the bags, watering and planting berry plants in the holes. He’s found that “everything grows

better under plastic.” For strawberry production, temperatures of 55 F to 75 F is best, with the poly above the bed level. The resulting berries average 40

grams and are delicious, they say. Production is normally 1.5 lb. per

plant, beginning in May and peaking in July, though everything was late this year.

They use garlic juice to spray on the

plants and hide the smell of ripening fruit to discourage Spotted Wing Drosophila and they’ve had no problem with the destructive insect. Earlier in the year they will roll the

plastic down to the ground to increase the heat units inside the tunnels. Runners are removed until the second

crop has set to increase the vigour of the plant, but after that they leave them on to reduce plant vigour. They have three strawberry tunnels

and normally grow 6,000 plants which they use fertigation on. Sales are at the farm gate and at farmer’s markets such as that in Coquitlam and they never seem to have enough, they say happily. “We’re known for our huge flavourful

berries,” notes Ray. All the picking is done by the pair,

and they’ve created a truss support along each bench, which helps to prevent the ripening strawberries from breaking off before they’re harvested. Pointing to the poly sheathing on each

tunnel, Ray comments, “They don’t grow most berries in the open any more in the U.K.” In addition to allowing them to manipulate the spectrum of light waves that reach the plants, the poly blocks out most of the UV light, and insects see in UV rays, so their ability to see inside the tunnels is impaired, helping reduce insect damage to the fruit, he explains. The coconut bags are usable for

two years, but the plants are replaced each spring. He says the tunnels paid for themselves the first year. They’ve also tried tomatoes in tunnels and say they were fabulous. Raspberries also did well, but they are so perishable they had to be trucked to market immediately. “We didn’t plan for this much success. It got out of control,” comments Ray with a laugh. Now they’re looking at growing

berries in shipping containers. The berries would stay clean and last longer and there’d be less rot, Ray believes. There’d also be more control of heat and moisture.

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8 British Columbia Berry Grower • Fall-Winter 2017

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