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Strawberry Cultivation

Strawberries are a valuable culture; their berries ripen on the first summer half when there are not enough mingy fresh fruit and vegetables yet. After planting has been done, strawberries should be consistent in growth for the first year, while for the second year a good yield should be expected.

The berries are tasty, have a lot of valuable substances, vitamin C, P active compounds, folic acid, coumarin, iron, phosphorus, sugar, acids. They can be consumed fresh or frozen, used in addition for jams and wine.

Soil Preparation

Strawberries can be grown in large number of soils; however, they are best suited in weakly acidic (pH 5-6) sandy and light moderate loam.

Strawberries can grow in one place for several years, therefore, when breeding them it is important to eliminate the multi-annual weeds, decompose (if any) the turf and well-fertilize the soil.

If it is expected to plant strawberries in the summer, black fallow is kept from the spring, and if the planting takes place in spring – black fallow is kept from the middle of last summer or all year round. After leaving the black fallow resting, each of its square meters are immediately fertilized with 6-8 kg of organic fertilizers (manure, compost or decomposed peat), 60 g of superphosphate and 20 g of potassium chloride. Once the fertilizer is released all over the place, the soil is plowed or re-scooped 30 cm in depth. After that, up until the planting of strawberries the soil has to be mellowed several times. When late to manure, fertilizer should be spread and the soil re-scooped at least 2-3 weeks before planting.

Planting

In our country strawberries are usually planted at the end of summer (from August to mid-September). If there are seedlings, strawberries can be planted in July too. The earlier strawberries will be planted, the greater increase in yield can be expected in the first year. Late-planted strawberries should be covered carefully before the winter. They can be planted in early spring too once the ground is dry enough.

For the planting healthy sprouts from specific parental strawberry gardens are taken. If the acquisition of seedlings is little, next year they can replicate themselves. Varietal plants should be well composted with mulch or peat and watered. Sprouts grow best in the first-year strawberry gardens but it is also suitable to plant seedlings in a second-year strawberry fields. Strong and well-rooted plants are planted permanently into fixed place, while weakly rooted ones are planted in densities (5 × 10 cm) to very well prepared soil, must be often irrigated and only once they are well-entrenched, they can be transplanted to the permanent location.

In areas that never get sodden it is advised to grow strawberries in flat, smooth soils. Strawberries can be planted in a single row or you can use a double-row and triplet strip method. When planting strawberries in a single row, the most common width of gaps between rows that is used by majority of amateur gardeners is 60 centimeters, while the distance between rows of plants – 20 centimeters (1 m2 – 8 bushes of strawberries).

When growing strawberries in a bar-way you must leave gaps as large as 70 cm between the strips. While growing strawberries in a double-rowed way gaps between rows in bars should be 40 cm and between plant rows – 20 cm wide (when planting 10 seedlings into linear bar meter). When cultivating strawberries in a triplet-strip way, gaps between rows must extend to 30 cm, and rows in-between plants – to 25 cm (12 sprouts per 1 linear meter). Rows can be placed across the bars too.

In soils that are ever soaked, beds must be made for strawberries where their seedlings could be planted in a double-row or in a triplet-strip way.

You can use the perforated black polyethylene film that is 120 cm in width. For the planting we make holes which are 6 cm in diameter and arranged in a triple-band way. This film prevents the sprout of weeds, helps to suppress moisture, avoid the spread of gray mould; it also maintains a higher soil temperature, protects berries from soiling. Plants that are mulched with film grow better, lusher and give 30-36% higher yields. Their fruit ripening process starts 3 – 5 days earlier. When laying the film, the soil must be properly smoothed. Finally, edges of the film are pressed against the ground.

When planting seedlings, you must beware of the soil burying the core. The neck of the root (the place at which the root moves to the stem) should be at the same level with soil surface. The roots can not be allowed to ride up to the top either. If they are longer than 5 cm they should be shortened before planting.

After planting, seedlings are immediately watered (half a liter of water per seedling). If the air is dry, they should be watered twice or thrice again. To avoid the crust of soil and the vapor of water, it is advisable to mulch freshly watered seedlings with the peat, humus, or at least strew them with dry earth.

Maintenance and Fertilization

Strawberry patch that was not mulched with film must be mellowed during vegetation period and freed of weeds 4-6 times. During “wet” years it must be done 5 – 7 times. The soil in rows should be mellowed 3-4 cm in depth, and in between rows 6-8 cm on summer, 12-15 cm during fall. It is not necessary to weed and mellow a field that was mulched with film.

In the spring old withered leaves must be raked and burnt because they contain pests and disease origins. If, before the flowering of strawberry or during it a frost is expected, strawberry stumps must be covered with straw. For the Berries to not get spoilt if they were not mulched with film, straw or moss should be placed under inflorescences. When seedlings are not necessary, strawberries are permanently disposed of whiskers. You can leave just one seedling or so in order to thicken rows.

Before planting strawberries are fertilized well; following the directions of: fertilizing the growth of the first and second year only with nitrogen fertilizer using 10 grams of ammonium nitrate per 1 square meter (in early spring) and 10-20 grams – after the harvest. Too much of nitrogen can result in lush leaf growth and reduce yields. Then, because of the profusion of nitrogen, it may be necessary to mow down the leaves immediately after the harvest. On the year 3-4 (if strawberries are less potent then even on the year 2 of growth), after the harvest, in addition to nitrogen fertilizer 30 grams of superphosphate are poured into 1 m2 of the strawberry patch. Following the process of fertilization with 15 g of potassium chloride or 30 g of potassium-magnesium fertilizers.

If during the time of vegetation humidity is low, strawberries should be watered as follow: once or twice before blooming, 2- 4 times during the process of ripening and once the rudiments of soft fruits appear, and 2 times after the harvest takes place. Single rate for watering is 2-3 buckets of water to 1 square meter. The before-mentioned amount of fertilizer can be increased slightly for such kind of strawberries.
For the protection against diseases and pests in old strawberry patches, the leaves are cut and burnt either during, or immediately after the harvest. After, strawberries are fertilized and irrigated in order to grow strong foliage before winter comes.

On a cold winter day strawberries may wither and die or freeze. If there is no snow to protect them, strawberry bushes either freeze deeply or wither and die once the temperature comes into -15, – 18 ° C. Strawberry roots may freeze in the soil which contains the temperature of – 8 ° C. Meanwhile under the cover of 20-30 centimeters of snow they can withstand temperature as low as -25 °, -30 ° C. That is why if there is no snow and the air temperature falls and stays below zero degrees for a week and more, strawberries should be put round with manure and straws, leaves or peat. In rows and gaps between them mulch should be placed in layers as thick as 5 centimeters. To protect strawberries from sweltering in spring, the manure should be removed while the ground is still frozen. The other kind of mulch is less dangerous for strawberries therefore it can be removed and replaced later on in spring.

Lifetime of Strawberry Patch

Strawberries can be grown in one place for four years. Their yield increases until the third year and on the fourth it starts to decline.

In some places abroad strawberries are grown for one or two years. Young patches of strawberry tend to produce bigger berries and healthier plants. Besides, the first-year strawberry fruit ripen earlier than those of older. When growing strawberries in such way, it is advisable to choose early varieties and do not delay the planting of seedlings to later than 15th of August. The seedlings should also be planted within the distance of 30-40×10-15 centimeters. Next year, after harvesting is done, the patch is either exterminated or ploughed in every second row of strawberries for the purpose of using it for another one year.

Berry Picking

When the weather conditions are warm, berries can be harvested every other day; if it is cold – every two days. During rainy weather it is advisable to pick berries every day to lessen the occurrence of gray mold on them. When berries are supposed to be consumed on the spot we pick them according to the characteristics that are common for its breed in terms of color; while when picking the ones that are expected to continue their journey we choose those that are lighter in color. While picking strawberries make sure to pluck them with cup and choose to either include or discard loose stalks that are in length of few millimeters; do not mix breeds. Berries then should be harvested and shipped in baskets of 2 -2.5 kg capacity, which should be filled up to the top without accumulation. Picked berries must soon be hidden from the sun and rain and preferably consumed on the same day.

Strawberry Cultivation in Greenhouses

In Europe and other continents many strawberries are cultivated in greenhouses, especially in the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and Japan. The cultivation of early berries is increasing in England, France, Bulgaria and Poland too.

Strawberries are usually grown in either various greenhouses covered with different-sized glass and coated with synthetic film, or tunnels and the seedbed. Greenhouses can be heated and non-heated, with additional illumination and without it, permanently installed and transportable structures. The type of a greenhouse is chosen depending on when you want to have berries.

The easiest to make are small-scale plastic shelters – tunnels. They shall be consistent strawberries that are grown in them start to ripen earlier on the average of 10-12 days and produce higher yields than those grown outdoors. Usually tunnels are made 60-100 cm in their width and 50-60 cm in height. When strawberries are planted in one line tunnels are made more narrow while when planting in two or three rows – wider.

When planting a single row, gaps of 80-100 cm between rows and gaps of 10-20 cm between plants must be left. Double-row strip method can be used when planting strawberries according to such scheme: the distance between the bands – 80-100 cm, the distance between rows in a band – 130-45 cm, and the distance of 20 cm between plant rows. When growing strawberries according to triple-row strip method the distance between rows and in a row itself is similar. However, the latter method is less advisable because the more plants are fit into 1 m2, the greater possibility of the gray mold spreading on them is.

For making tunnels 4-6 mm thick wire is suited as well as wicker or 20 mm diameter plastic tubes which embody a wall 3 mm thick. The film may be 80-100 microns thick, solid or perforated.

Pipes, wire or wicker are folded into an arc and plunged into the ground 20-25 cm deep every one meter. The first and the last arc have stakes hammered near them at the same level as hoops. Stakes then have a string tied to them, which helps to reinforce the top of the roll cage. When the film is put, one of its longitudinal edges can be attached to the ground by pouring soil over it, and another – by putting wooden planks or wire (rope) on it and fastening the rest to the ground by hooks. Film ends then are tied with a string and fixed to the poles which are nailed near the ends of the tunnel. The already fixed film then is attached from the top with arcs, which should be plunged together every 2-3 meters.
Strawberries should be covered with film by the arrival of early spring when the snow has finished melting. The best time for pinning hoops to the ground is autumn or early spring as the ground is still frozen in spring.

On a sunny day when the temperature along the Meadow rises up to 30 ° C, tunnels have to be ventilated. During the flowering of strawberries, if a film that covers them is non-perforated, on daytime the sides of the tunnels must be exposed too in order for the blossoms to be pollinated better. Once berries start to mature, they get accustomed to natural conditions. To protect plants from drying out (burn) film is taken off at night, while during the day it is put back on again. After 2-3 days it can be completely removed.
If weather conditions are very adverse (cold weather, rain) and bees do not fly the flowers need to be pollinated artificially by striking through the plants with brushes, film or the like.

From many strawberry varieties which are more than 600, only few are suitable to plant under film in shelters.

A so-called “vertical” way of growing strawberries in greenhouses is worth a mention too. In Italy for “vertically” grown strawberries plastic cups with special “pockets” in which strawberries are planted are used. Cups are constructed on top of one another to form a vertical 2-meter tower. You can use polyethylene bags and other equipment, too. While growing strawberries using a “vertical” method, in 1m2 area you can plant 70-80 plants instead of 6-10. Thus, increase the yield in the greenhouse for 6-7

times, getting 12-14 kg / m of berries.

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