Thursday, March 8, 2012

Preparing Planting Beds for Strawberries & Peaches

   We've been preparing raised beds over the last couple weeks, for new plantings of strawberries and peaches that I'll plant in a few weeks.  Both crops need well-drained soil to avoid root rots, as do blackberries and raspberries also.  Since our soil is a somewhat poorly drained silt loam, we build raised beds for all these crops before planting.
   Bill built two different tractor-pulled implements to make raised beds.  The strawberry bedder makes two raised beds on each pass, each 2 feet wide, with 2 feet of aisle space between them.  After each pass, he drives over the the second bed on the next pass to widen the aisles.  Our new strawberry field has 9 beds, and I'll plant it to 3 rows each of 3 different varieties.
Bill's preparing raised beds for our new strawberry planting, using a bedder he built.  We'll connect this new planting to our existing strawberry field at back right, by moving the deer fence & buying more fencing to encompass this new field.  Next week I'll take the winter straw mulch off the top of the strawberry beds in the existing field.
    Bill built the bedder he uses to make raised beds for peaches, blackberries and raspberries from a disc harrow. It creates beds about 3 feet wide, spaced as far apart as we want the rows to be.  For blackberries and raspberries we space the rows 11 to 12 feet apart, and for peaches about 22 feet apart.
   I'll start planting more apples late next week, after our tree order arrives.  We use apple and pear rootstocks that tolerate somewhat poorly drained soils, so we don't need to build raised beds for them.  We plant apples and pears directly into killed sod, minimizing disturbance of the soil.
   Early next week I'll take the winter straw mulch off the top of the strawberry beds in the existing field, and place the mulch in the aisles for a clean picking surface.  Meanwhile, whenever the weather's conducive, I'm still pruning peaches, blackberries and raspberries.  We've already applied a dormant oil spray to the apples and pears and a couple sprays on the peaches, and will apply the first anthracnose spray to blackberries and raspberries next week.
Thornless blackberry plants have broken bud, and new shoots are 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, so it's time to apply a copper spray to prevent anthracnose disease of the canes.