March 7, 2013

This Year I'm Gonna Have Strawberries

At least this year I hope I'm going to have strawberries. Trying to grow strawberries had been a real battle for me, ever since the first year I planted them. The problem? Bermuda grass, AKA wire grass, my arch nemesis. My strawberry saga goes like this:

Strawberry bed being swallowed up by wire grass
August 2012. Wire grass taking over my strawberry bed. Again.

One of my projects this winter has been to try to free my strawberries.

wire grass goes dormant in winter
At least I can see the strawberry plants

No, wire grass cannot be eradicated. Trying to pull it out is like pulling on wire embedded in the ground. It grows about knee high tall with a root system just as deep. Even a teeny section of root left in the ground is enough for it to take over again in record time. If left alone, it will choke out anything and everything in the way.

tangle of wire grass roots & strawberry roots
Photo from March 2011 showing the messy mass of
wire grass roots strangling this poor strawberry plant

My best hope is to hold it at bay long enough to at least harvest some strawberries. Besides fresh eating, Dan loves his strawberry jam.

the weeding of my strawberry bed
A slow but losing battle. Is it possible to co-exsist?

Will I succeed? Only time will tell.

41 comments:

NancyDe said...

I gave up on growing strawberries in the ground - between the kikuyu grass and a sneaky thieving strawberry loving dog - I decided to grow them in pots in the greenhouse. Hopefully, it works.

Elizabeth said...

I'm going to try ours in pots this year...there is always -something- keeping us from getting any strawberries!

Donna Costa said...

Barrels are the only way to go to get decent yields. The curse of Bermuda grass, ugh don't know how many times I cut my hands on it. Horrible stuff to fight.

Tina T-P said...

The Shepherd would hit it with what he calls "Agent Orange" - A mix of Round-up and something as entirely noxious - How about if you put down landscape fabric then built raised beds on top of it for the berries T.

Dani said...

Leigh - I have the same problem with what we call veld grass.

So, last year I planted my strawberries in re-purposed styrofoam boxes, and I placed them over the area where I am going to be planting my strawberries so that they can kill the unwanted grass below.

A tip for harvesting strawberries - if you can't harvest enough to make jam in one go, try freezing them. That way when you have collected enough making jam is no longer a problem...:) Or perhaps try sun-drying them?

Leigh said...

Nancy, a strawberry loving dog! Oh my, that's worse than birds, LOL

Elizabeth, I reckon I'm not alone with this problem then! 50+ pots though! I'm not sure I'm equal to that task. :)

Donna, barrels sound a little better than pots; I could plant a bunch of plants in each one. I'll have to start thinking about something like that.

Tina, wire grass grows right through landscape cloth. :( Ask me how I know!

Dani, seems some sort of container is the universal answer! And I do as you do, pop them into the freezer until I have enough for a batch of jam. :)

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

They're a challenge for me too. My strawberries are either under-watered in containers or a mat beneath my redcurrant bushes.

I've been playing with the idea of growing my strawberries vertically. There are a few images on Pinterest showing them growing in pallets placed against walls or even in plastic tubes/guttering.

Theresa said...

We have the little wild strawberries that grow everywhere around here, but alas, many many critters will beat you to them. I had one hanging strawberry plant that did nicely on the porch last year. The birds and Gene shared. I've seen most of the cultivated strawberries around here grown in barrels. In any event, good luck!

Tami said...

All I can see after reading this post is you, standing there like Scarlett O'Hara with that radish in her fist, shaking it at the heavens..."I'm gonna have strawberries this year..."

@;)

CrankyPuppy said...

I have the same dang problem with rye grass, even though my berries are in a raised bed with weed fabric put down below the dirt. I'm going to have to move the bed this Spring, so I need to figure out something to keep that stuff out.

Nina said...

Unwanted varieties of invasive grasses seem to be a universal problem. Here it's twitch or quack grass, with the same large, meandering root systems which grow back if any small bit is left. I'd love to find a place for strawberries but haven't found a spot safe from the ravages of weather, weeds nor the whole warren of bunnies we suddenly seem to have living in our yard.

daisy said...

Pots are the way to go when Mother Nature won't cooperate! Best wishes for a fruitful harvest!

icebear said...

i've heard of people having great luck growing strawberries in rain gutters:

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-strawberries-rain-gutters-25601.html

http://followpics.com/grow-strawberries-in-rain-gutters/

maybe worth a try?

Natalie said...

I have seen pictures of strawberries planted in old pallets. You turn the pallet up on it's end, fill it with dirt, and then plant the strawberries in between the slats. It makes a kind of vertical wall of strawberries. I don't know how well they would over winter being in such a thin "container" but maybe they can be insulated or brought into a garage or something for the winter. As a bonus, the berries don't rest on the ground, so not as many insects can get at them. If you put the pallets on some sort of pavers or concrete stepping stones, I bet your grass couldn't get near enough to spread into the pallet. Good luck.

Woolly Bits said...

we have a similar nasty grass variety here - which is why DH build "steps" from timber, with window boxes for the strawberries on them. the good thing is that this is easily wrapped in nets against birds (our dog doesn't like strawbs:) - the downside is that they have to be watered in dry spells! slugs don't seem to be too bothered to reach the upper boxes, so for me this is the way to go.... not that we had a great harvest the last two years, but that was more down to the non-existent summer than grass.

The Weekend Homesteader said...

I've also seen them grown vertically and in gutters. I can't seem to grow strawberries to save my life, but because of a black thumb, not because of invasive grass. I've given up on them for the time being, but I'm glad to read you haven't. Good luck.

Mama Pea said...

Oh,Leigh, you deserve so much credit for being so tenacious in trying to grow strawberries! The other comments contain some good sounding things you might try. How do you control the wire grass in other parts of your garden?

I do know that I should never complain again about the quack grass in my strawberry bed. It, too, has long roots but I can keep it pulled out and under control.

Sherri B. said...

That wire grass sounds horrid, is there nothing that can get rid of it?
I know that vinegar will kill anything but don't know how long it takes to be able to plant in that location again..I do hope that you can get some berries this year. xo

Mary Ann said...

We went to container strawberries last year, and I'm going to expand on that this year... I have never had much success in the ground, either.

Leigh said...

Tanya, good grief, it's a global problem. I'll have to check out some of those ideas on Pintrest.

Theresa, seems everybody loves strawberries! I certainly wish I could find some cheap strawberry barrels.

Tami, LOL. I thought about you as I wrote this. Did you have any luck with your strawberries in raised beds?

CrankyPuppy, as you can see, we're all in the same battle. :(

Nina, doesn't it though. And apparently, there aren't any safe spots anywhere!

Daisy, that seems to be so. But somehow, the idea of 100 pots of strawberries seems a bit daunting!

Icebear, thanks for that idea. It's the watering that I'm concerned about, but I can see irrigation in rain gutters a bit easier than individual pots.

Natalie, there's those pallets again. With that idea, I wouldn't have to worry so much about individual pots. Hmmm.

Bettina, well, window boxes is another idea. If I could remember to water them, LOL

Candace, well, if you've read all these comments then perhaps you can consider that it's not you, it's the strawberries!

MamaPea, thanks, LOL. How do I control the wiregrass in other parts of the garden? I don't! I do find it doesn't like shade, so if I can mulch heavily, that helps. It also doesn't grow under thick shade. Of course strawberries are short little guys, so the wiregrass shades them out.

Sherri, I've tried vinegar actually. It kills the leaves but not the root. I've read even RoundUp is the same way. Folks who use it say it eventually comes back.

Mary Ann, we ought to start a club!

DFW said...

Good luck Leigh. We have Bermuda at the Country House, tough stuff!

Susan said...

My battle is with the four-footed variety of pests. This year, I am building a two-tier box, putting hardware cloth on the bottom, planting my strawberries, then surrounding it with netting. Not to mention posting machine guns on the corners....it's war!

Carolyn said...

So you'd be screaming to know that we are trying to ESTABLISH bermuda grass? In the pasture though. :)

Connie said...

My problem is noxious weeds they seem to take over everything. I finally planted my strawberries in a couple tractor tires and a couple truck tires with a ground cover underneath. I actually had strawberries last year first time in 6 years. I even planted all my herbs in tires and they are all doing so good.

Renee W at Shooting for Frugal said...

After 3 years I started to get strawberries finally growing good, and then we moved and I left my plants behind...In the process of deciding if I should grow more.

Leigh said...

DFW, it's a curse! LOL

Susan, love the machine guns, LOL

Carolyn, don't say we didn't warn you!!!

Connie, I'm guessing your tires are nice thick ones? Congratulations on winning at least one battle!

Renee, what a heartbreak to have to leave them behind. If it wasn't for the strawberry jam Dan loves so much, I might not even bother. I'd just buy them in season for a strawberry shortcake or two.

Cassandra said...

Oh, good luck! Here in OK I've been fighting too much direct sunlight, bermuda grass, and slugs. I'm starting my third planting of strawberries, as I've lost all of the previous plants over the course of 8 years. I finally figured out spreading crushed egg shells around the plants to deter the slugs, and a raised be helps immensely with the wire grass (it doesn't eliminate it entirely, but makes it much easier to pull out). This year I'm planning to put up some shade fabric over the bed during the afternoon. I'm not sure what else to do. Who would have thought strawberries would be so tough, right?

Moose Hollow Farm said...

What if you rototilled as much as you could and threw away the weeds that you dug up (or burned them in a burn barrel). Then plant your strawberry plants and surround them with straw to drown out weeds. I hope it works for you.

Linda said...

Hello Leigh,
Thanks for stopping by my blog and giving the link for Kinsey Agricultural Services. However, I was referring to the grain mix and getting it tested for protein percentage… or did I misunderstand your post?

Hannah said...

Leigh- I struggle with nasty grasses too. I wish I could totally eliminate grass then it couldn't invade again so easily, but we have chicken and duck tractors (movable houses) and need the grass for them to eat. I think if the soil is totally blanketed with thick newspaper, cardboard, or carpet for long enough (years?) it will kill even the burmuda grass but if it is alive in adjoining beds it will creep back in. But you really need to see this aquaponics setup for strawberries. It is very big and costly, but apparently pays for itself commercially, but aquaponics can be done more cheaply on a small scale. Perhaps that's what the rain gutter systems are? Perhaps they are just a water system not with a growing medium like the youtube video below? I've been dabbling with an indoor system that uses fish wastes for fertilizer and have not had expensive lighting so limited results. Outdoors that would not be a problem. If I were doing it again or when my last fish is gone, I would switch to fertilizer solutions since fish food is expensive over time too and fish wastes are not adequate in Phosphorus needed for fruit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=Cbody-aIXGE&feature=fvwp

Leigh said...

Cassandra, who would have thought indeed. Sounds like you've found some solutions to at least some of your problems. I'm glad to hear the crushed egg shells work so well. I've heard the recommendation for diatomaceous earth, but egg shells are cheaper, LOL

Moose Hollow Farm, it's true the rototilling and raking helps. I don't know that I want to plant a brand new bed every year though. I may have to, though, if I can't win this year.

Linda, I'm sorry! I was the one who misunderstood your question. I got the testing through my cooperative extension service.

Hannah, smothering does indeed kill burmuda grass. As you say though, if it's anywhere in the vicinity, it spreads back either by roots, runners, and/or seed! This year I'm just hoping I can stay ahead of it long enough to harvest berries. Next year, who knows? Aquaponics really doesn't appeal though.

Sandy said...

Leigh,

My strawberries were doing beautifully last year. I planted them in pots, and the berries were plentiful, that is until the squirrels decided to stop and have dessert. If you plant them watch out for the little critters.

A View From A Brown Dog said...

Oh I hope you get some this year, shoot I'm hoping I get some too. The area I live in grows strawberries almost year around and without really trying.

ME though, not so much I try every year and get very few. I mulched and added more bare root so fingers crossed i'll be making some jam too.

Leigh said...

Sandy, strawberry munching critters are another problem, aren't they? I lose quite a few to birds, mice, rats, moles, shrews.

Jen, thanks! I hope you do well with them too. How lucky you can grow them year around!

nancy said...

Some people use hanging baskets and they do very well there...

Bridget said...

Challenging to say the least! I think I would resort to pots. Bridget x.

Leigh said...

Nancy and Bridget, sounds good but maintaining about 75 baskets or pots of strawberries seems like it would have other problems.

Jeremy Elwell said...

Leigh,
Have you tried or considered planting a barrier plant surrounding your beds? In theory these plants send roots down that form a wall and make it difficult for bermuda/quack to penetrate. Ive heard perrenial sunflowers like Maximilian work good. I've also noticed from personal experience that the bermuda grows much slower around my garlic. A little straw doesnt hurt either to help block the light. Wherever you see it popping through plop down a peice of wet newspaper and some straw.
Good Luck, and Id love to hear if the maximillian works!

Leigh said...

Jeremy, thanks. That's something I haven't heard of and will definitely look into it. I agree about mulch, though I have had it grow through cardboard mulch!

dindin said...

I don't know where you live because I've just stumbled onto your blog however , , , ,My solution would be to 'solarize' your area of property where you want to plant something Solarize means to water the area, then cover it with a cover made of black plastic You a=can buy large 20X50 foot sheets at a hardware store. Leave the plastic sheet on the ground for the summer and I GUARANTEE it will kill any plant underneath it and then next season you can plant in the area and it will be weed-free for a long time. I live in bermuda grass country and it is the only way I can garden directly in the ground. enjoy your strawberries I love them. dianneferay@gmail.com

Leigh said...

Dianne, thank you for your comment. I actually did solarize the original strawberry bed after I moved the strawberries. As you say, it works well and does keep it relatively weed free for quite awhile. My bermuda is so pervasive though, that it wasn't long before it was moving in from "next door" to that plot!