Strawberry Care Following Harvest
Our early spring made for an equally early strawberry harvest. The common term “June bearing” did not mean much this year. To increase your chances of a successful crop next year, begin soon after harvest preparing the plants for next year. Step one is to remove the top (older) leaves of the existing plants. If your strawberry bed design allows it, a lawnmower will work fine for this. It can also be done successfully with a string trimmer if the operator has a fair amount of skill and the machine runs fast enough to make a clean cut. Of course, clipping by hand is also a good option.
The next step is to reestablish rows by removing excess plant material so the remaining rows are eight to ten inches wide. While you can simply go in and plow out all the older row, you can also hand select the older plants. This step allows room for next season’s plants to become established over the remainder of the growing season.
Continue to control weeds throughout the growing season. Bermudagrass can be especially troublesome if it gets established in strawberries. Water as needed to promote healthy growth. Strawberries are susceptible to several fungal diseases. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses can help minimize this problem. Delay nitrogen fertilizer applications until late August. Other nutrients should be added as needed based on soil test results.
Pine needles make excellent mulch for strawberries. Not only do they help conserve moisture and reduce weed pressure, they serve as a nice clean platform for the fruits to rest on as they grow and mature.
If your strawberries did not do well this year, it might be a good idea to experiment with a different cultivar or two next season. Not only will adding some diversity increase your harvest time line, it will also increase the odds of weathering a bad disease year or a late freeze.
OSU Fact Sheet HLA-6214 contains more information on strawberry production for the home gardener including recommended cultivars for our area, performance expectations, and disease resistance. Information is also provided on establishing a new bed. Now would be a great time to begin work on a new bed as you can spend the summer removing existing turfgrass or other perennial weeds and improving the soil with regular additions of organic matter and compost. Building a healthy garden soil in advance of planting will pay big dividends for years to come.
Keith Reed is the Horticulture Educator in the Payne County OSU Extension office. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 405-747-8320, or stop by the office at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.
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