Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spring Strawberry Refresh

Each spring I refresh my strawberry beds to help them get ready for a bountiful summer. At the end of the season I leave the old leaves in place. As the large outer ones die and wilt, they provide a protective shield to protect the roots through the cold winter months. We do get freezing temperatures and a little bit of snow, but this bed has survived for seven years.

After the danger of frost has passed, the first thing I do is remove the old leaves. If I find any slug eggs I toss them in the lake. They make better fish food than garden pests. Every time I do this I think the strawberries don't have enough foliage to come back, but they do. Since strawberry plants have a three-year cycle, this is the good time to replace some of the older plants with new sets. I use some runners from previous year's plants and also purchase some new sets at the nursery to keep my beds healthy.

I've already mentioned slugs. I've been working on natural solutions to reduce their impact. Notice I didn't say eliminate them. I don't think that's possible. But the fewer I have, the more berries for us to enjoy. First I add a layer of clean sand underneath the plants. This way all the rain water doesn't pool on the surface, causing the fruit to rot and giving slugs a breeding ground. Plus, it acts like a mulch, holding moisture underneath during the warm summer months.

Some websites extol the virtues of using coffee grounds as an organic slug control measure. All winter long I've been saving my grounds. To prevent them from molding, I "cooked" them dry on the woodstove. Even so, I barely had enough for my two strawberry beds. There is an added benefit from the coffee grounds. They add nitrogen to the soil, and strawberries love that. I've also saved my left over coffee to use as a spray. It may not be strong enough, but maybe there is enough caffeine to at least slow them down.

As an additional slug control measure I added a layer of crushed egg shells. Again, I've saved my shells all winter long. So far, I only have enough for one of my two beds. Slugs and snails (fortunately I don't have any of those) have soft bodies. They crawl on a large "foot" and are sensitive to rough surfaces. Cuts cause them to dehydrate and then die. At least that's the theory.

Hopefully I'll be rewarded again this year with a good crop of red, ripe berries. We love to eat them fresh with homemade shortcake and whipped cream, on top of pancakes for breakfast or in strawberry jam. That way we can enjoy their goodness all winter long. -- Margy


  1. I'll have to try the coffee tip. My Strawberries are growing like weeds this year. Only problem is my first harvest was berries the size of blueberries. Well a lot more water from these thunderstorms should help that. They did taste great anyway.

  2. Well if you want more coffee grinds and egg shells just let me know....I have tons. I have strawberries for the first time this year and will be sure to coffee grinds..thanks for the tip.

  3. Wow Pacy, you already have a crop in. My plants are growing like crazy right now and have lots of blossoms. It will probably be July before I get any to eat.

    Thanks for the offer Margaret. I saved my shells and grounds all winter so I'm set for now.