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 the last 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 1 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 and remove the plant debris.
June-bearing strawberries are most productive when grown in 2-foot-wide matted rows. If the strawberry planting has become a solid bed several feet wide, renovate the planting by creating 8-inch-wide plant strips with a rototiller or hoe. Space the plant strips about 3 feet apart. June- bearing strawberries grown in rows should also be renovated. Narrow the rows to 8-inch-wide strips by removing the older plants, while retaining the younger ones. After renovation, the strawberry plants will develop runners and eventually form a 2-foot-wide matted row of plants by the end of summer.
Fertilization is the next step in renovation. Apply approximately 5 pounds of a 10-10-10 or similar analysis fertilizer per 100 feet of row to encourage plant growth and development.
Strawberries require 1 inch of water per week throughout the growing season. After renovation, irrigate the strawberry planting weekly during dry weather. Adequate moisture promotes plant growth and helps insure optimal fruit production next season as the flower buds of June-bearing strawberries develop in late summer and early fall.
Weed control through the summer months is also essential. Weeds compete with the strawberry plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight. Cultivation is the most practical control for home gardeners. Control weeds with frequent, light cultivation. Some hand weeding will also be necessary. Dacthal, a preemergence herbicide, may be applied during renovation to aid in control of annual grasses and some broadleaf weeds. Gardeners can also apply a layer of straw between plant rows to help control weeds.
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.
June-bearing strawberry plantings that are well-maintained and renovated annually should remain productive for 4 or 5 years. Poorly managed beds may be productive for only 1 or 2 years.
When berry size and numbers begin to decline, it's time to start planning for a new strawberry bed. Renovate the current strawberry planting one last time. After renovation, select a site for a new planting next spring. When selecting a planting site, choose a site with good soil drainage. Also, select a site where strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants have not been grown within the last 3 years to minimize the risk of Verticillium wilt, red stele, and other diseases. After the site has been chosen, begin preparing the site for next spring's planting. Early preparation allows sufficient time to control perennial weeds and amend the soil if necessary. Plant the new strawberry bed next spring (late March or April). Destroy the old planting after next season's last harvest.
This article originally appeared in the June 12, 1998 issue, pp. 73-74.