Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2000
Regional Report

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Fall is the best time to separate runners or baby plants and transplant overcrowded strawberry clumps.

Planting Strawberry Fields

If you love the taste of fresh strawberries, now is the time to prepare the beds for transplanting. It's pleasant working in the cool air and warm soil of fall when the schedule of garden tasks is much lighter.

Fall Transplanting Best

Transplanting strawberries is preferable in fall because the plants can become well established in warm soil and cool temperatures. Spring-transplanted plants can barely get established before summer heat arrives, and plants will then bear few fruits until the following year. By that time, the mother plants will have separated into many smaller plants and sent out lots of runners (baby strawberry plants) to vie for the same soil nutrients and water.

Creating the Beds

Renovate new strawberry beds away from where potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers have grown within the last three years. Dig in lots of manure and compost, rock fertilizers, and cottonseed meal. Water well.

Wait at least 2 weeks, preferably 4, so the amendments can begin to break down and provide nutrition for the strawberry plants. If you transplant immediately, the soil may be too warm from the biological activity, and the tiny rootlets may burn before they get acclimated.

Separating Overgrown Plants

Buy new strawberry plants or divide established plants, but be sure your plants are disease-free and healthy before deciding to use them. If you're separating overgrown plant clumps, loosen as much soil from the roots as possible, then gently pry the individual plants apart. Keep only the plants with white or tan roots (those are new and vital), and discard the dark brown ones (old and unproductive). Rip off all leaves except the three center youngest ones. If you have a whole bedful to trim, be sure to heel in (plant temporarily so the roots stay moist) each batch before starting on the next: You don't want the rootlets to dry out.

The Planting

Transplant strawberry roots 1 foot apart so the crown is just above the soil level. Water well. Strong roots will develop over the winter. With spring warmth, they'll burst into lush foliage, grow quickly, and set lots of large, luscious berries.

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