Weekly Crop Update 7-9-14
By Mike Roegge, University of Illinois Extension, Adams/Brown/Hancock/Pike/Schuyler
Strawberry harvest was completed several weeks ago, but there is still a little time to renovate the patch if you've not completed that chore yet. You want to do this as soon as harvest is completed, but we still have another week or so. Renovation is done to prepare the patch for a successful season next year. But it all starts now.
First, if there are broadleaf weeds that are plaguing your patch, consider an application of 2,4-D amine. I will caution you though, 2,4-D is volatile. It can turn to a gas and move as a vapor for several days after application if temperatures are above 80 degrees. So if you (or your neighbor) have tomatoes or grapes (which are both extremely sensitive) you might not want to use this product now. Rather wait until the berries go dormant this fall and then make the application. At fall temperatures, very little if any volatilization will occur.
Several days after herbicide application, mow off the plants 1-2" above the crown. Don't cut into the crown as serious injury can occur. Fertilize with a 12-12-12 or similar fertilizer at the rate of 1# per 100 foot of row. Then use a tiller to narrow the rows down to a maximum of 16" wide. Many strawberry patches become one very big mess. Sunlight is essential for plants to produce, and by having rows many more plants are able to capture sunlight. You've probably noticed that the outside plants always yield better than plants in the middle. Thus making rows will always provide more yield, plus it will help reduce disease pressure and make picking easier.
Try and throw soil into the rows while you're tilling as the strawberry plant grows upward from the crown. Placing soil into the row will help support that plant. Remove runners from aisles throughout the summer. Fruit buds for next year are produced in late summer and early fall. Irrigate if necessary to allows plants to thrive.
Blackberry harvest, which for many will be severely reduced due to the cold this winter, should begin soon. As you manage your plants, be sure to top the newly emerged erect blackberry canes as they reach 3-3.5' in length. These plants produce fruit on lateral branches and pinching out the tip will produce lateral branches. The trailing blackberries (the ones that can grow 10-12' or more in length) are not tipped back. Neither are red raspberries. Black raspberry harvest is winding down, but you want to treat those plants the same as the erect blackberries, tipping back the new canes at a 3-4' height. Most are past that stage now, but you can still prune them back to allow for lateral fruit bearing branches next year.