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Strawberry Plants Blooming

Strawberry lovers have their tastes. Some love those potent pinkie size Alpine babies. Others of us love big fat hand size juice-down-your-jaw types that you eat when you pick. There are the ones that have berries that arc up and never touch the ground – bug free and clean! And there are those who want their quite firm non messy berries that store a bit better. And strawberries have different shapes, slim conicals to fat and wide, as well as different colors of flowers!

Strawberry Types

  • June Bearers literally produce in June, intensely, and that’s it! For some gardeners that’s just right. Camarosa, Chandler (high yield, large fruit), Oso Grande, Sweet Charlie, produce lots of runners, so rows quickly become a tangle of plants. The constant new growth and work of production requires regular fertilizer, typically a light feed of liquid fish/kelp every two weeks or so.
  • Day Neutrals make berries any time they can, at right temps. Albion has high yield, large firm fruit, is resistant to verticillium wilt. Seascape is very resistant to Strawberry Spot, has high yield of tasty firm large berries all season long. Day Neutrals don’t send out as many runners as June-bearers. Store well.
  • EverBearers produce from spring to fall, whenever the weather is right. Sequoia has large fruit. Everbearers have fewer runners than June bearers.

Timing

Timing is essential for a productive strawberry crop. Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries even more than onions. So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, or know that you are experimenting! Plant when your local farmers do! In Santa Barbara CA area, plant your bareroot Albion Strawberries NOV 1 to 5 (get at Island Seed & Feed)! Yes, the Santa Barbara dates are that specific! OR plant bareroot Sequoias December through February. In January you can get healthy bareroot Sequoias at La Sumida Nursery. Plant bareroot Seascapes mid January – get at Terra Sol Garden Center.

In areas with cold winters, plant your strawberries early spring as soon as all danger of frost has passed and the ground is dry enough to work. If you squish soil in your fist, it doesn’t drip.

In mild winter areas, plant your everbearers in spring so that you can harvest during summer. June-bearing varieties, however, can be planted in late summer or fall for a harvest the following spring. Planting June-bearing strawberries at this time allows them to become productive earlier. If you plant June bearers in spring, they will not start to grow fruit until the next year.

Companions!

Borage and strawberries were made for each other! Borage strengthens their resistance to insects and disease. Some say it improves their flavor! Borage has a good 3’+ diameter footprint, so allow for that. Put it right in the center and plant around it, or at least on the sunny side. If it doesn’t fit in the patch, put it as close to them as possible! Lettuce, spinach and strawberries together are thought to enhances the productivity of all three plants. Spinach contains saponins, which repel “bad guy” insects. Marigold borders discourage pests.

If you live where it’s comfy cool to grow blueberries and highbrush cranberries, plant your berries on the sunny side of them. They all thrive in acidic soil.

Strawberries are also a companion plant! Plant them as a ground cover to control weeds around horseradish, rhubarb, and asparagus. Clever.

NOT Companions! Strawberries stunt the Brassica family: broccoli, broccoflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, and Romanesco broccoli. And be careful around Verticillium-Susceptible Species – tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, okra, melons or celery. If these plants have been grown in the same spot within 5 years, grow your berries somewhere else.

Planting Tips

Select a sunny spot where they won’t be shaded by taller plants. If you don’t have such a spot, raise them up. Do containers on a stand, a raised bed, a trellis type device with planting pockets, rain gutters attached to a sunny wall, an upright pallet! Be creative! Plant them in an old wheelbarrow you can move with the sun during the day and the seasons. Hanging baskets are slug free and very pretty!  Strawberries are generally planted in an area or a way for convenient picking. Make your patch no wider than an easy arm’s length from either side, or plant as a pretty border plant!

Yes, you can plant from seed! Start them in containers indoors about eight weeks before you plan to transplant the strawberries to the garden. They love sun, and rich, moist, well-draining soil. Be careful about the ‘rich’ part. Too rich and you will get all leaf, no berries. Dig the patch deep enough that the roots can go as deep as they want. Bareroot plants start at 5 to 8″ when planted! In nature strawberries grow along the woodland edge in slightly acidic soil. You can make them optimally happy by incorporating some pine needles, stomped cone broken bits or a bagged acidic compost (for azaleas, camellias) into your soil. Those will add water holding capacity but not water log your plants.

There are variations of recommendations for planting spacing.  14 to 18 inches apart in rows 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart, OR 18-24 inches apart in rows 3 1/2 feet apart, are two examples.Get bareroot plants in the ground the day you get them if possible. DO NOT LET BareROOTS DRY OUT. If you can’t set them at once, small lots can be kept in good condition in the fridgie. Keep them moist but not waterlogged. To wake them up before planting you can soak the roots 20 mins to a couple hours (not overnight!) in warm water or a diluted seaweed solution. Just the roots, don’t immerse the whole plant.

Plant depth and root position are important. You want the crown just above the soil, roots completely covered, stems should be completely exposed. Spread the roots open like a little fan; get them down in the soil, let those little food seekers do their job! Some of your bareroots come with long roots, cut them off about 5 – 6″ long. Remove damaged or bent roots. Dig your planting hole accordingly. Dig down, make a little soil cone at the bottom, spread the roots over it, bury with soil. You don’t want the roots to be bent and remain near the surface where they can dry out.
Strawberry Planting Depth, Roots

CARE

Mulch, when or not? If you live where there are cold snaps, in winter do a deep straw mulch to keep the soil at an even temp. Otherwise, remove mulch so the ground will be warmer. Cooler soil delays flowering. Mulch does conserve moisture in summer, keeps your berries up off the ground out of the munching pest zone – roly polys (sow/pill bugs) and pincher bugs/earwigs, and reduces rot, yes. It certainly doesn’t prevent slugs like many sites say it will. I am merciless with slugs. I use a tad of Sluggo type stuff two or three times, killing off the generations of slugs, and am pest free for almost the rest of the season. If they reappear, do another set of rounds. Plant just close enough so mature plants act as living mulch in summer. When you pick, put still ripening berries up on leaves to keep them clean.  Save your back, save the straw.

No overhead watering. That spreads the Strawberry Spot disease, those little brown spots. You will read it is only cosmetic, but no, plants that have it don’t thrive, produce smaller and less berries, get more and more sick, eventually die. Leaf to leaf it spreads plant to plant. Remove/replace sick plants. Plant further apart so leaves don’t touch. Be sure your soil is a little acidic – your plant will have more resistance. Get Strawberry Spot disease resistant varieties like Seascape. It has great resistance!

Cat faced! Micronutrient deficiencies such as boron, damage to flowers from insects (thrips, mites, tarnished plant bug/TPB aka lygus bug, etc.) and botrytis may cause misshapen fruit. Depending on where you live, with the Lygus bug, it feeds on strawberries when the fruit is very young. The bug overwinters as adults in plant debris and weeds in areas near to your strawberries. Adult females lay their eggs on a number of broadleaf plants including many weeds. After the nymphs hatch, they also spend the winter hiding in plants and debris. Remove debris so they have nowhere to overwinter. Could be your plants might be a tad short on water. Pollination may be a problem if you have rain, it’s too hot or cold, have too much wind and the bees don’t fly.

Birds! At least as soon as your berries start blooming, cover them to protect your berries from bird tastings. Some use netting, some aviary wire. Make picking and weeding access easy or you will get grumpy and maybe neglect your plants.

Weeding is good. Be sure it is your strawberries that are getting the nutrients.

Feeding is good! A grower that started veggie gardening in one of our community gardens had splendid berries he fed every 2 weeks! It was just a bit of fish emulsion in a watering can. But he was regular. He harvested into shoeboxes and had a big smile on his face when he told us how many boxfuls he had gotten each time! He was offered land on a private estate, supplied the estate and went on to sell at the Farmers Market!

Northern and cooler clime gardeners, you can extend your season! So can you southern gardeners! Per UK gardener Nic Wilson: If you have an established strawberry patch, now [he wrote in March] is an ideal time to cover some of the plants with a cloche to encourage an earlier harvest (they will crop 7-10 days earlier than uncovered plants). Make sure that you roll up the sides of the cloche when the flowers appear to allow insects to pollinate them. If your plants are in pots or hanging baskets, they can be brought into the greenhouse to achieve the same result as long as insects still have access. With careful choice of cultivars and some crop protection, your strawberry season can begin in May and you’ll still have that summer feeling as you pick the final fruits in October.

Berries will produce 2 years, even 3, but production gets less and less. Commercial growers replant every year. So do I! I love strawberries most every day and non organic berries are treated with more pesticides than any other fruit! Grow your own! I also provide the best soil I can so my crop is optimum. Early October I remove my old Seascapes, plant the patch to green manure – Bell beans, Austrian peas, vetch and oats! The legumes produce Nitrogen nodules on their roots to feed themselves. When the plants are tilled in, the Nitrogen becomes available to other plants! The oats grow deep creating channels for air and water and soil organisms. I chop down the mix when the Bell beans (a short variety of fava) bloom. Chop into small pieces and let it sit on the surface for two weeks keeping it moist. Then add acidic compost and a tad of manure and turn it under. Let it decompose in the soil, the soil organisms restore themselves, for 2 to 4 weeks, then plant bareroot mid January! You will have the best crop!

Strawberry Cake Chocolate Drizzle


Eat ‘e
m ASAP!!! On average, studies show 2 days as the maximal time for strawberry storage without major loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. However, many strawberries never make it to the kitchen. A cup of fresh berries gives 112% of your Vitamin C needs! Not bad. If they are not eaten blissfully immediately, preserve flavor and shelf life by picking into a shallow, paper towel lined container, no more than three or four layers of berries deep. Refrigerate immediately after picking. If you can bear it, or you really do have more than you can eat, give some away to a worthy recipient.

 

Fresh berries, berries and cream or yogurt, puddings, shortcake, cake, scones, ice cream, refrigerator jam, smoothies, strawberry lemonade, on top of pancakes, fresh fruit salad, dipped in chocolate!!! There are so many ways to enjoy your delicious strawberries!

Updated 12.27.17


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

Updated 2.2.18

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Happy Winter Solstice/Yule, Dec 21st!

I like this saying I found at the Old Farmers Almanac:  Old Frost, the Silversmith has come:  His crisping touch is on the weeds.  – Charles Dawson Shanly

And, bless him, his touch will soon be on our veggies!  Some will love it; kales are said to taste better after a good frost.  Basils, some peppers and other tender plants will fold and die.  Gather seeds while you still can.  It’s tuck & roll time –  ready a stack of covers in case we get some hard freezes.  Keep a diligent weather watch.  Watering the evening before an anticipated freeze will help your plants withstand damage.

December is winter’s June, harvest time! 

Brocs, cauliflowers, peas, are all coming in now, especially if you planted in August, September!

Lettuces are thriving, keep plucking the lower leaves.

Keep harvesting your chard and beet leaves to keep ahead of the leafminers.  Don’t over water making the leaves too soft and inviting.

Cabbages take time to get to the stage to form that super head of tight fitted leaves.  Don’t despair, they are working on it.  Lay down Sluggo or do slug/snail maintenance around your cabbages to keep the pests from damaging your beauties.  Can you imagine what the plant would look like if the leaves were spaced out on a stalk?!  Pretty tall.  Feed lightly during winter to make Nitrogen easily available.  It’s cooler, so uptake is slower.

Your favas are busy gathering Nitrogen from the air, putting it into little nodules on their roots.  So are your peas, both legumes.  They do that!  Little to no feeding for them, they make their own N.

If you tuck in kitchen veggie trim, don’t be surprised if a few potatoes (they look like tomatoes, same family) pop up here and there.  If you like ‘em, let ‘em come if you have space!

If you have everbearer strawberries you may have few berries after a few warm days.  Even a single berry is such a treat!

Collards, kohlrabi and kales are very happy, providing excellent nutrition.  You can eat the leaves of all your Brassicas – brocs, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, and, of course, cabbages!

Carrots are coming!  Plant another round near your peas!  All kinds!  Mix the seeds up for surprises later!

Yes, you can still plant!  Start a new garden with or put in successive rounds of artichoke (give them 3’ to 4’ space), arugula, asparagus – Pat Welsh (Southern California Gardening) recommends UC-157, beets, brocs, Brussels sprouts, bunch onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, head and leaf lettuces, mesclun, peas, potatoes, radishes, and turnips!  As soon as one is done, plant another!

Put in some little bunch onion patches here and there but not by your peas!  Plant some of those little  Italian red ones – so pretty in your salad!  How about some garlic chives?  Mmm….

Remember, this is THE time to be planting your largest garlic cloves – they need twice the fertilizer, so make a super rich soil for them.  If you are so inspired, many plant on Winter Solstice day, Dec 21!  Plant skins on, or for more mojo, quicker sprouting, here is the way to prep your cloves Bob Anderson style:

  • Soak in water and baking soda for 16-24 hours before planting.  Soak separate strains separately. (One T soda to 1 gallon water, or a half teaspoon in a cup of water).  Remove the skins – start at the bottom being careful not to damage the growing tip OR the bottom, because that’s where the roots grow from!
  • Just before planting soak nude cloves in rubbing alcohol for 3-5 minutes and plant immediately.

SideDressing – seedlings up 2 to 3 inches get hungry!  Liquid fertilizer once a week is quick and easy for them to uptake.  Feed your other plants every 6 weeks.  That means, sprinkle fertilizer around your plants or down a row, and dig it in a little, especially before a rain!  Water it in.  Use ½ the strength of your summer feedings.  We don’t want a lot of tender new growth that a frost would take.  Some people love their manures, others love Island Seed & Feed’s Landscape Mix, and some love their stuff that comes in a pretty box!  Plants love a fish/kelp mix.  Try the powdered version for a little less stink.  If you decide to do foliar teas, pick a warm, dry, or breezy morning so your plants will dry well before evening.  Do what makes you and your plants happy!  If you haven’t been fertilizing, think about how hard your plant is working.  Big brocs, for example.  When it starts to head, when plants start to produce, that’s your cue to help them along.

Gophers.  You can still put in wire protective baskets or barriers, especially now while the soil is softer after the rains.  If you see a fresh mound, trap immediately.
Aphids?  Watch for curled leaves, squish or wash any or the colony away immediately.
White flies.  Flush away, especially under the leaves.  They are attracted to yellow, so keep yellowing, yellowed leaves removed.
Slimy Slugs, Snails.  Sluggo before they even get started, right when your seedlings begin to show, when you put your transplants in!  Once stopped, there will be intervals when there are none at all.  If you notice tiny children snails, lay down another round.

Make Organic, Sustainable Holiday Garden Gifts!  Plants themselves make wonderful gifts!  Start perusing catalogs for your Spring planting!

Happy Holidays, of all kinds, to you and yours! 
Garden Blessings, Cerena

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Strawberry Tips for Tasty Super Berries!

  • Strawberries are in the Rose family.
  • The average berry has 200 seeds, the only fruit whose seeds are on its exterior surface!  The seeds are really the fruit!
  • Usually grown from runner daughters, they will grow from seed.  Just throw down caps you bit the berry from.  Sooner or later, you will have a plant you didn’t ‘plant.’  Strawberry seed saving is simple.
  • Eight out of 10 strawberries grown in the U.S. are grown in California!
  • Strawberries came in second to blueberries in the USDA’s analysis of antioxidant capacity of 40 fruits and vegetables. They are also rich in dietary fiber and manganese, and contain more vitamin C than any other berry.

Image courtesy of StrawberryPlants.org

When do I plant strawberries?  Not now, NOVEMBER 1 to 10!  Yes, it’s that specific for winter chill at the perfect time!  They start producing runners now, but cut them off until early July!  Then let them grow, and cut off the new baby plants mid October for November planting.  Or, just let them grow to fill spots where, for one reason or another, a plant has gone missing, needs replacing, and/or another could fit in.  When those needs are taken care of, cut off the rest of the runners.  These runner plant babies will grow so fast you will be getting berries from them late summer and fall if you have everbearers/day neutral types!!

My plant isn’t producing….  

Variety
 – If it is an everbearer, day neutral, variety it will produce almost all year.  June/spring bearers put out a prolific batch in June, then it’s over.  No amount of care or feeding is going to make that plant have berries after June.  Sorry.  Best to get the varieties your local nursery carries.  Or talk with them about special ordering well in advance, so they can get the ones you want.
Temps – cold weather slows down pollinators.
Shaded – believe me, strawberries like all-day sun!  If you are going to tuck them in among other plants, be sure to put them on the sunny side!
Hungry – think about it!  A strawberry plant is often pumping out several berries at a time!  They are using up soil nutrition, so feed them!  Try a light solution of fish emulsion/kelp every other week over some sprinkled seabird guano or a well aged manure.  Give your strawberries a little fertilizer in the 0-10-10 proportions; that’s lots of phosphorus and potassium for strong roots and uptake of nutrients, blooms and fruits!
Water – don’t let them dry out, they will stop producing.  This month they tend to grow more leaves, send out runners.  Clip off the runners for now, so they don’t take your plant’s energy away from producing berries, unless you want more plants right away.
Mulching is good.  They love pine needle mulch, if you have some about, because they prefer slightly acidic soil.  Drape your berries over pine cones to keep them off the ground, out of the slug zone.
Age – First year plants and 3rd year plants don’t produce as well.

My berries are really tiny! 
Strawberry varieties vary from mammoth chocolatiers, to midget but mighty tasty alpines.  If it isn’t a variety issue, it may be diseased.  See below please.

Misshapen berries or split in two sections with a hole in the center 
Irregular watering  Your berry grows fast when it has water, then is restricted when it doesn’t….
Western Tarnished Plant Bugs,
feed on the flowers and developing surface seeds that stimulate growth causing misshapen berries, hard clusters of yellow seeds on the tip of the fruit.  Clean up debris.  Once you see this, you are too late to prevent it any further.  Bummer.  UC Davis IPM Integrated Pest Management on Lygus Hesperus.  Image of typical cat-faced berries.
Pollination Strawberry flowers are usually open and attractive to bees only a day or less.  Temperatures below 60F, low night temperatures, & high humidity result in inadequate pollination, low yields of small or misshapen fruit.  Strawberries require multiple pollination for perfect fruit formation. Generally, as the number of pollinator visits increases, there will be an increase in fruit set, number of seed per fruit, fruit shape, and fruit weight.  ABOUT BEES:  per NCSU ‘Bees rarely fly when the temperature is below 55°F. Flights seldom intensify until the temperature reaches 70°F. Wind speed beyond 15 miles per hour seriously slows bee activity. Cool, cloudy weather and threatening storms greatly reduce bee flights. In poor weather, bees foraging at more distant locations will remain in the hive, and only those that have been foraging nearby will be active.  Pumpkin, squash, and watermelon flowers normally open around daybreak and close by noon; whereas, cucumbers, strawberries, and muskmelons generally remain open the entire day.’  So if the weather isn’t right THE DAY OR MORNING your flower opens…..

Whole plant has yellow leaves.  The most common cause is nutrient deficiencies due to overwatering.  Overwatering causes poor root growth making it difficult to move enough water to the leaves during hot weather.  Lay back on watering; give your babies some Nitrogen –fish emulsion/kelp.

Strawberry Pests
Pecked   If birds are pecking your berries, put bird netting or a wire dome over them.

Rebecca & David Barker, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Plot 41, staked the chicken wire in place, push it up to harvest, down to just the right height when done!

Holes in them, Chewed  Silvery slime trails are the giveaway!  Use the pine cones to drape your berries over to keep them off the ground.  Put down some Sluggo or the like, to kill off night-time nibblers, slugs, snails.  Harvest regularly before the berry gets soft and smelly, just before the buglets are attracted!  Those little black pointy worms?  I’m trying to find out what they are.  If you know, let me know, ok?!
Uprooted  Sad to say, that sounds like ‘possums, raccoon, or skunk.  They are looking for your earth worms or grubs.  Just like bunnies, these critters won’t jump a low barrier.  They just go around it.  So install a foot tall perimeter of wire pieces, black plastic plant flats, old trellis parts, whatever you have around, or go get something that looks good to you so you will be happy.  Relocating the critters is a good choice because, they do have children, that have children, that…

Strawberry Diseases  StrawberryPlants.org for full list of diseases.  Here’s a link to the 3 Most common leaf diseases with images.

Angular Leaf Spot – exactly that.  Spotted leaves.  A cosmetic problem until it isn’t.  Your plant will produce, but it won’t thrive.  Spread by water, harvest before you water, water under the leaves, remove badly spotted leaves, don’t use them as mulch, wash your hands before going on to another plant.
Strawberry Blight – the fungus is often confused with angular leaf spot, overwinters in old leaves, remove them.  Remove old leaves from runner plants before setting.  All day sun, well-drained soil, in an area with circulation, equals less fungus.  For good air circulation, plant far enough apart, remove weeds, remove, replant and/or give away runner baby sets.  Plant resistant varieties for your area of your state.  Discussion of SoCal varieties.  When you buy new plants be sure they are certified from a disease-free nursery.  If you use a fungicide, spray the underside of leaves as well as the tops.

Successful SoCal varieties!

Chandler is the most widely commercially grown strawberry in California.  High yield, early producer, large southern berry.  It’s a June bearer, so if you want year round supply, this is not your berry.
Seascape is an ever-bearing, big day neutral, all year strawberry, harvests are more abundant in late spring. High yield, resistant to most diseases except leaf spot.  Reliable producer in fall, performs well in hot, dry climates.  Berry is bright red inside and out!
Oso Grande Another June bearer, high yield big berry, good in warm climates.

Eat your red  plump strawberries!  Fresh from your garden, strawberry Sundae, strawberry sauce, strawberry pie, cake, bread, strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, yoghurt, cream cheese, cheesecake, strawberry shake, chocolate dipped, strawberry lemonade, strawberry Syrah, and, as always, the traditional, Strawberry Shortcake!! 

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