Strawberry Bed Maintenance / Mulch

ForeverRecycleReuse(MN 4b)July 10, 2013

I currently mulch my strawberry patch with straw in the summer to suppress weeds and in the winter for protection. Now that the plants are almost done fruiting and the straw is rather thick, the runners are spreading over the mulch but not "finding" the dirt to implant into. Thinking I need to remove most of the straw to give the runners a chance to establish....

How do others manage their strawberry patches? Looking to borrow some proven success tips :)

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It's a common practice to renovate a strawberry bed after fruiting, to cut off the old foliage above the crown and thin out the plants. Removal of the old mulch is a necessary part of this process. I think this is a good idea in general because the old mulch can harbor fungus.

Then the plants throw out new runners that find anchorage in the newly loosened soil.

Before winter, renew the mulch.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 2:51PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Well it sounds like straw isn't very good mulch. One of the main reasons to use mulch is to add nutrients back to the soil, and if you have to remove moldy straw, it's defeating the purpose of mulch! I use pine hay for strawberries. I do remove some in the spring, which allows runners to root. I spread the extra in my raspberry bed after adding compost. I leave enough to keep the strawberries out of the dirt. But remove all to add compost too. Then spread some back, and the rest to the raspberries. My soil is full of pine needles, the plants seem to love it!
I also throw some dirt over the runner vine at the end to help root the runners. The ones I want to keep are all rooted now.

I have 3 4x4 beds to experiment with various cultivars. Here is a bed where I'm letting Pineberries form runners. The back two in the corners are musk strawberries. In the middle is a 1st year blueberry bush Chandler. The strawberries will eventually be removed when the blueberry needs the room. The bed behind this bed is raspberries.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 8:54PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Here is a bed with mostly June bearing types. They are so big they have little room for runners!! This is a 4x4 bed. Again with a blueberry in the middle. This time Liberty, almost destroyed by my dog, but it survived. More raspberries in the background...

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 9:01PM
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I mostly just side dress with compost. I've learned over time that mulch around strawberries (at least in my yard) provides cover and breeding grounds for earwigs, slugs and sow-bugs.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 11:18PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

The pine needles seem to be decent. I didn't have any slugs at first, and so far only about 4 in one bed. Two of the beds, no slugs at all.The needles are so thin, no place for anything to hide. I get it free too, so that's the best part.
Plus it's nice not to have dirt on them. If it rains they will be muddy without any mulch. I guess you have to use what works for you. What's so fun about gardening is learning all the approaches. If it works for you, then it is a good thing!
Birds are not taking them, nothing except 4 slugs have bothered my strawberries. Even the Japanese beetles leave them alone. They are a major problem with my raspberries. Last year we had none, this year they are all over. I have been just inspecting the garden a few times a day and killing all I see. I have never seen an earwig or sow-bug (knocking on wood).

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 11:51PM
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Drew, I should have started out by saying that your beds and grass areas are beautiful. Really nice and attractive setup. Thanks so much for sharing, they are truly inspirational.

As the berry plants fill out in the bed and shade the soil, there really isn't much need to mulch. I'm starting to back away from thick mulch in areas where sun does not hit bare soil. Shaded soil just gets good compost. I shoehorn in plants such as strawberries to keep the soil shaded, but you need fertile and biologically healthy soil to do that. I'm not talking about N-P-K, this is loose friable, dark and earthy smelling soil.

When I compost in a bed such as your's and then plant thereafter, insane magic happens.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 2:25AM
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great point mrclint...

Shade is better then mulch for soil, but a thin layer of multch plus shade works wonders.....

i agree about composting as well. I never clean up my beds in fall, i just let the bulk of the plant matter die down, then I mulch that in spring. I then add manure and or compost around my perennial plants.

There are 2 plants bordering my compost pile - on the left is a patch of 80 yr old peony, and on the right is a small shade garden with bleeding hearts and bloodroot. The peony have never looked as good as they do being beside the compost pile.

Now - Compost on the ground, plus seaweed fert and compost/worm tea would probably frighten me if used in conjunction!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 8:41AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Forever, I didn't meant to steal your thread! I wanted to show you how I do it. I can take the old mulch in the spring and put it around the blueberry, then add compost. Any extra goes to the raspberries. If you have yours in rows, leave a few feet between rows, and move the mulch there.
With the pine needles so thin i can also just add the mulch over the pine needles and add fresh ones on top. I do that with the raspberries.

Thanks for the comments on the beds. I really love well landscaped gardens, I'm not that good, and also I don't have much money to spend on the garden. I work with what i have. Also making edible gardens pretty is a hard task! I need some border material for my trees, but my wife is so mad at me for spending so much money, she won't let me buy anymore material this year.
Forever, check link out for growing tips for strawberries, it's an excellent site!

Here is another photo of the rasied beds. This fall between the 4x4 beds, I'm going to extend the bed between the 4x4 out 1 foot and add beneficial flowers there. I have 3 areas I can do this. All plants in these beds were planted this spring btw.

Here is a link that might be useful: Growing Strawberries

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 9:30AM
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