|Out-of-bounds strawberry plants|
I hated to do it, but I’ve just uprooted and thrown away a barrelful of beautiful young strawberry plants. Was I mad? Delusional? No, I was “following directions”—directions of strawberry experts.
I used to be a strawberry expert too. My theory was to let them grow “naturally”—wherever they wanted—and pick berries every spring. Usually I ended up with a large, square Berry Patch about 12-feet square, jammed with plants. I picked quarts of beautiful strawberries, but I often wondered why the biggest and best-looking plants grew around the edges, where I also picked the most and largest berries, and why I found the fewest and smallest berries in the middle of the large patch.
|Meanwhile, back at the boundary markers …|
Two years ago, after my last Berry Patch petered out after six years or so, I tore it out and ordered a new bundle (25) of ‘Allstar’ plants from Indiana Berry & Plant Co. and—get this—read the directions that came with the shipment. Duh … doesn’t everyone do that—read the directions?
What I learned is that for the best production of berries I should limit the width of the beds to from 12 to 24 inches and let the individual plants grow no closer than six inches to each other. What? No huge square jammed full of plants? No, keeping the bed narrow AND keeping the plants spaced six inches apart maximizes berry production and size. As the directions state in bright red: “DO NOT ALLOW YOUR BED TO OVER POPULATE.”
As the new plants established themselves over spring and summer and put out runners to establish “daughter” plants, I rerouted runners and sometimes used my pruners in an attempt to keep the plants at least 6 inches apart. Last week I tore out the many escapees that had put down roots outside their narrow beds under the protection of summertime squash leaves. I just hated to uproot those beautiful young plants, but, hey, directions are directions, and I want to have a great strawberry crop next year.
|Fine collection of strawberry “weeds”|
Fall definitely has arrived. Forecasts call for temperatures this week to be 25 to 30 degrees cooler here in central Maryland than last week, so I’ll have to keep the Berry Patch in mind as “real” fall arrives. The directions tell me what to do next: “After 3 hard frosts or a hard freeze, you should cover your plants with straw…. This protects the plants from extreme winter cold as well as moderating the temperature to stabilize the plants environment.”
I’m half way from starting the new Berry Patch in 2012 to picking the first bright-red fruits in spring 2013. I can hardly wait.
To read my two earlier postings about my new Berry Patch, link to them here: CLICK HERE for “Grow strawberries again?” (April 16). CLICK HERE for “’Thou shalts’ and ‘Thou shalt nots’ of strawberry planting” (April 18).