Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for September 17, 2018:
Strawberries are a tradition in Livingston Parish that goes back to the 1800’s. Farmers throughout the parish would work diligently year round to grow the delicious berries. There was pine straw to rake in the fall and winter, plant beds to raise plants all summer, planting the crop in the fall and picking berries and frost control in the spring.
The industry is still a tough business, but it is more segmented now. Farmers now use black plastic mulch for weed control instead of raking and spreading pine straw. They also found that disease pressures made it unfeasible to grow plants here commercially and began buying plants from huge nurseries out west and up north where colder climates interrupt disease cycles.
Strawberry harvest now starts right after the first of the year in January and ends sometimes in May, if the weather cooperates.
The strawberry tradition continues and it is time to get started making preparation for your own crop of delicious Livingston Parish strawberries. Go ahead and get your garden site ready. Strawberries will be planted in October and grow through the winter so we will need to plant on high, well drained rows to deal with the winter rains.
Fertilizer can be broadcast and rowed up in the row or you can put a band in the middle of the row down about 4 inches deep. We generally use 5-8 pounds of an 8-8-8 or 8-24-24 per 100 feet of row.
Before you lay your black plastic consider putting down drip tape, which is used for irrigation. Bury the tape about 2 inches below the soil surface and place it in the middle of the row. You should run the tape out both ends of the row so you can connect one end to the water supply and clamp the other end to preserve water.
Next, make a small trench on both sides of the row bottom to bury the plastic mulch. Put one side of the plastic in the trench and cover it with soil, then stretch the plastic tightly across the row and bury the other side. You can use straw or another organic material as mulch, but the organic mulches will cool the soil in the spring and delay your strawberry harvest.
Once plants arrive in October, you can make slits in the plastic for planting or use a bulb planter to make holes. I would space the plants out about every 17 inches down the row. You can use a double drill row, one row to the right of center and one row to the left of center, or plant just a single row. Remember that you have drip tape down. You need to plant left or right of the tape so as not to tear it. Double rows work best for this system. Plant your double rows alternating so that the left row plants are off set between the plants on the right row to make a triangular pattern and give each plant maximum space to grow.
When it comes to selecting varieties we are limited by what is available locally. The most popular varieties are Festival, Camino Real, Camarosa and San Andreas. I usually recommend Festival for home gardeners, when available, as it is very hardy.
Plants usually arrive in our area in October. I would think about planting from mid to late October but get the berry plants in by the first week in November.
Once planted, you will need to overhead water for about 2 weeks to get them going. After they begin to put on leaves then you can start using your drip irrigation as needed.
For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020.