When it comes to summer flavors, the strawberry is maybe the first thought that comes to mind. Juicy and sweet, these fruits can be used in many ways from homemade ice cream and jam to toppings for cakes and refreshing summer drinks, but eaten straight from the vine, is undeniably an experience in itself.
There are three classifications of strawberries.
June-bearing produce large, sweet, juicy fruit in the late spring, and is most popular for production strawberries. Runners and flowers should be pinched off during the first year so that the plant can use all of its energy to produce a healthy root system. June-bearing strawberries are heat tolerant, and need to be protected from late frosts, as they may be budding already. Budding takes place after daylight becomes 12 hrs or more. Plant 18-24″ apart in rows that are 4′ apart. Dig a 6″ x 6″ hole for each plant. Use a time release fertilizer or fertilize every 2 weeks during production time. Fruiting will come heavy at one time in late spring to early summer for 2-3 weeks.
Everbearing strawberries produce fruit in late spring and again in early fall. Like June-bearing plants, the Everbearing strawberry begins to flower after daylight becomes 12 hrs or more. During the first year, encourage plants to produce strong root systems by pinching buds and runners. Plant in 6″ x 6″ holes, staggered at 12″ apart.
Day-neutrals, can produce fruit the year they are planted starting in late spring to early summer and continuing through early fall, making them a favorite among gardeners. The fruit is somewhat smaller, however, flavor is no less than other varieties and you can expect 1 to 1 ½ quarts of fruit per plant with proper care. Day-neutral varieties, do not depend on length of daylight, but temperatures. They will produce when temperatures reach 35 F to 85 F. They become dormant and stop bearing fruit with first frost.
When planning a strawberry patch, think about what you want to use the fruit for. Planting Day-neutrals for same year and continuous lower volume fruiting will give a quick return. If you are planning on preserving strawberries, Everbearing varieties are a good choice with two crops so there isn’t as many to work with at one time, yet you get higher volume crops. Planting a Day Neutral for summer long eating along with a heavy periodic crop can help when preserving. You get the best of both worlds!
While strawberries enjoy row planting in flat gardens or raised beds, they also do well in mounds and pots. To grow in pots, use a good potting soil mixed with fertilizer. Be sure there are good drain holes in the bottom of your container so roots don’t rot. Plant one strawberry in about an 8-10″ space. If your container is large enough you can fit more than one plant per container. Special strawberry planters are also available that are terraced with staggering holes to plant in or use hanging baskets! Strawberries tend to have shallow root systems, so wide, relatively shallow containers will work well. When planting in containers it is not necessary to use black plastic, which may create too much heat for roots. Mulch with straw. Keep runners from hitting the ground if you don’t want them to propagate into unwanted areas.
When building your own strawberry mound, terrace with bricks or rocks and follow the rules of 12″ spacing around the mound as well as in height. Pinch runners if they are interfering with plants below. Mulch with black plastic or straw.
Strawberries enjoy rich, moist but well draining soil. Water at the soil level to avoid rot and mold. Fruit is susceptible to slugs and birds. Grow in full sun.
Growing strawberries is fun for the whole family and can be arranged and planted in beautiful unique ways. Vertical planting saves space in tight garden areas and the fruit can be enjoyed in many ways!
Until next time, Happy Planting!
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” ~Audrey Hepburn