February 17, 2005 at 8:10 a.m.
One of our speakers will be Jim Birkholz, owner and operator of Pleasant Valley Orchard. Jim has been one of our presenters at Bonanza for several years. This year he will do two classes. One of his classes will be on "Apple Tree Care for Homeowners," and his other class will be "Strawberries-First Year to Harvest."
In the strawberry class Jim will discuss learning how to keep your strawberry patch productive. He will also discuss deflowering, fertilizing, watering requirements, runner development and training. He will also explain methods of cultivation, weed control, and insect and disease management.
All the varieties of plants we are taking orders for are varieties that have been tested and proven for our area, including strawberries. This is not always the case when you buy plants elsewhere, especially through catalogs.
The University of Minnesota released its first three strawberry cultivars in 1920. Several more were released through 1960 and then nothing until 1982. None of these varieties are now available.
It can take up to 12 years to produce a new strawberry cultivar and the average life span for a cultivar seems to be about 20 years. The older ones fall from favor with the introduction of more resistant, hardier, better tasting and bigger fruited varieties.
When doing field testing for strawberries that will be suitable in Minnesota there are several areas to be tested. Our climate and geography make this an ideal place to trial fruit for hardiness. Grand Rapids is in USDA testing zone 3, while Excelsior and Morris are in testing zone 4. Grand Rapids gets bitter cold and often a lot of snow. In Morris one can add prairie winds to the Minnesota winter.
Snow is a great insulator, so a really cold, snow less winter can really damage plants. Minus 30 degrees in January with little snow can be as damaging as bitter cold in mid November before the strawberries have really hardened off. An early spring followed by a sharp cold snap can also raise havoc.
If the cold doesn't kill the plants, summer stresses caused by heat and wind might do so. Stress often brings on disease. There is more leaf spot in Grand Rapids because the fungal diseases like cool and humid weather. In Morris and the Twin Cities, leaf scorch, encouraged by warm humid conditions is more common.
It is estimated that only about 5% of Minnesota strawberries are made into pies and preserves on a small commercial scale. Most of us either have our own patch, go to the farmer's market, or head for a pick-your-own site.
This is more trivia than you ever wanted to know. So, come to the Bonanza on March 5th, take Jim's class on strawberries, and order some of our bare root strawberries at the Bonanza.
Several hundred brochures were sent out to people who have attended Bonanza in the past. There should have been a plant order form in that invitation. You can also order plants at up coming events or by calling the Extension office 674-4417. We will continue to sell plants until our supply is exhausted. See you at the Bonanza.
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