Update Apr 6, 2018: We bedded the strawberry gutters in straw (left from the straw bale garden) and most of the plants made it through the winter. Facebook’s “On This Day” keeps taunting me with flowery images of springs past, but this year, spring can’t be bothered with us. The gutters haven’t been rehung as I hope that leaving them on the ground along the bottom frame of the berry house will provide enough protection from the lingering cold nights for their survival.
Last week when it was 60° and spring seemed possible, I bought a few strawberry plants to fill in for the few that didn’t survive the winter. The next night it got down to 20° and tonight is supposed to dip to 17° so the plants are staying inside. I think I should have kept them in the garage or basement though as they now look to be coming into full bloom. Without the wind, bees and other insects to pollinate them, I have had to intervene and try to hand pollinate them. I know that Spring will come eventually, but these plants and I are anxious to get out there!
Update Sept 3, 2017: Just wanted to post an update after my first season with strawberry gutters. The plants made it through the season in spite of extreme overwatering. We had a wet spring and summer and I had to travel several times so that I just left automatic watering turned on. I think the overwatering kept them from doing as well as they could, but here is what they look like now:
Update March 25, 2017: I have now installed my drip watering for the Strawberry Gutters. Everything is looking nice.
Those who know me, know I am a berry gardener. I grow lots of blackberries, blueberries, but fewer strawberries than I would like. I first grew strawberries around 1980 with great success and I was hooked.
We moved from that house and at our next house I didn’t have great luck with my strawberries. Too dry, too wet, bad dirt, bunnies, slugs, birds… It was enough to make anyone give up on strawberries and I did for a while. Meanwhile, I successfully branched out to blackberries and blueberries. The blackberries were prolific, while the blueberries struggled. I finally figured out that deer were grazing on the bushes and fixed that by putting them in a cage. There was a little extra space around them and I planted strawberries around the border.
You can see in this picture, we are picking the strawberries around the edge of the cage. Some even escaped and my son is picking from the outside plants.
But, the blueberries thrived and the strawberries spread to the point that we couldn’t get around the blueberries without walking on the strawberries. The strawberry plants looked great, but I still wasn’t getting many strawberries. I still had occasional problems when it was too wet (too dry had been fixed with soaker hose). My knees and back complained about weeding the low beds. So, last year I saw a picture of strawberries in gutters on Pinterest that inspired me. I thought it might be a good idea, but it was too late in the year to do it. I filed it away as a “someday” project. I happened to stop by a farm that was selling apples last fall and they had planted strawberry gutters. The farmer was very happy with them and it encouraged me to think about the project for the next year.
Fast-forward to 2017 planting season–I mentioned to my son what I was thinking of for strawberry gutters and he built them for me! As soon as strawberry plants were available, I bought them and got the gutters filled. I have done some research on the web about the pitfalls of strawberry gutters which include the necessity of a good watering system (or extreme dedication to hand watering), frequent feeding and necessity of protecting the gutters over the winter to prevent freezing of roots in gutters. I am planning to put in an automatic drip watering system and before winter, I will take the gutters down and use the straw from this year’s straw bale garden to insulate and shelter the gutters over the winter. I am optimistic, but will let you know if this lives up to my expectations.