Posts Tagged ‘strawberries’

Common Weeds in Strawberries

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
Strawberry Beds

Strawberry Beds

The strawberry harvest is over for this year.  There are still a few small berries in the beds, but the days of having to go out morning and night to keep up, and being able to pick quarts at a time are finished.  This year’s harvest was good.  I’ve done a reasonable job this year of keeping the beds weeded, always a difficult task.  I took some pictures of the six weeds that showed up the most this spring.  Ranked relative to occurrence and obnoxiousness, they are:

Wood sorrel - Oxalis stricta

Wood sorrel – Oxalis stricta

Oxalis or wood sorrel – Oxalis stricta – is the worst offender.  Fortunately, it can be easily weeded before it gets too large.  When small, it  is very weak rooted and the plant lifts right out with little effort.  This is one of those “good weed/bad weed” plants, bad only because it is in the wrong place.  It’s completely edible, and a useful herb in the right situation, but in my garden it’s only a royal pain.

Quickweed - galinsoga

Quickweed – galinsoga

Next on the list of bad guys in the berries is quickweed or galinsoga – Galinsoga ciliata.  Again, it’s an edible weed, but I say no thanks to eating it.  If left uncontrolled it can ruin a garden in short order.  When young, it is very shallow rooted and easy to pull by hand.

Foxtail - Alopecurus

Foxtail – Alopecurus

Foxtail – Alopecurus – There are lots of grasses that fall under the name foxtail, and I have no idea which of the many species are in my beds.  The good thing about foxtail grasses are that they are easy to weed, the whole root usually lifts right out.

Black medic - Medicago lupulina

Black medic – Medicago lupulina

Black medic – Medicago lupulinaThis clover plant sets a deep tap root very quickly.  If it isn’t weeded when small, it is difficult to get the root out. 

Crabgrass - Digitaria

Crabgrass – Digitaria

Crabgrass – Digitaria- The other grass that shows up a lot is crabgrass.  Again there are  many species, and I’m not too interested in trying to figure out which ones are in the garden.  If let go very long they set roots too tough to remove by hand pulling, but my CobraHead can rip out even the largest of them.

Ground Ivy - Glechoma hederacea

Ground Ivy – Glechoma hederacea

Ground Ivy – Glechoma hederacea – locally, this is called creeping Charlie.  It makes up a good portion of my lawn, so it’s not all bad.  In the strawberries it is very difficult to weed.  It lays down additional root clusters along its stems as it snakes across the ground.  It’s close to impossible to get it all out if it gets a head start.

I’ll go back over my two new beds again soon to try to give them another good grooming.  And they’ll still need more weeding before winter sets in, otherwise production will suffer next year.  I’m not too worried about keeping ahead on the old bed, as I’ll be ripping that out totally next spring to start a new bed in my three bed strawberry rotation.



Transplanting Strawberries

Sunday, May 5th, 2013
New Strawberry Beds

New Strawberry Beds

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.

Old Strawberry Beds

Old Strawberry Beds

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.

A Broadfork Lifts Out Plants Easily

A Broadfork Lifts Out Plants Easily

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.

New and Old Strawberry Plants

New and Old Strawberry 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.

Happy Transplanted Strawberries

Happy Transplanted Strawberries

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.


Beautiful and Bountiful Berries

Monday, June 20th, 2011

We came home late last night from four days on the road after a trade show.  It’s the time of the season when we should be picking strawberries twice a day, so we lost a few berries to birds and over ripeness, but we still had a huge amount waiting for us, which I harvested this morning.  We’ll be freezing some, turning some into strawberry jam, and enjoying mouthfuls of the rest eaten fresh.


Banking on Berries

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

The 200 plus strawberry plants in the foreground are in a very temporary home.  They are  banked, trenched, or heeled in; a process of laying plants in a trench and covering the roots with soil.  Here they can reside until they can be relocated.  A few of these transplants were retrieved from a four old bed that I dug out last week, but most were dug out from runners in the paths on either side of the center bed in the background.

100 of these plants have already been relocated into the bed on the right in the background.  My third bed, the weedy one on the left in the background, between the two white buckets, will also yield some more plants as I clean out the path up against the lawn.

Strawberries have been an exceptionally easy perennial for me to grow.   I do a three-year rotation, with three beds, moving the beds through the garden.  I’m always amazed at the resiliency and toughness of strawberries.  I uproot them when I’m weeding.  I transplant the same plant several times in the spring.  I neglect them and allow them to get overrun with weeds, but they hang in there and with just a little care they thrive and yield lots of excellent tasty fruit.

I previously talked more about my strawberry rotation and their proclivity to reproduce, here.

I have almost no insect damage, but birds can be a problem.  Birds go after the fully ripe berries so if I harvest when the berries are just over half red, they ripen just fine in the house.  Agricultural fabric works well as a bird deterrent, too, but that’s just another thing I have to mess with, so it doesn’t always get used.

The biggest issue I have with strawberries is the weeding involved.  I’ve tried mulching, but I’ve not been real happy with the results.  Chickweed, dandelion, quack grass, and creeping Charlie are the main weed intruders.  In the spring, or after a good soaking rain, I can dig the grass and dandelion out with a garden fork and a CobraHead weeder and the berries hardly seem to mind the disturbance.  The other weeds can be controlled with persistence.  Some years I persist and some I don’t.

Most of these extra berry plants will be given to an upcoming plant sale for our Cambridge Friends of The Library fundraiser coming up in a couple weeks.   Some of the plants are already blossoming and it will not be long before we are enjoying the fruit.