July 4 Update
It's been a busy six weeks since we first planted our strawberries. The tunnels required some modification after their first installation, including the addition of heavy duty cable ties (mentioned in the last post) allowing us to tighten the plastic as it expands. We have also found rolling the plastic covers under, as opposed to simply bunching it on the sides, is a better way to keep the top taut and prevent water from accumulating while tunnels are open/vented.
In the past months, the plants have put on a lot of vegetative growth (including many runners) and released a flush of flower trusses. To ensure the strawberry plants had a chance to establish before putting substantial energy into fruit, we have kept flower trusses pruned off through the initial flush until plants reached good size, which lasted until about June 20. We are now letting all trusses flower and develop into fruit.
Removing runners is also an important component in ensuring good fruit yields in the annual production system, so we will be pruning them off twice per month. They were removed for the first time on June 30. Runner removal is actually a very quick process, and is better to do before too much energy is wasted on their development.
We began we began irrigating through the drip lines once per week for about 3 hours. Starting early June, we began fertilizing using a 21-5-20 soluble fertilizer at a rate of 2.1 lbs N per week. Pre-plant fertilizer was reduced by enough to accommodate weekly fertigation at this rate (60 lbs N and K pre-plant was used).
Weeding has certainly been less labor intensive on the mulched beds, but we have managed to keep up with the un-mulched beds just fine so far, in large part thanks to our undergraduate technicians Talia and Jackie.