Back in the spring we had an empty bed that we weren’t sure what to do with. It was going to end up staying empty, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because empty beds can always be left to be amended to replenish essential nutrients. However, since I work at a nursery, and since we love fresh strawberries, I felt like we needed to get crackin’ on establishing our own strawberry bed.
The nice thing about the plants we were selling is that each pot had a bundle of ten plants in it, so these could be split up into three bunches of 3, 3 and 4 and allow us to be on our way that much quicker. We were selling two different varieties: Sequoia, a June bearing variety and Eversweet, an ever bearing one.
If you’re not familiar with strawberries, June bearing just means that the fruit will come and be picked in one fell swoop and ever bearing will slowly produce the whole growing season. The reason for the differences is that June bearing are really great for batch processing of jams, jellies, dried and frozen storage and ever bearing are good to pick and eat fresh all season.
What I ended up doing is picking up one pot of each variety and splitting each bundle into 3, planting a row of each variety in the same bed as each other, and then we just watched them all season. It’s pretty fascinating what happens to the development of a plant when it puts so much energy toward producing fruit.
After a few months, the ever bearing were right around the same size as when they were first planted, but the June bearing, putting all of their energy toward the plant itself, doubled, tripled and quadrupled in size, producing runners and plenty of new plants.
With all of this glorious propagation going on, we realized that we could get our transplant on and fill up a whole other bed with strawberry plants and minimize the amount we’ll have to go out and u-pick next year, saving us a little monies. We also decided that with the amount of development we were getting out of the Sequoia that we were going to transplant the Eversweet out of the bed and bring them up to the house for fresh picking like herbs, replacing them with more Sequoia runner transplants.
Now, I could have done a little research about the best way to go about doing this, but I felt that with all of the runners we had, surely I could make a slew of bunches of 3 or 4, get them in the soil, and at least one of them would survive. So that’s what I did. I went along and clipped some runners, divided them into each plant the runner was producing, bunched them together, and made little piles of transplants.
Once I felt like I had enough piles, I brought them over one by one to the bed we had filled with topsoil and compost a few weeks previous, and gave them a new home. I totally expected some of them to die, because a lot of them just barely had roots popping out, but I figured if we kept them watered well enough, it would give them a fighting chance.
After a couple days, it wasn’t really looking good. There was an awful lot of wilting and browning starting to happen. Mind you, we were having unseasonably warm weather that was putting some stress on the new transplants, so it wasn’t all that surprising. I am happy to say though that a few weeks in, every new transplant spot I’d created, 18 in all, has new growth and new growth is a good sign because this means root development and establishment.
As far as research goes, I’ve done a little after the fact. Since there’s new growth, I’m not too worried, but it’s nice to have the time to sit down and read a little about what I could have done better.
First, you’re supposed to use plants that are a couple months established and I was using unestablished runners for the most part. You’re also supposed to transplant each plant one at a time, but I collected and then planted them all at once. You’re also supposed to wrap the roots in something moist like sphagnum or paper towel between digging up and re-planting to ease stress on the plants but I just had them sitting out on the ground.
Something that we’re not yet doing but will at some point in the future is move to a 4 bed system. Strawberry plants have a 3 year cycle for yielding the highest production, so by having 4 beds, you’re ensuring that you have a bed on it’s 3rd, highest producing year every year and then at the end of the 3rd year, you clear it out and replenish it’s nutrients for the 4th year and transplant into that bed in the fall of that same year.
I’ve also found out that the varieties that we sold at my work aren’t the most ideal for our growing zone. Sequoia came up as an ideal choice in Florida, New Mexico and Texas and Eversweet for Hawaii, so we may look into switching these out in the future, depending on the yield we get in the next couple years from the established beds. For those of you in our area, the Purdue extension office recommends Delite, Earliglow, Fort Laramie, Guardian, Sunrise, Ozark Beauty, Redchief, Sparkle, and Surecrop.
Also worth noting is that one of the diseases that strawberries are susceptible to is verticillium wilt and a few of the above mentioned varieties that have a natural resistance are Delite, Earliglow, Sunrise, Red Chief, Sunrise and Surecrop, so these will probably be the varieties we’ll look at in the future if we don’t get much production out of our current plants. Whether or not we do, you can be sure that we’ll be right here to tell you all about it in the spring.
If you’d like all kinds of tips and tricks on how to choose and grow strawberries the best way possible, head on over to Strawberry Plants for a seriously in depth account of everything strawberry and be sure to keep an eye out for a little more strawberry action when we start to winterize the garden!