Today we picked up the materials needed to build our raised beds. This year, we are trying out the Square Foot Gardening (SFG) method because it makes sense to me (mostly. I am still skeptical about everything only growing in 6 inches of "soil".) and it seems easier to build raised beds than working our heavy, clay soil into something that can sustain plant life. Grass barely grows! And, it seems like the next logical step from the container gardening we did last year.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will be constructing these beds (to be blogged) and, because I'm an avid planner, I started to map out what can go where. So far, my "to plant in ground" list includes, pending plantlet survival, (some herbs will be in pots so they can be over wintered indoors):
7 basil plants
1 rosemary (to be bought)
9 hot peppers (yes, this is a ridiculous amount. We will not grow this many next year)
4 sweet peppers
And we've got 3 beds: one 3 x 10 ft, one 3 x 20 ft and one 4 x 5.5 ft. Yes, I am aware those 3 ft deep beds are not SFG-regulation. This is my act of rebellion, deal with it. Anywho, as I started mapping out what I have for plantlets in the are (for example, a tomato/pepper plant goes in 1 sqft, 4 basil plants per sqft, etc.) I realized we've got way too much room. Waaaaayy too much. Solution? Lop off 5 ft or so of the 20 ft bed and turn it into a strawberry patch. I am almost more excited at the thought of homegrown tomatoes than homegrown strawberries. ALMOST. And y'all are aware of my feelings towards tomatoes.
So What Do Strawberries Need To Thrive?
First off, there are 3 types of strawberries: june bearing, everbearing, and day neutral.
June Bearing: Produce one large crop per year during a 2-3 week period in the spring. They usually come in early, mid-season and late varieties. This type sends out a lot of runners, but has larger fruit than the other types.
Everbearing: Produce 2-3 crops of fruit during spring, summer and fall. They do not send out many runners.
Day Neutral: Produce crops throughout the growing season. They do not send out many runners.
Strawberries like to have water, but not too much. And they like (full) sun, but will tolerate a bit of part-shadeness. Lucky me...the part of my bed that is becoming the strawberry patch gets closer to 6 hours of sun now (I imagine it'll be more like 8 in the summer), which is the shadiest part of the garden. And, even awesomer? They are perennial in Zone 7 (at least some varieties are). Meaning, plant once & harvest for years to come. I've read that they only last for 5 years or so, but that's totally fine for me. Who knows, my untreated pine beds may be rotted out by then!
Warning: Strawberries are basically a fruit-bearing weed. They can take over. Hence having a bed (meaning there will be wood between the strawberries & the rest of the bed) for them & them alone. Essentially, the mother plant sends out runners (think plant arms) that are called daughters. If you snip off these daughters, you don't have them taking over quite so badly. And some say that snipping off the daughters makes the plant concentrate more on fruit production and thus making a tastier berry. We shall see.
I'm also going to build a little cage over my berries to protect them from the poaching of unscrupulous robins. We've got some feisty, fear-nothing robins that I'm sure would eat our berries just to spite us...Hateful birds.
I am going to plant a mix of june bearing, everbearing and day neutral to see what works best for my site. Anyone have any tips/tricks for strawberry growing?