I love the idea of non-traditional growing techniques. Especially the ones that prove themselves to work!
Our homestead has tried lots of methods to grow food and some work better than others. But how are you going to find out what works best if you don’t try? There has been successes and failures for sure but with each outcome, you get the satisfaction of learning.
Growing strawberries is one of those experiences. We started our first patch inside of an area that we cordoned off in our garden. We planted the strawberries in neat little rows and covered and surrounded them with straw. Then we covered the whole area with plastic netting to protect the area from birds wanting to steal the precious berries underneath. The end result was that our berry patch was attacked by all sorts of insects feeding on our berries. Plus the fruits attracted mice which in return attracted snakes trying to get at the mice. However, the snakes got caught up in netting and were either discovered dead or very angry when we would come to pick our fruit.
On top of all that, the weeds came up in force and just became a hassle to keep up with. There had to be a better way for the small time homestead strawberry patch. I didn’t want to follow the path of commercial farms and put down plastic and irrigation. That just seemed like too much work.
Last year I found a solution. I saw someone on facebook post a picture of strawberries growing in gutters. The year before, I had been growing lettuce in gutters inside our greenhouse. While I love the lettuce, I think I would much prefer growing strawberries in those gutters. So I transitioned out my lettuce and replanted the strawberries that I had dug up out of the garden.
The gutters are simple and easy to install. We got ours from Lowes but any big box hardware store will have them. They are about 6 dollars for 120 inch pieces. They also require support pieces and endcaps. Once in place, you need to go ahead and find yourself some rich compost and soil mix to grow your berries. Berries like slightly higher acidity in their soil so keep that in mind when putting together your mix. Try to use some sulfur rich, potassium rich, and phosphorous rich soil compost to make your berries perform the best. Remember, each year, you need to add nutrients back into your soil as the fruit your picking is a direct result of the plants taking it up.
This is the first year with very good berry production. We are enjoying our berries and hope to keep expanding what we have now to other areas of the greenhouse.