Growing Guide Strawberry 'Mara des Bois' in pots for fall planting

'Mara des Bois' is a day-neutral type of Strawberry, meaning the plants will flower from late spring to fall, regardless of the changing day length. For best results in your garden, please read the general and more specific information below.

WHEN YOUR ORDER ARRIVES

Open the box right away and examine the contents. Check the top 1in of soil in potted plants. If it is dry, water gently but thoroughly from above or set the pot in a saucer of water for no more than an hour. Please notify our Customer Service Department immediately at 1-800-411-6159 or [email protected] if you have questions or find a problem with your order.

IF YOU MUST DELAY PLANTING

It's best to get your potted berry plants into the ground soon so the roots can establish well before winter. Pot-grown plants may remain in their original pots for a week or so, provided you keep up with their need for water and sunlight. A potted plant left outside for a few hours on a dry, windy day, or indoors in a hot, sunny place can dry out beyond the point of no return. If you must delay planting for more than 2 weeks, we recommend you shift the plants into larger pots.

GENERAL PLANTING INFORMATION

Check the moisture in the potting mix around your plant. If it is dry, water thoroughly.

Light. Choose a location in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun each day) with excellent drainage, then dig a hole that will generously accommodate the plant's root ball.

Planting. To remove a plant from its pot, flip the pot over, tap on its bottom and slip the plant out. Do not pull the plant out by its stem. Loosen the root ball with your fingers and tease the roots apart if they've become matted or tangled within the pot.

Set the plants into the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Then push soil back into the hole around the plant and press firmly with your hands to eliminate air pockets and establish good soil contact. A gentle but thorough watering will further settle the soil around the plant. Keep newly transplanted plants moist but not soggy and provide shade (with row cover, cardboard, or lath) for the first few days as needed. Transplant shock is not uncommon, but within a week or less the plants' roots will regain their ability to provide moisture to the foliage. Remove the shading once plants perk back up.

SPECIFIC INFORMATION FOR STRAWBERRY 'MARA DES BOIS'

Siting. Avoid planting Strawberries where Potatoes, Tomatoes, Eggplants, or Peppers have been grown before. Soils in which these have grown may harbor the wilt-causing Verticillium fungus, which can affect your plants. Strawberries thrive in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Amending your soil with aged manure or about 4in of compost will supply all the nutrients young plants need to get started. Work the added organic matter into the top 8-12in of the soil and then water thoroughly. A soil pH of 6.0-6.5 is best. Well-drained soil is essential, so mound the soil to form raised beds, if necessary.

Planting. Place 'Mara des Bois' in full sun or partial shade, spaced 1-2ft apart, with 3-4ft between rows. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots comfortably. Set the plant into the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. It's important to place the crown (the point where stem and roots meet) at soil levelÑrather than deeper or higher. This keeps the crown from rotting or from drying out. Firm the soil with your hands and water thoroughly.

'Mara des Bois' produces runners (side stems with daughter plants attached). This type of Strawberry is often grown in a matted row system, which takes advantage of the runners to increase the number of plants and thus increase the yield of fruit. To create a matted row system, plant your Mara des bois 12-24in apart in rows that are 48in apart. Allow the runners to fill out each row to a width of about 12-15in. Keep the plants no less than 6in apart or they will compete with each other. Runners can be cut off to prevent the plants in the rows from becoming too crowded and less productive. Use a hoe or rototiller to keep the area beyond the width of each row free of plants. The daughter plants at the end of runners can be used to rejuvenate your rows. Over time, Strawberry plants tend to decline as they acquire fungal diseases or diseases spread by insects. Purchase new plants and move your next Strawberry patch to another area of the garden.

Watering. Strawberries require 1-2in of water a week. If rain is inadequate, water deeply whenever the top 1in of soil is dry to the touch. To prevent disease, avoid watering in the evening. Heat and drought bring flowering and fruiting to a halt and may kill plants outright. Mulching with 2in of an organic material (such as straw) helps the soil retain moisture and stay cool, prevents weed seed germination, and keeps the fruits off the soil.

Fertilizing. Don't fertilize at planting time. Later, when 'Mara des Bois' begins to form berries, fertilize with a balanced, timed-release fertilizer. In subsequent years, fertilize in early spring, and once again in late June.

Harvesting. Fruits taste better when runners are pinched back before they begin to develop daughter plants. Check 'Mara des Bois' frequently for ripe berries and collect them in a bowl or basket as you pick them. Keeping ripe fruit picked will encourage production throughout the summer season. Clean the fragile berries by floating them in ice water and gently rolling them around. Dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl.

Winter protection. Strawberries overwinter well in mild-climate areas, but where winters are cold and snowy, they need protection from frost heaving. After the ground has frozen, apply 4-6in of a light insulating material such as straw, salt marsh hay, oak leaves, or pine needles around the plants (but place it only lightly on top of the plants, to avoid crown rot). Remove the cover gradually in spring, starting about the time Daffodils bloom.

Continuing care. Keep plants weeded. The daughter plants at the end of runners can be separated and replanted to rejuvenate the rows.

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