Regular readers may recall that we are very into using hugelkultur mounds, in which wood is buried under a planting mound to supply nutrients as the wood rots, store water in the mound like a sponge, and to keep the soil in the mound aerated as the wood mass shrinks over time. In the fall of 2019, we put in a hugelkultur mound for strawberries. Here is a shot of that mound under construction, wood on the trailer on the right winds up in the trench, subsequently covered by the dirt pile on the left:
Afterward, we moved about 40 strawberry plants onto that mound, which now extends an additional length into the foreground, as viewed in the above picture.
This year, our guinea birds ate most of the strawberry blossoms as they were emerging. In response, the strawberry plants appear to have gone into emergency propagation mode, sending out four to six runners per plant, with some of those being secondary and tertiary runners. Below is a shot of an early step in this runner explosion:
The above picture shows the nature of these strawberry runners as binary counters. From the original plant on the right, the first node encountered is a small leaf node, followed by a root node (I’m sure there are official names for these entities, but these are fun software-related names, so I ran with them, pun intended). The first root node on this runner has started taking root in a scrap plastic tray with some holes in the bottom. This tray, ironically, is a lid to a container in which ripe strawberries were packed. The holes were already there for ventilation. I put a little bit of native soil in the bottom, with some mushroom compost in the top (we brought in a ton of compost for various purposes for about $25 dollars earlier that year, most of it is still in a big pile). To the left of the planter, another leaf node can be seen, with a second root node at the far left. All I did with the root node was put it in contact with the soil, hold it in place with a couple of rocks, and mound a little bit of compost around the node. Other than keeping it watered, the root node did all the work. Trial-and-error showed that the leaf nodes do not sprout new plants, so there is that.
After a few weeks, and some torrential rains encouraging even more prolific runners, we simply ran out of adhoc planters such as milk jug halves, styrofoam trays of all kinds, plastic lids and containers like the above. If we could keep up with the explosion, we would have about a thousand plants in less than two years, or probably sooner as the propagation does not appear to have abated much. Apparently, strawberries love eating dead wood.
After about three to four weeks of rooting, some of these planters are ready for transplanting, as shown in the below pic:
If you open the larger pic, you can see that this plant complex has three runners of its own, with two of those already showing early roots. This container, by the way, is a lid of a takeout tray with some holes punched in the now-bottom. The aggressive root network of a similar planter can be seen below:
All of the new plants in this condition have thrived very well in their new homes on a new mound to the side of the original mound. Hopefully, with some fences in place to keep the bird team at bay, we can begin experimenting with home-grown strawberry wine this time next year, suitable for preserving the nutrients into the winter.