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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Woodchip Mulch with Strawberries Might Be a Good Combination in the Desert

Q.  You have converted me to the doctrine of using woodchip mulch. Is there any reason why I couldn't use wood chips in my strawberry bed?  My wife used to put strawberries in pots and they never did well. 
Strawberries grown in Las Vegas Nevada, in Fall 2006

A. You can use woodchip mulch between strawberries. Apply compost right over the top of woodchip mulch and water it in to the soil when fertilizing. You will have to remove woodchip mulch at the end of two or three years when you pull out the old mature plants and replant with new ones.

Plant strawberries in fall, not spring

            Plant in mid-August, not in the spring. This is a mistake many people make. You may have trouble finding plants this time of the year since most information is focused on spring planting. But strawberries will struggle when temperatures get hot after planting in the spring.
Strawberry demonstration plots prepared with compost in 2006 at the University Orchard
            Improve the soil 50-50 with compost mixed with the existing soil before planting. I would include a starter fertilizer such as 0 – 45 – 0 mixed with that soil mix. A good quality compost can act as a fertilizer so don't be afraid to apply it every three to four months after planting.

Plant strawberries 12 inches apart

            Here’s where I differ from what you might read. Plant them about 12 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart and remove runners when you see them. Some people also recommend removing the flowers as well. Planting in rows helps you find the berries later when the plants are full.
Planting depth in A.
            Plants should not crowd each other. You should see a slight separation between them for good production. Sunlight should hit the plant on all sides.

Everbearing strawberry might work better

            Select an everbearing type of strawberry rather than a main crop type. Main crop types produces only at one time of the year. Older varieties of ever bearing types like Ft Laramie, Quinault and Ogallala perform fine here during cool weather.
            Everbearing types “trickle” their production throughout the year. This "trickling" makes them more productive here when the weather is favorable. They will produce fresh berries for 2 to 3 years before the plants need to be replaced.

Strawberries do not set above 85° F

            Strawberries will not set fruit very well when the temperatures are above 85°F. This makes hot, summer fruit production difficult with June bearing types of strawberries.
            Keep plants alive during summer months until the cooler fall months return. Put them under 30 to 40% shade cloth draped on three-foot tall hoops during the summer months. Lay a frost cover over the top when temperatures are expected to freeze.
            Water strawberries with in-line drip tubing running the entire length of the raised beds and spaced to 12 inches apart. Hand watering with the hose is very difficult. Keep soil moist but not wet to prevent root disease problems.

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