Hoophouse strawberries

By Lynn Byczynski

Strawberry quality, yield, and earliness is greatly improved in a hoophouse. Penn State researchers found that in their climate, hoophouse strawberries produced fruit 3 weeks earlier in spring than those grown outside, with about a 25% yield increase.

Most commercial hoophouse strawberries are grown using an annual plasticulture system that includes raised beds, drip irrigation, plastic mulch, and floating row cover. Plugs are planted in late summer on beds covered with plastic mulch, with drip tape beneath the mulch. As the weather gets cold, the young plants are covered with floating row cover to maintain the warmer soil temperatures needed for establishment. The plants grow slowly during winter in the protected environment of the hoophouse; then, as the weather warms, they flower and produce berries for several weeks. The crop is then finished for the year. Strawberry plants can either be removed to make way for other crops; or they can be left to produce a second year if berry prices or other factors justify tying up the space for a year.

Plugs are available from outside suppliers, or they can be produced on the farm in summer. To grow your own, detach unrooted daughter plants (runners) from the mother plant in July and stick them in potting mix in 72-cell flats under intermittent mist until roots protrude from the bottom of the cell. Then place on a greenhouse bench and grow until September, when they can be planted into the hoophouse. Plants that are rooted in July are likely to flower and fruit in fall in warmer climates, but that won't affect their yield the following spring.

For more information on hoophouse strawberries:

Growing Strawberries in High Tunnels in Missouri
Production of Vegetables, Strawberries, and Cut Flowers Using Plasticulture is a book about all aspects of horticultural plastics, and includes extensive information about hoophouse strawberries.

Lynn Byczynski is the editor of Growing for Market, a magazine for local food producers

Articles by Lynn Byczynski

About the author:

Lynn Byczynski was growing organic vegetables and cut flowers for market when she decided to create a magazine that would help market gardeners nationwide share experiences and information. Her first issue of Growing for Market appeared in January 1992 and it has been published continuously since then. GFM is renowned in the market gardening world for realistic articles that give growers practical, how-to information about growing and selling produce and flowers. Lynn is now partnering with Johnny's to provide similarly useful information for the johnnyseeds.com website and other publications. Lynn, her husband Dan Nagengast, and their two children have grown vegetables and cut flowers since 1988, selling through a CSA, at farmers markets, to chefs, grocery stores, and florists. They currently grow cut flowers and hoophouse tomatoes on about 2 acres of their 20-acre farm near Lawrence, Kansas. Lynn is also the author of several books about market farming: The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers ; The Hoophouse Handbook ; Market Farming Success