Gardening with Laurie: Plant strawberries now for spring fruit
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Strawberries are a very popular crop found growing in many raised beds, containers and in the ground.
This delicious fruit is native to the Americas, the Himalayas and central Europe.
These days, in many of those areas, wild strawberries are considered a weed.
Long before Columbus discovered this country, the Native Americans were enjoying strawberries mashed with cornmeal and made into breads.
Strawberries are a member of the rose family and they are the only fruit that has seeds on the outside.
Planting strawberries this time of year will usually start producing fruit in the spring, depending on the weather.
You will find container-grown and bare-root strawberries available this time of the year.
Bare-root strawberries will be available in bundles of 20 to 25 plants, which is usually enough to feed four to five people.
Bare-root strawberries are dormant plants. Each plant will consist of a few leaves, the crown of the plant and the roots. When you plant each individual plant, be sure to cover up all the root system and only half the way up the crown. This is very important for successful results.
Always plant the roots vertically not horizontally.
You will need to grow strawberries in full sun for the best results. They will prefer a loose rich soil with lots of organic matter in it.
Strawberries require very good drainage. They will not tolerate a wet soil. If you don't have any well-drained areas to plant them in, consider growing them in containers or raised beds. Make sure to add some of your granular organic fertilizer to the soil when planting.
Try to avoid planting strawberries in areas where you have grown potatoes, tomatoes or a lawn area. All these plants get diseases and insects that can be passed on to your berries.
Strawberries will need room to spread so plant them about 12 to 20 inches apart. It is best to pinch off any runners that form the first year. This will allow the plants to use nutrients to mature and make fruit.
In times of cold weather you will need to heavily mulch each plant with two to three inches of mulch. If freezing temperatures or colder are predicted, also cover your plants with frost fabric or a couple of inches of hay.
Strawberry flower buds are very sensitive to frost and will need this additional protection to survive. Be sure to remove any mulch or hay that has been covering each plant as soon as the temperature warms up again.
Fertilize strawberries again in January with organic fertilizer and regularly spray the plants with liquid seaweed. Pill bugs will usually be the main pest you will battle.
As with all crops, keep a close eye on your plants for any signs of trouble. It's always easier to deal with a gardening problem early on.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.