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Strawberry polyculture w/trees vs. standard grow bed  RSS feed

 
Christian Stoehr
Posts: 6
Location: Oakland Township, MI (Zone 5B)
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Hi,
I am just learning and after planning my whole garden for 2015 ( my first year) I found out about polyculture. So now I am trying to rethink each plant one at a time.
I have ordered 5 apple trees out of a total of 12 fruit trees, and was told Wild Strawberry is one of the guild members.
My question now is since I ordered 3 regular strawberry varieties (Seascape, Honeoye, and Jewel) a total of 75 plants. Is it better for me to plant 6-8 of them around each tree, or keep them in there own grow bed (all 75) where I can easily use row covers to protect them.
Then I would still seed wild strawberries under the trees. I imagine those might get steeped on when harvesting or pruning the apples.
The other guild members I am adding btw are: Daffodils, Wild Blue Indigo, Comfrey, Chicory
Any thoughts or experience is appreciated.

Christian

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Ben Stallings
Posts: 160
Location: Emporia, KS
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Hi, Christian! You'll find that every answer here starts with "it depends," especially if you don't say where you're located!

In my experience in eastern Kansas, strawberries don't need frost protection unless they have actual berries growing when the frost threatens. On the plant-side of the placental barrier, they have antifreeze in their veins, so you can stop worrying about covering them. And they will happily grow among tree roots and other plants.

What you do need to worry about is how to identify the older plants, as they will stop producing berries after 3-4 years. You will need some kind of system to tell one year's plants from another's, or else after a few years you'll just have groundcover and no berries. The "traditional" (maybe a couple generations old) way to do this is to plant in tidy rows, so that you can just pull up or till up the row containing last year's plants, leaving this year's on either side. Another approach is to build a tiered planter so that the younger plants are generally lower down than their parents. Neither of these approaches lends itself to planting under trees.

I've tried using different colors of soda straw or plastic spoons, only to find that the plastic degrades in sunlight and is gone by the time I need to find it. Consider different colored landscaping rocks or something else really durable. Otherwise you will be facing the day when you have to pull up ALL the plants and start over.

Good luck!
 
Zach Muller
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Posts: 778
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I have done a little of both with my strawberries. I put a majority of them around trees in my forest garden, but kept some out in pots. My thinking was that I could bring them inside and keep them going through the winter, but it did not work that way. The ones that were out in the garden were buried under leaves and when I looked they are thriving, already growing nicely. The ones I had protected in pots died back anyway and are regrowing.

My plants are only one year old so I have not faced what Ben is referring to. I do remember in one of the back to eden tour videos that guy said he just covered his strawberries in woodchips in the winter and that would squelch out the older plants and only young vigorous fruit producing plants came through in the spring. I plan on having that happen naturally with the amount of organic material constantly falling in the garden, but we will see. Another issue that I have had to consider is the wild birds and squirrels in the garden eating the berries before I get to harvest. If that is a big issue than having them in a separate area able to be covered might be better for their productivity.
 
Christian Stoehr
Posts: 6
Location: Oakland Township, MI (Zone 5B)
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Sorry about my area, I forgot to put it in my signature and it was my first post. I am in Oakland Township, MI Zone 5b.

@Zach, one of my concern was the same with birds eating them if they are not covered up. But I guess I could still do individual areas of netting.

@Ben, thanks for the 4-5 year age warning, I`ll mark them but will take good notes with everything I plant. How do you propagate them, do you just plant a few runners from each in the ground, and eventually cut the cord and pull out the older mother plant for composting.
I guess wild strawberries don`t have as many runners, so maybe using the larger variety I ordered might make more sense, so I don`t have to keep buying new plants.


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