plants look great although I lost one or two, but a 98 percent success ratio isn't bad.

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