By Bernard Bailey – The best berries and the best production come from plants that were new the previous year.
Generally, space your plants 12 in. apart and feed and water according to the Mittleider Method. Be sure to water very well.
Strawberries, along with other fruit-bearing plants, bear the best in full sun.
After production is over, only allow plants to produce as many new plants as you want for the following year, cutting off all other new runners as soon as possible.
In late summer/early fall, dig out the mother plants and dispose of them.
Dig up the new plants for next year’s crop and sandwich between layers of wet newspaper or the like to keep wet.
Prepare the new bed, whether the same old bed, or an all-new one.
Don’t forget to apply the Mittleider Pre-Plant & Weekly Feed fertilizers and mix into the soil (1 oz of Pre-Plant and 1/2 oz Weekly Feed per running foot of bed).
Plant the new plants 8-12 inches apart, depending on variety.
When you plant, trim as many new leaves as necessary to prevent wilting (between 1/2 and 2/3rds); be sure the roots are spread out and buried as deeply as practical.
The crown, where the new buds grow out and the roots come out below, must be at the surface of the soil. If covered with dirt, the crown will rot, and the plant is lost. If out of the soil, it will be hard for it to produce new roots.
Water the plants very well. These plants will re-establish themselves and bear the following year, coming out like gang-busters in spring.
Now, this system is for people who want the biggest, nicest berries and a nice crop, but it requires some work.
Alternatively, you can renew every other year, but will get a reduced crop and berry size the second year.
There is another system my uncle used to use, but I don’t especially care for it. In it, he let as many stolons (runners) grow as would, to produce a mat of plants. He only replanted every second year, and the only training he did was to return “runaway” stolons that wandered out of the bed back to the bed before they root in.
One will get a LOT of strawberries with this system, but they are very small (sometimes sweeter than the bigger ones in the other system).
There is greater total production in weight of fruit with this system. However, not only are the berries smaller, but you will have more problems with slugs, other insects and disease using matted rows.
Obviously, getting in with a hoe to weed is impossible, but very few weeds invade, because the berries smother the ground with their foliage and fruit.
This system works especially well with small, wild strawberries, yielding unbelievably sweet and flavorful fruit.
My uncle had customers for these berries that would not buy store strawberries or large berries from roadside stands. I can attest to how good they were from personally gluttony, ah, experience!
If you let ducks into the beds when there are no buds, blooms or fruit, they will reduce slugs and other pests.