We get a lot of questions from customers who are new to gardening. We post answers to try to help gardeners at all levels of experience. Here are answers to multiple questions from one customer recently.
I’m glad the plants are doing well. For spring planted strawberries I recommend removing the flowers for 3-4 weeks. This helps the plant to establish a root system that will be needed to support a fruit load in the future. The plants will grow rapidly in the cool of spring. Of course, if you’ve never tasted the fruit don’t torture yourself. Let a few flowers produce fruit the first time around. A few fruit won’t devastate or severely set back the plants!!!
I don’t know about your area and straw. Here, garden centers, a few produce stands and farm suppliers carry straw in the fall. Other materials will work as long as the plants can breathe. Regular mulch is too dense and will likely smother the plants. I have heard that pine needles works as does corn stalks, though I have never tried either. I tried leaves on a very limited basis a few years ago and almost all plants under the leaves died over winter. Other options include moving the plants, if in containers, to unheated garages/sheds/cool room, etc. In all cases mentioned above, make sure that the plants don’t dry out over winter. It may sound crazy but I have watered plants outside during a very dry winter. Oh, snow is also a good “mulch”. When covered with snow the temperature at the interface of snow and plant is 32F, perfect temp for winter!! It’s the wind that’s the enemy!
So far the root pouches are working out well. The plants seem to love the soil aeration and I believe that soil temperature is moderated. I need to put a thermometer in various types of pots to check it out. I purchased the pouches from the Mega Greenhouse store (an online search will reveal the URL) for what I consider a great price. One observation with the root pouches, and even other types of fabric pots is container height. Most seem to be taller than they are wide (I’m not sure how these companies decide on height/width). This introduces an issue with tipping, like from the wind. Strawberries only need about 6-8″ soil depth. The fabric pots can be folded down to whatever height you want. I recommend rolling them down. It will save soil and reduce potential damage from tipping over.
I tried companion planting with mixed results. I was looking for plants that would attract pollinators as well as the promised effects of companion planting (better yield, etc.). I had also hoped to attract beneficial insects. Borage didn’t seem to have any benefits and it was a pain to grow especially in containers. I didn’t try thyme but it can’t hurt I suppose … at least you can eat it either way! I tried several types of clovers. When they bloomed they brought in several types of pollinators, some in large numbers. Unfortunately, the clovers bloomed way after the strawberries bloomed. By the time the clovers bloomed the temperatures were high and the strawberries were cycling out of bloom. I didn’t look at more than that. I’m sure there are companions that would be beneficial, I just didn’t stay with it long enough to find those relationships.