Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

The Secrets to a Successful Strawberry Patch

~ June 1, 2011

Growing strawberries is a delicious past time of many adults and children across Canada. Below are some tips and secrets to growing a successful strawberry patch.

Tip #1: Select an area with full sun and southern exposure. This is important as full sun will yield more and better quality fruit. If planting multiples, space plants 60cm apart in rows and 120cm between rows. Strawberries can be space hogs because of their runners.

Secret #1: Prepare the soil in the fall with plenty of organic matter like manure or well rotted compost and remove any weeds. Mound the soil into rows about 6 inches high and plant directly into the rows. This will help improve drainage and air circulation. Mounding the soil will also help the soil warm up quickly in the spring which is very important for good strawberry production. Apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer in the early spring.

Tip #2: Select a plant that is disease resistant especially to powdery mildew, this will save you a lot of time and aggravation in the future. Two good varieties are "Lateglow" and "Tristar". Plant as soon as the ground can be worked.

Secret #2: In the first year remove all the flowers in the spring. Sacrificing the crop in the first year will make the plant larger and stronger and thus create a larger crop next year.

Tip #3: Once planted, apply about 1 inch of straw mulch over the planting area in order to keep the developing berries off the soil. Netting helps deter birds and animals from feeding on the berries while they are developing.

Secret #3: After berry production the plant will produce runners, also known as daughter plants. They can quickly overrun the patch if left unattended. Prune out some of the runners as they appear. Keep 3 or 4 of the daughter plants making sure they are evenly spaced around the mother plant.

Tip #4: After the first hard frost remove all leaves and destroy them. Apply 5 to 6 inches of straw mulch over the patch for winter protection.