I try to keep three beds of strawberries in rotation and moving through the garden. Bed one contains the newly transplanted plants. Bed two holds one year old plants, and the third bed, two year old plants. New plants yield little, but the one and two year old plants yield well. Fall transplanting might make for better yields, but I prefer to transplant in spring when my clayey beds are very wet. The strawberries are less susceptible to stress and need very little additional care once transplanted.
Strawberry production decreases noticeably in plants older than two years. The older beds are also difficult to keep weeded, so it’s been easiest for me to just to rip out the oldest bed, save some new plants for transplanting and compost all the weeds and old plants.
Last year I never got around to starting a new bed. I had ripped out an older bed with the intent of transplanting, but just never finished the job. So I came into this spring with a two year old bed and a three year old bed. I prepped two new beds to get back into the rotation I want. I’ll be out of kilter for a year, but this transplanting went smoothly, and I should be on track going forward.
The three year old bed the I’ve been tearing up is on the right and a two year old bed to the left. Strawberries are constantly putting out runners so there is never a shortage of new material to work with. The paths, filled in with runners, are a great source of babies for transplanting.
Strawberries are tough. You can walk on them, weed them aggressively, and pretty much beat them up without them dying or even showing much stress. They do need a lot of water to do their best however, especially when they are setting fruit. I use my broadfork to lift out and loosen large sections of berries and weeds together. Then I use my CobraHead Weeder to separate the plants.
It’s very easy to decide which plant to keep and which to toss out. Old plants have a woody root structure. New plants produced by runners will have only root and no sign of a woody core. If in doubt, I just toss that plant, as I have so many new ones to work with.
Transplanting is merely a matter of pushing the young plants into their new home and watering them in. They suffer very little transplant shock. The picture at the top of the post shows the new beds with the plants watered in. In past years I’ve spaced new plants about 18 inches apart and let runners fill in the gaps, but being behind this year, I’ve loaded up the beds with new plants, spacing them about six inches apart. I’ve worked in a lot of compost and I’ll feed them more as the year progresses, so I think we’ll have a great crop next year.
This picture, taken one day after transplanting and after a soaking rain, shows how quickly the strawberries have rebounded. Strawberries are easy to grow because they reproduce so aggressively and don’t need much care. Once started, you never have to buy new plants. And if you didn’t already know this, the strawberries you grow at home taste way better than those sold in grocery stores.