Mari's Dirty Fingers

A Newbie's Garden Experiment

STRAW berries! Now I get it.

This is my first time growing strawberries.  I looked up a ton of information before I tried planting them with the school kids.  Telling them our strawberries died because I didn’t know what I was doing would suck.  I used strawberryplants.org for most of my information. The major things I learned from my research were:

  1. Plant varieties of strawberries known to do well in your area
  2. Plant them according to your zone (Zone 10 December-February)
  3. Prepare your soil (strawberries like it acidic)
  4. Mulch to avoid fruit rot

Following these tips I bought Eversweet and Temptation strawberry varieties.  I amended the garden bed with acidic soil for berries.  The kids planted them in late November.  The plants looked healthy and grew. We began to see flowers.  Everything was perfect.  For a while. Then the weather warmed up and the plants began producing strawberries.  Unfortunately many rotted on the plant before they could ripen.

Many strawberries got moldy or leathery before they could ripen and picked.

Moldy or leathery strawberries before ripening

Yikes! I needed to fix this ASAP.  I went back to my notes and realized I still hadn’t finished mulching my strawberries.  I had kept the branches of my Christmas tree in the garage because pine needle mulch makes soil more acidic and therefore would be good for the strawberries.  I started mulching after Christmas but then got busy with other garden stuff and hadn’t gotten around to finishing.  Bad move.

The “straw” in strawberries points to how important mulching is to this fruit.  Most of the problems and diseases that spoil strawberries are caused by the fruit touching the soil.

Strawberry bed before

Strawberry bed before

Well, I had to try to fix my mistake.  I started by removing all the old leaves and bad fruit.  Hopefully this would help improve air circulation and reduce the spread of mold.  Then I mulched  everything with pine needles.

Strawberry bed after

Strawberry bed after

I made sure all the remaining strawberry leaves and fruit were completely off the soil and on a soft pine needle bed.  It’s only been a week,  but the remaining strawberries are ripening just fine.  It looks like I dodged a bullet and won’t have to give the kids bad news after all.

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Strawberry growing well on pine needle mulch

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