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Mr. Smarty Plants - Appropriate mulch for strawberries in Maine

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Tuesday - July 31, 2007

From: South Paris, ME
Region: Northeast
Topic: Compost and Mulch
Title: Appropriate mulch for strawberries in Maine
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Can mulch (like cedar mulch- kinds used in flower gardens) be used between rows of strawberries? Can you also suggest how far apart lupine species need to be so that they wont interbreed? Thank you! The range of your advice is staggering.

ANSWER:

While straw has been traditionally used as the mulch for strawberries -- thus the common name -- other types of mulch may be used. You should take care, though, when using landscaping mulch such as cedar shred to avoid crowding or covering the crown of the plant with it. Shredded bark is typically chock full of fungi that may attack the crowns of your strawberry plants if nestled in close contact with them. Clean straw tends to allow air to flow more freely around it and does not provide such an ideal environment for fungal attack. If you mulch heavily with bark shred, be sure and pull some of it out of the rows early in the spring so that the runners can set new plants -- they need contact with the soil.

In your area (Maine), the best mulch material is clean, fresh straw. Clean pine needles would be a second choice. When the temperatures drop to around 20 degrees F. in the fall, completely cover the plants with a thick layer of straw. Remove most of the straw in the spring, leaving some beneath the foliage of the mature plants to keep the berries off the ground and clean.

Lupines are often pollinated by honeybees, though butterflies, moths and other types of bees may visit, too. To be certain of no interbreeding you will need to locate your lupine species 1/4 mile or more apart. However, if your lupines are located on either side of your house (actually separated by the house), the chance of interbreeding is greatly diminished.

 

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