Close X

# Strawberry spacing gets the boot

How can anyone think simultaneously of strawberries - oh, that sweet, succulent collapse between tongue and teeth! - and geometry?

That word parches my memory as incisive propositions in regimented classrooms, as chalk diagrams, and as mute protest. How could I envisage a future use for the square of the hypotenuse? And why was I forced to memorize stuff like furlongs, rods, roods, chains, perches, and poles?

Now that I have a vegetable plot, geometry is once again rearing its head. But today I know its literal meaning: "measuring the earth." And I don't feel the same distaste.

It's still tricky, though. I haven't made things easy for myself, admittedly, by setting out diagonal paths and triangular beds (I do have reasons for this other than cussedness). But now I don't know how to plant them. Parallel rows do not seem to work.

Take my strawberries, for example. Most of my gardening books insist strawberries should be planted at least 15 inches apart (some say 18) with 2-1/2 or even 3-1/2 feet between the rows. But if I were to adhere to such measurements, my strawberry triangle would take no more than about six plants.

It is hard to find an expert who is relaxed about strawberry spacing. One book does, however, suggest four rows with 15 inches between the plants on all sides. And this, appealingly, would produce "an old-fashioned strawberry bed," the author points out.

What about the plot gardeners? My neighbor Red, though no proponent of books, unhesitatingly reiterates 18 inches between plants. "Best to give 'em space."

Jimmy Hughes's answer was: "I don't bother with them anymore. They turn too easily into a weed-patch."

Neil reckoned his, last year, were one foot apart. This sounds more like it, I thought. But when he added that he wasn't sure he'd grow strawberries again this year, I became a bit suspicious of his spacing advice. Strawberries are perennials. Had he thrown his away, or what?