- How to Grow Strawberries
- Planting Your Strawberries
- Everbearing Strawberry Plants: Tips On Growing Everbearing Strawberries
- What are Everbearing Strawberries?
- Growing Everbearing Strawberries
- Types of Strawberries
- Planting Everbearing Strawberries
- How to Plant Strawberries
How to Grow Strawberries
Woodland strawberries are small, but their flavor is intense.
Strawberries need plenty of sun and water to fruit well and produce plump, tasty berries. Choose a planting site that gets at least six to eight hours of full direct sun each day — ten hours or more is even better.2 The more sun your plants get, the more fruit they’ll produce. Because they’ll need regular watering, choose a site with easy access to water or irrigation, too.
Avoid planting strawberries in low-lying sites where frost pockets form; frosty spring nights can damage flowers and prevent fruit. Finally, choose a site where you haven’t grown tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes or caneberries for at least three years. Strawberries are in the same plant family as these garden favorites, and they’re susceptible to certain diseases that can carry over in garden soil.1
Strawberries grow best in best in well-drained, slightly acidic soil with soil pH in the 6.0 to 7.0 range.1 If soil pH strays too high or low, it prevents your strawberries from getting the nutrients they need. A simple soil test reveals your soil pH and recommends soil amendments your berry patch may need. Tell the testing laboratory that you’re growing strawberries; they can provide suggestions just for you.
Along with recommended amendments, mix a layer of organic matter, such as compost, and a complete, balanced fertilizer into your soil before you plant.Pennington UltraGreen All Purpose Plant Food 10-10-10 starts feeding immediately to give your strawberries a solid nutritional foundation, and then keeps on feeding for up to four months.
Planting Your Strawberries
Depending on how many strawberry plants you want to grow, you can tuck plants right into your landscape or plant in traditional rows of slightly raised or mounded soil to create a full-fledged berry patch. Follow recommendations for your varieties, but most strawberries should be planted at least 15 to 18 inches apart.1 Northern gardeners plant strawberries in spring as soon the danger of a hard freeze is past. Southern and western gardeners can plant in fall and winter as well.
Planting depth is extremely important for strawberries. Look closely at a bare root plant and you’ll see roots connected to the short, stocky stem that is the crown. Dig your hole large enough to spread the roots out well. Then plant so the crown stays above ground, but the shallow, uppermost roots stay fully covered. Plant container-grown plants at the same level they grew at in their nursery pot. Plant too deep, and crowns suffocate and rot. Plant too high, and shallow roots dry out and die.
Strawberries also grow well in hanging baskets, pocket planters or other decorative containers, but they’re best grown outdoors. Strawberries rely on wind and insects for pollination. If you want to enjoy your indoor berry pots, wait until pollinators do their work and small fruits form or you’ll have fruitless berry plants inside.
Everbearing Strawberry Plants: Tips On Growing Everbearing Strawberries
With the continually rising prices of produce, many families have taken up growing their own fruits and vegetables. Strawberries have always been a fun, rewarding and easy fruit to grow in the home garden. However, successful yields of strawberries can be dependent on which strawberries you grow. Strawberries are classified in to three groups: Everbearing, Day-Neutral or June-bearing. Oftentimes, though, day-neutral strawberries are also grouped with everbearing types. In this article, we will specifically answer the question, “What are everbearing strawberries.” Read on for more information on growing everbearing strawberries.
What are Everbearing Strawberries?
By looking at strawberry plants you cannot tell if they are everbearing, day-neutral or June-bearing. Therefore, we must rely on the proper labeling of strawberry plants at nurseries and garden centers to know which type we are purchasing. Unfortunately, plant labeling is not a perfect science.
They can fall out and get lost, plants can be mislabeled and, much to the vexation of garden center workers, customers sometimes pull out plant tags to read them just to stick the label back in any nearby plant. In addition, many nurseries label both everbearing and day-neutral strawberries as everbearing despite differences in the two. However, the more experienced you become at growing these different types of strawberry plants, the more you’ll be able to recognize their distinguishable growing habits, in case they were mislabeled.
Fruit production, quality and harvest is what distinguishes between the different types of strawberries. So when do everbearing strawberries grow, and when can I harvest everbearing strawberries?
Fruit production on June-bearing and everbearing strawberry plants is affected by day length, temperatures and climate zone. Everbearing strawberry plants begin to form flower buds when day length is 12 hours or more per day. True everbearing strawberry plants produce two to three separate yields of strawberries, one crop in spring to early summer, another crop in midsummer in cooler climates, and the last crop in late summer to early fall.
Although they are generally called everbearing strawberries as well, day-neutral strawberries do not require any specific day length to set fruit. Day-neutral strawberry plants usually produce fruit throughout the growing season. However, both day-neutral and everbearing strawberry plants do not tolerate high temperatures in summer; plants generally do not produce fruit in high heat and may even begin to dieback. Everbearing strawberry plants, including day-neutral varieties, are best suited to cooler, mild climates.
Growing Everbearing Strawberries
While strawberry plants are generally considered hardy in zones 3-10, June-bearing types do better in mild to warmer climates, while everbearing strawberries do better in cooler to mild climates. Because June-bearing strawberry plants produce a singular crop of strawberries in spring to early summer, late spring frosts can damage or kill the fruit. If everbearing strawberry plants are hit by late frosts, it is not quite as devastating because they will produce more fruit throughout the growing season.
This fruit production is one of the main differences between June-bearing and everbearing strawberries. June-bearing usually produce just one high yield each growing season, while everbearing strawberries will produce several smaller crops in a year. Everbearing strawberry plants also produce less runners. The fruit of everbearing strawberries is generally smaller than June-bearing strawberries too.
So when can you expect to harvest everbearing strawberries? The answer is simply as soon as the fruit is ripe. When growing everbearing strawberries, plants will generally start to produce fruit within their first growing season. However, the first year’s fruiting may be more sporadic and sparse. Strawberry plants also produce less berries with age. After 3-4 years, strawberry plants usually need to be replaced because they no longer produce good quality fruit.
Some popular varieties of everbearing and day-neutral strawberries are:
- Tristar (day-neutral)
- Tribute (day-neutral)
Types of Strawberries
Q. What is the difference between June-bearing and ever-bearing strawberries?
A. Types of strawberries are named according to their harvest time. June-bearing strawberries are the most familiar type and produce the largest fruits as well as large yields. Ever-bearing plants produce two smaller crops, one in June and another in early fall. June-bearing varieties also produce larger numbers of runners than ever-bearing varieties.
A newer type of strawberry called day-neutral produces fruit throughout the growing season. Like ever-bearing strawberries, day-neutral varieties produce smaller fruits, lower yields, and fewer runners than June-bearing varieties.
It is best to remove blooms from June-bearing varieties the first year to encourage healthy root systems and vigorous runners. Blooms from ever-bearing and day-neutral plants should be removed through June of the first year, but allow the plants to bloom and set fruit after June. If you want strawberries the first season, plant ever-bearing or day-neutral varieties or plant June-bearing in combination with one of the other types. Planting a combination of types will not change the flowering or yields of any type.
More varieties of June-bearing plants are available than ever-bearing or day-neutral. It is not possible to tell the difference between the types just by looking at them so be sure you know which type of strawberry you want before purchasing.
Photo courtesy of Mark Kroggel, University of Arizona
Inducing strawberries to flower and fruit
Because of the lack of commercially available actively growing starter plants during the summer, Kroggel said he is producing his own tip runners in 38-cell plug trays or 2-inch tree bands (with permission to propagate from patent holders when varieties are protected).
“Since we want to start growing the strawberries during the summer, this is a time of year that there usually are no starter plant material available from most commercial propagators, and so we need to produce our own,” he said. “Usually the very latest dormant runners are available is in June.”
These strawberry plantlets are stuck in a substrate and placed on a mist bench until they are rooted in. Rooting and acclimation takes two to three weeks and the plants need several more weeks of greenhouse growth to be established enough to transplant into a growing system. The plants are ready to be transplanted when they can be removed from the plug cells or pots with roots and substrate intact.
“To initiate flowers in short day plants in this high density propagation when the natural day length is still longer than the flower-inducing day length, we provide the rooted and acclimated plants a short day treatment,” Kroggel said. “This treatment consists of eight hours of daylight in the greenhouse and then the plants are moved into a dark cooler for 16 hours at 59ºF (15ºC). This is the most ideal temperature for flower induction.
“The plants are moved back and forth on carts between the cooler and the greenhouse. It is labor intensive, but they can be moved relatively easily because they are in a dense planting situation. They come out of the cooler at 8 a.m., receive eight hours of light in the greenhouse, and then at 4 p.m. they are moved back into the cooler. A grower who has rolling benches could move the plants back and forth between a cooler and the greenhouse. For the short day varieties that we have grown in the greenhouse it takes three to four weeks before flower initiation occurs. Once the initiation of flower buds is confirmed under a microscope, the short day treatment is no longer needed.”
Kroggel said the 24-hour average temperature for strawberries should not exceed 77ºF (25ºC).
“If growers lived in regions where the temperatures were cool enough to stay below the 77ºF daily average, they could probably pull black cloth to provide the required short day conditions for flower initiation as an alternative to moving the plants into a dark cooler,” he said. “As long as the plants are kept in that temperature range of 59ºF-77ºF pulling black cloth won’t be a problem. Growers need to monitor the temperature under the cloth to be sure not to overheat the plants.”
Everbearing strawberry varieties in the greenhouse
Kroggel said one of the issues with everbearing strawberry varieties is the terminology used to describe them.
“Everbearing varieties are often referred to as being day neutral. We don’t know of any day neutral everbearing strawberry plants,” he said. “These varieties tend to be facultative long day plants. They will flower all the time, but if they’re provided with a longer photoperiod, they will produce more flowers.”
Kroggel said one of the ways to keep everbearing varieties flowering during the short days of winter is to provide them with photoperiodic lighting.
“During short days the everbearing varieties benefit from an extended photoperiod,” he said. “The plants need 2-3 micromoles, which is about 20 footcandles. We provide the plants with 12-14 hours of light using fluorescent or incandescent lights.”
Timing fruit production
For growers using dormant runners or propagating their own tip runners of everbearing varieties, flowers must be removed in order to allow the plants to become established before producing fruit.
“These varieties naturally produce flowers as soon as they can,” Kroggel said. “For a period of four to six weeks after planting into the production system, the flowers should be removed to allow the runners to develop roots and leaves. The plants need to have a good initial vegetative establishment period so they have well-established roots and leaves in order to support the fruit. By removing these flowers some of the fruit is lost, but this establishment period is necessary.”
Strawberry plants produce their first flush of fruit about one month after the flowers appear (short day varieties) or the flowers are left on the plants (everbearing varieties).
“At some point after the first flush, the everbearing variety plants tend to temporarily stop producing flowers,” Kroggel said. “There will be anywhere from a six-week to a two-month period when no fruit is produced. That is a real issue with producing everbearing varieties. Then there is a massive second flush of flowers and fruit.”
Kroggel said this cyclical production of flowers and fruit can be accommodated by staggering planting dates and using different varieties that have varying production schedules.
“Really high yielding everbearing varieties have less cyclical production because they produce more crowns more often. Unfortunately we haven’t found a really high yielding everbearing variety yet with really good flavor. The June-bearing or short day varieties have a more linear production cycle.”
Kroggel said that he recommends that growers producing greenhouse strawberries plant both June-bearing and everbearing varieties.
“With the short day varieties, they begin flowering at some point either naturally or by being induced,” he said “Their weekly yields are fairly consistent and their cumulative yields are linear. The flower and fruit production of the everbearing varieties tend to be cyclical over the season. I recommend growers produce both June-bearing and everbearing varieties to ensure they are always producing fruit. But growers need to know how to manage both types. Being able to produce fruit during November, December and January is critical. This is the period when premium pricing occurs.”
For more information on greenhouse strawberry production, check out: Hydroponic Strawberry Information Website, http://cals.arizona.edu/strawberry; Sustainable Hydroponic and Soilless Strawberry Production Systems, https://www.youtube.com/user/sustainablehydro.
Mark Kroggel provided information on greenhouse strawberry production in Urban Ag News Issue 9, “Strawberries can be adapted to greenhouse production systems” (https://urbanagnews.com/emag/issue-9-2).
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; [email protected]
Planting Everbearing Strawberries
For most gardeners, strawberries are the first fruits of early summer. June bearing strawberries produce heavy crops, but for a very short season. Strawberries come and go, to be quickly forgotten as other fruits begin bearing. Everbearing strawberries are different. These marathon runners of the strawberry world begin producing alongside their early counterparts, but they’ll keep producing until snow blankets the ground in late fall or early winter.
Everbearing strawberries are planted in the same manner as June bearing varieties. Buying mail order bare root plants is one of the most economical ways to get plants started, especially since everbearing strawberries are not available potted up at most local nurseries.
I’m particularly fond of French heirloom variety known as Mara des Bois. The berries are too soft for commercial growing, but they have an intense strawberry flavor and delicate aroma that makes them a real treat for backyard growers. Small farmers also love to grow this variety for farmer’s markets, and there’s a local farm that grows them in high tunnels for the very earliest fruit.
Bare root everbearing strawberry plants tend to come in bundles ranging from 10 to 25 plants. The first spring shoots are just beginning to emerge from the dormant plants, and it’s important to get them into the ground soon after they arrive. In Central Vermont, strawberries are planted in Mid to late April which is well before the last spring frosts of the season. The rest of the garden won’t go in until early June.
The best time to plant everbearing strawberries will vary by your planting location, and in most places, they’ll need to be in the ground earlier than ours here in a cold northern climate. Plan to plant bare-root everbearing strawberries outdoors 6 weeks before the last frost.
Open up the bundle of plants and carefully separate the individual bare root strawberries. The shoots are very delicate at this point, and careful handling is important to avoid damage. Prepare a weed-free seedbed by cultivating, and add 2-3 inches of screened compost. Mix in the compost and gently plant the everbearing strawberries, ensuring that the roots point down and the crowns of the plants are about 1/2 an inch below the top of the soil.
Not all the bare root plants will have green leaves emerging at this point, but if they do, leave those just barely poking out of the soil. Space everbearing strawberries one foot apart in rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
Though it may not seem like it at planting time, everbearing strawberry plants grow quite large. They need significantly more space than June bearing plants. Instead of sending out a stream of runners like June bearing plants, everbearing strawberries focus on growing large and producing a continuous crop of berries until they go dormant in the winter.
In just a few weeks, the tiny bare root plants will have developed multiple leaves and they’ll be sending out their first flowers and young fruit.
The first everbearing strawberries will ripen about 8 weeks after planting. For us in zone 4 central Vermont that means right around the summer solstice. There’s only one type of fruit that ripens sooner, and that’s honeyberries, a fruiting species of honeysuckle that tastes a bit like a cross between a blueberry and a grape.
At this point, the everbearing strawberry plants will be fruiting right alongside their June bearing cousins, but in smaller amounts. This is a bit like the race between the tortoise and the hare, and the June bearing plants will exhaust themselves bearing heavily all at once. In the long run, everbearing strawberry plants will bear far more fruit over the course of the season.
Our everbearing strawberry plants give us a reliable crop of berries from Mid June all the way until early November. In very warm years we’ve had fresh strawberries on our Thanksgiving table. Not a lot mind you, but a handful of strawberries in November is a big deal up here. Once cold temperatures begin to really set in and the plants go dormant for the winter, cover the whole bed with a thick layer of straw to help insulate the soil.
Most everbearing strawberry varieties are hardy to zone 4, especially with a bit of extra protection.
How to Plant Strawberries
Most catalogues list two basic types of strawberries: June-bearing and everbearing. June-bearing strawberries produce a huge crop of berries in late spring or early summer, then may produce a few berries here and there for the rest of the season. Everbearing strawberries produce a good-sized crop in spring, but then they continue to produce berries regularly up until frost.
In most climates, gardeners can plant strawberries as perennials. In this method, strawberry plants are planted about 1-1/2′ apart, in rows about 4′ apart. The plants will grow until they eventually form thick, lush rows about 2′ wide. As they grow, they spread by sending out runners, which root right in the garden bed and produce daughter plants.
By carefully managing a strawberry patch, a gardener growing strawberries as perennials can have berries for years to come, without ever having to buy another strawberry plant.
Strawberry plants that are to be treated as annuals are planted closer together than those that are left to grow as perennials. For annuals, mound or hill up rows of soil about 6″ or 8″ tall, spacing the rows about 2′ apart. Set the strawberries about 12″ apart down the length of each mounded row. In areas with mild winters, plants are set out in the fall for a spring harvest; in colder climates with winter freezes, strawberries are set out in spring for a summer harvest.
With the annual system, the strawberry plants are dug up and discarded after the harvest, and gardeners replant a crop of new, disease-free berries each year. It’s an easy way to grow berries that works well for most people.
If you’re not sure which growing method is best for your climate, contact your local cooperative extension service. The extension service will most likely have a free brochure on growing strawberries in your area.