Strawberries are an experiment for us this year. We've been told repeatedly that we can't grow strawberries in Arkansas without any chemical. It may end up being true but we thought we'd experiment with a few anyway. Over the course of this project we've taken bits and pieces of information regarding growing strawberries in the home garden and mixed it with pieces of information about growing strawberries commercially..
Commercial strawberry growers in Arkansas use a growing system called plasticulture to grow berries. To combat many insects, diseases and fungus these growers fumigate their strawberry ground with chemicals like methyl bromide and then cover it with plastic in the fall. Then they put their strawberry plants directly into this ground to overwinter and produce strawberries in the spring. Methyl bromide is a nasty, carcinogenic chemical with a number of negative environmental side effects that is currently only still permitted in a limited number of states whose agricultural economy depends on it's use. Personally, I will not eat a commercially grown strawberry that is not organic. Luckily, my parents have a large strawberry patch in their garden in Iowa and they supply us with our strawberries throughout the year. It appears though that the Monster has inherited his father's love of strawberries so we decided to try to grow a few of our own.
Last fall we followed the schedule of the commercial growers and put 500 plants in the ground that we had heavily fertilized with feather meal. We then ran irrigation lines and mulched them heavily with hay. Like the commercial growers, we intend to remove these plants from the ground when they are done producing late this spring. We actually left the plants uncovered all winter which I don't think is what the commercial growers do. This may be why we lost around 30% of our plants. We weren't sure when to cover and when to leave them uncovered so we just left them uncovered. Luckily for us it was a warm winter. I need to do a little more research on this aspect for the future. I think the plants that made it through look pretty good, although I don't have much to compare them to, and we have quite a few green berries. We'll see if any of them make it to harvest.