Dr. Bernhardt’s freshly planted strawberries. (Mary Lowther photo)

Dr. Bernhardt’s freshly planted strawberries. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Hoping for a bumper crop of strawberries

Because our new plot gets a lot of sun, maybe strawberries won’t become consumed by wood bugs

By Mary Lowther

I can grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in my shady garden, but strawberries have never amounted to much, not that that has ever stopped me from trying.

Because our new plot down the road gets a lot of sun, maybe strawberries won’t become consumed by wood bugs as they do in my back yard. I’ve tried hanging baskets of berry plants but they dried up. David came home with a thrift store find of a large pottery urn with ledges you can fill with soil so the pot becomes surrounded with berries, like in the glossy pictures in magazines. “Look honey!” he announced, “this oughta do the trick eh?” I put it on a pedestal and watered it diligently but wood bugs killed off every last seedling.

But now I have land across the street that is in full sun most of the time, and one who has taught her kids to never give up must walk the walk, so when my neighbour Dr. Bernhardt offered to sell me some of her extra strawberry plants and then plant them for me in the lovely bed David has prepared, I couldn’t refuse. She dug them into three rows, staggering them one foot apart, covering only the roots to the crown, keeping the stem and leaves above ground. She tamped the ground down around the roots to ensure good contact with the soil and I prayed to the rain goddess so I wouldn’t have to lay soaker hoses down just yet.

This soil, like the rest of the garden, consists of robust compost with minerals added and composted chicken manure. Once the strawberries put out a few leaves I’ll scratch in Solomon’s organic fertilizer at the rate of two litres per hundred square feet and spray on compost tea. I’ll lay down the hoses and a mulch of leaves to keep the berries off the soil where they could rot and will cover the whole bed with netting or Reemay to keep birds out, once they start fruiting.

After the berries have fruited I’ll decide how to allow them to grow on. Some gardeners mow the whole bed down and cover that with leaves or other mulch; some cut off all the runners except where they want new plants to develop, then dig out the older plants; others cut down the whole row of older plants and just allow a row of sprouts to remain between the previous rows, cutting out any other runners. I think I’ll let all my runners develop into seedlings and see how things look next spring.

Since many gardeners south of the Malahat noticed that their strawberry plants became disease ridden after the first year, they now buy new transplants every year and put them into a different bed. Either Dr. Bernhardt’s plants haven’t been infected or they’re resistant because she gets bumper crops every year and yet has extras to sell. Maybe she just has that magic touch. I’m counting on that since she’s planted ours.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.


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