The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

When is it time to buy new strawberry plants?

Strawberries, cookies, and cream

Despite some bird pressure that's been forcing me to pick berries a little on the pale side, we've been enjoying delicious strawberry desserts for the last week and a half or so. That said, I've decided it's finally time to pull the plug on our Honeoyes. Not the variety --- this early season strawberry is still a favorite. But after expanding my patch from gifted expansions of someone else's patch for the last eight years, viruses (I assume) are building up in the clones and the berries are slowly becoming less flavorful. When even I want a little honey on my fruit (unlike Mark, who always does), I know that it's time to make a fresh start.

Ripening strawberry

And, while I'm at it, maybe I should try a second variety as well? Now that Kayla's in my life, I can get away with ordering 25 plants of both Honeoye and Galleta (an ultra-early variety) without worrying that the new plants will take over my entire garden. Last year's addition of Sparkle was a great boon to our homestead, so hopefully Galleta will be as well. And even though the plants cost 70 cents apiece once you add in shipping, when you figure that they and their children will likely feed us for another eight years at a rate of at least a gallon a day, the plants are definitely a bargain! That's my kind of homestead math.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We found a place to order them much cheaper than that this year. Granted the 1500 plant minimum (of one variety) means you need to plant a lot but that box of 1500 ended up $0.11 per plant including freight from CA to NH.

Another thought I had is that when your season ends why not pull and prune all the crowns and runners (keeping only the plants, ready to replant) and refresh/rebuild the bed? Perfect time to rotate strawberry locations as well (if you wanted a truly fresh spot). I would mix younger clones among the older plants, you could if you kept track toss some of the very oldest crowns at the same time, and even the older crowns should act like new growth in the fresh bed after being so disturbed.

Comment by leos.mike Thu May 21 08:10:35 2015
Is it possible that your berries have less flavor because of lacking nutrients? I found this book by Steve Soloman: an interesting read. He discusses how to create nutrient dense food by remineralizing the soil.
Comment by W. Thu May 21 09:33:39 2015

I'm just establishing strawberries this year. I couldn't wait a year though, and the strawberries came in 25 plant bundles. Each bundle ended up being more like 28 plants. so . . . I planted 10 (I bought two varieties - Hood and Benton for my PNW coastal location) in a 'sacrifice' bed to allow them to fruit this first year. They got lots of fertility and will be discarded after they produce whatever it is they decide to produce. I have berries forming and I even found the beginning of color yesterday! The rest got planted in place for next year's harvest and I've been diligently picking off the blossoms and runners. I've been trying to decide if I should let the sacrifice 10 plants produce runners and plant the daughter plants in strawberry pots in my greenhouse . . . I have lots of room indoors and wonder if I might get a few weeks start next spring that way. I'm not sure what the quality of the daughter plants would be this first year. I'm still deciding on that experiment. But happy to 'sacrifice' a few plants since 50 plants is ALOT.

Comment by Charity Thu May 21 11:42:10 2015
Comment by Terry Thu May 21 11:42:22 2015

leos.mike and W. --- I should have mentioned that we renovate our strawberry beds every year and start with fresh runners in new beds every third year. That usually keeps the flavor up pretty well. But when the berries out of new beds taste sour, that's when I know that it's time to get new plants.

We have mineralized based on Solomon's book, but I actually didn't notice any results. (Except for the strawberry plants getting a bit burnt that winter from the excessive minerals around living plants.) However, micronutrients definitely have an effect on strawberry flavor because the berries in freshly planted beds nearly always taste the best their first year. Luckily, I have a lot of garden spaces I can rotate through.

Comment by anna Thu May 21 11:50:08 2015

We planted 25 each of last year of Earliglow and Sparkle, both from Nourse. They did ok last year (only a couple flowers to pick off) but this year look incredibly robust and have set lots of fruit. We can't wait to eat our first fruits in a few weeks.

Last year we put in lots of other edible perennials, but nothing is going to give us as much in year 2 as strawberries!

Already starting to feel worried about where to rotate the strawberries to next in a couple years though, since we don't have a lot of space and apparently you don't want to put them after nightshade family plants.

Comment by Holly Gates Fri May 22 15:28:44 2015

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