by BOB SOUVESTRE
September 11, 2012
If you love the delicious taste of fresh strawberries, now is the time to order plants for an October planting.
Pre-ordering strawberry plants at select garden retailers during September assures that you will have plants for a mid-October to early November planting. Don’t wait and be left out. Any extra plants sell quickly and you will miss the opportunity of growing and picking sweet, red berries next spring (March to May).
The two most commonly available varieties planted are Strawberry Festival and Camino Real.
Strawberry Festival was developed by the University of Florida. It is an early-maturing, good quality berry and is the predominant variety grown commercially in the Louisiana strawberry industry.
Camino Real was developed by the University of California. It produces large to extra-large firm berries with good-shaped fruit and good quality.
A site in full sun with good drainage is preferred. A convenient water supply for irrigation is desirable. For successful home garden plantings, some type of bird netting is required.
Prepare a row or raised bed 8 to 10 inches high with a flat surface 18 or 24 inches wide on top of the row. Rows should be prepared several weeks before planting to allow rain to settle the soil.
The soil pH for strawberries should be 5.2 to 6.0. Gardeners are urged to take soil samples and adjust the soil pH to the desired level well before transplanting. Strawberries are a long-term plant and require a considerable amount of fertilizer to make a good crop. From 6 to 8 pounds of 8-24-24 or 8 to 10 pounds of 13-13-13 per 100 feet of row is sufficient for strawberries.
Fertilizer needs to be put down in September, well ahead of planting. To avoid a fertilizer burn, wait for a rain (1 inch to 2 inches) or irrigate before putting out plastic and planting berries.
To prevent splashing of soil particles on the fruit, mulch strawberries. Pine straw or other natural mulches can be used. One bale of pine straw will cover a 25- to 30-foot row (75 to 100 square feet).
Apply the mulch in late November and December. Be sure all the mulch is snug against the base of the plants and that the plants are well above the mulch.
Thin black plastic mulch is used by commercial growers in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes. The advantages of plastic mulch are earlier fruiting, prevention of dirt splashing on the fruit and weed control. Plastic 36 to 48 inches wide is most often used in strawberry production.
It is important that the plastic mulch be snug to the surface of the row and covered well with soil on both sides of the row. Gardeners are encouraged to have the rows settled and firmed by rainfall or irrigation before putting out plastic.
If the soil is firm and moist at the time of transplanting, plants will usually not settle below the plastic, fewer plants will die, and growth and development of the plants will be enhanced.
Transplant only well-developed plants with good root systems. Best yields are usually realized when transplanting is done in October to early November.
The bud and crown of the plant should be above ground and the roots below ground level. Firm the soil around the roots to prevent drying out. After the plot has been planted, water the plants to settle the soil around the roots. Watering daily for the next seven to 10 days is helpful in obtaining a good stand.
On single-planted rows, space plants 10 to 12 inches apart in the center of the row. On double-row-planted berries, space the plants 14 to 16 inches apart alternately along the row with a 10- to 12-inch spacing between parallel rows. Double-set rows usually yield more berries than single-set rows, and single-row plants produce more berries per plant than double-row plants.
The Louisiana Landscape Design School will conduct Course 2, Series 18, on Oct. 30-31, at the Baton Rouge Garden Center, 7950 Independence Blvd. Classes start at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m. The course includes 10 hours of lecture provided by LSU professors and local professional architects.
The $60 fee includes the syllabus, refreshments and the exam. It is $55 for those wishing to audit the course. Contact Clara Earl, (225) 924-6429 or firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
Bring some variety into your life by planting Naylor’s True Value Hardware and Garden Center’s exclusive lettuce blend, “C’est Si Bon” Salad mix.
If you were wondering, it’s a tasty mix of Oakleaf, Black Seeded Simpson, Cimmaron Red, Red Salad Bowl, Red Sails lettuces and arugula. This blend not only brings wonderful tastes together it also brings a splash of color and textures to the fall garden.
Start planting soon and enjoy all the way to next spring. Seeds are available now and transplants will be available in September, reports owner Johnny Naylor.
Got a gardening question? Write to Bob Souvestre, horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter, at Burden Center, 4560 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809, or email to email@example.com, or call Master Gardeners at (225) 763-3990.