The new strawberry fields have been soaking up the summer sun for the past two months, and the plants are busily growing in preparation for the harvest season next June. This is a critical time for the new strawberries as they gather strength to survive the winter and begin producing flowers in the spring. The young plants are still fragile, and it’s difficult for them to compete with weeds for sunlight, water and space. Our summer staff has been carefully weeding each row of strawberries over the past couple of weeks, and yesterday all available farm staff walked through the fields one last time to pick out any stragglers before the fall.
While searching for weeds yesterday we also spent time guiding the strawberry plants’ runners into place on the raised soil beds. The “mother” plants that were planted in June have sent out runners, which look like thick roots wandering along the top of the soil. These runners can grow up to one foot in length before sending little roots down into the soil to create new “daughter” plants. This is how the strawberries help us fill in gaps to create rows of lush green. To keep the fields from becoming a disorderly sprawl of berries, the horticulture staff walks up and down the fields, moving the runners into straight rows and out of the walking aisles. With this small amount of guidance, the plants will form a beautiful field of strawberries for next year’s farm visitors.