Professor Emeritus and Assistant Professor, Small Fruit Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University, and Jayesh Samtani, Assistant Professor, Small Fruit Extension Specialist, Virginia Tech
- Check plants for possible biological (insects and diseases) and physiological (nutrient) disorders prior to planting and treat appropriately. Consult your extension agent if plants appear unhealthy. Get diagnosis if disease is suspected. Notify plant seller of any problems. If you have planted ‘Albion’, a day-neutral variety for a fall/spring production system, check for mites very early!
- In Fall/Spring production systems, have a picking crew ready.
- Set plants carefully – planting depth is extremely important to getting off to a good start. Set plug plants deep enough to have approximately 3/8” of soil covering the top of the media plug. Set fresh dugs at the depth at which they were growing in the nursery or mid-way on the crown.
- If you establish plugs with drip irrigation only, be sure to hook up the system before planting. Drip irrigate often enough after transplanting to keep beds near field capacity during the first four weeks. Avoid having standing water. Using a water wheel transplanter is recommended, if no overhead irrigation is available.
- Irrigate fresh dug plants 9 am–5 pm for 7–12 days. (More may be needed if weather is hot and sunny.) Growers typically reduce irrigation times on the “tails” of the day during the latter part of fresh dug establishment (later am start times and earlier pm stop times). Let the plants tell you when they are becoming established and adjust irrigation schedules based on plant response.
- f deer predation has been a historic site problem, install fencing NOW. A double row of electrified fence (tape or wire type) has been effective when installed early in the season. Consider attaching foil, paper plates or grocery store plastic bags at regular intervals to increase the visibility of the fence.
- Drip irrigate in the fall as needed to keep soil from drying out.
- Scout for pest injury, including deer.
- Check for dead plants and reset ASAP. Send suspicious-looking plants to the Disease & Insect Clinic for positive ID; notify plant seller of any problems.
- Crown rot diseases can be of concern, particularly during warm and wet, fall season. ‘Sweet Charlie’ and ‘Flavorfest’ for example are susceptible to Phytophthora crown rot while ‘Chandler’ can be susceptible to anthracnose crown rot. The following links are useful resources to understand these disease signs and symptoms: Anthracnose Crown Rot of Strawberry | NC State Extension Publications (ncsu.edu) and Phytophthora Crown Rot of Strawberry | NC State Extension Publications (ncsu.edu). There’s a new disease threat of Neopestalotiopsis emerging from certain nursery sources and information on this disease can be found at PP357/PP357: Pestalotia Leaf Spot and Fruit Rot of Strawberry (ufl.edu)
- Place order for row covers NOW; these will help greatly to conserve irrigation water during frost protection next spring and…
- If planting is delayed a week or more, fall row covers can help enhance plant growth and partially compensate for late planting for both ‘Chandler’ and ‘Camarosa’.
- A row cover applied in the first 2 weeks of November may enhance flower bud development in the crowns and improve spring yields – this may be especially helpful for later plantings of Chandler. Row cover research in the Mountains, Piedmont and Coastal Plain has shown that Camarosa yields are optimized with 800 Growing Degree Day units in the fall (Oct-Dec), and Chandler needs about 650 GDD units.
- Growers should consult seasonal climate data and predicted long range forecasts before they install row covers. Growers can look for guidance from the Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks here: National Weather Service If unseasonably warm temperatures during row cover treatment were followed by unseasonably cold temperatures, plants may not acclimate and tissues could have a reduced cold tolerance. One way to improve winter cold hardiness of Albion is to de-blossom in the fall. This may be needed on plug plants of Albion, but not cutoffs. Do not pull off the blooms – you could damage the root system; use small scissors instead. Also, be mindful that ‘Albion’ is very susceptible to cold injury in the fall, and row covers must be applied in October is there is threat of any temperature below mid-20s.
- Consider removing dead leaves from plants in Nov-Dec to minimize grey mold. Don’t hand prune if anthracnose is known to be present.
- Inspect plants late fall and during winter for crown development. You should see two to three crowns.
- Plants should adapt to cold temperature in November and early December (‘cold-hardy).
- Protect plants and plastic from deer.
- Order chemicals for spring. The list of pesticides commonly needed for strawberry production can be found in the 2021 Southeast regional Strawberry IPM guide that can be accessed at: 2021-Strawberry-IPM-Guide.pdf (smallfruits.org)
- Hand pull the winter weeds from the planting holes. Particularly, check for vetch in holes as the winter temperatures won’t kill them. Broadleaf weed control, in row middles seeded with ryegrass can be achieved using a post-directed spray of Aim herbicide using a shielded-sprayer. Grass control in planting holes can also be achieved using grass herbicide such as Poast 1.5 C or Arrow. For specific rates and label options, refer to the Southeast regional IPM guide.
- Examine plants for spider mite damage; they can be mistaken for winter damage. Control as needed
- Place row covers in mountains in December, leave on until spring.
- Remove row covers this month if used for fall flower enhancement or late planting in the NC piedmont and coastal plain.
- Remove dead leaves from strawberry plants. They can harbor gray mold and removal should lessen the disease in the fruiting season.
- Remove runners only after 4 to 5 weeks of transplanting and once plants are established.
- Think about ways you would want to market your strawberry crop for the harvest season, including your farm presence on social media.
- Provide periodic updates of your crop and farm using social media, so your customers know where to access your farm information during harvest season.
- Make plans to attend production meetings in the winter and early spring season.