Last year we layered our strawberries for the last time, pinning down those runners and getting new plants for a new strawberry patch. The problem with strawberry patches is that you really have a maximum of four years before you have to dig up the original crowns, destroy them and move new crowns to a new part of the garden. This is not some movable feast or Mad Hatter's Tea Party. After four years a strawberry crown declines, the soil around it becomes prone to disease and pests. You may notice this in your own patches, the harvest one year was not as good as the last and though you watered them just as much the strawberries didn't seem as juicy or abundant. It is in years like this that you save your runners. You should actually consider starting a new strawberry patch in the third year of the old strawberry patch, somewhere well away from the original but if you are like us, space may be at premium. Even in a quarter acre garden all space must in someway be of use to us as a family. Many gardeners think the strawberry patch has to be traditional, a square piece of land in the corner of the garden, set out in neat rows.
The truth is, strawberries are quite a hardy bunch of plants and do well in vertical planting, in hanging baskets, on green roofs of sheds. Basically a strawberry will do well anywhere there is access to water and sun. Last year we did potatoes in tyres, they were more successful then our spuds in open ground. We've had mixed results with growing in open ground and the yields have been considerably less than those in tyres or pots. This was not down to watering but the very nature of what the potatoes where growing in, the compost in pots retained moisture well and was not subject to a sandstone grit sub soil. We'll be doing spuds again this year in tyres and abandoning the open ground to other higher yielding crops. We decided this year to also see if the success of spuds could be replicated with strawberries. So, we have set aside five tyres for fifteen strawberry crowns to compare to fifteen we will be traditionally planting beside the path in the cottage garden. We started our tyre strawbs off with a good thick layer of well rotted manure.
We then added a layer of our own compost.
Then we topped off with the compost we use from Moorland Gold, which is soil association approved and organic.
We gave all our crowns a good water. It's worth noting from the fifteen crowns we had in our old bed we ended up with other fifty new strawberry plants last year. Over four years we have taken over two hundred runners from our strawberries, showing that they are worth investing in. There are many things you can do with strawberries and every variety has a unique taste, the variety we grow is Marshmello. Marshmello is an old tasting strawberry but not prone to old strawberry diseases. It is a strawberry though that does not travel well, bruises easily and turns quickly when it goes over on the plant.
We planted three crowns to each tyre, don't be greedy and try to cram in more. You want to leave space for the crowns to thicken up, and they will quickly.
In just over an hour we had taken five tyres and created five raised planters. The tyres will help retain moisture but will also retain heat. They will become like a biomass, sucking in the heat during the day and releasing it at night.
In comparison to a traditional bed the tyres take up less space and when we come to move this strawberry bed, we won't have to! All we will need to do is replace the compost, soil and manure in three years but the tyres should be able to stay where they are.
What have we learnt about strawberries?
- We shouldn't leave strawberries in the same ground for more than four years to prevent a build up of disease and pests.
- Strawberry crowns should be replaced every three to four years because older plants produce less fruit,
- Strawberries can be planted on the horizontal, vertical, in tubs, bins, tyres and on green shed roofs.
- Don't waste those runners. Pin then down each year, harvest them just as you would the fruit and start news beds or sell the plants the following year.
- There is a strawberry for everyone and we have grown many varieties over the years but we now grow Marshmello and Mara des Bois.
- Planters can take up less space then traditional strawberry beds.