Thin Strawberry Plants
My strawberry plants have become so thick that they did not produce very well last year. Should I remove some of the plants?
Yes, strawberry beds tend to become overcrowded with plants if not thinned annually. Plants are jammed against each other so that competition for light and nutrients reduces fruit yield. Plants spaced 6 inches to a foot apart produce maximum yield.
Plants less than 3 years old are the most productive. So the oldest and largest plants should be removed when thinning. The newest runner plants from last year will be the most productive. If you want to increase the size of your strawberry patch, just move the youngest plants to the outside of the bed. If you decide to plant another strawberry bed, use the youngest plants, primarily last year’s runners. If your bed is several years old and yield is way down because of accumulated virus in the plants, get new, clean plants from the nursery or garden store. I prefer the continuous bearing varieties such as Tribute and Tristar.
Raspberries are also well adapted to our climate. If you did not remove the dead stocks in the fall they can be removed now. The dead stocks are losing their bark and are not developing new leaves. Plants which have grown outside your support can be moved now. This is also a good time to move plants or plant new ones in a new area.
I plant my raspberries in a single row and then put 8 foot stakes 18 inches outside the row. Then I use twine or single strand plastic with wire in the center to surround plants with several layers of support.
Perhaps the best adapted berries for the Pacific Northwest are blueberries. They thrive in our acid soils. They make attractive shrubs so they can even be planted in shrub borders. Plant several varieties with different maturity dates to spread your harvest period. Blueberries require very little attention except removing an occasional dead branch or shaping.
All berries prefer sunny locations. Strawberries and blueberries will tolerate more shade than raspberries. All berries thrive in soils with lots of organic matter. Incorporate 3 or 4 inches of compost or bark dust into new beds before planting.
All berries can be protected from birds with a protective netting called Tanglefoot. Bird’s feet become tangled when they land on it so they quickly fly away.