Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Keeping a Healthy Strawberry Patch

Backyard Growing Tips for a Summer Delicacy

backyard gardening
Take care for a delicious treat
Summer harvests are often the sweetest, as fruiting plants begin to produce delicious gems to grace our plates. Strawberries have long been a staple of the early summer cornucopia, and they were one of the first plants I placed in my pre-square foot garden all those many years ago. As I was not a seasoned gardener at the time, I began my hard-road learning curve by crafting a 2x6' raised bed out of scrap lumber. Admittedly, this structure would serve me well over the years, but my next step set me back more than a few harvesting seasons for my lack of understanding and research. I knew strawberries required minimum maintenance, but by presuming I knew what I was doing, I had a few years with low yields and small fruits. Once I matured a bit as a gardener, I learned my lesson and set about to improve my strawberry beds.

A Healthy Strawberry Patch Starts with Healthy Soil

My problem was that I went out and bought a few bags of commercially produced potting soil. I paid no attention to what was in it, or even what it was suggested for. I looked at the price, and that was how my choice was made. As I would learn later, good soil makes or breaks a garden. I learned this first with my tomato harvests. It is much simpler to start with good soil mixtures such as my staple foundation Mel's Mix than try and fix an existing problem.

Mel's Mix Formula for a Healthy Strawberry Patch

The Mel's Mix formula is simple: 1/3 Vermiculite for drainage, 1/3 peat moss for water retention and 1/3 mixed source compost. If you are not creating your own in a backyard compost bin, purchase three different types such as cow manure, seaweed, and blueberry, then and mix together before folding it in to your soil.

Keeping Strawberries Healthy by Watching Your Fertilization

Do not over-fertilize. This rule applies to just about every plant on the planet, but especially for strawberries. The health of your strawberry patch is determined by how much it spreads as it seeks out new soil to drop its seeds in to. If a garden bed has too much of a good thing such as concentrations of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, a strawberry plant will not feel the need to seek more fertile ground. It will spend its energies building vegetation instead of runners and fruit to properly propagate its seeds.

If you soil bed is saturated with these fertilizers, all you need to do is carefully and patiently leech them out. This process takes some time depending on how friable your garden is, but it involves carefully saturating your beds in a managed way to 'rinse' away the elements causing your troubles.

Mulch is Key for a Healthy Strawberry Patch

And not any just any mulch, mind you. Strawberries thrive under the acidic conditions associated with conifer trees, so choose either pine needles or pine chips to help not only retain moisture in the soil, but also infuse and maintain a positive Ph balance (6-6.5).