Organic Gardening Secrets: Your Handbook to Growing Your Own Organic Fruits and Vegetables

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While the segment of the population that is concerned about how their food is grown is still a minority, more and more people are discovering the benefits of sustainable agriculture. And, as more and more gardeners test out their green thumbs, gardens all around the world are finding strawberry plants inhabiting space next to herbs and other garden plants.

Going green and growing healthy food go well together; and since virtually everyone loves strawberries, this post will help those who want to eschew the conventional methods which are somewhat notorious for producing dirty strawberries for potentially safer ones. Before getting to the secrets, a few preliminaries are in order. There are some key decisions that have to be made prior to planting strawberry plants.

You need to know which of the main types of strawberries you want to plant…. June-bearing Strawberries June-bearers are the most popular. Most of the commercially available cultivars are of this type. They produce a very large crop of very large fruits over the course of two to three weeks. There may be a few stragglers here and there, but they typically put out a big harvest and then stop. These are the berries you buy in the store.

Everbearing Strawberries Everbearers typically produce smaller berries than do the June-bearing types of strawberry plants, but they produce a main crop at the beginning of the season and again at the end of the growing season. Overall, however, they will produce a smaller overall yield, on average, than the aforementioned June-bearers.

Day-neutral Strawberries Day-neutral strawberries produce small fruits continually throughout the growing season. The major benefit of these plants is the fact that you can walk out to your patch on any given day and find a few ripe strawberries ready to be picked. While day-neutrals are typically chosen by indoor hydroponic strawberry growing operations, you will end up with a noticeably smaller yield than June-bearers, and significantly less overall harvest than the everbearers as well.

Once you have landed on which type of strawberry plant you want to grow, you can either buy some plants from a local nursery or order them online. The varieties offered by your local nursery will likely be well-suited for your area. If you choose the ease and convenience of having them arrive at your door by ordering online, you can choose your variety and price shop for the best deals quickly and easily in this directory. If you need help choosing a suitable variety for your location, you can find your state and choose an appropriate variety from this list.

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As a bare minimum, 6 or 7 plants are needed to provide an individual with enough strawberries to make the effort of planting and cultivation worthwhile. A family of 5 should look to procure between 30 and 35 plants in order to enjoy a sufficient quantity of fresh fruit. And, if you are planning on canning or making strawberry jam or other preserves, doubling the number of plants to 60 or more is necessary. Strawberries are remarkably resilient. To get the best results, though, there are some basics you should know.

Now, on to the secrets of growing organic strawberries! Strawberry plants have a higher relative nitrogen demand in the early spring and late fall. In early spring the plants are going through a highly energy-demanding period as they produce their strawberries and put out strawberry runners.

Even if the runners are removed see below! Using conventional methods, chemical fertilizers with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are easily added to buoy the needed nutrients and keep the berries coming. But, for the devotee of organic methods using the NPK chemical fertilizers is not an option. So, the first secret to growing loads of organic strawberries is to successfully keep nitrogen levels up in your berry planting.

Other organic sources of nitrogen include fish meal, soy meal, and alfalfa meal. Aged manure is also a good source of nitrogen, but you have to be careful to not supply too much nitrogen to your strawberries as that can cause excess vegetative producti0n and fewer berries. Organic farmers typically tremble when they hear the name of agriculture giant Monsanto: either with fear or anger or both. So, naturally pun intended! Skipping out on those weed poisons ensures that the produce you pluck will be pure and free from potentially harmful molecules when you consume them.

But, that means the weeds will sprout and mock you mercilessly. The second secret of a prolific organic strawberry garden is to develop a habit of diligence when it comes to pulling weeds. Hand-pulling is the first resort of most non-chemical growers. Developing a schedule and sticking to it is important in the fight against unwanted growth. Shallow cultivation can also be successfully utilized.

But, without chemical herbicides, if you want to haul in loads of fruit come harvest, it is absolutely essential that you keep on top of the weeds. There is an organic herbicide labeled for use with growing strawberries called GreenMatch Ex, but its use alone will not be sufficient to completely control the weeds.

So, get your gardening gloves ready to go and pluck those weeds as soon as they show their ugly little heads. Just as weeds are a particularly painful problem in organic strawberry beds, pests and pathogens can be particularly prickly as well. There is an abundance of potent poisons available to send such scourges to purgatory, but who wants to eat those residues?

The secret to maintaining organic integrity while harvesting a healthy hoard is three-fold.

The Secret to Growing Great Tasting Vegetables

Avoid Problem Areas Plant only disease-free, healthy plants in soils with good drainage and air circulation. Keep your plantings away from areas that may harbor large populations of mites or microbes detrimental to your strawberries. Managing weeds is also important as they can provide habitat for and harbor problem organisms as well.

Mulching heavily underneath the leaves of your plants is also important. Soil, by its very nature, is home to legions of microbes. In many strawberry plantings, rain droplets splashing into dirt and thereby sending droplets of pathogen-infected wet mud up onto the vegetative components are the cause of disease and death. A heavy layer of mulch avoids this common problem.

Eradication Fungi species and many parasites find happy homes in the dead or decaying leaves that fall from strawberry plants over the course of their lives. Being vigilant to remove any dead or decaying plant matter from your beds will help minimize problems.

The Organic Grow Book

While virtually impossible to completely eradicate even with conventional methods, strawberry pathogens can also be deterred by the use of diatomaceous earth. Frequent applications can reduce mite and other arthropod numbers by creating an inhospitable environment. Biopesticides like Serenade are also available, but are insufficient to eradicate pests as well.

Managing them, however, is a critical secret for success. Protection Protecting your garden is also quite important. The primary way of protecting against the microscopic predators is through variety selection. If you live in a region that is wetter then most, be sure to select a variety that has at least some resistance to powdery mildew and other wet-loving fungi. And, of course, keep the fruit off the ground by mulching well and picking the fruit as soon as it is ripe. Remove any rotting fruit immediately! Bird netting or fencing of some sort is also a good idea to keep out the bigger pests like squirrels, birds, and rabbits.

This last secret is a general secret for all types of strawberry growing, not necessarily just organic growers. But, with the added difficulties of foregoing the powerful conventional chemicals, it is even more vital for the organic grower. Simply put, you have to remove the runners. When they put out runners, use your fingernails, scissors, or pruning shears to snip off the runners as soon as they can be identified.

Strawberry plants will spend themselves in their reproductive efforts. It is critical to guide your plants in the way you want them to be productive. Some strawberry plants will produce dozens of cloned daughter plants if left to themselves. All of those runners means energy is diverted away from producing strawberries, which is why you planted them in the first place! So, be sure to watch for the production of strawberry runners and sever them as soon as possible. The plants will respond by devoting more productive energy to developing those loads of organic strawberries I promised! There are some good reasons to let a few runners develop as well, however.

For more on that, be sure to read up on strawberry runners. Top photo credit: Kelvin Wong. Very healthy too. Watered well. We had an extremely long winter this year in Alberta, Canada. The plants were mulched with straw and huge amounts of falling snow. Can you help me Mr S? Hello Mr.

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Strawberry, I am trying to decide whether to grow strawberries conventionally or organically in the NC piedmont region. How do you deal with botrytis and anthracnose organically? Also, what is the best amendment to add to clay soil? Sun ripening : Many fruit and vegetables produced for grocery stores, particularly those shipped huge distances, are picked early and then ripened up for sale by controlling the temperature and gases around them.

In contrast, sun ripened fruit such as tomatoes develop a much richer flavour when left to mature on the vine.

It is no surprise that tomatoes are so popular to grow, particularly when you consider the price premium charged for sun-ripened varieties sold in shops. Picking Just Before Eating : A lot of the sweeter vegetables benefit from being picked just before eating. This is because the sugars quickly start turning to starches once they are off the plant. Try sampling sweet corn or fresh peas and you can notice the difference just a couple of hours after picking.

Adding foliar feeds such as organic seaweed extract watered onto tomatoes once a week can also boost the health of the plant and the resulting harvest. Extra Attention : Farming is all about getting maximum output from the resources at hand. As gardeners we can do better than that. Special Varieties : Agriculture selects plant varieties for their productivity, disease resistance, uniform shape and ease of harvesting. Flavor is very far down the list.