Lost strawberry season?

Just days before the Iowa floods, I talked to a local grower who was expecting a bumper crop this year. Since then, I haven’t been able to reach him, but it sounds like his was among the many areas flooded out in mid-June. I didn’t see much in the way of strawberries at our local markets, either.

 

If you were lucky enough to have homegrown strawberries this year, Richard Jauron, Horticulture Specialist at Iowa State University Extension, offers some tips, noting that now is the time to tend to June-bearing strawberry beds to ensure a good fruit crop next year:

  

A June-bearing strawberry planting can be productive for several years if the bed is given good care. One important task is to renovate June-bearing strawberries immediately after harvest. The renovation process involves leaf removal, creation of 8-inch-wide plant strips, and fertilization. After the initial renovation steps have been completed, irrigation and weed control are necessary throughout the remainder of the growing season.

 

Start the renovation of June-bearing strawberries by mowing off the leaves 1 inch above the crowns of the plants with a rotary mower within one week of the last harvest. (Do not mow the strawberry bed after this one week period, as later mowing destroys new leaf growth.) To aid in disease control, rake up the leaf debris and remove it from the area.

 

June-bearing strawberries grown in 2-foot-wide matted rows should be narrowed to 8-inch-wide strips with a rototiller or hoe. When selecting the part of the row to keep, try to save the younger plants and remove the older plants. If the strawberry planting has been allowed to become a solid mat several feet wide, renovate the bed by creating 8-inch-wide plant strips. Space the plant strips about 3 feet apart.

 

Fertilization is the next step in renovation. Apply approximately 5 pounds of 10-10-10 or a similar analysis fertilizer per 100 feet of row to encourage plant growth and development.

 

Water the strawberry plants during hot, dry weather. Strawberries require approximately 1 inch of water per week for adequate growth. Irrigate the planting during hot, dry summer weather to ensure optimum production next season. Irrigation during the summer months encourages runner formation and flower bud development. (The flower buds on June-bearing strawberries develop in late summer and early fall.)

 

Control weeds in the strawberry planting by cultivating and hand pulling.

 

Some June-bearing strawberry varieties are extremely vigorous, producing runners beyond the 2-foot-wide matted row. These runners should be placed back within the 2-foot row or removed to prevent the planting from becoming a solid mat of plants.

 

Well-maintained strawberry plantings that are renovated annually may remain productive for four or five years. Poorly managed beds may be productive for only two or three years.

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