Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE95-087
Weed control presents a problem for organic strawberry growers, and non-organic growers who want to limit their use of herbicides. Mechanical cultivation and hoeing are not feasible, because the strawberry plants send runners into the soft earth loosened by these methods, and so block the interrows. Mr. Hatch tried an altogether different means of weed control involving planting density, his logic being that a thick stand of strawberry plants should suppress weeds by shading them.
Mr. Hatch prepared his seedbed, then flamed the ground with a propane burner, to kill as many weed seeds as possible. He transplanted four varieties of strawberry plants– Earliglow, Cavendish, Allstar, and Glooscap– at three different densities and at three different times, as follows:
within row plant density when
spacing per acre transplanted
12 inches 14 500 early June
6 inches 29 000 early July
24 inches 7 250 mid-July
He used the same spacing of 14 inches between rows, and 36 inch centers, on all plots; density was varied only by varying within-row spacing.
Mr. Hatch found that the plants established in early July with spacing of 6 inches were the most free of weeds. This was true for all four varieties. The densest planting rate was also the first to establish a uniform closed canopy, and produced the most vigorous growth, was most free of disease, and gave the highest count of fruiting stems per foot of row. Mr. Hatch attributes the vigor, as well as the weed suppression, to the tight canopy, which mitigated the shock of transplanting by shading the ground, and thus keeping the soil cool and moist.