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Strawberries

 
James Freyr
Posts: 101
Location: Middle Tennessee
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Howdy! My first post here, just recently discovered permies forum. What a great place full of helpful people and quality knowledge! I've been gardening for 25 years, organic for almost 10, in raised beds for the last 6 and just recently jumped into biodynamic with both feet. I'm gobbling up books and have got a long way to go as I put into practice what I learn. My wife and I have a suburban homestead of sorts (19 raised beds, blueberry bushes, raspberry canes, fruit trees, backyard chickens and compost piles) as we work towards a goal of a more traditional homestead with many acres, piggers and cattles and such. I'm getting off topic here, on to strawberries.

This will be my first year growing strawberries. I planted approximately 50 strawberry crowns in 4x24ft raised bed last november. The weather was very mild and the crowns came out of dormancy and immediately started growing a few sets of leaves. Finally in december we get some freezing weather (I'm outside of Nashville, zone 7a). From what I've read last, they need to be exposed to temps in the 20's to go dormant, which is what happened, then I covered them in straw for the winter. We really never had a winter. Mild temps in the 50's and some 60's for a good part of january. In the second week of february it's in the 70's, I start to worry the crowns will come out of dormancy and rot if they're covered in straw mulch, so I uncover them. The crowns are firm, not mushy and rotting. Here I am in the second week of march (todays high is 65), the crowns have been uncovered for 4 weeks and haven't shown any signs of life. My garden gets plenty of sun, all day long. We've had plenty of rain since december. They're in fantastic well draining soil, full of organic matter and life. I called the nursery that I purchased the crowns from and the guy said to wait another month. That sounds to me like "I just answer the phones here and this is my day job and I don't know anything about plants". So, strawberry growers of Permies, should I wait? am I being impatient? should I pony up some cash and replace them? I fully understand I won't get berries this first year, and I don't want to lose an entire year of growth and establishment because my wife and I really want berries in 2018. Your advice is much appreciated. Thanks!!
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2103
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Don't panic, those strawberries will wake up and start growing. Ours have been in leaf all winter this year (through a loose straw mulch). We also have a few that had no mulch and are still doing fine.
Once your strawberries are established through a year, they will survive without a thick layer of straw quite nicely.
It's that first year that trips some folks up since they might sit dormant until the weather warms up day and night the first season.
I have a couple of friends that dug up their winter planted crowns thinking they were dead, they then planted newly bought crowns and decided to give me their "dead" ones.
I now have an entire new bed that is going to do very well this year thanks to their not listening to me.
I can see a lot of Jam and Preserves along with shortcakes coming up in just a couple of months now.

The new weather patterns in the South are still adjusting but we will be lucky to see what we used to know as Winter any time in the near future. While our days are warmer than "normal" the nights still get cold enough to keep crowns in dormancy, once those nights are consistently in the 50's to 60's those crowns will start waking up. Don't be too surprised if you get some "late season" berries this year, we generally have been getting a spring crop and a fall crop the last two years.

Redhawk
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 845
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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You are a very neat gardener with a huge attention to details! I use strawberries as space fillers, groundcover and understory, it is better when the birds and the kids don't find them all. I grow as well alpine strawberries.
 
James Freyr
Posts: 101
Location: Middle Tennessee
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Redhawk-

Thanks for the input man. So this afternoon as I continued to worry too much about my strawberries I decided to sacrifice one. I sliced it vertically down the center with a razor blade, and the interior is a tobacco brown color. I compared what I was looking at with photos on an ag extension website (forget which university it was) and it looked uncannily like a dead crown that succumbed to disease (verticillium wilt if memory serves me correct, which it sometimes does not). I did see photos of a healthy crown and the interior is a mix of white and light green tissue. I want to believe that if I wait til april they will show signs of life, but I also am afraid my crowns are toast. Strawberries come into season in tennessee about the first of may, usually over by middle of june, which is the sole information that makes me believe they should be growing already. again, I've never grown strawberries before and this is all new to me.

You mentioned your plants were in leaf all winter. Mine had leaves when I mulched them, all those leaves were brown/rotten and mostly gone when I removed the mulch in february. Perhaps I mulched too thick and things stayed too wet and couldn't breathe. All I did was follow the guidelines from the nursery to mulch 4 to 6 inches of straw. Anyway, I'm kinda on the fence about replacing them sooner than later. I do think waiting till mid may when it's blazing hot and the sun is high in the sky is the wrong time to plant new crowns. Thoughts anyone?
 
Walt Chase
Posts: 51
Location: ALASKA
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Be patient.  It's still too early, even where you are for them to be sprouting.  My wife's Grandmother had strawberries just planted out in the edge of an old field.  They grew like gangbusters and we had winters that were milder(Northern Middle GA) and could have big swings in temps in just a day or two than what you experience in Nashville.  I even have Strawberries growing here in Alaska.  They are in two raised beds and do very well.
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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I'm not a big strawberry grower, but can I suggest a different experiment? Can you pot up one of your strawberry crowns and bring it inside to a warm window? If they're just waiting for warmer weather that should spur at least that one to grow. Keep checking the crowns for firmness. So long as they aren't going mushy, there's a fair chance they're alive.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I sliced it vertically down the center with a razor blade, and the interior is a tobacco brown color. I compared what I was looking at with photos on an ag extension website (forget which university it was) and it looked uncannily like a dead crown that succumbed to disease (verticillium wilt if memory serves me correct, which it sometimes does not). 
 
Perhaps I mulched too thick and things stayed too wet and couldn't breathe. All I did was follow the guidelines from the nursery to mulch 4 to 6 inches of straw.


hau James, The one you dissected does sound like a fatal case of verticillium, but that one doesn't mean they all have contracted it. If the crowns stay firm to touch they might be just fine, a test like Casie mentioned would be worth doing, it will show if life is still present.

If you  still want berries, My suggestion would be to buy some growing, nursery plants, these can even be found at Home Depot or Walmart.
That would give you some that are already doing fine and give you that time span to wait and see if those crowns will come to life.

strawberry trouble shooing This link is to the Cornell berry page for strawberries, it has lots of good information on problems and how to avoid or repair the damage done.

Redhawk
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