Day neutral strawberry plants

Growing Day-Neutral Strawberries

What are “day-neutral” strawberries? Do they have different requirements from regular June-bearers?

Day-neutral strawberries, also called “ever-bearing” strawberries, flower and fruit when temperatures are between 35 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. So instead of picking a single large crop of strawberries in June, you’ll pick smaller amounts of berries (and smaller berries, usually about 1 inch in size) over a longer period of time. That’s a nice benefit if you prefer fresh berries to preserved berries, for which you generally want a larger crop all at once.

Compared with June-bearers, day-neutral strawberry varieties also produce fewer runners and are a little easier to manage in the garden. Use the “hill system” when planting them in the ground: Make mounds of soil about 8 inches high by 24 inches wide and as long as you like. Within each hill, set plants in double rows, spacing the plants about 12 inches apart in a staggered pattern. Mulch the bed with straw to prevent weed growth and retain soil moisture. Remove all plant runners that appear the first year.

The roots of day-neutral strawberry plants don’t grow deep, so provide at least 1 inch of water per week during the growing season. In late fall, replenish straw mulch to a depth of at least 2 inches, covering the crowns of the plants. Pull back the mulch in spring, after temperatures have risen above freezing, to expose the crowns and encourage new growth.

Because day-neutral varieties usually bear fruit the year they’re planted, they can be grown as an annual crop. If you’re establishing a perennial bed, however, remove all flower buds that form before July 1 in the plants’ first year to help them become better established. Check with your county extension office for recommended varieties for your area.

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— Vicki Mattern, Contributing Editor

Above: Day-neutral strawberries are smaller and easier to manage than June-bearers..

Photo Courtesy Dreamstime/Tamara Muldoon

Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.

How should I propagate day neutral strawberries which don’t develop runners?

I just planted a Seascape Strawberry plant, which is day-neutral. According to Home Guides, day-neutral strawberries do not produce runners.

Developed at the University of California, Seascape strawberry, (Fragaria x ananassa) produces a high yield of large, firm, flavorful berries. Seascape is a day-neutral variety, which means that unlike June-bearing strawberries that produce berries in June and July, day-neutral varieties produce fruit throughout summer and into autumn, as long as temperatures are between 35 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Day-neutral strawberries do not develop runners. Seascape strawberry is suitable for growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture growing zones 3 through 9.

How would I propagate my Seascape strawberries if the typical way of propagating via runners is not an option?

I looked at my plant and verified that it does not have runners. Since Seascape strawberry’s leaves are humungous, it would be easy to spot the runners, which have small leaves at the tip. No small leaves were seen.

Photo from Sakuma Bros.

Update

My Seascape has been producing runners like crazy. This photo was taken just a week after asking my question.

I don’t have any recent photos, but since then I have been able to create around 10 new daughter plants. Even the daughters sent out their own runners, but I snipped theirs off. Don’t want any teenage pregnancy, now do we?

I made the mistake of transplanting some of the daughters too soon. If I severed their runner when they were “4 inch pot nursery” size, they would shrivel within a day. It’s best to leave the umbilical chord attached for a couple weeks. It actually doesn’t do them any harm to leave them attached longer than necessary. I still have some daughters drinking mother’s milk after a month – they’re still lush looking.

Also, I learned that transplanting time should be well after runner severing time. If I severed the runner and immediately planted the daughter in my raised garden bed, it would shrivel within a day. However, if I sever the runner and let the daughter grow up in its container for another week or so, I could then transplant it to my garden bed without it shriveling. These daughters need time to adjust living away from Mother. It’s not like a human where once they turn 18, you send them off to college without a transition phase. No, you have to hug them for a while and dry their tears.

Day Neutral Strawberry Production – the Ins and Outs

Day-neutral strawberry varieties offer growers in many areas the ability to provide strawberries throughout a period of four to five months, or longer under protection.

Unlike June-bearing varieties that produce fruit over a more concentrated harvest period, day-neutral varieties flower and fruit continually over the growing season with temperatures between 40°– 90° F. Day-neutrals begin to ripen in late May and June. Production continues through October depending on weather conditions and use of protective structures. We recommend planting two varieties for the best season extension. The fall crop is the largest of the two crops the first year. In the second year, the spring crop provides good yields beginning in mid – late May. Though day-neutrals require constant attention, the returns can be quite high, particularly if priced appropriately. Many growers can charge the same price for one pint of day-neutrals that they typically receive for one quart of a June-bearing variety.

PREPARING TO PLANT
ay-neutral strawberries perform best in a production system tailored to their long fruiting season. They are generally grown on raised beds covered with a black or reflective plastic mulch to suppress weed and warm the soil. Drip irrigation is laid on the soil’s surface (covered by the mulch) and provides plants with water and nutrients. We recommend building the beds late fall or early spring, so they can be planted as soon as possible in spring, preferably by late April. Delaying planting into June can significantly decrease yields the first year.

CHOOSING A VARIETY
There are a number of variety options available for growers:

• ALBION (U.S. Plant Patent #16,228) With high yields of large berries, Albion is fast becoming one of the most popular day-neutral varieties for commercial growers. The fruit are firm with good flavor and red color. A good watering and nutrient program — specifically nitrogen — is necessary to attain the high yields this variety is capable of. Increased spacing will allow the fruit to reach maximum size. Albion is resistant to Verticillium wilt and Phytophthora crown rot and shows some resistance to anthracnose crown rot.

• SEASCAPE The standard for flavor in commercial day-neutrals, Seascape is a top performer. Though berries can start smaller, they quickly increase to a large size while maintaining firmness and the excellent flavor for which they are known. Seascape plants have the potential to be the most productive of any day-neutral variety.

• EVIE-2 (Patent Applied For). This day-neutral is easier to grow, higher yielding and less sensitive to the warm summer temperatures that shut down day-neutral production in the East and Midwest. Berries have an attractive red color, good flavor and maintain their size. In fruiting trials at Nourse Farms, Evie-2 produced the largest spring crop of any day-neutral variety we have tested to date.

• PORTOLA (U.S. Plant Patent #20,552) Fruit is lighter in color and should be harvested before fully red. A very high yielding variety, Portola has good flavor, ripening as early as Evie-2. This variety will perform in warmer climates.

• SAN ANREAS (U.S. Plant Patent #19,975) One of the largest berries of any day-neutral variety. San Andreas is a consistent-yielding variety, and is used as a second variety by many growers. The berries are firm with good flavor and lighter red color than other day-neutrals.
PLANTING
As noted earlier, it’s important to plant early in the spring. The earlier the planting, the higher the yield. We recommend planting in a staggered, double row on black or reflective plastic mulch with drip irrigation. For planting, many growers have had great success using our Plasticulture Tool. This stainless steel tool is designed to push dormant, bare-root strawberry plants through the plastic at the correct planting depth with little disturbance to the plastic. Fertilize the planting with 2 lbs. of actual nitrogen per planted acre per week for the first few weeks after planting.

TUNNEL PRODUCTION
Growers in many parts of the country have had success with the use of low-tunnels – coverings of rows with plastics on metal hoops. The tunnel plastics not only exclude rain, but they can decrease the amount of ultraviolent light and infrared radiation. This can reduce fungal spore germination as well as heat load on plants. They also provide some protection from cold temperatures allowing for harvest well into the fall. Install tunnels when plants begin to send the first new flower trusses. Cover the tunnels with 4 -6 mil plastic keeping one side of the plastic up under normal weather conditions to allow for pollination and to prevent heat buildup. Lower the sides during cold or stormy weather and once temperatures fall below 40. If the temperature falls below 30° F, you can cover the field with a row cover to preserve ripening fruit.

MAINTENANCE
Once the plants begin to set fruit, increase nitrogen to 5 lbs/ acre per week through the drip irrigation system. Failure to provide weekly applications of nitrogen is a major reason for producing lower yields than anticipated. Plants begin to fruit in July or early August. Harvest the fruit at least twice per week. Peak yields occur in September with fruiting continuing possibly into early November. Once harvest is over, remove any tunnels or rowcovers, if used, and cover beds with a thick mulch once the soil is frozen. You can remove the straw in late March/early April and allow the plants to fruit again that next season. In spring of the second year, you can expect a flush of fruit similar in yields to the previous fall. Depending on variety, ripening is similar to early Junebearers but can be accelerated with the use of tunnels and/ or row covers.

PEST MANAGEMENT
Many of the pests that impact June-bearing varieties can also be present in day neutrals, including fungi like Botrytis Fruit Rot and Powdery Mildew. Insect pressure comes primarily from Tarnished Plant Bug, Spotted Wing Drosophila and Slugs. Please contact us for control recommendations or your local Cooperative Extension office.

Day-Neutral Strawberry Info: When Do Day-Neutral Strawberries Grow

If you’re interested in growing strawberries, you may be getting confused with strawberry terminology. For instance, what are day-neutral strawberries? Are they the same as “everbearing” strawberries or what about “June-bearing” types? When do day-neutral strawberries grow? There are many questions about growing day-neutral strawberry plants, so keep reading the following day-neutral strawberry info.

What are Day-Neutral Strawberries?

Day-neutral strawberries continue to fruit as long as the weather holds. This means that, unlike the familiar June-bearing cultivars that only fruit for a short time, day-neutral strawberries fruit into the summer and fall, which is great news for strawberry lovers. They also have firmer and larger fruit than June-bearing strawberries.

When Do Day-Neutral Strawberries Grow?

As long as temperatures remain between 40 and 90 F. (4-32 C.), day-neutral strawberries will continue to produce throughout spring, summer and into autumn, usually from June to October.

Additional Day-Neutral Strawberry Information

There has been some confusion over the terms ‘day-neutral’ and ‘everbearing’ strawberries because they often seem to be used interchangeably. Everbearing is an old term for strawberries that fruited throughout the summer, but modern day-neutral cultivars are more consistent producing berries than the older ‘everbearing’ cultivars, which tended to produce fruit early in summer and then again late in the summer with a big non-bearing gap in between.

Day-neutral strawberries have been categorized as either weak or strong because each cultivar varies in its ability to flower during the summer.

Strong day-neutrals are said to produce both runners and blooms sparsely during the summer, and flowers form on the runners and plants are smaller with fewer crowns.
Day-neutrals that have a stronger tendency to produce runners, flower more profusely and become larger plants are called intermediate or weak day-neutrals.

Growing Day-Neutral Strawberries

Day-neutral strawberries thrive in raised beds covered with black plastic mulch that suppresses weeds and warms the soil.

Ideally, they should be watered with a drip system to keep excess moisture from the leaves and fruit.

Day-neutral strawberries should be planted in fall and are usually grown as annuals, although they may be held over for a second year.

Cooperative Extension Publications

For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit extension.umaine.edu.
Find more of our publications and books at extensionpubs.umext.maine.edu.

Table of Contents:

  • Preparing the Soil
  • Suggested Varieties
  • Planting and First Season Care
    • VIDEO: How to Grow Strawberries: Planting A Strawberry Bed (YouTube)
  • Mulching
    • VIDEO: Getting Strawberry Plants Ready for Winter (YouTube)
  • Renewing the Planting
    • VIDEO: How to Grow Strawberries: Renovating an Old Strawberry Bed (YouTube)
  • Disease and Insect Control
  • Day Neutral Strawberries
    • VIDEO: How Do I Grow Strawberries in the Off-Season? (YouTube)

Strawberries are an excellent crop for both home gardeners and commercial farmers in New England. With proper care, strawberry beds will produce good crops for three to five years, beginning one year after planting. An initial planting of 100 plants should provide enough fruit for a family of four, with a surplus to freeze or make preserves.

Selecting a Planting Site

Choose your planting site carefully. Strawberries grow best in deep, sandy loam soil, rich in organic matter. The soil must be well drained. Keep away from areas that remain wet late into the spring. The site should receive full sunlight and have a gradual slope. This helps prevent frost injury by allowing cold air to drain away from the plants.

Do not plant strawberries where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant have been grown in the past four years. These crops carry the root rot fungus Verticillium, which also attacks strawberries. In addition, do not plant strawberries into recently plowed grass sod areas. This can lead to devastating weed problems and damage by white grubs, a common turf pest that will feed upon strawberry roots.

Finally, choose a site where there is ready access to a water supply. Irrigation is important for good plant growth during dry periods, and can also be used to prevent frost injury in the spring.

Preparing the Soil

Getting a site ready for strawberry planting may take up to two years, depending upon its present condition. Have the soil tested for pH and fertility levels. Strawberries prefer a soil pH of 5.8 to 6.2; this may require applications of ground limestone to increase the pH of more acid soils. Soil testing information is available at your local UMaine Extension County Office.

If the organic matter level of the soil is low and/or perennial weeds are a problem, cover crops such as buckwheat or oats can be sown and plowed into the soil before going to seed. There should be time for two sowings in a single season. Applications of barnyard manure or compost and regular tilling for a full season may be used as an alternative to cover crops.

In the spring of the planting year, broadcast 20 pounds of 10-10-10 garden fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of the site. Cultivate the soil to incorporate the fertilizer and break up any clumps or clods several days before planting. Organic fertilizer sources such as compost, manures, sul-po-mag, and rock phosphate may be used in place of synthetic fertilizers. Apply enough of these materials to deliver two pounds each of nitrogen, phosphorus (P2O5) and potassium (K2O) per 1,000 square feet.

Suggested Varieties

There is a wide selection of strawberry varieties to choose from that will perform well in New England, but it is important to select types that have resistance to red stele and Verticillium root rots, produce vigorous plants, and have a consistent record of good yields and high-quality fruit. Listed below are varieties that have performed dependably in Northern New England. Further details on various characteristics and performance are available from your Cooperative Extension office.

  • Earliglow: An early berry of high quality. The fruit is firm with excellent flavor and color. Yields may be low in New England. Fruit size tends to decrease as the season progresses. Plants are vigorous runner producers.
  • Wendy: Productive. Medium-sized fruit with good flavor and color. Plants are vigorous and produce runners freely.
  • Cavendish: Very productive. Large, firm fruit with good flavor, but with an uneven ripening habit. Plants are moderately vigorous.
  • Jewel: Glossy, attractive, medium-sized fruit with firm texture and flavor. Good production. Plants are vigorous.
  • Allstar: Berries are large, conical and light red to orange with a mild, sweet flavor. The plants are vigorous and make runners freely.
  • Sparkle: Fruit flavor is excellent, but the fruit is dark red and somewhat soft. Fruit size tends to decrease as the season progresses. Plants are vigorous and produce many runners.

It is usually best to plant two or more varieties. The performance will vary according to the conditions at each site. Try new varieties in small trial plantings, next to a variety with which you are familiar.

Planting and First Season Care

VIDEO: How to Grow Strawberries: Planting A Strawberry Bed (YouTube)

Strawberries should be planted in the spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to be prepared. Purchase only certified disease-free plants from a reputable nursery. Plants should have large crowns with healthy, light-colored roots.

Strawberries should be planted in holes large enough to slightly spread the roots out, and deep enough to bring the soil half way up the crown. Pack the soil firmly around the plants, and irrigate immediately after planting.

The best planting system for most gardens is the matted row. For this system, strawberries should be planted 18 inches apart within rows, with 48 to 52 inches between rows. Soon after planting, the crowns will produce a few leaves, and flower buds will emerge. During the planting year, all flowers should be pinched off. This encourages runner growth and plant vigor to fill out the bed, leading to better yields next year. Runner plants will begin to emerge from the crowns in the early summer. These should be used to fill out the rows.

The width of each row should be limited to 24 inches to maintain easy access in the planting. The runners can be positioned into the desired row width before they root and held in place with small stones, clumps of soil or old-fashioned hairpins. Runner plants that grow outside the 24-inch row width should be pinned back into the row to root or be removed if the plants become too crowded (less than six inches between plants).

Proper plant spacing and runner placement for establishing strawberries in a matted row.

Be sure to control all weeds that emerge during the season. Weeds will take over a strawberry bed and seriously reduce yield. Frequent, regular cultivation by hoeing or hand pulling weeds will greatly increase the life of a strawberry planting. Irrigate plants regularly to ensure optimum growth. One to two inches of water per week is ideal.

Mulch should be applied over strawberries in the late fall (mid-November) to protect the plants from extreme winter cold and from damage to the roots caused by rapid freezing and thawing of the soil. Straw is the most commonly used mulch, but any loose material which will provide cover without matting can be used, such as pine needles or wood shavings. Do not use hay, because it contains weed seeds that will start to grow among the strawberries next spring. The mulch layer should be six to eight inches deep over the plants.

In the early spring (mid-April), the mulch should be pulled off the plants and placed into the aisles between rows. This creates a clean walkway and will keep the fruit dry and clean. If a frost is predicted after the mulch has been removed, it may be raked back over the plants for the night to protect the flower buds.

Irrigation is another way to provide frost protection. Set up sprinklers to provide complete coverage of the planting, and turn the water on when the temperature drops to 33 degrees F. Continue to run the water until all the ice formed on the plants has completely melted. Special frost nozzles can be purchased for some types of sprinklers which will emit only enough water to protect the flowers and not flood the beds.

“Floating” fabric row covers may also be placed over the plants to provide some winter and frost protection. These lightweight fabrics create a greenhouse effect that will make the plants bloom and fruit earlier in the spring and produce larger yields.

Row covers can be placed over the plants in the early fall or the early spring. Plants covered in the fall will have greater yield benefits from the covers, but additional mulch such as straw should be applied in mid-November for extra winter protection. Remove the straw in late March, or as soon as the snow melts, leaving the row covers in place.

Row covers can also be applied only in the early spring. Mulch should be applied as usual in the fall, but removed early in the spring (in late March or early April) and followed immediately by applying the row covers. While this may not provide as high a yield increase as the fall application, it avoids the practical problems of applying mulch over the covers. Leave the row covers on until the plants begin to bloom. This may occur two to three weeks earlier than plants without row covers, so you must be prepared to protect the flower buds from frost. Although the row covers will provide some frost protection, it is best to mulch or use irrigation over the row covers if a hard frost is predicted.

VIDEO: Getting Strawberry Plants Ready for Winter (YouTube)

Renewing the Planting

Strawberry beds can usually be carried over for three to five years or more, if the plants are vigorous, the bed is kept weed free, and the planting is properly renewed or renovated every year. The bed should be renovated shortly after the harvest is complete, usually late July.

First, mow all the leaves off the strawberries, about one and one-half inches above the crowns. Fertilize the plants by broadcasting 20 pounds of 10-10-10 (or organic equivalents) per 1,000 square feet.

Next, narrow the plant rows to a strip 10 or 12 inches wide with a rototiller or spade, and spread a light, one-half to one-inch layer of soil over the remaining plants, but do not bury the crowns. If necessary, thin the remaining plants, leaving only the most vigorous and healthy. Irrigate the planting well, wetting the soil to a depth of six inches. During the summer, runner plants will emerge and should be placed to fill out the row to the desired two-foot width, similar to the planting year.

Keep the planting healthy and vigorous throughout the season by controlling weeds, maintaining the proper plant density and row width, and watering regularly.

VIDEO: How to Grow Strawberries: Renovating an Old Strawberry Bed (YouTube)

Disease and Insect Control

Gray Mold on Strawberries; photo by J. F. Dill

Strawberries are subject to attack by fungus diseases, such as root rots and gray mold, and several types of insects, including tarnished plant bugs and strawberry bud weevils, but many problems can be prevented with proper planning and care. Plant varieties that are resistant to red stele and Verticillium root rots. Discourage insect pests by keeping the planting weed-free. Prevent gray mold by keeping the plant rows narrow to improve air circulation and mulching between rows.

For specific pest identification and control measures, contact your local UMaine Extension County Office.

Day Neutral Strawberries

Day neutral strawberries are a different type of plant that flowers throughout the summer months and into the fall, providing fruit well after June-bearing strawberries have stopped. The productivity and fruit quality of day neutral strawberries are much better than the old “everbearing” types, such as Ozark Beauty, and should be used in place of them. Because of their unique growing habit, day neutral strawberries must be treated differently than the June bearing types.

Site selection and soil preparation for day neutral strawberries should follow the same guidelines described for June-bearing strawberries.

Day neutral strawberries are easiest to manage on raised beds. The beds should be six inches high and 24 inches across on the top. The beds should be four feet apart on center, leaving about two feet between beds for a walkway. Plant two rows of strawberries on each bed. The rows should be one foot apart (six inches from the left and right of the center of the bed). Plants within the row should be eight to ten inches apart. It is best to stagger the plants in the two rows on a bed such that a plant in one row corresponds to the space between plants in the other row.

Plant the crowns in the early spring, and mulch around the plants with two to three inches of straw, pine needles or wood shavings. Pinch off all flowers that appear for four to six weeks after planting. Plants should then produce fruit in about six weeks and will continue producing until frost. Remove all runners to keep aisles clear and improve fruit quality. Water plants regularly to improve fruit size. A light side dressing of 10 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer (or its equivalent) per 1,000 square feet should be applied in early August.

Annual raised bed system of growing day neutral strawberries. The center of the beds should be four feet apart to leave a two-foot walkway between beds.

Day neutral strawberries should be grown as an annual, to be plowed down the spring after planting and replanted every year. Beds can be carried over if they are healthy and weed-free, but yields from day neutral strawberries tend to decline dramatically in successive years. Mulch the beds in the late fall as described for June bearing types. Remove the mulch in the spring and pinch blossoms for the first four to six weeks to improve later yields.

If allowed to fruit, the plants will bear a heavy early crop followed by a smaller summer and fall crop. Fertilize in the spring with 20 pounds of 10-10-10 (or its equivalent) per 1,000 square feet.

The best day neutral strawberry varieties for New England are Seascape, Tribute, and Tristar. Seascape is a California variety with large fruit and good yields. Flavor can be variable. Tribute tends to produce more fruit that Tristar, but it also produces more runners, which should be cut off. Both varieties have very good fruit quality.

VIDEO: How Do I Grow Strawberries in the Off-Season? (YouTube)

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What are the differences between the different types of strawberries?

There are basically 3 types of strawberries grown in home gardens. They differ in growth, flowering, and fruiting characteristics.

June-bearers are the most widely planted type of strawberry. June-bearing strawberries develop flower buds in late summer and fall as the day length shortens (nights become longer) and the temperatures cool. The following spring, flowering occurs and the fruit typically ripen in the month of June. The plants are strictly vegetative during the summer months. June-bearing strawberries produce runners during the long days (short nights) and high temperatures of summer. Excellent June-bearing strawberry varieties for Iowa include ‘Earliglow,’ ‘Honeoye,’ ‘Surecrop,’ ‘Allstar,’ ‘Jewel,’ and ‘Lateglow.’

The second type of strawberry is the everbearing strawberry. Everbearing strawberries produce late spring and late summer/early fall crops with little or no flowering and fruiting during the remainder of the year. Everbearers produce few runners and tend to form several crowns. Everbearing strawberry varieties that perform well in Iowa include ‘Ft. Laramie,’ ‘Ogallala,’ and ‘Ozark Beauty.’

Day-neutral strawberries are the third type of strawberry. They are regarded as improved, more productive everbearing-type strawberries. Day-neutral refers to the response of the plants to day length. Day-neutral strawberries are not strongly influenced by day length and may flower and set fruit throughout the summer months. Day-neutral varieties perform best during the cooler periods of the growing season and are not very productive during hot weather. ‘Tribute’ and ‘Tristar’ are the best day-neutral strawberry varieties for Iowa.

Selecting strawberry varieties for your garden

According to Michigan State University Extension, strawberries are the most popular small fruit for backyard growers and are well adapted to most areas in Michigan and the United States. A 100-foot row of plants can produce more than 100 quarts of fruit if managed well. One cup of fresh strawberries makes an excellent snack, containing only 49 calories. They are also a good source of folate and potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin C, manganese and dietary fiber.

While raspberries, grapes and blueberries require multiple years before producing much fruit, some strawberry varieties will produce a good crop by mid-summer of the planting year. If managed well, a planting can last five to seven years before needing replacement. Pests including diseases, insects and weeds are the usual reasons for establishing strawberries in a new location.

Selecting the right variety to grow is the first step in your planning process. Strawberries are classified as June bearing or everbearers. June bearing strawberries form flower buds in the fall as the day length decreases. In Michigan they flower in May. The harvest begins in early to mid-June and continues for three to four weeks. June bearing strawberries produce their first crop the second year after planting.

June bearing strawberries are also classified into three groups: early, mid-season and late varieties. These groups are based on when the variety is harvested. The difference between early and mid-season varieties is just a few days. The harvest interval between early and late season is about seven to nine days.

Everbearing strawberries begin bearing at the same time as June bearers. The difference is everbearers will continue to produce berries throughout summer and into fall. They can produce some berries into October if growing conditions are favorable. Most of the everbearers set flowers as a result of long day length, which is what we experience during the summer months.

Within the everbearing group are day-neutral varieties. Day-neutral plants are not dependent on the length of daylight to set flower buds. Day-neutral varieties such as Tristar and Tribute are very productive and superior in quality when compared to standard everbearers such as Ozark Beauty.

When selecting which varieties to grow, there are some factors to consider other than harvest season or June bearing versus everbearers. My number one priority is flavor. This is usually described as dessert quality in books and catalogs. As I read the variety descriptions, I am only interested in a rating of excellent or very good. When tasting a homegrown berry, I want it to be a glorious experience and not one more disappointment with a beautiful looking flavor impostor.

Another consideration is processing quality. If freezing, a variety that will not turn to mush when thawed is preferred. Ratings can be very good, good, fair and unknown. To some people, especially those who sell berries, size is important. To me, it is less important than the quality of the berry, but catalogs do list berry size as very large, large, large to medium and medium. To my knowledge, there is no standard for what constitutes a very large versus medium berry, so the rating is a comparative one.

Varieties are also compared by their yield potential. They can be high, moderate to high, medium or low. One can compensate by planting more or less of a particular variety, depending on your needs.

Finally, plants are rated by their susceptibility or resistance to root and leaf diseases. This one is more important to me because it may determine how well your plants will grow in a particular location or how much spraying will be required to keep the plants healthy.

In choosing the right variety for your location and use, consider all the factors before choosing what to grow. For additional information on growing strawberries, check out my online class. For an overview of strawberry varieties, see “Overview of Strawberry Varieties” by the University of Vermont Extension.

For more information on a wide variety of smart gardening articles, or to find out about smart gardening classes and events, visit www.migarden.msu.edu. You can also visit MSU Extension at the West Michigan Home and Garden Show on Feb. 28-March 3.

Strawberries are one of the most popular berries for gardeners to grow. They pack quite a punch, they are a great source of Vitamin C and dietary fiber and have only 49 calories per cup.

When you are ready to plant strawberries, start by deciding which variety will be best for your location and stop by your local garden center for supplies. Encourage strawberries to grow by adding Espoma’s Holly-tone, an organic plant food perfect for these acid-loving plants.

You can find strawberries either as June bearing or everbearing. June bearing strawberries form flower buds in the fall as the day length decreases. You’ll be able to harvest them the following early to mid-June and for three to four weeks. June-bearing strawberries produce their first crop the second year after planting.

June bearing strawberries are available in early, mid-season and late varieties. These varieties differ by the best time to harvest. The difference between early and mid-season is only a couple of days, for late season, it’s about seven to nine days.

Though everbearing strawberries begin to bear fruit at the same time as June bearers, they will continue to produce berries throughout summer and into fall — sometimes even all of the way into October. The different varieties in the everbearing group are known as day-neutral. This means the plants do not need a certain amount of daylight to set flower buds.

The best strawberry varieties to grow

For taste. One of the most important factors in deciding which berries to grow is taste. If you’re ordering your strawberries from a catalog, look to see what the dessert quality is rated. We recommend planting the sparkle variety. These fan favorites are widely considered one of the best choices. Sparkle strawberries are medium-sized with an intense flavor and deep red coloring.

For freezing. Some people want berries that will last all season when they freeze them and not turn to mush. When you’re picking a variety, choose one that produces firm, red strawberries with a slight tart flavor. Allstar is a June-bearing strawberry that’s firm with a glossy red coloring. It produces very large berries with a mild, but sweet flavor, making it ideal for freezing and enjoying for months to come.

For size. Another factor to consider is size — do you want very large, large, medium or something in between? If you’re looking for a plant that grows consistently sized berries throughout the season, we recommend June-bearing Honeoye strawberries. These early season berries are large, firm and can be bright orange to red in color. It’s also known to produce plenty of berries.

For canning and jams. Most strawberries are well-suited for canning and jam. Earliglow, a June-bearing strawberry, is especially tasty. It sets and ripens its fruit sooner than virtually every other strawberry variety available. They have an excellent and sweet flavor, plus they are resistant to many strawberry diseases.

For growing in containers. Small space gardeners can still grow large berries. Seascape strawberry plants are everbearing and produce large berries that are bursting with flavor. This variety is also disease-resistant.

For a twist, grow strawberries vertically like Laura from Garden Answer does.

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