Extension and Ag Research News


Dakota Gardener: Growing backyard berries

Now is the time to construct a strawberry patch.

By Tom Kalb, Horticulturist

NDSU Extension

There are only two seasons in the Dakotas: winter and construction season.

The temps are currently in the 90s and orange traffic cones are all over our roads. It must be construction season.

Let’s make a detour away from the veggies in our gardens and focus on strawberry patch construction. No jackhammers are needed but a tiller can be helpful.

For those of you without a strawberry patch, get ready for a new construction project. Start by selecting a sunny spot.

Next, kill the existing weeds and grasses. Glyphosate herbicide works well. It is available in generic form and in tradenames such as Roundup. This chemical will kill weeds and grasses completely (including roots) and has a very short life in the environment. The most effective time to spray will be in mid-September.

If you don’t want to spray, you can cover the land now with a heavy black fabric that will suffocate the weeds.

Once the weeds are dead, till the land and you are ready for planting in spring.

In early spring, buy dormant, bare-root plants. Junebearing types are popular for home gardens. My favorite varieties are Annapolis, Cavendish and Honeyoye. These varieties are hardy and productive. A new planting of Junebearing strawberries will produce well for two to five years.

The easiest way to grow berries is to use day-neutral types. These grow best for only one year. Although it may seem strange to buy strawberry plants every year, we do the same thing for tomatoes and peppers. You can buy 25 plants for $25 and enjoy berries from July through frost. The top varieties are Seascape and Albion.

A nice bonus of using day-neutral plants is we don’t have to worry about mulching them to survive winter. We can start with new, vigorous berry plants every spring. This is a great approach for growing berries in raised beds and containers.

For those of you who already have an established Junebearing strawberry patch, now is the time to renovate it. We want the patch to stay productive as long as possible.

Start by pulling out any weeds.

Next, mow off the old leaves. Set your mower to its highest height. Mow the plants, making sure you do not damage the crowns near the soil surface. A string trimmer will also work. Removing old leaves will stimulate the growth of new, healthy leaves.

It’s easy for a strawberry patch to turn into a messy jungle. Let’s tame the jungle.

Use your roto-tiller or hoe to create open aisles in your patch. Narrow the plants into rows that are 12 inches across with row centers spaced 3 to 4 feet apart. These open aisles will give your plants more sunlight, which leads to better quality berries and fewer diseases.

Thin out the remaining plants in the row, spacing plants at least 6 inches apart.

Fertilize plants with about 4 pounds of 10–10–10 or a similar fertilizer per 100 feet of row. The plants will use these nutrients to form flower buds for next year’s crop. Irrigate your garden to boost new growth.

New runners will spread across the soil this season. Space the new plants to stand at least 6 inches apart. Mulch the patch with 4 inches of straw in late fall.

It’s strawberry patch construction season. Whether you are starting a new patch this fall or renovating an old patch today, your construction work can lead to buckets of berries in the future.

For more information about gardening, contact your local NDSU Extension agent. Find the Extension office for your county at www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/extension/county-extension-offices.                                                     

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Aug. 1, 2023

Source: Tom Kalb, 701-328-9722, tom.kalb@ndsu.edu

Editor: Kelli Anderson, 701-231-7881, kelli.c.anderson@ndsu.edu


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