Matted row strawberries planted into weed suppressing cover crops

2006 Annual Report for FNE05-553

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2005: $4,020.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
David Marchant
River Berry Farm

Matted row strawberries planted into weed suppressing cover crops


1. Matted row strawberries planted into weed suppressing cover crops; FNE05-553
David Marchant, River Berry Farm, 191 Goose Pond Rd., Fairfax, VT 05454, 802-849-6853, /fax 802-849-6853, email

2. Goals

The primary goals of the project are;
1. To determine if a killed rye cover crop can provide adequate weed control for matted row strawberries in the establishment year.
2. To test a transplanting technique using an 8′ long dibble welded to a wheel that is used on a water wheel transplanter.

3. Farm Profile

There have been no changes to the farm since the project started.

4. Participants

John Haydyn provided assistance in laying out the plot plan.

5. Project Activities

We established a winter rye cover crop and a sudex cover crop in late August of 2005. The sudex cover crop winter killed, and the winter rye was allowed to grow to flowering at which point it was killed either by rolling or flail mowing.

After examining the cover crops in the spring of 2006 it was determined to abandon the sudex component of the experiment. The sudex had excellent establishment but it was obvious that after the winter the amount of biomass was inadequate to provide much weed control. This was determined with consultation with our collaborator John Haydyn.

Six days after rolling and mowing the rye, the bare root strawberries were planted into the killed cover crop. The flail mowing provided a more thorough evenly distributed mulch but there was some regrowth of the rye. The rolling method worked to kill the rye, but weeds were able to come up between the bases of the stalks of the killed rye. Both methods gave enough weed control for the dormant strawberry plants to become established ( approx. five weeks). At this point the weeds were able to grow through the mulch and easily out compete the strawberry plants. At this point, with consultation with our collaborator, we decided to till in the experiment since it was obvious that the strawberries had no chance of establishing a matted row.

6. Results

The results showed that the rye does not suppress weeds long enough for the establishment of matted row strawberries, and at the same time does not breakdown enough to allow for mechanical cultivation of established weeds.

The planting of the strawberries through the mulch with the long-spiked dibble proved somewhat successful. The wheel needed to be weighted on the floating frame, so as to penetrate the mulch. This was accomplished by attaching a cinder block to the floating frame on the water wheel transplanter. While the wheel penetrated well, the hole was a bit difficult to get the bare root plant into because of the narrowness of the hole. The method does work but could be improved with a broader spike.

7. The spring was exceptionally wet and cold. The plants were planted on sandy soils. The cold conditions may have slowed the strawberry plant growth, yet weed growth was probably slowed as well. I would guess that the results would be similar in a more “normal” spring.

8. There were no economic findings

9. Assessment

The results showed us the impracticality of using a killed cover crop to suppress weeds in the establishment year of matted row strawberries. The results has suggested that we would like to make a major shift with the experiment. We experimentally used a biodegradable corn polymer plastic mulch made by BioTelo for use with winter squash, melons and onions. We are intrigued with using the Bio Telo mulch and planting bare root crowns into the mulch in the spring. The material does breakdown at a rate that might allow for the rooting of runner plants produced from the established crowns. The degradation point might coincide with plant runnering , allowing runners to root. Because the mulch breaks down with soil contact, mechanical cultivation may be able to be used, if needed, late in the establishment year. We are wanting to test the BioTelo mulch of two different thicknesses(,5 and .6 mil) which are suppose to give 2 to 3 months, and 4 to 5 months of weed control respectively. We would like to compare the two thicknesses and compare labor requirements and weed control to convention establishment of matted row strawberries


John Hayden

Techincal Advisor
Farm Between, Rte. 15
Cambridge, VT 05444
Office Phone: 8026448332