I’ve been feeling an urgency to get this blog post update out, because I have been seeing ridiculous growing traffic on our Strawberry Planting in Rain Gutters post. And I think we should let you all know, that growing strawberry plants in rain gutters hasn’t turned out so well for us. And by that I mean….well, they are all dead. Big gardening fail. It’s true. Take a look for yourself.
Are we missing any signs of life here, People? Yeah, we didn’t think so.
I had such high hopes. It was this photo below, that I saw online, that really had me daydreaming, about growing a wealth of strawberries from rain gutters, like this……
However, if you were hoping, planning, or are trying to grow strawberry plants in rain gutters yourself, there may be hope for YOU.
Let’s just talk this out, about what we figured went completely wrong here, in a minute. We have come to some conclusions, that we are going to share with you. And as sad as it is, we have always said that “gardening is a learning process! “. What’s more, someone can always learn from our mistakes. It’s not exactly what we hope to reap out of our hard work buuuuut……it’sbetterthannothing.
As we explained in our Strawberry Planting in Rain Gutters post, it was time to start over with new plants anyway, and also time to rebuild/replace our garden beds, that were old, falling apart, and starting to be eaten by termites. So it seemed as good as a time as any, to do something new and exciting!
Michael and I designed a structure to hold the gutters, figured out how to protect them from the birds and little critters, and got are new plants in!
We thought we were well underway, with grand expectations and only the problem of having more strawberries than we knew what to do with, in a year, probably two. We only got a few berries the first season in which they were planted, but that was totally expected.
When the temperatures started to drop to really cold in the fall, and it looked like frost was just around the corner, we got them protected for the coming winter. We covered them in straw, and held it down with some bricks and rocks. We figured that should do it.
When spring approached, and there was no chance of another frost left, we cleaned off all of the straw, watered the gutters when necessary, anticipated new growth. But we were met with disappointment, every time we checked. No teeny-tiny green buds unfolding, no nothing, that reflected any signs of hope. Everything continued to be quite dead.
It wasn’t a huge surprise. We observed the challenges from the time the plants were in, and had growing concerns from then on.
We’ve compiled the reasons why we think we were unsuccessful in growing productive strawberry plants in gutters, and we are going to share thoughts in our experience with you, here and now:
Why We Believe Our Strawberry Gutter Plants Did Not Thrive
A. We think drilling holes in the gutters, for drainage, was a mistake.
– We planted in mixed sandy soil as it was. So between that and the drain holes, the drainage was too much. More moisture needed to be retained.
B. The shallowness of the gutters, were not compatible with our climate.
– The hot summer days were too much, and would dry out the soil of the gutters to dust, even though they when watered heavily every night. (The drilled drainage holes did not help matters.)
– The greatest contributing factor, we believe, was probably the extremely cold and harsh winter. We live in New England, on the south shore. This past winter, which was our strawberry plants first as new plants, was particularly brutal. Multiple blizzards, and dangerously low temperatures. These climate conditions, in addition to the shallow metal gutters, in such close proximity to the roots of the plant, really did them in. I am sure they froze, no matter how much mulch protection we put over the top of the gutters.
– The shallowness of the gutters also seemed to contribute to losing soil, every time we watered. Because it was often bone-dry, again, we would flood the gutters. Sometimes soil would get displaced, or just wash out. So the soil level seemed to get low, in an already shallow planting.
C. Call Us Senseless, But We Never Removed the Plants Out of the Fiber Pots
– I feel like the whole world just said…..”OHhhh, well HELLO! That would do it!” But you know, planting instructions always say you don’t need to remove it; that it will just break down in the soil. They never really did though. You could see that, every time the soil washed away. There was probably never enough soil all around it, even in depth, for that to happen properly. We should have at least removed them from those fiber pots.
So those are the challenges we faced, that we think may be why our strawberry plants never thrived, or even came back, after winter.
That said, we also just felt like the roots of the plant couldn’t get very established, in such a shallow container. Maybe they were supposed to root sideways? IF they were even out of those fiber pots.
Don’t Let Our Failure with Strawberry Planting in Rain Gutters Stop YOU From Trying! You May Have Success!
Part of us was just not content with the depth of soil to work with. But if that were truly an issue, how are other gardeners having such grand success, such as the photo we found on the internet, shown earlier in this post? The roots must grow sideways. We should have taken the fiber pots off. We should have used better soil. We should not have drilled holes in the gutters, with such sandy soil. (Maybe the soil or ph was off?) In general, we should have done more research, because maybe we don’t live in the right climate, to grow strawberries in this manner, in the first place!
If you DO live in a warmer climate, that does not have such harsh winters of ridiculous snowstorms and drastically low temperatures, and you did not make the mistakes we did above, you could end up with thriving strawberry plants in rain gutters.
As for us, well, I missed our strawberry bed, right off the bat. With a deep bed of soil for roots to establish in, and ample room for runners to wander. I wish we just built another when it was time to, but again….lesson learned, and we can share our mistakes with you, so no one else loses a year of strawberry plant establishment, the way we did. We’ll be going back to a bed for our strawberry growing, because we were very successful with them, and reaped abundant loads of strawberries each season. But not this year. It’s too late now. We’ll just have to depend on the Farmer’s Market or local farms, for our organic berries. Because we will not be just going without this summer! We made some mistakes, but I don’t think any of us deserve that kind of cruel punishment.
If you’d like to read and see photos of our much more successful strawberry growing seasons, check out this post, Lessons Learned with Growing Strawberries. Or better, use our search field in the right hand sidebar, and enter the words strawberry and strawberries, and you will come up with pages of all of the posts we’ve had on strawberries. We’ve blogged about them quite a bit! So poke around!
Thanks for coming by. Wish it was better news but, hey, you win some, you lose some, I guess!
We’ll just go back to our tried and true strawberry growing ways, and all will be sweet again.
UPDATE: Hey Friends! A great guy named BOB happened upon our blog, and shared some very valuable insight into the possible origins and techniques used in the original photo of strawberry gutters. He shared what he thinks he learned in our comments below, and we encourage you to scroll down and read what he had to say, if you’ve been considering strawberry gutters yourself, or have tried and failed as well. I think it’s awesome that he took the time to share the way he did. Thanks again, Bob!