Plant And Rotate Strawberries in The Fall

September and October are good months to set out strawberry plants. Strawberries established in the fall have a much higher yield the following season.

Start with a soil test to determine lime needs. Strawberries need a soil pH of 6.0-6.8. They grow best in a well-drained, highly organic soil. Prior to planting, broadcast 8-8-8 or a complete fertilizer over a well-prepared bed.

Plant strawberries so the crown is slightly above the soil line Strawberry root height when plants are firmed. It is a good idea to use a mulch to keep plants and berries from touching the soil. Black plastic or weed control fabric can be rolled across the planting area. Cut an X where each plant will be set. Organic mulches such as pine straw, wheat straw or fine ground pine bark may be more suitable mulch for homegrown strawberries.

Strawberries generally are productive for two years before plants succumb to diseases. It's always important to start a new strawberry planting with certified disease-free plants from a reliable source. Early-bearing varieties often grow better in Alabama, avoiding some of the disease problems encountered after the heat and humidity increases. Cardinal and Earliglow are two good varieties for Alabama. Chandler is the preferred variety for commercial producers who grow on plastic.

Fall is the best time to renovate a strawberry planting. Mow or cut back strawberry plants, being careful not to damage crowns. Follow with about inch of mulch around plants.

If disease problems become severe, cut runners from the mother plant and establish a new planting in the fall. Rotate strawberry plantings to a different area just as you would other annual crops.

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SOURCE: Mary Beth Musgrove, Extension associate-horticulturist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (334) 844-5481.

Prepared by Kenny Smith, Communications intern