Mulching strawberries with oak leaves

brandond(6)November 16, 2008

Is this a bad idea. I have done so here in sw missori. I poked in there today and some of the leaves were turning yellow. IM thinking I need to get my leaf blower out and remove the leaves and replace them with straw. Does this sound like the thing to?

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jellyman(6/7VA)

Brandon:

Get the leaves out of the patch, using a leaf rake instead of a blower. Makes less noise, picks up wet leaves better, and gives us all a little exercise. Then compost the leaves in an out-of-the-way corner. After they break down, the can be used in the garden.

Then don't replace the leaves with straw or anything else. You don't need mulch on strawberries in zone 6 Missouri. All it does in a climate like yours is to provide a hatchery for slugs, pillbugs, and beetles. Strawberries are tough plants, and require no freeze protection.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 2:22PM
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brandond(6)

Thanks for the advice Don. I dont really need to rely on raking leaves for exercise. IM in pretty good shape through other methods. I did in fact use a leaf blower on them and it worked well. I guess I will take you last advice though and not place any straw on them. So what about in the late spring like in case of a frost. Can I use that breathable landscape fabric at night for protection. Oh, and will the slight yellowing of the leaves affect the strawberry plants. Only a few were turning. thanks,brandon

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 3:13PM
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jellyman(6/7VA)

Brandon:

The leaves on your strawberry plants represent the past, and have no utility for the future. It makes no difference if they are yellow, brown, or entirely absent. Many people mow their strawberry plants down to the ground in fall in the belief this reduces the chances for overwintering disease transmission. The crowns will remain viable, and they contain the tiny leaves (and the blossoms) that will support the plants next season. The new leaves that will unfurl next spring are highly resistant to frost, and require no protection. Strawberries normally do not begin to bloom until the weather is settled, but frost damage to the blooms may be the only small risk to strawberries, and that risk is minimal.

I don't much care for leaf blowers. Maybe you can tell. Some of my neighbors use them for blowing leaves from here to there, making a terrible racket.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 4:11PM
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brandond(6)

Thanks for the great advice Don. I plant my strawberries using the matted row method. They are around 2 ft apart and in rows. I planted them last spring. They did fill in between the rows pretty well also. I planted Ozark beauty, and Allstar. I did pull all the blooms off, hoping for a big harvest this next year. I was wondering after this years harvest do I need to start from scratch with new plants, or can I just thin them out with the new plants that were formed on suckers. thanks again

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 7:30PM
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jellyman(6/7VA)

Brandon:

Ozark Beauty is an everbearing strawberry, while Allstar is a Junebearer, though one of the later varieties. I hope you have not mixed these two varieties together in your patch. If you have, the day will come when you will wish you had not.

My own view is that there is little to be gained by disbudding or deflowering strawberry plants, particularly everbearing varieties. The theory is that deflowering will strengthen the plants so they produce more the following season. But the plants that produce best are 1-year plants that have grown up the previous year. So if you allow newly planted crowns to bear, you will still have plenty of new, productive plants for the following season from runners. Plants that are older than three years, identified by their longer crowns, are in decline and should be removed in favor of vigorous new runners. Growing strawberries is a constant cycle of growth and renewal.

You do not need to start from scratch with new plants. The runners that grew in for you this past season (I do not call these suckers suckers) are the future of your planting for this coming season, and should bear well for you. So will the plants you put in last spring. If the plants are too crowded, remove the older plants with longer crowns first (from having grown many leaves), in favor of the vigorous new runners. Older plants decline in productivity and berry size, but they are usually good for at least two years. Try to keep the plants spaced a minimum of 6 inches apart, but if they are not yet crowded leave them alone. They will easily grow large enough to fill in the space. 8 inches apart would be even better. Strawberries need some space for soil nutrition, air circulation, and sunlight.

It sound like your patch is in a position to deliver a very good strawberry harvest for you next spring and summer; early with the Allstars, and regular smaller production from the Ozark Beauties for the balance of the summer. Good luck to you, and get rid of that leaf blower.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 8:45PM
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brandond(6)

Im very impressed by your knowledge. Im just 31 and started gardening this past year. I have really taken an interst to it. My background as a farmer growing up I guess is what has sparked my interest.

I have indeed mixed the two varieties of strawberries together. I really didnt know better. I will just have to keep them thinned out, if thats the key. My bed isnt that big. I just about five foot by 10 foot. I think I planted around 26 plants to begin with. I was wondering what you fertilzed with. IM thinking of going with the Neptunes Harvest liquid fish fertilzer. IM big into composting as well. I like the concept of liquid fertilizion. If you have a reccomendation that would be great.

PS What do you grow in your garden. IM just curious. I have blueberries, hardy kiwi, 3 different varieties of raspberries, two different cherry bushes, red lake currants, and thornless blackberries. Oh and concrod grapes. I also have appple, peach, and plum tres.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 9:03PM
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