Strawberries are definitely a spring and early summer fruit, so why talk about them in October? Well this is the best time of year to plant them.
Getting them in the ground now and giving them a head start so they produce in the spring of the year usually helps reduce issues with diseases ruining the crop.
This is the Annual Hill System of growing strawberries. This system is typically widely used in the lower part of the state, but we have seen it used successfully here. The only thing to keep in mind is to provide frost protection throughout the winter.
Strawberries grow best in soil that is a good medium-textured soil, one that is not too clayey and drains well. In North Georgia, we typically have to add organic matter to create such a soil.
Plants should be planted in beds about 12 inches apart. The beds should be at 7 to 8 inches high and 24 to 26 inches wide. Mix in 3 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet before making the beds.
Once the bed is made, cover it with a material, like plastic to act as mulch. You can mulch with pine straw or straw as well. Be sure to include a way to irrigate the bed before you completely cover with plastic by laying a length of drip tape along the bed.
Planting should happen as soon as possible in the fall. Poke holes in the plastic and set your plants on the required spacing. Come spring time you can add a pinch of 34-0-0 to each plant if they appear to need a boost.
Once the plants begin to produce in the spring, bird damage to the fruit can become a major problem. For a small plot of strawberries, put down bird netting over the planting to keep them out. Be sure to secure the netting all the way down to the ground or the birds will just walk right under it.
Other problems that can come up are diseases. It seems like in Georgia, disease is always a constant reminder of our warm and humid climate. It will be a hard job to grow strawberries in Georgia organically. Regular fungicide applications to the plants will generally be needed in order to be successful.
If you have questions about preparing a site or spraying for disease, give us a call at the Hall County Extension office.
Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, ugaextension.org/county-offices/hall.html. His column appears biweekly and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.