Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
May, 2004
Regional Report

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Spring is an ideal time to plant strawberry plants. To achieve that sweet, juicy flavor, allow the berries to ripen on the plant.

Strawberries ... Luscious Fruit For Rocky Mountain Gardenss

If you want the luxury of tasting the sweetest strawberries, here's your opportunity to grow them yourself and let them ripen on the plants. For sweetness and freedom from pesticides, no commercial strawberry can surpass those that ripen in the sunshine of your own garden.

Most gardeners throughout the Rockies can successfully grow strawberries at elevations up to 10,000 feet. During the growing season a small patch of strawberry plants (50 to 100 plants) will supply the average needs for a family.

Strawberries are considered the perfect fruit. They are so adaptable to our area and will bear fruit sooner after planting than any other fruiting plant. Insect pests and diseases are comparatively few when the plants are maintained properly.

Starting a Strawberry Bed
Though sandy loam is the ideal soil for growing strawberries, most soils can be improved by adding 5 to 6 bushels of compost per 1,000 square feet. Work the compost to a depth of 8 inches or more. If you decide to use commercial-grade compost, be sure it is free of contamination from pesticides and soluble salts. Avoid fresh manure and raw organic materials, such as straw and sawdust. A pound of nitrogen, a pound of phosphate, and a pound of iron chelate (Sequestrene WP 138 or 330) per 1,000 feet should be added to a new garden plot.

Spring is the preferred time to plant new strawberry plants, but we've had great success in transplanting in early fall if plants are available. Use plants less than one year old that have healthy, vigorous roots. Depending upon available space in your garden, space the plants 12 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. For smaller spaces, set plants 8 inches apart or grow them in containers.

Bare-root plants should have their roots trimmed to remove the dried tips. Then remove all but two or three vigorous leaves, spread the roots, and pack the soil firmly around them. It is important that the crown of the plant be set exactly at the same level at which it was previously growing.

Where to Plant
Strawberry plants can grow in partial shade, but for the highest yields and sweetest berries, plant them in full sun. Avoid heat traps, such as the south side of buildings, as heat stress will decrease production. Afternoon shade is often preferred in hot, dry conditions.

Water and Weeds
Strawberries need at least an inch of water a week throughout the growing season, and may need more if weather conditions are hot, windy, and dry. Apply enough water to penetrate the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Soaker hoses or a drip irrigation system are ideal for watering the plants.

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