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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Strawberries Produce Great Leaves. Now What?

Q. My Ozark Beauty and Ogallala strawberry plants produced a few berries when first planted and now they want to propagate. This growth is filling my raised bed to my satisfaction.  I clip them down, water and watch them grow! Please provide your most welcome and appreciated advice.

A. You will want to give each individual plant its own space to grow. Space plants no closer than 1 foot apart and remove all of runners as you see them.
You can plant them further apart and propagate your own plants from the runners but you still want them no closer than 1 foot apart. All the rest of the runners you want to remove from the plants or they will get overcrowded, shade themselves, give you very low production and make it difficult to harvest.
Strawberries growing in Las Vegas in amended desert soil demonstrating good color and good health
Strawberries growing in Las Vegas soil amended with compost but showing the beginnings of iron chlorosis
The plants that you decide to keep and spaced far enough apart will last you about three years. These are the mother plants. So at the beginning of the third year begin to propagate new plants from the runners of the mother plant with the idea that these new plants will replace the mother plants at the end of the third year.
You can keep these new plants in place by just pegging or securing the new plants in a spot by holding down the runner and baby plant in its new location. When new roots begin to form you can cut it from the mother plant at cool times of the year such as March or September.
You can move them in the fall when they are young if they are not in the right place.
There are three types of strawberries classified on the time of year they produce. Main crop strawberries produce a single crop of fruit and then turn their energies to the production of runners, roots and leaves.
Strawberries with damage from the vine weevil
In my opinion you run the highest risk of not producing fruit by using main crop strawberries in our climate. Everbearing strawberries like Ogallala and Ozark Beauty are supposed to produce all during the spring, summer and fall months but usually tend to produce their fruit mostly in the spring with a trickle the rest of the year.
Then there are the day neutral varieties like Tri-Star which are supposed to produce more consistently all through the year but usually end up producing in the spring and fall when it is cooler. So expect to see fruit most likely in the spring months and some in the fall months. The rest of the time expect to see runners and leaves.
Like most vegetables and fruit trees they need at least six hours of sunlight every day. They prefer morning and early afternoon sun. They like soils with lots of compost added to it. They like to be mulched with straw or pine shavings such as animal bedding or even shredded newspaper.
Generally speaking strawberries stop producing fruit when temperatures are hot (85 to 90° F) so main crop strawberries, kind of like tomatoes, are hit and miss in our climate. We are better off with everbearing or day neutral types which you have.
However, yours are older varieties, very hardy with well-established names but there are better varieties out there. We are very limited here in what is available for home gardens so nurseries usually stay with varieties with names that are recognized. Some people plant all three types to improve their chances of getting some fruit.
Avoid fertilizing plants with nitrogen fertilizers in the early spring. Wait for them to finish producing fruit in the early summer and then fertilize them if they need it. You can tell if they need it by looking at the leaf color and size.
Fertilizing them at the beginning of summer you will be pushing new growth at a time when they normally don't produce any fruit.

The biggest problems with strawberries is iron chlorosis or yellowing leaves, keeping the soil to moist and developing root rot, Strawberry weevils, snails, slugs, pillbugs or sow bug damage to the fruits. 

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