Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"How To" Organic Gardening: Strawberries & Ants

"How To" Organic Gardening: Strawberries & Ants: STRAWBERRIES AND ANTS WEBSITE: DIY ORGANIC GARDEN Ants in your strawberry patch can be very destructive.  I don't mind a ...

Strawberries & Ants


Ants in your strawberry patch can be very destructive.  I don't mind a few taking on a snack but when over half of the strawberries I picked had large ant holes then it was time to take action.  My harvest had gone from 3 pounds of strawberries a day down to maybe a pound and one-half.
Picture on left is what I was seeing on a large majority of my strawberries.  Large holes and ants.  It is sickening to see that berry wasted on ants.
I tried onion water as a deterrent but it did nothing.  So then I remembered my cabbage plant that had an ant mound under neath it.  Soap.  I applied soapy water to the root area and the ants vacated the cabbage roots, so I decided to try my soap solution.  I am not big on killing everthing that bothers my garden, I would rather chase it away or use other insects to fight off the issues.  Suggestions of hot water, dish detergent as soap, vinegar, sugar with cinnamon or grits were solutions for killing the ants.  I really didn't want them dead I just wanted them to find a different food source.  NOTE: even if suggested NEVER use dish detergent, it is not good for the garden.  Use only organic soaps.

Earlier in the year(in the winter) I was preparing organic pest solutions and one of those was soap water.  I purchased an organic bar of soap from the Dollar Store, Yardley oatmeal and Almond, slivered the soap and put it in a gallon of saved rain water and let it soak, shaking it up every week of so.  I intended to dilute one to one but have since found out it will go much farther than a one to one mix.

I found that I could add about 2 cups of soap water to every two gallons of rain water for a great pest solution.  I then went into my strawberry patch in the morning and started to pick my berries.  Every time I was a berry covered or bitten by ant I gave the plant a douse of soap water.  I took about 8 gallons of soap solution to finish the patch.

In the evening of the same day I went out to see if it was working and It was.  Some of the ant mound that I identified and gone away, the ants just moved out.  I still found some ant chewing away on my strawberries so I either missed that area or they need another douse.   Now I was up to 12 gallons of soap solution and the gallon of soap solution I had stared with was still going strong (plenty left).

The second morning I went out to pick strawberries and voila most of the strawberries I pick were good to go and those that were still bothered by ant got another douse of soap solution.
I was happy with the results.  Soap is the remedy for my ant problem.

Other solutions suggest prevention by putting charcoal dust around the perimeter of the patch but since I didn't want to confine my ant I wanted to chase them away I will use a perimeter solution once I think my ant have vacated my patch for good, maybe preventing the same problem for next year.

This colander should have been full to the brim with berries, over half of my berries were destroyed by ants.  This is the picture on the first day before soap solution.

This colander (right) is the berries I picked the day after the soap solution.  Much better.
My patch of strawberries is in the background.  For how I plant and maintain my strawberry patch see PLANT STRAWBERRIES.
Go to for more information on Strawberry types and general information
Prepare soap solution:
I bar organic soap(oatmeal, almond, lavendar, mint)  unscented is good.
1 gallon rain water, or spring water, just don't use city tap water.
Shave the soap bar into small piece and put in 1 gallon of water.  I use a gallon milk jug.  Let sit for at least two days and shake to desolve the soap shaving.
Divide gallon soap into two 5 gallon buckets and fill with rain water.  Stir thoroughly.  Pour soap solution in a pour can, I use a 2 gallon sprinkler can with the sprinkler nozzle off.
Pour this solution around the base of the strawberries and on any trouble areas with ants.  I sprinkles down the paths of my strawberries the first day and then just applied to missed area or on areas still experiencing ants.
I put remaining amount of soap solution back into one gallon milk jugs.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"How To" Organic Gardening: Planting Strawberries

"How To" Organic Gardening: Planting Strawberries: PLANTING STRAWBERRIES WEBSITE: DIY ORGANIC GARDEN I plant my strawberries using the Matted Row System .   I bought Earliglo...

Planting Strawberries


I plant my strawberries using the Matted Row System.  I bought Earliglow June bearing strawberries about 8 years ago and started them in a tiered system.

I could never figure out how to manage the runners and so the weeds took over and I had to clean out the spot and start over. Luckily the strawberry plants were still there so I did not have to buy more. I simply had to reorganize the beds into something I could manage.

To the left is a picture of how over grown it had become with weeds.
To the right is a picture with it cleaned out but still having some trees roots that need digging. I dug all the tree roots out and then replanted my strawberries in row about 5 foot apart.

To the left is my cleaned out patch with strawberries about 5 foot apart giving me ample space with walking and picking strawberries. I laid down two pieces of newspaper over lapping with a hole cut to slip the strawberry plant through and then covered with about 6 inches of shredded paper. This mulch process will suppress most of the weeds, decompose to always add additional organic matter(fertilizer to my plants).

I now will take my runners from the strawberries and add to the left side of my rows thus growing the row left.  As the original row dies (in about 3 years) that will create the new path for picking.  When the newly created rows meet the "old row" I will start planting my runners to the right going back to the original row position.  This will go back and forth in a 6 to 10 years cycle giving me new plants to replace the old and keeping the strawberry patch fresh.

To the right are new rows of strawberries I have created by cutting some of the runners last year to grow a new larger patch of strawberries, this time using straw and news paper under the straw as a mulch and weed bearer.

The planters you see in the front of my strawberries also contain strawberry plants.  These are there just in case we move, then I have strawberry plant ready to trans port at anytime.  Some of my planter have asparagus (this is an experiment) in growing asparagus in containers.
If you have purchased bare root strawberries (plants not in a pot) the roots will be long and stringy.  Dig a wide, 3 inch deep hole and spread the roots out and cover up to the crown.  This will bring dirt up to just below the leaves of the strawberry, and cover.  
I am harvesting about 1 to 3 lbs of strawberries per day from an estimated 4 dozen plants .  In the Louisiana, MO area?  Stop by the Garden and buy some.  Very tasty. 
If you have purchased strawberries in a pot, dig a hole the size and depth of your pot and place in the ground matching the soil depth and cover.

Monday, June 3, 2013

"How To" Organic Gardening: STRAWBERRIES

"How To" Organic Gardening: STRAWBERRIES: Growing Strawberries Information taken from:  WEBSITE: DIY ORGANIC GARDEN Typ...


Growing Strawberries

Information taken from: 



June bearing(this is what I have) or spring bearing, everbearing and day neutral are the three types of strawberries grown in Illinois. Fruits of day neutral plants and everbearers are usually smaller than June-bearers fruit.
June bearing strawberries produce a crop during a two-to-three week period in the spring. June-bearers produce flowers, fruits and runners. They are classified into early, mid-season and late varieties.  Mine start produceing the last weeks of May and continue until Mid June with sporadic berries after that.
Everbearing strawberries produce three periods of flowers and fruit during the spring, summer and fall. Everbearers do not produce many runners.
Day neutral strawberries will produce fruit throughout the growing season. These strawberries produce just a few runners.
Everbearing and day neutral strawberries are great for gardeners who have limited space. They can be grown in terraced beds, barrels or pyramids. They can also be used as an edging plant or a groundcover.

When to Plant

Plant strawberries as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. This is usually in March or April allowing the plants to become well established before the hot weather arrives. Do not work the soil if it is wet. Wait a few days until it dries.

Planting Depth

Try to plant strawberries on a cloudy day or during the late afternoon. Set the strawberry plant in the soil so that the soil is just covering the tops of the roots. Do not cover the crown.

Matted Row Systems

This system is the best for growing June-bearing cultivars. In this system, the strawberry plants should be set eighteen to thirty inches apart in rows three to four feet apart. Daughter plants are allowed to root freely to become a matted row no wider than two feet.
I use the matted row system.  See my Strawberries for how this is done.

Spaced-Row Systems

This system limits the number of daughter plants that grow from a mother plant. The mother plants are set eighteen to thirty inches apart in rows three to four feet apart. The daughter plants are spaced to root no closer than four inches apart. All other runners are pulled or cut from the mother plants. Even though more care is needed under this system, advantages include higher yields, larger berries and fewer disease problems.
After four or five weeks, the plants will produce runners and new daughter plants.
Hill System
 This is the best system for growing day-neutral and everbearing strawberries. In this system all the runners are removed so only the original mother plant remains. Removing the runners causes the mother plant to develop more crowns and flower stalks. Multiple rows are arranged in groups of two, three or four plants with a two foot walkway between each group of rows. Plants are set about one foot apart in multiple rows. During the first two or three weeks of growth, the planting should be weeded; then the bed should be mulched
When purchasing strawberries by the pound, one-and-a-half pounds equal one quart. This will yield about four cups of sliced strawberries.
The University of Illinois has some good recipes