Spring Berry Planting

oneThe huge, early spring garden cleanup is in full swing at Coppertop, with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of clippings being added to compost. I’m slowly getting those gardening muscles back in form. Ouch.

In the midst of the trimming and cutting, our two 4×6′ strawberry beds required our attention. We’d composted our old strawberry plants last fall, since they’d become much less productive. Many people don’t realize that strawberry plants have a 3-5 year range of productivity after which they generally offer disappointing harvests.

Hubby began the re-lining of all our 21 raised beds with those two berry beds. He discovered the original chickenwire on the bottom of each bed had rusted and broken, reaching what we imagine was its 15-year lifespan, allowing voles complete access to all kinds of treats.  Hubby’s been a champ, with some help from Son, emptying the soil from each bed, removing old chicken wire, cutting and nailing in new, finer metal mesh. Take that, voles!

Back to the strawberries, Hubby decided to add another board to their beds to help keep out weeds and the darn voles whose tunneling skills are awesome but whose climbing skills aren’t. Since that required an additional eight inches of soil in each bed, over this last week we added compost, top soil, and sand to the beds.

Strawberries come in three types: June-bearers (usually best tasting and largest, one big crop which is nice if you’re preserving them, but lots of runners), Everbearers (misnomer since they bear two crops), and Day-neutral (continuous berries through summer and into fall). With some advice from fellow master gardeners, I selected bare root plants especially suited to our northwest climate in two varieties: Shuksan (June-bearer) and Tristar (Day-neutral). After separating them and soaking them briefly, I opted to plant each variety in its own bed. This will simplify the cleanup/revitalizing of the June-bearers after harvest. I planted using the hill system (12-15″ spacing) with the mid-point of each crown level with the soil surface.

The beds aren’t terribly exciting looking, and we won’t harvest the Shuksan until next year, but we should be able to enjoy berries from the Tristar in late summer. One more spring chore completed; a thousand to go!

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