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All About Strawberries

Fri, May 18th, 2001
Posted in

Virginia CooperMonday, May 21, 2001

Even if you have a small garden you can still have a few strawberry plants. There is nothing like eating ripe, fresh berries right out of the garden. It will make you think twice about eating store bought berries, picked green and ripened in a box, thousands of miles away.

Strawberries need 10 or more hours of sunlight per day. If your garden receives less, you will have less berries. Plant your berry patch away from any overhanging trees as the roots will compete for moisture and nutrients.

Soil should be well drained and have good water retention. This means not clay and not sand! Peat moss is a great addition to our slightly clay soil, it will also create the slightly acid condition that strawberries require (pH 5.3 - 6.5). You can have a soil test done at the Extension office to determine your pH.

If you are making a new strawberry bed try to choose an area that has been cultivated for a few years. This way you will have fewer problems with weed seeds and grubs. If possible avoid a site that was recently planted with solanaceous plants (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants or potatoes). They can carry a soil borne fungal disease called Verticillium Wilt. Strawberries are very susceptible and treatment for fungal diseases is tricky. Symptoms will appear in the first year of growth, often in the late spring. The oldest leaves will brown around the edges and between the veins while new leaves are stunted but remain green. If you can't avoid planting in the potato patch, try to choose a resistant cultivar.

Grey Mold causes a cover of velvet grey fuzzy (mycelia) mold on the surface of the berry. Rot usually starts where the berry has touched the soil or other infected fruit. The berry will turn brown and remain firm. This can be avoided by mulching, removing the old leaves from last year and maintaining narrower rows.

Rhizopus Rot occurs in very wet years. This causes berries to be discolored, brown and soft. There may also be a white mold coating berries. Damage can be reduced by quickly cooling berries after harvest.

Leather Rot may affect berries at any time, young berries turn brown or dark brown while mature berries may be bleached, purple or normal in color. Berries remain firm when they should be ripe and taste bitter. Mulching to reduce soil contact is helpful here as well.

If you find that you are having problems with your strawberries, the easiest thing you can do is to dig out and destroy these plants; relocate your strawberry patch to a new area and choose resistant plants.

When planting new strawberry plants be sure to place them at the correct depth. If your plants are planted too shallow the crown will dry out and plants will not grow or fruit properly. If planted too deeply you will have root rot. Set plants halfway between the top of the crown and the top of the roots. Then mulch, mulch, mulch!

There's always a little time in an otherwise busy day to enjoy your garden. Plant a few flowers among the vegetables to attract beneficial insects, then make a bouquet for your table. See you next week!

Virginia Cooper gardens and writes in Mabel, MN and can be reached by email virgcoop@ or by letter in care of the Journal. She welcomes your questions and comments.

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