If planting strawberries was like a recipe it would look something like this:
Note: Plant in the fall.
Step 1. Mark out the area you want to plant your strawberries. Choose someplace that gets 8 hours of Sun a day. Making strawberries takes a lot of energy.
Step 2. Till the area you have marked out (note: be sure to have gas for your till or mixed gas if your tiller is a 2 cycle engine)
Step 3. Spread your fertilizer*
Step 4. Till again
Step 5. Water everything. Water the strawberry plants (note: you should have been watering them at least once a day. Twice a day would be better. Everyday until you plant them.) You also need to water the ground you are going to plant your strawberries. If you don’t, the dry soil will suck the water out of the potting soil of strawberry plants which increases the chance your strawberry plants will die**.
Now on to the actual cooking or in this case planting:
Step 6. Plant your strawberries. This sounds easy, but how you plant will make or break your strawberries. Some of these things are going to be obvious, but if you have never planted strawberries before than read this part:
Plant them roots down and make sure there is room for the roots. You don’t want them to hit the bottom of the hole you dug and then be forced back upwards (this is called “J-ing” because the roots make a “J” shape). If they are forced back upward this will increase their chance of dying**.
When you place your strawberry plant in the ground DO NOT BURY THE CROWN!!! The crown is where the leaves turn in to roots. See this lovely picture from Bonnie Plants. If you bury the crown the plant will definitely rot and die**. If you plant them to shallow but water them like crazy, they might make it. (Strawberries are drama queens if you haven’t noticed.)
Step 7. Mulch. Now that your strawberries are in the ground, and their roots covered up, mulch. You want roughly (I say roughly because mulch does not spread evenly. Trust me, I’ve tried) an inch to an inch in a half. This is enough mulch that it will make it hard for weeds to grow but not so much that water won’t reach the roots of your strawberries. Mulch is not necessary, but it is a great time saver later.
Easy peasy right? Only you know that nothing is as easy as following the steps (I have enjoyed many a pinterest fail). Sometimes the tiller become choked with weeds, or breaks. Sometimes the fertilizer comes in clumps and won’t spread evenly, or the hose has holes in it and waters everything including you. Or it rains for 6 weeks and you can’t even get to your yard without losing your mud boots.
My farm currently looks like mudflats that should contain clams. I haven’t even finished my tilling yet. This has called for some creative farming. One option is to plant late, this may or may not be a problem depending on the winter. Another is to go ahead and work in the mudflats I am currently calling fields, and leave ruts that will be there all season and possible cause drainage issues. A third option is to do it all by hand, use a very small tiller, shovels and pretend I am feeding chickens while spreading fertilizer. A final option is to plant where you planted last year and reuse the prep you did then. I personally wanted to buy a team of draft horses (I am always up for more horses) and farm like the amish. Sadly, this is not a viable option. Someday, someday I am going to have draft horses on the farm (preferable american cream drafts as they are the only draft horses to originate in the USA). So I am going to start with option four. I will be replanting the center field at the farm. I try very hard to rotate my fields. It is better for the soil and the plants. But the center field needs a quick weed and will be ready to go, and since the mudflats aren’t getting any less muddy, I have to start somewhere.
I like being told why, so in the next blog post I will explain why crowns are so important, why mulch is amazing, and why you should plant your strawberries in the fall.
**also I feel like in the movie The Croods, I’m the dad whose stories about Crispy Bear who always dies at the end.