High Tunnel Strawberries for New England

Final Report for FNE97-164

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 1997: $2,720.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $6,900.00
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
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Project Information

Summary:

Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE97-164

Mr. Coldwell grew three varieties of strawberries in “high tunnel” greenhouses, i.e. simple unheated, unelectrified structures. The three varieties were Annapolis, Kent, and Northeaster. He planted late (June 1, 1997) in raised beds and staggered double rows, and followed organic practice throughout. In August he sowed oats along the walkways for weed control, and to supply some of the mulch that would be required for winter cover. He applied mulch in November, removed the mulch the following March, and covered the greenhouses (which until this point had remained uncovered) with a double layer of plastic sheeting. He harvested strawberries from May 18 to June 15, 1998. His findings are as follows:
1) One foot spacing within rows, and between the two rows of the double row, was a good planting density. He reports that the beds filled in nicely.
2) The late planting date facilitated weed control.
3) Sowing oats late in the establishment year worked well.
4) The raised beds made cultivation with a rototiller more difficult, and improved drainage excessively on his light-textured soil. He recommends raised beds only for heavy soils.
5) He recommends trickle irrigation.
6) The high tunnels protected the berries from too much wetness, and saved the bulk of his crop. Field growers suffered severe losses to the excessive rains during June of 1998.
7) Use of high tunnels enabled him to bring his berries to market 3½ weeks before field-grown berries were ready in his area. He believes that covering the high tunnels earlier than March of the second year would have allowed him to bring his fruit to market even earlier. If this is to be done, however, the structure must be built to bear a load of snow.
8) Regulating temperature inside the tunnels can be a problem.
9) Mr. Coldwell used a whisk broom for pollination. He reports that this was too rough on the blossoms, and suggests a leafblower or bees, instead.
10) The Annapolis variety yielded about half again as much as either Kent or Northeaster.

He received a wholesale price of $1.75 per pint. Mr. Coldwell says that this is an excellent price, but that even so, it was not enough to cover expenses. Yields would have to be higher, he says, to make this system of growing strawberries worthwhile.

Cooperators

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  • Otho Wells

Research

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.