How to grow strawberries the organic w ay
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How to Grow Strawberries the Organic W ay. Welcome. Canada’s Favourite Fruit. Canadian growers produce approximately 24,000 tonnes of strawberries, totaling sales of over $6,500,000 each year. Approximately 1% of these strawberries are grown organically. .

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How to Grow Strawberries the Organic W ay

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How to Grow Strawberries the Organic Way

Welcome


Canada’s Favourite Fruit

  • Canadian growers produce approximately 24,000 tonnes of strawberries, totaling sales of over $6,500,000 each year.

  • Approximately 1% of these strawberries are grown organically.


Why are strawberries the most popular fruit in Canada?

  • The average Canadian eats almost 5 lbs of strawberries per year

  • High in fiber, low in fat

  • Excellent source of vitamin C & Manganese

  • Contain anti-oxidants

  • Contain phenols, linked to reduced risk of osteoarthritis, asthma and atherosclerosis


Modern strawberries were first cultivated in France in the 1750s. They were produced by crossing sweet, flavourful Alpine strawberries with very large, less tender strawberries from Chile.

Strawberries are not really berries; they are related to roses. Since they are a hybrid, modern strawberries cannot be grown from seed.


Will strawberries grow in Atlantic Canada?

YES!!


Considerations for Organic Production

Cultivation

  • Site Selection

  • Frost Considerations

  • Soil Preparation & Maintenance

  • Selection of Growing System & Variety

  • Cultivation Practices

Business

  • Start up and transitioning costs

  • Labour

  • Type of Operation

  • Marketing

Transitioning to Organic


Site Selection

  • Soil

  • Slope

  • Winter Conditions

  • Frost

  • Previous crops

  • Water supply


Frost Protection can mean the difference between a bumper crop and no crop

Risks year round

  • Early Frost -Plants blossom blossoms freeze

  • Late frost berries freeze or plants are damaged before dormancy

  • Winter frost crack plants


Frost Protection -Site Selection

  • Strawberries should be located on ground with some elevation so colder air will flow away from the berries and protect them from frost.

  • South facing slopes lead to increased frost damage as plants tend to blossom too early. Plants on west facing slopes are often damaged by strong, drying winter winds


Strawberry Fact

The Algonkian Indians of north eastern North America identify and name the full moos based on natural cycles. The sixth moon in a year is the Strawberry Moon


The Soil

“It all begins with the soil”

Rob Wallbridge of Songberry Farm, Bristol, PQ


Healthy soil is teeming with organisms that aerate the soil and release Nitrogen


Soil Testing


pH Levels

Soil acidity, or pH, affects a plant’s ability to take up and make use of minerals and other compounds.

Soil acidity partially dictates the levels of other nutrients necessary for strawberries to grow, develop roots, runners and fruit.


Soil & Fertility Requirements

  • Nitrogen

  • Organic matter

  • Minerals and micro-nutrients


Nitrogen

Adequate levels of nitrogen are necessary for photosynthesis and the production of plant proteins and enzymes


N – How much is enough?

  • Necessary at all stages throughout the year

  • 500 – 1500 ppm of Nitrate

  • Mineral content of soil and amount of organic matter

  • Too little - stunted growth low yields

  • Too much - lush growth, poor air circulation - disease


Organic Matter

Adequate organic matter is essential for the growth of healthy plants and the development of runners and fruit


Minerals & Micro-Nutrients

  • Phosphorus

  • Potassium

  • Calcium

  • Manganese

  • Iron

  • Zinc

  • Boron


Improve the Quality of Your Soil


Strawberry Fact

The 16th century English believed that a strawberry shaped birthmark was a sign of being a witch. Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry, had such a birthmark – one factor that led to her beheading!


Cultivation Basics

  • Field Preparation

  • Planting

  • Mulch

  • Irrigation

  • Renovation & Rotation

  • Pest Control


Anatomy of a Strawberry Plant


Preparing New Fields

Year 1

Late Summer / Early Fall

  • Plow

  • Test soil and adjust PH levels

  • Plant a winter cover crop (early September)

    Year 2

    Spring

  • Till in the fall cover crop

  • Amend soil based on soil test results

    Fall

  • Plant cover crops

  • Test soil

    Year 3

    Spring

  • Amend soil based on soil tests

  • Plant oats as early as possible

  • Till in oats & plant strawberries

  • Remove first blossoms (June bearing varieties)


Planting

  • Choose only vibrant healthy plants

  • Plant early or late in the day if the weather is hot

  • Keep plants in a bucket of water until planted

  • Soak in with compost tea or water

  • Pick buds off of June bearing varieties


Mulch


Weed Control


How to Control Weeds

  • Carefully prepared site and soil

  • Mulch or black plastic

  • Hand weeding

  • Weeder geese

  • Mechanic weeding

  • Thermoweeding


Disease Control

Diseases may occur when one or more of the following factors are present:

  • Pathogens are present in the air, soil or new plants

  • Environmental Conditions are right

  • Variety

  • Susceptibility


Disease Control Factors

  • Soil fertility and health

  • Drainage and irrigation

  • Air circulation

  • Mulch

  • Removal & destruction of diseased plants

  • Field monitoring

  • Sanitation

  • Foliar application of compost or manure tea


Pest Control


Cultivation Calendar


Strawberry Fact

The word “strawberry” comes from Old English. Some historians believe that the name comes from the centuries old practice of growing strawberries on straw mulch; others believe it is because the daughter plants are “strewn” over the ground.


Varieties and Growing Systems

June-Bearing

Everbearing (Day Neutral)

Alpine (Fraises du Bois)

  • Matted Row System

  • Hill System

“The perfect strawberry doesn’t exist. They seem to be very specific in terms of how well they do. Grow at least four varieties. Find out what you like, and what your customers like.”

John Wise, Centreville, ON


Matted Row System – June Bearing


Day Neutral or Everbearing


Alpine Strawberries

  • Wild strawberries from Alps

  • Prized for flavour

  • Will grow from seed


Renovation or Rotation

Rotate when yields become low, plants are diseased or weeds are out of control

Renovate when you intend to keep the same plants in production the following year.


Strawberry Fact

The word “strawberry” comes from Old English. Some historians believe that the name comes from the centuries old practice of growing strawberries on straw mulch; others believe it is because the daughter plants are “strewn” over the ground.


Business Considerations

  • Start up and maintenance costs

  • Labour Costs

  • Marketing


Costs per Acre to Establish & Maintain Fields

Cost to establish field over 1 to 2 years

(Including site preparation, plants, labour)

$2500 - $4000

Maintenance Costs per year

(labour, planted 4 years or more)

$6500 - $8000

Profit $2000 - $6000


The Greatest Variable -Labour

What factors will affect your labour needs?

  • Weed pressure

  • Condition of the soil

  • Type of growing system

  • Type of marketing

  • Livestock for manure


Strawberry Fact

Some people in Bavaria still believe that elves love to eat strawberries. They tie baskets of ripe berries to the horns of their dairy cattle as an offering to elves, and for assurance of an abundant supply of milk.


Marketing

  • Farm Gate

  • Farmers Market

  • U-Pick

  • CSA

  • Wholesale

  • Value Added Products (jam, baking, etc.)


Transitioning to Organic


Cold Turkey


Field by Field


Questions or comments?


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