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Sustainable Strawberry Culture

 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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I'd like to hear from folks who have had success in managing strawberry plants over the long term.  Particularly in regard to june-bearing type plants.

I've grown alpine strawberries and had decent luck with them them growing for 3+ years and still producing well.

I've grown musk strawberries and had very good luck with the plants growing well and expanding aggressively via runners.  The fruit was fabulous! Best strawberry I've ever tasted.  Unfortunately, the plants stopped maturing their fruits after 3-4 years.  They would flower, start to look like the fruit was going to develop and then stall out.  Otherwise very healthy plants.

I've grown June-bearing, ever-bearing and day-neutral strawberries and had good luck with the plants growing and bearing fruit for a couple of years.  Eventually, gray mold or other diseases would become too much and a far larger portion of the crop was lost rather than be harvestable.

At our new place, I've started some new plants of the musks (including a "male" this time, so we'll see if that makes a difference), and several June-bearing types:  Shuksan, Jewel and Earlyglow.  The musks are planted in the forest garden and have the company of many wild strawberry plants.  The June bearing plants have their own bed.

I didn't expect to want to work to maintain the June-bearing types (they were bonus plants), but after tasting the fruit, I'm very interested in figuring out if there is a way to keep them going without the eventual disease and reduced productivity issues after a few years...  Not sure if it is the different climate or the soil, but these are some top-quality berries!

Thoughts, please?
 
Joe Skeletor
Posts: 113
Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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I wonder, since the disease pressure gets pretty bad after a few years, if you could take some of the daughter plants and transplant them to new ground as they start running. So, say, in the second year, you get a new bed prepped for strawberry planting, and you take a bunch of the daughter plants to transplant over there. I'm pretty sure this would work. Hopefully the disease wouldn't follow with it? Pick the healthiest daughters I'd say. That way you would leave the older diseased plants.  I've heard of something similar related to perennial herbs. If you were to leave them in place and continue to harvest over and over, they could run out of nutrients to continue productively. But if you take something like sage, and propagate it into a new area, you could have new nutrients and more sage.

Just a thought-Joe
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Thanks Joe.  I've tried starting a new bed with the daughter plants at my old place, but the "new bed" wasn't really all that far from the old bed.  More like a parallel bed about 20' over from the old one. 

I may have been shooting myself in the foot by keeping it that close...

I'm curious if most or all plants prepped for commercial operation are grown out from field grown daughter plants or from tissue culture these days.  I'm betting on tissue culture.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i am going to have to move my "strazzberry" plants too, they were huge healthy plants but not any berries..bummer.

I had a couple berries last year off them and they were very tasty (razzberry flavor)..and I want them to do well

we have wild strawberries everywhere that do tremendously with very little care
 
Jeanine Gurley
pollinator
Posts: 1399
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Brenda Groth wrote:
we have wild strawberries everywhere that do tremendously with very little care


That may be the key? Berries planted everywhere instead of a bed.

I got some really great strawberry plants from a coworker before I got hooked on the permie stuff.  Of course I went out and made a little bed for them.

Now with my new-found permie knowledge I am going to move them to underneath my apple trees and interplant with mint and dandelion.  We'll see how it goes.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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i find that in my forest garden the strawberries "roam" around. the most productive areas are not where i planted them years ago. they set runners, and then those become  the most productive. as those plants set out runners and they establish runners, production also moves along to the newer plants. the old plants still produce but eventually they fade away and become organic matter for the soil.
 
Travis Halverson
Posts: 120
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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hubert cumberdale wrote:
i find that in my forest garden the strawberries "roam" around. the most productive areas are not where i planted them years ago.


Exactly what mine did and are doing.



I originally planted them in a 2 x 8 rectangular plot (seen to the left of the gray paver).  It's hard to see the berries with all my "weeds" too.



They moved themselves mostly out of that rectangle and up a slight incline toward the deck (the space between the deck and the paver).  They like it so much in their new spot that they're crowding out a lot of the grass, unlike the first pic of their old spot.



I haven't deliberately planted anything with them, yet, but these tall plants (whatever they are) seem to like the area too.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Thanks all for the thoughts and photos...

For those of you that have the 'roaming' strawberries, how is the disease issue?  Also, can you say what varieties of strawberries you started with that have done the best with the roaming method?

My experiences with musk strawberries has been that they will happily roam around and compete well with weeds and other domesticated plants, but not produce in this situation.  For the june-bearing types, they seemed to do poorly with lots of competition from taller plants.

I like the suggestion of interplanting with asparagus, since the shade to the berries would be pretty light, but I don't think the fruit would hold up after the 3rd year...
 
Travis Halverson
Posts: 120
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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K.B. wrote:
Thanks all for the thoughts and photos...

For those of you that have the 'roaming' strawberries, how is the disease issue?  Also, can you say what varieties of strawberries you started with that have done the best with the roaming method?


Ours are some type of June bearing variety.  They were here when we got the house three years ago.

First year we had a good harvest of many small berries.  Then someone told me that strawberries needed to be moved every few years (I guess 'cuz of disease, this was before I started learning about permaculture so I didn't question much advice from other gardeners).  I didn't notice any kind of disease, but moved the plants anyway, thinking I'd get larger berries, at least.

Second year (first year in the new spot) the plants just grew and moved to where they liked things better.  No berries.

This year (second year in the new spot) we harvested about four pounds of berries.  I'd say a pound were eaten by slugs and little worms before we could get to them.

I have no more than the three years with these berries.

Looking forward to more info.
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Im in my second year of june bearing, was very pleased with what I bought...Im not sure of the variety though. Im curious to see what others say in their experience. I also planted june and ever bearing all throughout my forest garden, hoping it will be like a ground cover.
 
Mac Nova
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Here is an article that you may find helpful on long term berry growing.

http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/gardening_in_bc/74968
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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I understand why asparagus would go good with strawberries because of root depth etc. But in my experience you are picking strawberries the same time as asparagus so you would be stepping all over both of them, and its not like they die out.
 
Saskia Symens
Posts: 120
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I read growing new plants from runners indefinitely will weaken the "cultivated" part of the strawberry and you will end up with small more wild-like berries. In the same book it said to keep one or max two runners per plant, pinch them after the first plantlet, destroy any flowers on the mother plant so all the strength goes to the runners.

Personally I can't be bothered with keeping the runners in check and deflowering a plant continuously to do it that way. When I transplant my old plants (in spring) every two years, I cut the mature crowns into two or three parts (with roots each!) with a sharp knife, and they all produce fairly that same year. I'm not sure if this can be kept up indefinitely, but so far it has worked for me.
 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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Im reviving this thread because Im still baffled as to why its necessary to get new plants every few years. In the wild I guess they might have off years as new plants get established and disease hit, but I dont see how cultivated ones would go back to wild genes just by letting them go. Wouldnt letting them spread be the same as tissue culture, I mean the genes have to be the same since they arent growing from seed. My thought was to rejuvinate them like they would be in the wild by letting the chickens in there to scratch and dig the third year. This would thin things out, which might be the issue. Anyone tried this or have input on it? Anyone growing onions with strawberries?
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Rob - thanks for coming back around to this. It is getting time for me to move some of the daughter plants around from this past season's growth. We didn't have enough rain before it got cold in December for the daughter plants to develop good root systems. The next couple weeks look mostly above freezing and the rain has returned. I'll mostly be distributing my Shuksan daughter plants around the hugel berms to spread them all out. The Shuksan developed the largest crowns and had the most runners. The Jewel plants put out substantially less runners and have crowns about half the size, and the Earliglo are another step down from there.

I agree that the runners/daughter plants should be gentically identical to the mother plants, with perhaps a few exceptions for point mutations or sports. I don't know off-hand what the mutation frequency rate is for strawberry plants. The advantage to tissue culture beyond preserving the genetics is the opportunity to avoid disease propagation, through selection and testing for fungal, bacterial and viral infection.

I think each climate/region will be somewhat unique in how long daughter plants stay productive and different strawbery varieties will likely be different in their profile. The chicken approach to thinning may work for you. I'm not sure how much damage the birds will do to the crowns. I've used the strawberry patch for easy pickings of the leaves for rabbit feed and the crowns will come back for quite a few harvests, in my experience.
 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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Im really hoping that they not only thin out leaves but crowns as well. I think about thow natural pruning happens and this might fit into that pattern. Id love to get updates from you on this since I dont know anywhere that this has been addressed.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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I'll keep posting updates as we move in to the next growing season and beyond. I like the idea of natural thinning. It will take several years of amplification to get the crowns "thick" in my beds. Pretty ideal for establishing the food forest, actually. It will be several years before the canopy starts to really close up.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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Location: zone 7
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my strawberries are still doing as i described above.

i think i may have figured the problem out. are you growing a BED of strawberries? like only strawberries?

mine grow with dozens of other plants.

also it seems from the posts after my last that people are thinking in terms of growing strawberries the conventional way, in a bed by themselves. when that is not the way the strawberry wants to grow naturally.

force a sensitive perennial in a controlled spot for years and disease is bound to come eventually no matter how you do it.

the only thing i do with my strawberries is harvest.
 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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I have both in beds and mixed. Im curious to see the contrast.
 
John Polk
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Each plant species has it's own lifespan. Some last centuries, some, decades, while others, only a few years.
For strawberries, the useful lifespan is considered 3 years. Commercial strawberry fields get replanted every year.

Strawberries are an excellent choice in a new orchard. It will take three years for the trees to become productive.
By then, the strawberries are finished, but you have made your orchard productive while waiting for the fruit trees.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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I very much believe that a bed type planting of only strawberry plants kept in the same area for years will decline due to age/disease pressure... That type of growing is what prompted me to start this thread.

I've not had much luck so far with the roaming strawberry culture in terms of productivity. June-bearing and musk types seem fine to grow in less sun (under upper story tree shade) than optimal but either fail to produce or produce much less fruit, in my experience.

Hubert - do you have an approximation of how much yield you get off of your more productive, younger strawberry plants?

I'm generally fine with the approach of less yield per individual plant in a polyculture, multi-story setting, but I feel there is a lower limit to what is acceptable in terms of harvest efficiency. Younger june-bearing strawberry plants generally can yield around a quart or a pound or two of berries per plant in "classically" good strawberry culture conditions. It doesn't take many plants to end up with a lot of yield this way. If the roaming/forest garden strawberry plants yield much less than half of their potential in full sun conditions, I think the additional time to harvest may offset the time to prepare a new classical bed each year.

 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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We planted strawberries six(?) years ago among the rocks of the wall of our upper pond. They're still going strong. We don't do anything special for them. They are the June bearing type. Nice big berries. They've spread some.
 
Denise Lehtinen
Posts: 102
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
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Two thoughts.

1) If the strawberries live and stay healthy growing beneath your trees, but you want the greater productivity of bedded plants, why not consider a blended system? That is use the orchard strawberries as your source of plants to put into your beds.

2) Gratitude for the idea of growing strawberries among the rocks. Here in Florida they are usually grown as annuals and keeping them in enough water is challenging. Of the ones I bought in the fall and put out front -- some on my mini-hugelkultur attempt, some just in the sand out there, only the one I put in the sand and neglected most is still alive. It looks like it is growing slowly.
But I have an area in the back I've just lined with stones (to decrease the number of weeds between my water-wise containers), and maybe that is a place that strawberries would like to grow (year 'round) better than where I have them now.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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I like your thoughts, Denise.

I'll be curious to see if the "roaming" strawberry plants in the hugelkulture beds will work to supply productive, disease free daughter plants over the years. My guess is that this will work better with the standard June bearing types. The musk varieties are much more tightly packed if they are allowed to runner unchecked. the crowns form a thick mat.
 
Denise Lehtinen
Posts: 102
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
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In fact, I'm back to liking them where they are now...they're part of my alternatives to lawn project.

Less mowing and more food growing is a good thing in my book. Someday I might even manage no mowing and food growing everywhere, but my approach has been to address those areas I hate mowing most first.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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