Strawberry plants growing in cold winter temperatures for spring harvest
You may not be thinking of strawberries in the middle of winter, but one local farm is.
Smith-Perry Berries in Ooltewah has their spring harvest berries planted and growing during these cold winter weather conditions.
For our area, strawberries are typically planted in the fall to be harvested in the spring.
"We plant the strawberries in October. The first week of October is when we planted them, and they should be ready to harvest hopefully the last week of April and the whole month of May," Aubie Smith, partner of Smith-Perry Berries, said.
Strawberries start as a small seedling that is planted on raised soil in rows with protective plastic.
"It helps hold the moisture and nutrients into the ground and also prevents weeds and other things from coming in that may want to consume the nutrients that we feed to the plants. Keeps the berries clean," Bill Perry, partner of Smith-Perry Berries, said.
Strawberries are a hardy plant, and during the winter, the main growth occurs beneath the ground with the root system developing. The cold temperatures don't bother the plants much, and the farmers have not had to cover them up yet this year.
"They're OK unless the temperatures get down to like single digits. Last year we had to cover them earlier than this year because it got down into the single digits I think in January," Smith explained.
Once the plants begin to blossom at the end of February or beginning of March, then cold temperatures will negatively affect the plants. They cover them with Tyvek to protect the blooms from frost.
Water also helps to act as an insulator. Smith and Perry use drip irrigation to water the plants which reduce the amount of water used and gets the water straight to the roots.
For now, they walk the berry rows checking the vitality of the plants, removing dead leaves, runners and weeds.
Once temperatures warm, the plants will grow more significantly.
"In April, all the plants will have grown together and closed the gaps on top of the plastic, so it is kind of interesting to see them grow from a very small stem to a large bush," Perry stated.
The current cold temperatures don't affect the taste or size of the strawberries, but the weather in the month of May will. Hot and dry weather in May will make the berries taste better.
Starting in April, you can go to Smith-Perry Berries to pick your own or purchase pre-picked local farm fresh strawberries.