As Thanksgiving got closer and closer, I became more and more nervous. Where were my plants? When were they going to be delivered. I emailed Ison's, and they said that my order would be delivered the second week of November. The second week of November came, but the strawberry plants didn't. We were going to leave town Wednesday night and be gone all of Thanksgiving weekend, and I hated to think that my boys weren't going to get to pick strawberries because all the plants died in a box on the porch, but what choice did I have? I would just have to hope that they would be alright on the porch until I got home.
Around noon on Wednesday, approximately 5 hours before we had planned to leave, I got a call. It was Dr. Wife. "You got a package from Ison's" she said. Crap! Why couldn't they have arrived a day earlier? I hadn't planned to take and vacation time for Thanksgiving, but this was a horticultural emergency. I raced home as fast as I could, and got busy digging. I dug three trenches one foot apart in each strawberry bed, added some humate and compost, and started setting the strawberry plants out spaced six inches apart. This year I decided to plant 50 Chandler and 50 Sweet Charlie. I've grown both, and know both can be tasty and productive. I would have really liked to have planted the variety Albion, but I couldn't find plants at a reasonable price. Once all 100 plants were in the ground, I generously fertilized the rows with MicroLife 6-2-4, and watered them in well.
Even though we did really well last year, I still learned a few lessons. First of all, while native hardwood mulch might be the best in terms of soil nutrition and fertility, it breaks down fairly quickly in a regularly watered bed. Once it begins to decompose, weeds and grasses can creep into the beds, and will take over if you're not diligent about weeding (which I'm not). I was at the feed mill awhile back picking up something, and saw a big pile straw bales. I decided to buy a few to try as mulch in the strawberry beds. They are 'straw'-berries after all. I figured that while the straw (not hay) would not be as nutritionally beneficial as the native hardwood mulch, but it would probably do a really good job suppressing weeds, and an excellent job at keeping the strawberries off the ground.
I also learned that I had run my drip irrigation lines too long, and as a result the beds weren't being watered evenly. Last year I had run a single 1/4-inch line from the spigot to water all of the porch beds and pots, which I now realize was inadequate. I pulled it up and replaced it with a 1/2-inch line, and installed much shorter drip lines to the strawberry plants, spaced one foot apart. This should ensure that all of the beds get watered evenly and consistently, and may even mean that I'll be able to carry the strawberry plants through until next year.