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It is widely known that the most flavorful strawberries to ever grace your taste buds will come fresh, straight from your garden. Strawberries are a favorite fruit to plant in my garden because they are sturdy, easy to grow in beds, pots, hanging baskets and can be grown wild too.
In order to have successful yields of this delicious little fruit, it is important to understand what a strawberry is. Strawberries are hardy perennials, which means they die back in the winter and start growing again in the spring. They can be categorized into two types: spring-bearing & ever-bearing. Many of the top quality and most productive varieties for Texas are the spring-bearing types, while the ever-bearing varieties tend to do poorer as they are engineered for cooler northern climates. Spring-bearing varieties will fruit from late spring until first frost, with concentrated fruiting in summer & then again in the fall. While there are several varieties to choose from at your local nursery or garden store, it is important to choose one that will work best for the Central Texas area. The best variety for the Austin area is the Chandler Strawberry which bears fruit in June. The Sequoia or Douglas varieties also work well in our area, if you are having trouble finding the Chandler in your local stores. Many people will combine ever-bearing & spring-bearing plants together so that they have more fruit throughout the year, but I have not personally tried this yet.
Illustration from Bonnie Plants @ www.Bonnieplants.com
Most plants have their best harvest during their second season of life and will fruit heavily for 1 – 2 years after. Once past this point the plants will no longer produce fruit well, so you will want to replace these with new plants to maximize your yield. After bearing fruit, strawberry plants will produce numerous runners with baby plants at the tips. Most folk don’t know that strawberry plants are actually a part of the rose family and will rarely grow from seed preferring to offshoot runner plants instead. These runners will root themselves nearby yet remain attached to the mother plant. While attached, these “daughter” plants will drain nutrition from the mother plant – even when rooted. This additional strain keeps resources locked up in the daughter plants and not in producing new fruits from the mother plant. It is suggested to only allow each plant to produce a maximum of 3 daughter plants and to clip off the additional runners. These additional daughter plants can be kept for future planting seasons.
Strawberries need at least 8 hours of full sun every day, and they need a well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8. Since the soils in our area are naturally alkaline, it is best to grow strawberries in raised beds, pots or containers. Here at Austin Wood Recycling, we make a Bedding Mix that is absolutely fantastic! Last year, I planted an ever-bearing variety and had plenty of berries from April until about August. This year I plan on making a custom soil mix for strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries and will include the results from this mix in a later edition.
Make sure to space your plants 18 inches apart because they will grow vigorously in the spring and will need the extra space. Depending on the varieties that you choose, you may be able to get away with less spacing so check the tag for exact details on planting. Plant your strawberry plants so that the roots are well covered with soil but the central growing bud, or crown, is exposed to light and fresh air. This is very important: If you bury the crown, the plant can easily rot and kill the entire plant. Water your plants well but do not over water or allow them to “water-log”. Use Texas Native Pecan mulch to keep the soil moist and the plants clean. Pecan shell mulch can boost your pH levels into the correct range over time and it will keep slugs and snails at bay while keeping moisture in and weeds out.
When your plants begin blooming in early spring, the flowers must be visited by bees and/or other pollinating insects before they can set fruit. During this time you will want to make sure that your blossoms are not covered by netting so that bees, butterflies and other pollinators can fertilize the flowers. Once pollinated the buds will form and, during sunny warm weather, the fruit will take about 30 days to ripen. During this phase, you will want to keep your plants well protected from birds. Use a netting material to cover your plants, otherwise the birds will get all the fruits of your labor – unfortunately I learned this the hard way with my blackberries last spring. Vine ripened berries will have the most flavor, but you can pick a smidgen under ripe and leave in the sun on your window sill to turn them fully red – however they won’t be as delicious.
Above all, remember that gardening can be a very meditative experience and is supposed to be fun! Enjoy the wildlife that comes to visit you now and reap the rewards on your path to tranquility…not to mention all the yummy berries too!
Click here for Bonnie plants’ instructions for creating a hanging strawberry tree.
Also - recipes below for those wanting to try out new strawberry concoctions so just click on the link for the recipes.
Raised garden beds are excellent for growing small plots of veggies, fruits, herbs, or ornamental flowers. They keep pesky pathway weeds out of your garden, prevent soil compaction from foot traffic, provide excellent drainage and serve as a barrier to nuisances such as slugs and snails. Added bonus: they keep your treasured garden soil protected from erosion or getting washed away during heavy rains. Additionally, by raising the soil level, you can reduce back strain from bending over to tend your garden. This is especially helpful to older gardeners, people with back or knee problems, or anyone looking for an attractive, unique style of raised bed to add beauty to your yard.
Raised garden beds can be purchased ready-made in a variety of different styles, or you can build your own with relative ease. The most commonly used material is wood, but you can use metal, stone, concrete, or even up-cycle old wine bottles for a uniquely “keep Austin weird” vibe.
When choosing your materials it’s important to think
about what you will be planting in your beds. If you intend to plant
vegetables, fruits, herbs or other edible plants we suggest that you build the
structure out of material that is not treated, stained, glued or painted. Don't use any materials that contain chemicals as they can leach into your soil, get absorbed by your plants, and then get transferred from your dinner plate into your body. Your best bet is untreated Cedar because of its natural
resistance to rot and its ability to hold up well to weather extremes. Cedar
planks and posts are available in a variety of species, such as Western Red
Cedar, Atlantic White Cedar, Yellow Cedar, and Juniper.
When choosing your materials it’s important to think about what you will be planting in your beds. If you intend to plant vegetables, fruits, herbs or other edible plants we suggest that you build the structure out of material that is not treated, stained, glued or painted. Don't use any materials that contain chemicals as they can leach into your soil, get absorbed by your plants, and then get transferred from your dinner plate into your body. Your best bet is untreated Cedar because of its natural resistance to rot and its ability to hold up well to weather extremes. Cedar planks and posts are available in a variety of species, such as Western Red Cedar, Atlantic White Cedar, Yellow Cedar, and Juniper.
This project can be built from a variety of different plans to suit any style or taste and can be done in one weekend. I like to browse Pinterest or look online for a design I like and then see if plans are available. If no plans are available I simply draw up my own or contact someone who is more versed in carpentry than I am. The sky is the limit when you design your own though - you can add a bench on each side so you can sit while you plant, weed, and harvest. Need additional storage space? Design a bench top that doubles as a lid to a storage area underneath! Want a place to hang your hand tools? How about a built-in cooler? It’s all possible!
In this blog, I have included plans and instructions to build a raised bed with benches from Bonnie Plants’ website. These plans are a great start, but remember you can add, modify or include any additional features you want such as drip irrigation or hoops for bird and pest prevention.
If you plan on cutting the lumber yourself, make sure you read the operating manuals before using saws, drills, or any other powered equipment. Always wear the appropriate safety gear such as safety glasses, dust masks, and ear plugs when using any powered or hand tools. The old adage of “measure twice and cut once” will help keep you from making costly mistakes. Keep your work space free of debris and clutter so you can work stress free to prevent accidents. If you don’t feel comfortable cutting the boards, you can have your local hardware store cut the boards for free or at a minimal charge when you purchase your supplies.
Make sure you choose a level piece of ground in a well-drained area that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun per day for your best yields. To help prevent weeds, cover the ground inside the bed with newspaper or cardboard before filling with Texas Native Bedding Mix. Quality soil is key to healthy plants and high yields of your crops- so make sure you use something packed full of nutrients! At Austin Wood Recycling we can custom mix any ratio of compost, sand, and topsoil you desire so contact us today for more information.
If you don’t know how much soil you will need, go to our volume calculator here: http://www.austinwoodrecycling.com/Mulching-Helpful-Tips.html. Once you know how many yards you need, you can fill your beds and plant your seeds or plants. Make sure to follow planting guides to give your plant varieties the space they will need to grow. This is especially important for vined plants such as cucumbers, cantaloupes and watermelons as they tend to take over your garden space.
Please feel free to submit photos of your raised bed garden to us here & enjoy!
Click on the image below to download the plans: