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Garden Troubleshooting: Ideas for Improving Your Strawberry Crop

Growing strawberries can be a very rewarding task, but they can also be a little bit tricky. They have complex root systems, and the fruit is just as attractive to wasps and slugs as it is to humans. If you're having no success with your strawberry plants, or find that your crop is ravaged by pests, here are few things you can try.

Grow strawberries in a planter.

Even though they don't have deep roots, strawberries need good soil depth for moisture and space to spread out, as they produce more plants using runners. So, you might not have thought about planting your strawberries in a planter. However, with large outdoor planter styles, you can have a raised-bed strawberry patch, which will help deter weeds and pests. Some good items you can use as planters for strawberries include

  • large tractor tires. These tires, when lain on their sides, can be filled with dirt. Look for tires that will make planters that are quite tall, which makes it easier for you to weed the plants and spread mulch. This tire style provides the soil depth the strawberries need, traps moisture in the soil, helps to insulate the plants during frost, and provides boundaries so that the runners of the plants do not start interfering with the rest of the garden. 
  • railroad ties. You can build a raised strawberry patch with thick ties. These will sit directly on the ground, but they will give your strawberries enough soil depth to become firmly established.
  • custom concrete or plastic outdoor planters. You can buy planters specifically designed for your needs, including planters that have been cast into molds to achieve certain shapes and depths. 

Provide a barrier between the plant and the ground.

Strawberries are a delicate fruit. If you do not stay on top of the harvest, they can begin to rot as they make contact with the ground, or critters who live on the ground, like slugs, will begin to eat the half-ripened fruit. You can help prevent premature decay by spreading a layer of wood chips or sawdust beneath the strawberry plants. not only does this help maintain soil acidity, but it prevents the moisture in the soil from accelerating mold. It also deters soil-swelling bugs from eating your fruit before you have a chance to pick it.

Wait for plants to mature.

Strawberries will blossom and produce fruit the very first year that you plant them. However, you will have more success if you trim the blossoms and wait until next year for berries. Strawberries naturally have shallow roots, which can cause problems with them getting the moisture they need. If you cut the blossoms, this encourages the plants to grow deeper into the soil, which means your plants will be hardier and produce more fruit in years to come. You also encourage stronger plants by cutting runners during the first few years. 

Pair your strawberries with pest-fighting plants.

Strawberries are very attractive to pests, including animals like mice, rabbits, and deer. You can help prevent your berries from becoming someone else's feast by planting plants that help to ward off insects and small mammals. These plants include

  • marigolds. The roots are poisonous to some types of pesky bacteria.
  • herbs. Basil, dill, mint, and garlic have powerful smells that can prevent insects, mice, and deer from smelling the berries.
  • onions. Planting onions among your strawberries has the same effect as planting herbs. Onions are very strong in taste and smell, so insects usually avoid them.

You can also ward off mice and deer by covering the berries with a fine mesh that allows sunlight through. This mesh will also deter wasps and yellow-jackets, who love to feast on the sweet ripe strawberries. For more options, contact a professional like This-N-That Gifts.