Strawberry Rotation

The biggest success of last year was probably the strawberries. I have very little experience of growing strawberries, but here’s what I’ve managed to glean from various books, and how we’re planning on growing them:

Unfortunately, you can’t just plant up a bed with strawberries and leave them there forever. Strawberries crop best in their second and third years, and then production drops off. So it’s best to dig up the plants after three years and put in some new ones.

Thankfully, strawberry plants send out plenty of runners to create new plants, so once you’ve got a few plants there’s no need to buy new plants ever again.

Strawberry plants sending out runners

When you dig up your old plants and put in new ones, it’s best to move the strawberry bed to a new location. This is because strawberries are susceptible to soil-borne diseases. Grow them in the same place for too long, and you’ll get a build-up of disease in the soil, putting your plants, and your sunny summer days at the allotment eating strawberries straight from the bush, at risk.

So our plan is to grow our strawberries in three sections. One section will have first-year plants, one second-year plants, and the other third-year plants. Each Autumn, we’ll dig up the oldest plants and establish a new bed somewhere else on the plot using runners taken from our existing plants. That way two-thirds of our plants will always be at peak production, and we’ll have done what we can to reduce problems with disease.

The first of the new raised beds that we’re going to be using will be the new strawberry bed for next year. I’ve dug in plenty of well-rotted manure from the stables up the road, and transplanted sixteen runners, planting them 50cm apart in rows 60cm apart. (I’d have preferred to leave more space between the rows, but that was as much as the width of the bed would allow.)

We’re growing several different varieties, and I’d like to know which varieties produce the best fruit. To aid with blind taste tests next year I’ll keep to myself which varieties are planted where. (Let’s just hope I don’t forget.)

Now we just have to keep the bed weeded and wait until next summer.

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5 Responses to Strawberry Rotation

  1. Sarah McFall says:

    This is an excellent blog. My Mum had said something about them being a 4 year crop rotation, and getting rid of 4yr old plants. I had this image in my head of my allotment mostly being taken up with strawberries (which I’m allergic to), but can’t resist growing for use in trifles (I’m ok once they’re ‘cooked’) or jam.

    I should be able to do this, with my only problem now going to be what to do with the spare runners because I know I am going to have too many! Do you know how they cope with shade…. or for that matter, what, if any other crop can be grown in the shade, otherwise we’re going to have a wasted area at the end of our plot.

    Thanks again.

    Sarah.

  2. Tim says:

    A strawberry allergy? How awful. :(

    I’ve been giving strawberry runners to anyone who’ll take them, and still have far too many! Guess we’ll just have to learn to be more ruthless taking them off the plants as they form.

    Not sure what’ll cope best in the shade, but I seem to remember courgettes doing okay in a not-very-sunny spot in the back garden at my last house. We had some good broad beans from a partially shaded area last year too, so they could be worth a try. It probably depends just how shaded the area is, but do give something a go.

  3. Tim says:

    Strawberries can put a lot of energy into sending out runners – it’s best to snip them off plants in established beds whenever you see them. Often if the runner doesn’t root, that new plant sends out another runner etc until it’s several plants long. These stems don’t die until the autumn, so I would suppose that nutrients are still being passed down to them to give them the best start – this is to the detriment of the other established plant which reduces berry yeld.

  4. Tim says:

    I’ve been surprised at just how many runners we’ve had. From our 30-odd strawberry bushes, I’ve removed at least half-a-dozen runners per plant, leaving a couple on each to form new plants. Are those normal numbers?

  5. karen says:

    I would say that most plants produce at least 6-8 runners! so the maths is 30 x 8 =240 runners ! the answer is definitely to snip them back especially with year 1 plants

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