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From the time I was 10, the first sunny days of summer vacation would find me walking purposefully past placid Holsteins munching dandelion-studded grass. I would set out full of high spirits and expectation, with an empty pan and Tinker, the family dog, across pasture and brook, until I entered the stretch of woods that opened into an abandoned field where wild strawberries ripened first. And then, my idea of heaven: ripe strawberries lying in a jeweled carpet shining in the sun through the sparse grass of the untended field.

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Albion strawberryDavid Handley, UMaine Extension small fruit and vegetable specialist, and David Pike, who grows strawberries in Farmington, Maine, talked about this crop at MOFGA’s November 2011 Farmer to Farmer Conference.

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Perennial strawberries planted in compost-filled mesh socks are less susceptible to black root rot and produce more marketable fruit than those planted in unfumigated, unamended soils, says researcher Patricia Millner.

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Picking strawberriesAs with any crop, producing strawberries organically entails a systems approach to the whole farm rather than just substituting approved organic materials for synthetic materials. Of course, many practices are the same in organic and conventional strawberry production, but the fundamental approach to soil husbandry and pest management may be quite different

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When strawberry harvest is over, sow oats right in the beds.

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Did you know that the seed-like structures on a strawberry are really a type of fruit called achenes (a small, dry, hard, one-seeded, indehiscent fruit), and that what most of us think of as the fruit or berry is really just the fleshy host, or receptacle, for the seed-like fruit? Since I learned this, I have looked at strawberries a little differently.

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John Fuchs plants Tristar strawberriesNew England growers rarely have an advantage over southern and western growers, but strawberries offer a delicious example of a crop that is better suited to the cool, moist climate and acidic soils of New England than to the heat of the south or the dry, alkaline conditions prevailing in many Western states. New Englanders should exploit their advantage.

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University of Florida researchers have been experimenting with soilless culture for strawberries, due to the popularity of the crop and the impending phase-out of the soil fumigant methyl bromide.

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The matted row system of strawberry production is the primary production system used in the Northeast. In this system bare rooted plantlets are set out in the early spring, and the field is kept clean cultivated while daughter plants fill in the rows. The year of planting is an establishment year and no crop is harvested until the following June. In contrast, the system Bill Lord has been modifying for the Northeast is an adaptation of the annual hill system of culture.

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The following varieties were described by David Handley, Vegetable and Small Fruit Specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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A special compost, a plastic mulch and beneficial microorganisms may be ingredients for the perfect recipe to protect strawberry fields from weeds and soil-borne diseases, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Richard Rominger says.

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This 162-page guide, published in March 1998, is the most comprehensive production guide ever produced for strawberry growers.

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