July 27, 2010

Strawberry Stress

My strawberries 'Mara des Bois', little gems of intense sweet taste, started out so well this year.  Last year they had glossy foliage, long runners and tiny fragile strawberries.  Not many, but a few for my breakfast.

This year started out the same, but in June they stopped leafing out or forming runners, the leaves looked flat, not glossy, and they were clearly chomped on.  And the fruits stopped producing.  There were little nibs where the flowers were, but no strawberries developed.

The leaves looked slug damaged, but there was no other evidence, no slime trails, no icky creatures under the pots, no damaged eaten fruits.  No fruits at all.

Slugs do bad thing to the leaves, but they wouldn't completely stop the fruits from developing, would they?  Something else was going on, maybe in addition to leaf chomping slugs.  I was getting really stressed about these strawberries.

I unpotted all the plants and put them in fresh new potting soil in shallow plastic containers.

The terra cotta pocket jars are actually a terrible way to grow strawberries.  They're hard to keep evenly moist and I'm pretty sure I was overwatering them before and during fruit set, which can retard berry production. The plants are cramped and it's hard to keep the soil on the side pockets from washing away from the crowns.  Just not a good concept at all, even though this is the express purpose for these pots --- to grow strawberries.

But how I loved the look!  I really liked the pots on the terrace, even without the full lushness of last year's foliage.  It's the age old dilemma: looks or function?  Cool looking aged clay jars?  Or crop production?

Now, in late July, growing in their orangey plastic containers, they look healthy again and they are producing lots of flowers, runners, and . . . . a crop of fruit!  Mara Des Bois are everbearing, so I should get more as the season goes on.

I don't know what malady they had, but I'm ready once again for strawberry season with no stress!  Now I need to go get some succulents to stuff in the empty pocket jars.  Not the look I wanted, but it's always been about what the plants want, not what I want.

Although all I ever really wanted was a sweet red juicy strawberry for my breakfast.


  1. I have rarely had luck with strawberry jars. The plants that do best in them for me are succulents. This might be the answer.

  2. I have a strawberry in a window box on the ledge of my back deck. It grows foliage and runners like crazy, occasionally flowers, but never gives fruit. I couldn't think why. Then I realized it was sitting less than a foot from my bird feeder! Perhaps that's why...
    : )

  3. Laurrie, I have wild atrawberries in my lawn. There they sat, developing lovely, tiny green berries. I watched them start to ripen, then gone..... who did it?

  4. Lisa, I don't think anyone has had much luck with strawberries in strawberry jars, but I had to learn the hard way.

    Madame Meg, you apparently set up a dessert bar for the birds!

    Deborah, those pesky birds sure do wreak havoc with our crops :) My blueberries gave me a few scoops of berries before they were completely denuded.

  5. Laurrie, I'm sure the succulents will be very happy there - and your strawberries are producing for you. Just beat the birds to them and you will all be happy! :-)

  6. Garden Ms. S, it's always a battle to get to them before the birds do!

  7. I have strawberries growing in a large plastic pot in pot - the smaller pot holds the original 3 plants and it sits atop the soil of the larger pot where I root the runners. I get about 3-4 strawberries every two days and have been since May.

    I ahve also planted succulents in a blue glased strawberry jar for years - they love it and don't spread so much as to cover the jar. Try hens & chicks in the top and small colorful sedum in the sides.

  8. Joene, that's a great idea to use a smaller pot inside the bigger one for the runners to root.


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