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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, I am interested in a trial upick berry patch. I wanted to plant some strawberries this year or the next. I would be cultivating a field that was originally a pasture but has been hayed by our neighbor for about 20 years. I am a farmers market manager and have a very good concept of marketing strategies so I’m not worried about that.

I am looking for wisdom in raising strawberries. Particularly on how many for a first year trial run,pests and diseases I should be particularly worried about for my area, best layout for upick. I’m a lowwaste person and would rather use straw instead of plastic mulch, is that realistic? Any literature, experience, etc would be great. I would prefer to go as organic as possible. Most of my farming knowledge is in raising livestock (sheep/hogs rotationally grazed) I have experience growing vegetables in our 1/4 acre vegetable garden but no fruit production history. I am planning on putting in 2 50 ft rows of strawberries this fall in my garden to play arround with them. Currently we do notill gardening.

We’re zone 6 in the Ozarks of Missouri. The field is in bottom land across from a creek so the soil there is a little better than general Ozarks. Is not the lowest area so flooding is not an issue (it hasn’t flooded in the 10 years we have been here, the field next to it floods every year). It is on the south/west side of a bluff.

Hope that’s enough info, thanks!
 

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You'll have to get rid of the grasses before planting strawberries. The worst strawberry patch weed is grass, the second is Canadian thistle.

My grandmother had her patch in a former hog pen. The hogs had killed all the vegetation but the annual weed pulling was tough to keep up with, despite putting on piles of straw every year.

You'll also need to fence out varmints. Deer, groundhogs, squirrel, chipmunks, mice and birds all will love the buffet you provide. Figure out the best way to fence them out before you lay out your patches.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
You'll have to get rid of the grasses before planting strawberries. The worst strawberry patch weed is grass, the second is Canadian thistle.

My grandmother had her patch in a former hog pen. The hogs had killed all the vegetation but the annual weed pulling was tough to keep up with, despite putting on piles of straw every year.

You'll also need to fence out varmints. Deer, groundhogs, squirrel, chipmunks, mice and birds all will love the buffet you provide. Figure out the best way to fence them out before you lay out your patches.
Fencing shouldn’t be a problem, since we’re taking over the pasture we will probably go ahead and fence electric for sheep, which is 5 strands. And will probably graze it, which will mean there will be a livestock guardian dog too- that should help with unwanted animals. I’ll have to contemplate deer though, we may need to make a taller fence. Thanks!

As for the grass, I would have just filled and planted. Thank you for that tip!
 

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White-tailed deer can jump an 8 foot tall fence from a standing position. I have heard double fencing or something they can't see through works well. Maybe snow fence or some other plastic fencing like construction fence would work to keep them out.
 

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Weeds (mostly grass) is the first major hurtle. If it was pasture of hay ground, you have tons of weed seeds that will haunt you well past the first decade.
Each time you add straw or manure is like shoveling more weed seeds into your patch.
I'd get equipment that unrolls black plastic and drip hose, tucking in the edges as it goes. Then buy a water wheel transplanter that punches a hole in the plastic so you can drop in the strawberry plants.

In central Michigan, there is a compost company that sells by the bag or by the semi load. That wouldn't have the viable weed seeds. Dairy Doo. If you managed your own compost pile and got temperatures above 150 degrees, 40 tons would provide 10 tons of finished compost.
 

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There are a lot of internet resources on organic strawberry production by Googling the same. Going organic is not simply plowing up a field in the spring and having a go at, rather, it is a long term plan of land and soil management that will give you success from the start. It is a plan, and if you go into a crop ignoring how to make it work, you'll fail--and probably you'll lay the blame on something other than the fact that you went into it without doing your homework. Organic production is as complicated as chemical, or conventional production, and without the knowledge and attitude, you would be wasting your time and efforts.

geo
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Weeds (mostly grass) is the first major hurtle. If it was pasture of hay ground, you have tons of weed seeds that will haunt you well past the first decade.
Each time you add straw or manure is like shoveling more weed seeds into your patch.
I'd get equipment that unrolls black plastic and drip hose, tucking in the edges as it goes. Then buy a water wheel transplanter that punches a hole in the plastic so you can drop in the strawberry plants.

In central Michigan, there is a compost company that sells by the bag or by the semi load. That wouldn't have the viable weed seeds. Dairy Doo. If you managed your own compost pile and got temperatures above 150 degrees, 40 tons would provide 10 tons of finished compost.
We do actually have a compost company about 30 miles from us. I have bought from them before and it is a good produce, reasonably priced also. He delivers and is extremely helpful when discussing your needs. I was planning on purchasing from him for the compost. No-dig gardening mulches with a thick layer of well made compost in order to choke out weed seeds, I wonder if planting into a thicker than usual layer of compost would be a realistic option for mulch
 

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Discussion Starter #9
There are a lot of internet resources on organic strawberry production by Googling the same. Going organic is not simply plowing up a field in the spring and having a go at, rather, it is a long term plan of land and soil management that will give you success from the start. It is a plan, and if you go into a crop ignoring how to make it work, you'll fail--and probably you'll lay the blame on something other than the fact that you went into it without doing your homework. Organic production is as complicated as chemical, or conventional production, and without the knowledge and attitude, you would be wasting your time and efforts.

geo
Such a very true statement, I learned a long time ago how complex sustainable/organic livestock and produce production is. I am quite the researcher, my husband actually makes fun of me because I obcessivly research topics and drag him all over the state for workshops/classes on sustainable agriculture. That is why I’m reaching out to more knowledgeable people than myself. Hoping to be pointed to the right direction and find realistic information that would be applicable to my life particular situation.
 

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Compost or mulch will choke out the seeds that are already on or in the soil. However, each season new weeds seeds will blow in and if you pull weeds or work the soil the seeds in that soil will be turned up may sprout. You would have to reapply the compost mulch every year, maybe even twice a year, to keep the weed seeds from growing.

Since the heat of summer is just coming on, you have the chance to solarize the soil. Water it well and cover with a layer of clear plastic. Put some soil over the plastic along all the edges to keep the heat and moisture under the plastic. Next spring you remove the plastic and plant. Or you can till the soil every couple weeks from now until fall, working compost in each time you till.

Even if you used an herbicide to kill the existing vegetation you still have to reapply the herbicide as new weeds come up. Strawberry patches are difficult to maintain. Not trying to discourage you because they will be the best strawberries you have ever eaten (as long as you let them get ripe on the plants, not picked half green like the store bought ones) and fetch top dollar at a farmer's market. But I want to warn you ahead of time that it is hard work so you know what you are getting into and don't get so overwhelmed the first season. I remember all the work my grandparents put into their patch, all the hot hours in the sun pulling thistles with bare hands (it can be done when the thistles are small and the ground is wet), all the bales of straw and barrels of chicken manure that went into that patch. But the thrill of those berries and the unequaled taste of fresh berries and mouth watering strawberry jam make the effort worthwhile. They taste best when warm from the morning sun, eaten right there in the patch. Wonderful memories!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Compost or mulch will choke out the seeds that are already on or in the soil. However, each season new weeds seeds will blow in and if you pull weeds or work the soil the seeds in that soil will be turned up may sprout. You would have to reapply the compost mulch every year, maybe even twice a year, to keep the weed seeds from growing.

Since the heat of summer is just coming on, you have the chance to solarize the soil. Water it well and cover with a layer of clear plastic. Put some soil over the plastic along all the edges to keep the heat and moisture under the plastic. Next spring you remove the plastic and plant. Or you can till the soil every couple weeks from now until fall, working compost in each time you till.

Even if you used an herbicide to kill the existing vegetation you still have to reapply the herbicide as new weeds come up. Strawberry patches are difficult to maintain. Not trying to discourage you because they will be the best strawberries you have ever eaten (as long as you let them get ripe on the plants, not picked half green like the store bought ones) and fetch top dollar at a farmer's market. But I want to warn you ahead of time that it is hard work so you know what you are getting into and don't get so overwhelmed the first season. I remember all the work my grandparents put into their patch, all the hot hours in the sun pulling thistles with bare hands (it can be done when the thistles are small and the ground is wet), all the bales of straw and barrels of chicken manure that went into that patch. But the thrill of those berries and the unequaled taste of fresh berries and mouth watering strawberry jam make the effort worthwhile. They taste best when warm from the morning sun, eaten right there in the patch. Wonderful memories!
Your not discouraging me at all, this is exactly the things I wanted to know. I actually assumed that you would need to re-mulch every year. Is a pro to straw that you wouldn’t need to mulch the second year?
I think I’m going to put in 2 50ft rows this year, one with compost mulch and one with straw, and experiment with it.

This has all been very helpful
 

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Where will you find the plants? I am not familiar with fall planting of starts, and I'm not sure the suppliers ship in the fall. You might want to secure your source of plants. With summer's warmth (maybe drought) it may be difficult to get them started, and even if you do, if you don't have much growth time before they go dormant in preparation for the winter, you will need to remove all the berry blossoms in the spring and wait a full year anyway until the first picking. In effect, fall planting may not help you that much.

But now is the best time to prep the planting ground. Successive tilling will help kill off the newly sprouted weeds. Till, wait for the flush of new weeds, then till to kill the growth. Do this several times. You can work good manure and compost materials into the soil during this process. Buckwheat grows fast and can be turned under a couple of times before fall frost. You can plant oats and some companion legumes to winterkill and then turn under in the spring for organic matter and nitrogen. And, shortly after planting, you can use corn gluten to kill the weed and grass seeds in the first inch of soil.

geo
 

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Your not discouraging me at all, this is exactly the things I wanted to know. I actually assumed that you would need to re-mulch every year. Is a pro to straw that you wouldn’t need to mulch the second year?
I think I’m going to put in 2 50ft rows this year, one with compost mulch and one with straw, and experiment with it.

This has all been very helpful
You still need to mulch every year, even with straw. It all breaks down rapidly, happens no matter what you use. If it's organic it breaks down. Grandpa grew oats every year so we had a good supply of straw. We had chickens and cows too so there was always a supply of manure.
Mom tried raising strawberries but gave up after fighting the weeds for several years. She didn't spend the time to prep the patch and wasn't able to keep ahead of the weeds. She had a beautiful patch at the first house she bought, but that area had been stripped of top soil so she had to build garden quality soil in a patch of clay. Where she lives now, the patch that failed, she tried to make a strawberry bed in a lawn area.
 
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