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Pipes Make Strawberries Easy To Pick
Kevin Johns took the back-breaking work out of picking strawberries, lettuce, radishes, and more. He plants them in irrigation pipes hung at easy-to-access levels.
“I’d seen rain gutters used, but we had gated 8-in. irrigation pipe that wasn’t used anymore,” says Johns.
Kevin and his wife Janet raise fruit and vegetables for themselves and share them with their children and their families. In addition to what they eat fresh and preserve, they sell some at local farmers markets.
“When we first got the hoop houses, it was so we could start things earlier,” explains Johns. “Now with dicamba drift problems from cotton and soybean fields, a greenhouse is about the only way you can raise tomatoes and peppers.”
To set up the pipes, Johns cut away portions of each, leaving sufficient metal to maintain pipe integrity. He hung them in multiple levels from support posts centered in the hoop houses. He’d previously installed the posts for added support in heavy snowfalls before adding the pipes.
Kevin and Janet garden in two 20 by 72-ft. hoop houses and one that’s 20 by 24 ft. He refers to one of the hoop houses as their strawberry house. It has day-neutral strawberries in a vertical configuration of three levels of two pipes each.
“I have tomatoes growing up strings to either side of the hoop house,” says Janet.
In the smaller 20 by 24, they have pipes on two levels with one pipe to either side of the support posts on each level. Those are used for lettuce, baby carrots, radishes, beets and onions.
Each pipe is filled with a growing medium of composted manure from around hay rings in the cattle yard. Johns scrapes it up each spring and sets it aside for a year.
“We put compost in and then a soaker hose running the length of the pipe,” says Johns. “If we’re planting strawberries, we spread a layer of straw or wood chips around the plants, so the fruit doesn’t touch the compost.”
Kevin and Janet prefer day-neutral strawberries so they can pick all summer. In addition to easy picking, they appreciate how easy it is to weed. They also like being able to use the space beneath the pipes in the 20 by 24-ft. hoop house for other crops. It works well for determinate tomatoes that don’t grow too high, as well as snap beans.
Johns notes that every season he learns something new. Among his suggestions for others is ensuring the pipes are not quite level. Even with drain holes and ends that can drain, he lost some plants when water pooled. He encloses the ends of the pipes with a mixture of wood pieces and duct tape, allowing plenty of drainage.
“Because the amount of soil is limited, the biggest challenge is watering,” he says. “It’s best to have your watering system on a timer. If I could justify the cost, I would use drip tape.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Kevin Johns, 13423 State Highway WW, Dudley, Mo. 69396 (ph 573-421-6102).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #4