Strawberries in the Georgia Community or School Garden? You bet!

Strawberries can be a welcome addition to the Georgia community or school garden.  And, spring is the time to plant!

StrawberriesTraditionally in north Georgia strawberries are grown in a matted row system where initial plants are set two feet apart at spring planting.  That summer the runners are allowed to fill in the rest of the bed.  This set up is perfect for raised beds or bed plots.

Treat your strawberry bed as a perennial bed.  You will need an area that is in full sun and contains well drained soil.  Avoid planting where you have been growing peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes.  These plants are susceptible to verticillium wilt and so are strawberries. The UGA publication Home Garden Strawberries is a great resource.

Varieties of Strawberries

Varieties recommended for early fruiting for north and middle Georgia are Earliglow, Sweet Charlie, and Delmarva. For south Georgia look for Chandler, Camarosa, and Sweet Charlie.  Early season varieties are best for school gardens as you should get fruit before school lets out for the summer.  

For mid-season fruiting look for Allstar.  Purchase plants that appear to be disease-free from a reputable supplier.  This can be a local store or a mail order supplier.   You will probably have more varieties to choose from if you use a mail order supplier.

The placement of the plant crown is very important. Picture from Home Grown Strawberries by UGA.

Care of Strawberries

The most important part of planting strawberries is the placement of the crown.  The top of the crown needs to be above the soil line.  Otherwise, you will probably have rot.  Set the plants two feet from the bed edge and from each other.  Remember, runners will fill in.  Remove flowers the first year to encourage more blossoms, and fruit, next year.

Weeds are the number one problem with strawberry plants.  Mulch between plants and use hand pulling or hoeing to remove stubborn weeds.  Strawberries need 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water a week.

Birds and rodents love strawberries as much as we do.  Raised beds deter rodents.  Some gardeners use netting.  A problem with netting is birds and small animals getting caught in the net.   Some gardeners report success with loosely hanging aluminum pie pans around the beds to deter birds.  The best practice is to pick the fruit as soon as it is ripe, before other hungry eaters find it.

During the second spring, after you have picked all of your berries, get ready for next year.  By this point runners have filled in and if you don’t thin the bed you will have too many plants for that area.  You need to get rid of about two-thirds of the plants in order to have healthy plants for next year.  Pot up the extras and have a fund raising plant sale!

As always your local UGA Extension agent is a great resource for you.

Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

Aphids are Pests in the Georgia School or Community Garden

Aphids are Pests in the Georgia School or Community Garden
Jim Occi, BugPics, Bugwood.org

Do you have aphids in your garden?  If so, are they a problem?  Spring when many plants have succulent, new growth is prime aphid time.

Aphids, also called plant lice, are soft-bodied, pear shaped insects with tail-like appendages known as cornicles.  Most aphids are about 1/10th inch long and can be several colors:  green, black, pink, brown. If you have trouble identifying your pest, contact your local UGA Extension agent.

Aphids use “piercing-sucking” mouthparts to suck the juices out of tender plant parts, secreting a sticky substance known as honeydew.  Ants are attracted to honeydew and will often protect the aphids making it.  Black sooty mold grows well on honeydew and is difficult to remove from

Aphids are Pests in the Georgia School or Community Garden
Sooty mold caused by aphids. Joesph O’Brien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

the leaves.  This sooty mold makes photosynthesis almost impossible on the leaves affected.  All this means that aphids can be a problem to the community gardener.

Aphids are a danger to plants in three ways.

They can:

  1. weaken a plant making it susceptible to a secondary infection
  2. cause curling of leaves and damage to terminal buds
  3. carry and spread plant viruses

Right now our gardens are full of leafy, new plant growth and as the temperatures warm up, check the underside of

Aphids are Pests in the Georgia School or Community Garden
Aphids on lettuce

leaves and terminal buds for aphid pests.   Look for those tail-like appendages.  (Some people call them tailpipes!) Also pay attention to ant trails.  They may lead you to the honeydew making aphids.

Since aphids tend to congregate as a group, you can try removing the one or two leaves where you find them.  Sometimes a good spray with the hose is enough to remove the insects.   If not, insecticidal soap is a good choice.

Beneficial insects are nature’s way of controlling aphids.   So avoid applying any chemical insecticide that could harm those beneficials.  Some of the natural predators include lacewings or lady beetles (lady bugs).  You can actually purchase lady beetles from insect distributors but once you get them you can’t control where they fly.

Wishing you an aphid-free spring!

Happy Gardening!