Thursday, January 26, 2012

Strawberries and catching a thief!

Strawberries love being mulched. I prefer to mulch  them with grass clippings that have not been chemically treated. In the fall, there's always an abundance of leaves and strawberries need to be mulched so that they are winter protected, leaves cheaply fit the bill.  Strawberries also like wheat straw and I have also used chemical free pea straw and slough hay.  If you want to add peat moss as a mulch, you must cover it with another mulch to protect it from blowing away. Pine needles can also be used as a mulch, I tend to mix it up with other mulch or cover it with grass clippings as they are quite sharp, especially when you're picking the berries. Strawberries do better with pine needles as they acidify the soil.  I like to use a variety of mulch because a mixed mulch creates a beautiful rich soil as it decomposes. Mulch also keeps the soil moisture in longer so you don't have to water as often and keeps the weeds down really well. I've also read that pine needles have some compound in them that is released into the soil as the needles decompose, thus discouraging the weeds. Not sure how it all works, but less weeds gets a thumbs up from me.  My strawberry patch is always placed in an area of the garden that has good drainage. I like to water the patch slowly and deeply and let it dry out between waterings. This has really worked well for me in my area. With the Tristars, I get an early summer crop and then I harvest strawberries in the fall until a heavy frost damages the flowers. I've had strawberries as late as early October, depending on how nice the fall is. The worst pests for me are the birds and my dog. Covering the patch with a wire meshed box has saved a lot of my fruit from being eaten both by the birds and my dog. I don't like the plastic meshes as the birds tend to get really tangled up in them and sometimes, I am not home and can't save a tangled bird in time. A well prepared and well taken care of strawberry patch can last a long time!

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