Cool Cavendish Strawberry Plants
Realization Of The Day:
Even though I'm usually expecting it, the first frost of the season always comes as somewhat of a surprise.
I think it's because I get spoiled in early October. Things have cooled down (most years anyway), the majority of ravenous insects have disappeared, and autumn rainstorms mean I no longer need to don my Watering Queen hat every day. Garden duties are greatly diminished, and nothing really needs to be protected at night yet. Even the greenhouse can stay open and vented all the time.
October in the garden feels positively luxurious. Then all of a sudden the frost shows up, and I sort of start to panic.
It really isn't too much of a problem yet, though (and everything does look pretty all covered in frost), as it won't be getting this cold every night for a while. Our days should stay fairly warm, too. Next week it's even supposed to pop back up into the 70s. So at this point, protection from the occasional cold snap simply means covering the autumn crops with floating row cover, which can even be left on your plants during the day if you're feeling lazy.
All I have to remember is that this is the time of the year when we need to adjust the temperature forecasts to reflect the cooler weather down here in our little valley, technically known as a 'low lying area.' While the official report was 41° at 8:30am this morning, we were at 32°.
Meanwhile, the strawberry bed doesn't need any attention just yet. The latest issue of Progressive Farmer magazine (you never know where you'll find helpful gardening tips) offers this advice for preparing your strawberry beds for the upcoming winter:
Strawberry plants are hardy perennials, but the alternate freezing and thawing that heaves them from the ground is what you must protect against. Cover the strawberries with 4 to 6 inches of hay, which is loose enough to let them breathe. Wait until after several frosts, but not enough cold to freeze the ground. You do not need to cut the foliage back before mulching.
I've always covered my strawberry bed with a thick layer of hay each year, but I never realized it was to protect the plants from ground heaves. This is the same reason you need to cover your fall-planted garlic (which I meant to plant yesterday!).
The only problem I have is that my beagle, Robin, loves to curl up on what she has decided are hay beds built especially for her. At almost 11 years old, though, she is semi-retired and will probably be spending much of her days and nights curled up next to the living room woodstove this winter instead (where she is right now, in a plush round cat bed that is much too small for her but that she insists on squeezing into anyway).
I created a new 4' x 8' strawberry bed this year, which I filled on May 7th with 30 Cavendish plants I ordered for $9.95 from my beloved Pinetree Garden Seeds. According to their catalog, this midseason variety offers "high yields of large berries with excellent flavor that make this a good choice for home gardens or roadside stands. High resistance to red stele and intermediate resistance to verticillium wilt. Berries ripen over a long season."
So far the plants are doing great, despite having nearly the entire bed eaten down to almost nothing twice over the summer by deer. Covering it with old sheets at night helped with that problem.
As difficult as it always is, especially since my old strawberry bed was history this year, I pinched off all the blooms so the plants could focus their energy on building up a strong root system rather than producing berries. For a while I pinched all the runners off, too, but if your plants are as vigorous as these were, this is a job that can easily away from you.
At one point I left the runners that had already rooted themselves into the ground, but snipped the connecting stem from each mother plant. Basically I filled in the empty spaces for free. Then after the deer damage I just left the entire bed alone as I wasn't even sure if it would survive. But the plants came back with a vengeance and the entire bed is now completely filled in.
I already have high hopes for a bumper strawberry crop next spring. While others are busy conjuring up visions of sugarplums during the upcoming holiday season, I'll be dreaming of bowls and bowls of those sweet, jewel-like berries—and there won't be a single turtle in sight!
Other Strawberry Growing Posts:
6/5/05: Strawberries from Garden to Kitchen
5/21/06: A Beautiful Breakfast!
5/27/06: Cary, Bear, and Me vs. The Turtles
5/28/08: Successfully Growing Strawberries
7/20/08: Strawberries in the Garden & an Orange Yogurt Cake Recipe in the Kitchen
9/7/09: How To Grow Bigger Strawberries Next Year
© 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the crisp and cool foodie farm blog where there never seem to be enough strawberries.