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Fall Plug Planting

Why plant your strawberry plugs in the fall?
When planting in the fall, strawberry plants spend less time in the fields which means there is less chance for plants to be eaten by pests and contract diseases.
Why start your crop with strawberry plugs?
When planting with plugs, you will experience less plant loss, easier planting, and faster plant establishment than bare root (fresh dug) plants. Tell me more about the advantages of growing with strawberry plugs.
 

Planting

Start with a location that gets plenty of sun and is weed free.  Strawberry plugs grow well in many different types of soils.  It is recommended that the soil have good drainage.  If there is no natural drainage, the strawberries should be planted on raised beds. The soil should contain at least 3% organic matter (manure, compost, peat) and have a pH between 6 - 7 for best results.  If possible, avoid planting strawberries in soils that potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes have previously been grown in.  These crops may harbor the fungal disease Verticillium which can infect your newly planted strawberries.

After preparing a good location, you are ready to start planting your strawberry plugs.  Make sure your plugs are watered thoroughly before planting.  Space your plugs 12 -18 inches apart in the row.  Optimal spacing between rows is 3 - 4 feet apart for maximum air movement and sunlight.  Set plants in the row with the root ball facing straight down.  The middle of the crown should be level with the top of the soil.  Soil should be watered after planting to set the strawberry plants in the ground (Avoid watering plants directly. Sprinklers or drip irrigation works best).   After the initial watering, the soil will settle and the soil line should be even with the bottom of the crown as indicated in the picture.
 

Weed Control

At planting time, the soil should be weed free.  After planting, weekly cultivation is recommended to remove weeds when they are small.  A method call plasticulture can also be used for weed control.  Place black plastic (shown in picture) over raised strawberry plant beds and plant strawberry plugs through holes punched in the top of the plastic.  This will greatly reduce weeds from growing around your strawberry plants (without having to cultivate the soil), help conserve ground moisture, and keep fruit clean.  This method is widely used by growers on the east coast.
 
 
 

Fertilization

Fertilizers should be used to maintain soil fertility and maximize plant growth and fruit production.  It is recommended that 1/2 lb. to 1 lb. of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet be worked into the soil before planting your strawberry plugs.

 

Mulching

Strawberries are perennial plants that must endure the elements throughout the winter to survive. They are sensitive however to cold temperatures, and plants may experience winter damage if the crowns reach negative temperatures (F).   Mulching strawberry plants helps prevent quick freezing and thawing which can affect plant survival. The mulch maintains a large volume of dead air spaces, and as a result, it helps to insulate warm air near the plant through cooler periods. The rough surface of the mulch can also help to trap and hold snow that might have been otherwise blown away. Mulching also keeps weeds down, conserves moisture, helps keep fruit clean, and adds humus to the soil.

Several types of materials can be used for mulching like wheat, salt hay, or oat straw. Wood chips can also be used, but it is best to avoid materials like leaves because they tend to mat down and smother plants.  You can also run into problems when using a material that is too light because of the increased probability that it will be blown away by the wind.  You should mulch strawberry plants in mid to late November when the plants have started to go dormant and air temperatures are generally low enough to reduce the susceptibility to any diseases.  A rate of 14 - 16 pounds of wheat or oat straw per 100 square feet should provide a 2 inch cover and adequate protection.  Remove mulch from the top of the crowns in the spring when new growth starts. Avoid removing the mulch too early, because you may accelerate blossoming and increase the susceptibility to frost damage.  Leaving the mulch in the aisles will help keep the fruit clean.
 
 

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