My Aunt Renee always grew the family’s best strawberries in her garden in Corona, where she had a permanent strawberry patch near her garage. All she did each year was rake out a few old or dead plants and add new ones to fill gaps.
With a permanent strawberry patch, some time and work are saved because the alternative is to put in all new strawberry plants every winter. Nevertheless, a downside of the permanent strawberry patch is that it takes up garden space all year and requires irrigation during the months it is not producing berries, roughly late summer through fall and into winter.
So my way around this has been to interplant the strawberries during their off season, thereby still getting a harvest from that piece of ground and the water applied. I’ve interplanted in two ways.
Interplanting strawberries with vegetables
One approach has been to plant vegetables among the strawberries starting in summer once the strawberries slow in production. This summer, I planted corn among the strawberries.
Last summer, I planted tomatoes in one of the same beds of strawberries.
But I found that I should have planted the tomatoes a bit later than May. The strawberry plants were still producing well through June into July when the tomatoes had grown big and were shading the strawberries underneath and making it hard to pick them.
A few years ago, I planted brussels sprouts within a strawberry patch in late summer, but that didn’t work well. Brussels sprouts plants grow a few feet wide and tall, and they don’t start producing until winter, about the time that the strawberries again need sunshine because it’s their time to bloom and begin to fruit.
In summary, in a permanent strawberry bed, it seems best to plant vegetables that are going to get tall and find their own light above the strawberries. But you don’t want them to get big and shade out the strawberries until the strawberries are done with their main fruiting for the year; usually, that means not interplanting until sometime in June. And you want the interplants out of the strawberry patch in the winter when it’s time for the strawberries to resume growing and flowering.
Interplanting strawberries with fruit trees
There’s no reason to leave all of the ground beneath a fruit tree bare, and strawberries can get along well down there. I find it best to locate the strawberries near the southern edge of a tree’s canopy so they get lots of sun in the winter and early spring.
As long as the strawberry plants are placed within the irrigation zone of the fruit tree, I’ve found that the strawberries grow and produce well and the fruit tree needs no additional water.
(See more on this topic in my post, “Growing vegetables under fruit trees.”)
Seasons and timing
This week I’ll be removing the corn stalks that are among the strawberry plants in the photo above. We’ve eaten all the corn. It’s early September though, so I’ll be putting in some basil and lettuce seedlings between the strawberry plants. I’ll add some compost around the seedlings as I plant. The basil and lettuce should be harvested sometime in the fall, before the strawberries need full sun again.
I’ll also check for any strawberry runners that have rooted. I’ll transplant those to the southern edges of fruit trees.
That’s the strawberry work for the year, in a permanent patch, that is interplanted.
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