Columnists : Joan Swenson

Friday, Feb 27 2009 06:12 PM

Joan Swenson: Strawberries love Bakersfield, so plant now

On a whim a couple of weekends ago, I bought 50 bare root strawberry plants. Fifty bare root strawberry plants come in two overstuffed little bags. When you bring home 50 strawberry plants, the challenge is where to put them.

I found the space — perhaps crowding the plants a little more than I would have liked, but the spot is convenient.

Strawberries will grow well in Bakersfield and you can have months of fruit, although I’m not saying you’ll be picking flats of berries in the middle of August. This isn’t the coast, after all.

You may plant strawberries in raised beds, as the professionals do, or flat rows. Work organic material into the soil before planting. Plant the strawberries 8 to 14 inches apart on your raised beds that are 5 to 6 inches high and 6 to 12 inches wide. Or, if you’re a flat-land planter, put the plants 12 to 16 inches apart in rows that are about 2 feet apart. That’s ideal — but if you’re short on space, tuck them closer together.

Bare root strawberry plants should be planted with their crowns just above the soil to prevent rot. The crown is the area between the roots and the stems of the leaves.

Strawberries will attract pillbugs (aka sowbugs), slugs and snails. Snail bait pellets containing metaldehyde can easily kill a dog. We instead tuck heavy clear plastic around the plants to discourage pests. Keep an eye on the berries and pick as soon as they are ripe.

Strawberries will produce runners, which you should cut away because runner production reduces fruit production by the main plant. Leave the runners and an attractive ground cover will develop. Growers handle strawberries as annual plants, replanting each year from bare root plants, but they will live for years in the yard if you let the runners go.

PLANT SALE SATURDAY

The Kern County Rose Society’s 14th annual Rose and Plant Sale runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of Hall Letter Shop, at the corner of Rosedale Highway and Landco Drive.

Plants for sale will include modern and classic roses, daylilies, perennial flowers and succulents from members’ gardens. The sale benefits the Rose Society’s educational projects.

AFRICAN VIOLET CLUB

The African Violet Club of Bakersfield meets at 10:30 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Veterans Hall on Wilson Road, just east of H Street.

The group offers culture hints and advice on growing, propagating and showing violets as well as raffling plants and materials, and socializing. The public is welcome.

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