Strawberries are one of the most popular and easy to grow fruits of the summer. June bearing strawberries (one of several types of strawberries) can be productive for several years with proper care, but after harvesting and eating the last of the tasty fruits, the real work for next year's crop begins. If you haven't already done so, now is the time to renovate June-bearing strawberry beds. Renovation requires the removal of old leaves, the narrowing of rows to 8-inch wide strips, fertilization, and irrigation. These tasks should be started immediately after the last harvest, but before new leaves appear.
Mowing the leaves is the first step. Simply mow off the leaves with a rotary lawn mower 1-inch above the crowns of the plants. Remove the clippings or debris from the beds. This should be completed within 1 week after harvest. More than a week after the last harvest new growth appears and should not be removed. If new growth has already appeared on plants, skip to the next step.
After mowing, the rows are narrowed to 8-inch strips, 3 feet apart. Narrow the rows by tilling the older plants. While the removal of a large percentage of the strawberry plants by mowing and tilling seems counterproductive, the remaining strawberry plants will develop runners that will quickly fill in open areas by fall. In fact, overcrowding is usually the biggest problem in home gardens. Too many plants in an area result in small berries and fruit rot.
Fertilization and irrigation are next on the duty list. Fertilizing with 5 pounds of 10-10-10 or similar analysis per 100 feet encourages new growth and development. Approximately 1 inch of water per week from rain or irrigation is also needed throughout the growing season to insure optimal fruit production next year. During dry periods, water plants deeply once or twice per week. The flowers on June-bearing plants begin to develop in late summer and early fall, therefore, extended dry periods or other stresses late in the growing season will prevent the production of blooms and ultimately fruit for next year.
Finally, it is also important to control weeds in rows and beds throughout the summer months. Weeds compete with strawberry plants for water, light, and nutrients. Lightly cultivate or hand pull weeds when necessary. The application of straw mulch between rows will reduce weed competition and help conserve moisture.
June-bearing strawberries that are renovated annually should remain productive for many years. For more information on the renovation process pick up a copy of Growing Strawberries at Home (PM 717) at your local extension office.
This article originally appeared in the June 28, 2002 issue, pp. 91-92.