I love strawberries! When we lived in MN, we had the most amazing strawberry patch ever. On our farm here in SD I tried to duplicate it, but I lost the battle to the prairie sod. Have you ever seen prairie sod? It’s no wonder they made houses of it in the old days.
So last year I used the prime real estate of one of our garden beds and promised my husband this really was a good idea. This bed had been amended and tilled for years. I planted Ogalla Strawberries. We got a few little berries during our short growing season and then I covered them with a good 4 inches of straw to protect them from the winter, because I figured they don’t call them “straw” berries for nothing.
Here are the strawberries just waking up this spring.
I could have waited for these strawberries to branch out and fill the bed, but I found a good deal on Winona Giant Strawberries and I LOVE them. So I planted the Winona’s in areas where the Ogallalas didn’t come back as well. The Winonas came “bare root” from Gurneys. As per Gurney’s instructions, we soaked the roots for 30 min (actually a little longer) before we planted them. When you plant strawberries you want to keep the “crown” right about dirt level and spread the roots out wide, not straight down. Strawberry roots are kinda weird because they swoop to one side, but just spread them out a little. The perspective of the picture makes it look like the hole is a little shallower, so make each hole about 4-5 inches deep.
Into the hole I sprinkled about a tablespoon of strawberry food from Gurney’s. The ground was really moist when I was planting and I was racing to get them in before a rainstorm came, but normally I would have poured a cup or so of water in the hole at this point.
The next step was to carefully cover the roots with dirt, firmly pat the dirt around the plant, and mulch. Mulch is awesome. It keeps the soil moist between watering/rain, slows weed growth, lets you work in your garden without your shoes getting muddy, keeps soil borne diseases from splashing up onto your plants, keeps cats from digging in your garden beds, and protects tender young plants from harsh winds. If the mulch is organic, it also amends the soil as it decomposes. Mulch is definitely your friend. I used grass clippings because they are not as course as the straw and so it was easier to shape them around the baby strawberries.
Kids love planting things and, fortunately, strawberry roots are pretty tough. 🙂
Sometimes it is easier to do it yourself. But if you let your kids help, you just might instill in them a love of gardening and nature and eating veggies and fruits. What a wonderful thing that would be.
Lastly, I pulled the straw away from last years berries, gave them a sprinkle of strawberry food and replaced the straw.
So this is what our strawberry bed looks like now, in early May.
It doesn’t look very impressive, but growing things is all about having hope in the future. As the berries grow, I’ll update this post!
About one week later…
…my friend, JoAnn, gave me a truck full of composted manure! As mentioned in the broccoli post, it is important that the manure is “composted” (old, decomposed, mixed with dirt and straw) and not “fresh”. Fresh manure can burn your plants.
I gave the strawberry patch a good weeding, pulled back the straw/grass clippings, and “side dressed” the strawberries by putting a couple scoops of manure compost around the base of each plant. This picture shows last year’s Ogallalas on the left and this year’s baby Winona plant on the right.
The compost looked so pretty around the plants I didn’t want to cover it, but I did because the sun can bleach out some of the nutrients if it is left uncovered. My daughter was mowing, so I used some grass clippings. Your plants can also get a nitrogen burn from the grass clippings if they are too damp/thick/hot, so be careful.
By this point, I had put quite a few hours of work into this little strawberry patch and I didn’t want all the deer and rabbits to come eat it. That is what they do. They have at least 10 acres of untouched habitat down the hill but they want to eat our gardens. Once we counted 80… not even kidding… deer cross the back of our farm. So far, our best defense has been Stinky Spray, officially known as Liquid Fence.
This stuff smells naaaasty. It is totally organic and doesn’t harm anyone, but… trust me… you don’t want to spill this stuff in the house. Nor do you want your husband to run out to the garden to apply one last dose on a windy day before you all pile in the car for a 9 hour road trip. We put it in this container because we didn’t like the spray bottle it came in, I’m always on the look out for new ways to keep the deer and rabbits away, so if you have any suggestions I would welcome them!
To Be Continued in June!