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Why isn't my strawberry patch producing?


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Question details

I started my patch 5 years ago and have had a ton of wonderful strawberries. This year there are fewer berries and many of them are on the smaller side. Each year I extend my row by letting some of the 'sisters' root. Do strawberry plants have a life span? Should I be digging out the older ones and leaving the newer ones? I didn't mark what years which plants started. It's just a tangle of plants now. How to improve my yield and quality??

I used to have 1,000 strawberry plants, as well as fruiting trees and some garden, a house and lawn in 1/4 acre. My strawberry beds did the same thing. Studying it out, I learned that most strawberry growers move the whole bed every two years. My neighbor was a strawberry grower in Idaho before he moved to zone 5. He said he put a lot of chicken manure into wide beds, with a lot of leaves and, when that composted a while, he planted two strips of plants down the beds. The next year he would have a bunch of berries and lots of runner. So, after harvest, he ran a hoe down the original rows, leaving the new plants to grow the rest of the season. After frost, he would mow the plants high enough to not harm the crowns, put down some straw and leave it until Spring, when he would rake off the straw. When the flowers started coming on, he put fresh chicken manure about an inch thick, all under and between the plants and kept them wet--never let them get a bit dry else the fresh chicken manure would have killed the roots. This was a commercial enterprise in the mid 1990's. I don't know for sure what-all he did around this, but this was what he told me. I have some newly-planted Surecrop strawberries now because they are resistant to root diseases, which it seems would come up in this method-- and I'm tempted to put a few in a side-bed and try his method. Chicken manure is not only rich in nitrogen, but also in phosphorous, so with some greensand, or naturally potassium-rich dirt, this system works. Also, you could try some molasses as fertilizer. There is dry, organic molasses available, or buy something liquid and put a Tablespoon in a gallon of water and sprinkle it under the leaves of the growing plants. The carbohydrates help the soil organisms thrive. I had promised myself that I would not get strawberries again. It is like standing on my head to take care of them; but my neighbor was interested in getting some and I found some on sale, so we split the order. Raspberries are nicer, to me, and the young green raspberry leaves can be used as tea--even dried for Winter use. I told her I was going to put in raspberries and whatever grew over to her place were hers. She was happy with that. My neighbor has some fruit trees and grapes, and she often has a Summer garden and grandchildren and siblings living part-time with her.
Another thing to think about, if you have a 'tangle of plants' it could be that the plants are too close to eachother and stressing eachother out, which would account for there still being berries, but smaller. Perhaps a thinnning is in order to allow better production.
Strawberries were on my list of things to renovate this year. There were lots of plants, a tangle, like you describe, but few berries last year. So I dug up the bed and examined each plant. The "mother" plants had many runners and I discarded them. I frequently had to sever the runner connecting the daughter to the mother. I replanted only the daughters and plan to remove the mothers every year. I had great results pretty quickly this year. All of the daughters perked right up and grew beautiful berries held up off the ground. I didn't even do much amending of the soil which isn't great but I plan to do that too for next year, I am convinced that the mothers need to be removed, preferably yearly since that is when it is so easy to see which are mothers and which are daughters. Mother plants may go on producing daughters for a long time but their berry production is minimal after the first year. These are the observations I have made over time.
I planted an 8foot x 8foot (approx. 3m x 3m) raised bed of strawberries. They grew green leaves and quickly covered the bed. BUT no flowers and no strawberries. This cant be the 'mother daughter' problem above, or can it? I planted about 24 bare root strawberry plants in the bed. Are they too crowded? I'd appreciate advice.



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