Most of us are figuring out that keeping up with the prices of organic foods is incredible. Then it is not just the prices, but where they are being imported from. Most likely the organic strawberries are not grown in the US because the demand for organic has grown dramatically and we simply are not producing enough organic.
So when the money belt is tight, do you break down and buy conventionally grown which is most likely immersed in Methyl Iodide/Atrizine and pretend you don't know, or do you quit eating them altogether?
I say grow your own! It's that simple! I will never give up my precious sweet strawberries. And besides that, you have really never tasted a sweeter berry than one that comes from your garden.
The question you will have to ask yourself is how serious are you about growing your own strawberries. Is it just going to be a hobby in a pot or are you wanting to grow enough to make some homemade jam, pies, tarts, summer drinks? Do you want enough to last throughout the year? If this is the case than I can help you get going. As much as I love and appreciate a good looking strawberry pot, I really love pulling down whole organic strawberries from my freezer even more.
One of the nice Big clumps I've dug up to divide CrownsThe beautiful thing about strawberries is that when growing methods are used properly they produce an amazing amount of runners. Tiny stems that shoot out of each plant and producing new little plants at the end of them. Then each new plant begins with one main crown in the middle. After the first year a single plant will have formed several crowns. The crowns can also be divided for establishing new plants.So even if you start with a few plants the first year, by the next fall you will have plenty of plants from your humble beginnings.
Here are some tips to get you started.
1. SOIL; prepare your beds.You need a very well drained slightly sandy loam a little high on the acid side. Usually a PH of around 6 to 6.5 works well. Your beds also need to be rich in organic matter. A lot of composted pine needles mixed in your organic matter seems to help with the PH levels. If at all possible try to plan on growing your strawberries in a well established bed.
2. VARIETY, is very important. Do a little research to find out exactly what grows best in your garden zone. What has done the very best in my garden in Southeast Texas is the EVERBEARING SEQUOIA. It is the only type that I grow now after trying a few others as an experiment. If I had to choose a second variety it would be the Quinault. The everbering is a perennial evergreen plant. It has stood many different tests in climate from hard freezes to extraordinary heat waves and record breaking droughts.
3. The Correct PLANTING TIME is vital. In Southeast Texas and many Gulf Coast areas everbearing strawberries must be planted in the fall for spring berries. This really gives them a jump start to getting well established. A good root system will play an important role when the temperature begin to soar.
4. MULCHING and more mulching. Keep your plants free from bare ground. This will help protect them from soil born diseases. More importantly it helps protect the root system since they are shallow. It helps keep them warm during the cold spells and cool and moist during the hot and dry periods. More so, as the plants begin to bare fruit it is by far best to never let them lay on bare ground. Just remember to never take the straw out of strawberry. Be Cautious and never cover the center crowns of your plants. Try not to water that area as well.
5. PESTS AND DISEASES to watch for in my area are mainly the fire ants that find their way into the beds and rollie pollies or better known as pill or sow bugs that will find their way to the fruit and eat holes in them. The quickest way to get rid of a fire ant mound with the least amount of damage to your plants is simply find another mound on the other side of your property, shovel part of it up into a bucket and take them to your strawberry bed. Dump it on top of the hill and the ants will fight and kill each other to the death. If your just not into fire ant wars I do have a few other organic methods that you can read about in a previous post. As far as the pill bugs go, this is why it is important to keep your plants surrounded by a nice layer of mulch like straw or hay. Even pine needles have worked great for us. Pill bugs are actually wonderful for your organic garden. Their job is to help break down the organic matter. The only plants that have problems with them are strawberries and cantaloupes. They will get into the lettuce and other leafy greens, but they do no damage to the plants. Keep your strawberry plants clean and free of dead or dying debris. I keep all the dead leaves and stems cleaned off from the bottom of each plant.
The most important disease to be aware of is Verticillium Rot. Be sure you don't chose areas in the garden for your new strawberry plants where you had Tomatoes, Peppers, Potatoes or Eggplants previously growing. .
6. Last but not least is to be sure to create a bit of an environment with partial shade for your plants around the end of June. The everbearing strawberries with start to become exhausted with producing fruit by this time and the temperatures will begin to soar into the high 90's and even triple digits. We do this by propping up some trellises over the beds. The trick is to try and keep the soil on the cool side. I have been know to plant cucumbers on the trellis and let them climb on up for even more denseness. The plants will start becoming busy making runners for transplanting in the fall again.
Visit me for an article at Natural Family Today where I describe how to create the best environment for growing organic strawberries. I'll discuss the best companions and combinations for growing in a natural habitat.