On Tuesday, the Jones farmers planted two new fields of strawberries in preparation for the 2012 berry season. On the longest day of the year, several of our farmers spent more than 12 hours planting thousands of strawberries in order to get them in the ground before days of rain interrupted their work. At the farm we plant strawberries using a special machine attached to a tractor in order to make sure that we are putting the strawberries into the ground at the propery depth and spacing. The strawberry transplants sit in a tray covered with burlap to keep them from drying out in the June sun as they wait their turn to be placed in the soil. Two farmers sit over the planting machine’s wheels, placing the individual strawberry plants into a clamp that slowly closes securely around the seedling and lowers it toward the ground as the tractor moves forward. A special blade creates a small trench for the plant right before the plant is released into the ground, and the soil is closed around the seedling’s stem again as the wheel moves away. One farmer walks the rows behind the planting machine to check that the plants have been placed into the ground properly and securely. While this method is easier than planting each seedling by hand, it still takes long hours and hard work to get all of the plants in the ground!
These “mother plants” that were planted this week will soon grow larger and fill in the rows of raised beds we’ve prepared for them. Each plant will produce runners, which spread away from the “mother plant” and sink into the ground to produce new “daughter plants.” The Jones farmers then coax the runners into a line, so that they fill in the strawberry beds instead of the straw-covered aisles. Now that we’ve created these new fields, we will turn some of our older strawberry fields back into the soil and plant a cover crop to help improve the soil health. Crop rotation takes a lot of planning and prep work, but it’s an important part of farming sustainably and producing healthy strawberries!