Strawberry season brings back memories of dad’s garden, cool springs and my youth.

Mama loved to cook cakes and pies out of the tasty fruit, but after all nine of us kids had visited the patch, not much was left. Dad’s patch produced small but tasty fruit, and it took a lot of work to get a belly full. Glad I was young and energetic.

Today the fruit is large, sometimes bigger than golf balls, but just as tasty as Dad’s. In those days, we were “isolated” in the big city of McBee, so very few pests bothered Dad’s strawberries.

Today the world has become a very small place with all sharing the same problems; therefore, strawberries have become more complicated in their production. Like many people, I would like to go back to those simpler days where all you had to do is plant a few strawberry plants and pick an abundance of fruit for many years.

Most strawberry production today is what we call an annual culture where the plants are planted, grown and harvested for only one year. With this system the plants grow quickly, produce a large amount of fruit in one season, and problems (pests) are hopefully kept to a minimal.

One of the best parts of my job is helping the local strawberry growers produce their scrumptious crop, and of course sampling the fruit in each field is important to ensure quality fruit. In other words, this time of year I visit about 10 strawberry fields at least every two weeks — no wonder I am gaining weight — but enjoying every sweet fruit. These great fruits are sold at the farms and many satellite locations all over the Pee Dee — too many for me to list in this news article.

Watch out for those strawberry signs and be sure not to miss out on your share before I eat them all (ha). Also, a bucket or two of Certified S.C. strawberries would make an excellent gift for Easter, and you might get a pie or cake in return.

Spidermites are a major pest of strawberries. In most seasons, beneficial insects and a few well-timed insecticidal soap sprays will keep them under control. However, this season spidermites are rampant.

In some situations, the source of the problem might be the excessive use of nonselective insecticides. These chemicals kill both destructive and beneficial insects. Without beneficial insects, spidermite populations will soar. However, this season the technique of using no or beneficial friendly insecticides to conserve beneficials just wasn’t enough to keep spidermites under control.

In other situations, the source of the problem might have been that the transplants had spidermites. The early infection in combination with the warm fall temperatures increased the early population.

Also, the warm winter allowed an increasing winter population of mites.

Another problem source can be alternate spidermite hosts. Spidermite problems are worse where ornamental trees and shrubs are grown near strawberries. The ornamentals serve as a perennial host for re-infection. One grower in the Pee Dee uses red cedars as a screen and windbreak. Spidermites love red cedars.

The poor application of insecticidal soaps and chemical controls might be another problem source. A high-pressure sprayer with drop nozzles is needed to get the spray onto the underside of all leaves.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

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