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-   -   PH's Day Neutral Strawberry Trial (http://www.tomatoville.com/showthread.php?t=45095)

PureHarvest May 25, 2017 01:29 PM

PH's Day Neutral Strawberry Trial
 
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So I am trying day neutral strawberries on a small commercial scale this year.
Trying San Andreas and Albion
2 rows os SA per bed that are 1' apart in row.
3 rows Albion 1' also.
Each bed is 200' long and cover with 3 mil poly landscape fabric. Two rows up drip tape under the fabric in each bed.
I will be building 2 low tunnels over half of the area to keep rain off the fruit, preventing loss from soft rot. I got a grant from NRCS for these. If things go well and I plant again next year, I will apply for two more to cover all my production area.

Bed 1 and 2 were planted April 1.
Bed 3 and 4 were planted April 22.

4/14

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5/1

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5/24

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PhilaGardener May 25, 2017 04:17 PM

Is Albion the one that looks to be growing best?

I wonder if it would be worth getting some wildflowers going somewhere to help bump up the pollinator populations?

PureHarvest May 26, 2017 12:34 PM

It is, but I think its because its in the first bed, and when I fertigated last, it got the most fert because I did not have enough pressure in the line. The other 3 seem to be catching up.

As far as pollinators, I planted four 900' rows last year with an NRCS grant for pollinator habitat. It has about 15 different species of flowering trees and shrubs. I then drilled in a 13 species blend of wildflower native perennials next to that over about a 1/4 acre.
This year I am doing another planting perpendicular to that that is 4 rows 600' long that is going to be 9 species of perennial native flowers from 2"x 4" deep plug trays.

clkeiper May 26, 2017 12:46 PM

We grow Albion undercover. They are a very firm berry with excellent flavor.

PureHarvest May 26, 2017 12:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by clkeiper (Post 642623)
We grow Albion undercover. They are a very firm berry with excellent flavor.

Good to hear. That is what I am really waiting to see, the flavor. That and how long they can produce over this season, and when our temps will halt flower production in summer.

Did you overwinter them for the April crop, or terminate them in late fall?

clkeiper May 26, 2017 01:43 PM

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[ATTACH][/ATTACH]well, we did not plant to over winter any and the house we are actually picking from is a new planting. the old planting was severely and still is neglected. it is still producing even without much water. we will keep this planting that is new (I think) for next year and see what it does.
The flavor is excellent, a assure you.

clkeiper May 26, 2017 01:54 PM

we also cover the house with the aluminet that you can see on the right side of the photo.. a bit pricier than shade cloth, but it has a different purpose. it isn't for shading it is for reflecting the heat. you might want to look into it to keep the plants producing through the summer.
The berry is pickable the day before your market, too, if you are picking for markets.

PureHarvest May 26, 2017 02:06 PM

Great info thanks!

I could put the aluminet over the 1/2 that will be covered by the caterpillar tunnels im gonna build.

I'm planning on not overwintering any of this years planting because they say you have to crown thin and pull off old foliage. I'd rather spend that labor on planting new plants in spring than push to have a crop in April. Berries aren't my main crop, so I can wait until June.

PureHarvest May 30, 2017 10:12 PM

Picked my first strawberry tonight. It was an Albion. It was excellent.
Very encouraged now for the harvest that is coming on soon.

PhilaGardener May 31, 2017 07:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PureHarvest (Post 642647)
I'm planning on not overwintering any of this years planting because they say you have to crown thin and pull off old foliage. I'd rather spend that labor on planting new plants in spring than push to have a crop in April. Berries aren't my main crop, so I can wait until June.

What is your market? Early berries often bring in a premium, so that might also be a bonus for an early crop.

Nice to hear about your efforts to support the local pollinator and beneficials populations! You have a nice looking operation!

clkeiper May 31, 2017 08:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PhilaGardener (Post 643836)
What is your market? Early berries often bring in a premium, so that might also be a bonus for an early crop.

Nice to hear about your efforts to support the local pollinator and beneficials populations! You have a nice looking operation!

fresh out of season brings a premium around here. no one else has them. I sell them for 2.50 a pint.

Ricky Shaw May 31, 2017 08:06 AM

Meticulous, like everything else. I'm convinced you do not sleep.

PureHarvest May 31, 2017 11:51 AM

Thanks guys. Some days it doesn't feel like I know what to do next or what I'm doing. The encouragement is appreciated.
Ricky, I credit automation and stuff like the fabric. I spent almost 0 hours weeding or hand watering.
I get home from work and out to the field by 5 every night and usually work until 730-8, except Tuesday and Thursdays (Little league games with my son) and Sunday. I'm off every other Friday and always Saturday, and typically work on something from 630 am till the evening on those days.
Some things get left undone, and the timing is never exactly what I want on some time-sensitive tasks, but everything has been coming together this year OK.
I am gonna put up my two caterpillar tunnels this Friday and Saturday, and then I need to take the rest of June and get my 30'x72' new tunnel built so I can have a crop of tomatoes in it by July for late summer/fall harvest. Next year I am not building anything or doing more pollinator plantings which took up a lot of my time the past two springs. Oh yeah, I'll have garlic to harvest in a week or so...
My market is yet to be determined, but I'm thinking the other farms' June bearing crops will be gone by the time mine kick in, so there will be no local berries to compete with. I am gonna try and sell some to co-workers, family, church etc at $4/lb.
I also know 3-4 local produce stands that I think would buy them. I wanted to wait until I had a pound container to take and show/sample before I approached them. Not sure about pricing yet.

garyjr May 31, 2017 01:34 PM

PH, your schedule, including little league and church sounds a lot like mine. In my area we have a couple of very popular produce stands. Those are the type of places especially in September and October where strawberries would do well. Hard to compete with Kroger this time of year, or pick your owns in June/July.
Good luck, your hard work is paying off.

PureHarvest May 31, 2017 05:01 PM

Thanks Gary. Having local product "out of season" is what I'm hoping my niche will be.
I try to lay off on Sundays and I did not mention that I teach elementary school kids in our Kids Min program at 830 and then attend our 2nd service from 10-11. Then take my oldest back at 5 for the Middle School group program. I'm worn out just thinking through my schedule.
It's all good though. Life's too short to sit on your butt and watch TV all day...

BigVanVader May 31, 2017 06:25 PM

CSA is another option if you are going to be growing an assortment of things. Idk about your area but here chemical free strawberries are nearly impossible to find so I doubt you'd have any issue selling those. Also don't forget that a lot of bigger farms will buy stuff to resell especially if it is out of season. If your farm is conducive to a produce stand I'd start looking at that as a long term. You get to stay there and people come to you. Some vendors at my market did the FM awhile and once they got a customer base they opened a "store" at there house which is really just a little storage building with a few shelves and a counter. They do everything on one acre and didnt even know about the NRCS programs. I guess what I'm saying is don't worry, if they can do it so can we. Just have better stuff and people will seek it out.

Oh, and use Facebook and build a website! I can hardly believe how much attention/customers that has brought us.

PureHarvest May 31, 2017 10:23 PM

I've been following the csa model for 12 years and never jumped in for various reasons. Mostly because I do not want the stress of growing the variety and keeping people interested every week.
Funny you mention networking with other farms. My wife talked to a woman that sells at markets and she thinks a stand of her own. Wants to buy garlic wholesale and my wife didn't even mention strawberries. I think the sky will be the limit.
As far as our own stand, we are way off the beaten path, so I don't think it'd be viable even if it was self serve. I'd still rather make a 100 lb drop off of berries at one spot even if it means I give up a little on price. I know about 3 produce stand owners pretty well and will approach them when I have samples and roll from there. I still think we will be able move an appreciable amount near retail through friends and family and word of mouth.

BigVanVader May 31, 2017 10:29 PM

Yeah most of the stuff these commercial farms sell is from other small farms. I was told by one guy that if I go the wholesale route for heirloom tomatoes he'd buy as many as I could grow. The place he gets them now only grows Chr. Purple and so he has to use multiple growers which cost him more money/time

PureHarvest June 6, 2017 10:44 PM

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First fruits. Taste is very good.

BigVanVader June 6, 2017 10:56 PM

Wow those are perfect looking! I would love to grow Strawberries. All the ones here smell like diesel fuel.

clkeiper June 7, 2017 08:40 AM

really nice berries and they have a great flavor, huh? I was very happy with them... I just wish they would bear a but heavier but I am probably jumping the gun since mine is a new bed and I am used to june-bearing quantities. they are tasty though. On my way out the door to go pick mine.

PureHarvest June 7, 2017 09:43 AM

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I need to sample more but I think the San Andreas is a little firmer than the Albion, and not in a good way. Flavor is really good on both.
I really was patient in not letting the Albion fruit too early so that I had a beefy plant to support flowers/fruit. I probably removed flowers for the first month after planting.
Also, I am fertigating the equivalent of 2lbs/acre of N every week (5-17-34 with all the micros). This is in addition to the 60 lbs/acre of N I put down preplant, along with 60 lbs of potassium.
I think this is the key to production. The plants are beefy and the flowers coming out are on thick stems.

Got one of the caterpillar tunnels covered last night. These things were a breeze to set up. Highly recommend.

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BigVanVader June 7, 2017 10:28 AM

Link? Looks great.

PureHarvest June 7, 2017 01:46 PM

https://www.farmersfriendllc.com/pag...rpillar-tunnel

PureHarvest July 8, 2017 02:16 PM

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So we've been getting 8lbs every other day of marketable fruit. About another 2-3 pounds of ones we cut up because of minor bug damage.
But the last few days have been discouraging. It's either grasshoppers or crickets chewing a spot out of all the ripening fruit. I probably tossed 10-15 lbs of chewed berries today. Only got 6lbs marketable.
How the heck can you prevent this. It's discouraging, but farming for ya.

Edit: Duh, its not grasshoppers (even though they are everywhere, hence my assumption) it SLUGS. I can hit the beds with SLUGGO and see if we can reclaim our prize.
I guess the silver lining is that we had heavy rain this week, and the fruit that was edible was the poorest flavor of the season. So, perhaps all the slug damaged fruit we didn't sell kept us from putting an inferior product on the market with our name on it.

Here's the sticker my marketing guy came up with. They cost 5 cents each.

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BigVanVader July 8, 2017 02:49 PM

Love the stickers. For bug control your only option w/o spraying is protected culture. I'm sure you know that though. Great looking stuff, you'll be crushing it in no time.

BigVanVader July 8, 2017 02:52 PM

And by protected culture I mean screen houses.

clkeiper July 8, 2017 05:37 PM

Yep slugs are a problem. put down slug bait as soon as we see new damage. we are picking about 10 pints at a time right now and they are HUGE fruits. GOURMET taste and size. I charge 2.50 a pint for them and no one even blinks.

PureHarvest July 8, 2017 10:13 PM

I'm moving them for $3 for a pound clamshell. The stand i supply is retailing for 4.99.
I put down slug bait this afternoon.
If that works, we should be getting around 16 lbs every other day. That's how offen we pick.
Been a great crop otherwise. Probably won't do again next year because it's too much work and perishability for the return.
If we could retail direct and do a half acre with employed help, it'd be a go again.
Always good to learn new stuff and I don't regret it even though cutting runners is getting old. Might be able to use this in the near future.
I am working on a location opportunity to set up my own stand next year that kind of fell in my lap. Unbelievable location with 2 acres to grow on. Unlimited traffic flow in a 25 mph zone in a busy beach suburb that is 2 miles from the main highway. It's the only piece of ground in a decent radius that hasn't been developed and is still zoned agricultural. The owner doesn't even want rent. She just needs someone to maintain the property. No problem lol. I'm kind of in shock right now.

imp July 14, 2017 05:25 AM

Lucky you for such a find! I don't market garden but enjoy reading how all of you guys do it! The caterpillar tunnel video was amazing at how quick 2 people can get one up.


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