Strawberries are one of the biggest crops grown on the McLean and Buckhorn berry farm. With over 30 acres planted between the two farms, they are one of the most popular crops grown on the farm.
After deciding which fields to plant June strawberries in, the field then starts its long process of preparation. This includes planting other crops there first which can enrich the soil to help the strawberries, planting green matter to be plowed into the soil, discing the ground, removing rocks, and lots of other things. It is a constant process of working with the land to make sure that it is ready for the future crops that are going to be planted there.
In the spring when a field is ready to be planted with strawberries the field is disced to make sure that it is loose and can be easily planted. We use a four person transplanter which plants two rows of strawberries at a time. Each person places one strawberry plant into the planter as a tractor drives down the field being planted and the plants are placed into the ground by the machine. Others then follow along behind the planter to make sure that the plant is planted correctly and all of its roots are covered properly. This is done over and over again until entire fields of strawberries are planted!
Once the strawberries are planted there will be irrigation pipes laid down so that the newly planted strawberry plants can be watered after being transplanted. This will help them to grow and develop into mature strawberry plants.
As the spring goes on, the plants will develop runners and blossoms. Any blossoms which develop will be clipped so that the plant does not produce fruit and can instead focus on strengthening and growing itself for it's first year of life. There will not be any berries harvested for the first year the plant is in the ground of a typical June strawberry.
In the late fall the strawberry plants are prepared for winter and are covered with a layer of straw to help protect them from the winter weather. They are put to bed so that they can survive through the winter. In the winter it is good to have a healthy amount of snow for strawberries, because it helps act like insulation to protect the strawberries. If there is too much ice or not enough snow, the cold temperatures can affect or damage the berry plants. It is also good to have a fair amount of snow for the plants because as it melts in the spring it will add moisture that the plants want and need.
In the spring when the temperatures begin to rise the plants begin to come alive again and the straw is taken off. It is sometimes hard to know when to take the straw off the plants because spring time temperatures can fluctuate and be unpredictable. If the weather is too cold or there is a late frost the plants could be damaged, but if the weather is warm the plants will want to grow and need to be uncovered. If there are colder temperatures after the straw has been removed we can irrigate the plants during these cold snaps (often in the middle of the night) so that the plants are protected from freezing and aren’t damaged.
As the spring continues and the plants have now been in the soil for a full year they are much more mature and will be ready for harvest this spring. They will be much larger and leafier now, be well established and filled out in the row. There should be blossoms on the plants, which will eventually turn into strawberries. Once the warm weather arrives and the green strawberries have formed they will ripen into the juicy red strawberries that everyone enjoys!
Each summer in June we welcome people to our farms to enjoy picking their own strawberries, buying ones from our stores or picking them up at any of the farmers markets we go to. Strawberries are one of our favourite crops - a 'berry' good way to kick off summer!