Strawberries: A Labor of Love

Strawberry season is still weeks away, but the plants that bear these precious gems require some TLC throughout the spring before they reward our kind attention early in the season.

Strawberries are the first thing we plant in the spring. Four of us, twenty thousand plants and we have a full day’s work. Ricky, his sister (Megan), his father (Rick) and I start late morning. The plants arrived in the beginning of April and, despite being in the cooler for almost two weeks because the ground was wet, were still nearly frozen when we took them out to plant. After filling the boxes with water to thaw the plants and hydrate the roots, we set to work.

Boxes of strawberries
Boxes of strawberries
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Strawberry plants

The planter is designed to make a trench, in which it dispenses ‘tape’- a plastic tube designed to connect with our irrigation, helping us provide water and nutrients to the plants. There are two seats, and the riders place the small plants into the ‘carousel’ that drops the plants into the trough.

Strawberry planter
Strawberry planter
Tape dispensed by the strawberry planter.
Tape dispensed by the strawberry planter.
Strawberry Planting
Ready to plant! Focus on a color and make sure you put a plant in each set of “fingers” of that color.

Hours of focusing on placing plants into the constant rotation may sound horrifically boring and tedious. I rather enjoy spending a full day in the sun, chatting with my husband and his sister as we work. By the end of the day we were making up goofy farming parodies to “Let it Go” (oh to see the day I can convince my husband to record some of this fun).

And then there’s the lucky one who has to follow behind and check to make sure the plants are in right- the roots covered but the crown above the ground.

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Checking strawberry plants
Strawberry Plant
The few ‘twigs’ sticking out of the top is considered the crown of the strawberry plant.

These plants will not bear fruit this year. Any blossoms produced will be removed so the plant will focus the energy to create luscious plants rather than producing berries.

Strawberry plants
New strawberry plants. They’re hard to see, but these will be lush green rows ready to bear berries next year.

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Strawberry Fields
Strawberry Fields

These plants were planted last year. The crowns lay runners that extend to create the full rows. We’ll get fruit from our strawberry plants for a few years before they stop producing and the field will be planted with a different type of produce.

Strawberry Plants
These plants will bear fruit this year.

Most years, there is at least one night in the spring where the plants are at risk for being damaged by the frost. Nights like these, my husband and his father keep watch over the plants, monitoring irrigation as it waters the plants. Watering the plants protects them from frost damage. The day before an expected frost, they prepare the irrigation line. This year, our buried pipe had a leak. This meant laying pipe above ground, getting a special piece welded, and testing the equipment- all before nightfall. At night they watch to make sure the pressure remains steady in the irrigation lines, because a leak or break in the pipe could stop the watering and bring damage to the crops. This hard work will be rewarded.

Strawberry Irrigation
Strawberry Irrigation
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The sun comes up on another successful night of irrigating the strawberries. Thank you Ricky and Lou!

 

 

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