And we're picking! 
Things really got going this week in our strawberry field! Fruit is ripening quickly and we are now on a three day-a-week harvest schedule. It has been hot and DRY here in Durham, as in most of the state, but we are lucky enough to have adequate water for irrigation which we have been using twice per week: once with fertilizer (for about an hour or so) and once H20-only (for about 3 hours).
We are very happy with the variety 'Albion' so far. Fruit are a vibrant red and have a nice firm texture. They are sweet but also a little tart/acidic. The tip of the early-season fruit and the achenes tend to stay green until the fruit is basically ripe, which may be an easy indicator for harvesting.
Fruit from the plastic mulched beds are generally cleaner than those from the un-mulched beds which are apt to have soil on them. Tunnels have been left fully vented (sides lifted) during any (limited) rain which has resulted in some splash-up of soil on the edges of the beds from thunderstorms passing through the area. The tunnels (even vented) prevent most rain water from reaching the plant and fruit. In fact, you can see a dry patch in the middle of the tunnel after a storm has passed. Straw mulch may be useful in preventing this splash up on fruit and may be something we will consider later this or next year. We have elected not to close the tunnels in this hot weather, as we do not want to trap moisture and potentially make fungal pathogens more of a problem. Also, rain events have been few and far between this year...
Plant Tissue Analysis: Several weeks ago we collected strawberry leaves for a plant tissue analysis to see if our fertility regime is adequate. This is super easy to do and is a measure of the nutrient status of crops, including tomatoes, apples, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, etc... Results include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, boron and zinc levels, and provide optimum ranges for the crop specified. The results and recommendations are reviewed by a Cooperative Extension agent who can assist you with any questions. The cost is $26 and is submitted through the UNH Cooperative Extension service. For more information on how to collect leaves, where to send your sample, and the form that must be submitted with it... click here.
For an example report, see ours below. You will notice that everything except Copper was in the optimum ("O") range at the time of collection. That was, however, several weeks ago and we will continue sampling monthly to keep track of our fertility needs.
We are keeping our fingers crossed for rain, as we know the summer drought has been a struggle for farms across the region.
Visit the Sideman Lab website to learn about other projects we are working on!
This project is funded by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and Tunnel Berries, a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative grant titled "Optimizing Protected Culture for Berry Crops" in collaboration with the following universities: