Planting strawberries in florida

“What we’ve found is that it’s better to establish them in the fall (September, October or early November). Let them grow as big a plant in the fall as they can and they fruit in early spring,” Stein says. “As soon as the main crop is gone, you pull them out.”

Theoretically, strawberries can bear fruit throughout the summer, but that’s just not practical in a Texas summer, Stein says. It’s better to concentrate on a spring crop.

Strawberries are one of the easiest and best home garden fruits for kids to grow. Children will love to pick them right off the plant, wash and eat them. While you may not get bushels of strawberries, it will be fun and, for a few special weeks, you will reap luscious red berries.

Here are some tips to ensure strawberry success:

– Strawberries like well-drained, fertile soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing to plant. Since strawberry plants do not tolerate soggy soils, a raised bed or container is ideal. Apply a nitrogen fertilizer every three weeks after the plants are actively growing.

– When planting strawberries, be sure the crown (the area between the roots and the leaf stems) is slightly above or level with the ground – never below. Strawberry plants should be placed about 10-to-14 inches apart from each other.

– Use mulch to keep berries off the soil and away from snails, slugs and sowbugs. Pine needle or straw mulch is ideal. Birds will find your berries, so cover the plants with netting that is anchored all the way around the planting, otherwise the birds will walk under it.

– Plants need full sun, and frequent, deep soakings, especially during the bearing season.

Wondering which strawberry to grow?

Choosing the right variety to grow is critical to success as hundreds of varieties exist, but the short day (spring-bearing) type perform best for home gardeners in Texas.

Chandler is a medium to large strawberry with exceptional flavor. This popular variety is the one most commonly grown by commercial producers. Sequoia, an old favorite, is a large, sweet strawberry. Although high in quality, the fruit is sometimes soft and perishable when ripe. Camarosa, a variety recommended by a fellow horticulturist, has a high yield and firm fruit that is large to very large. This variety may not be readily available.

While bare root plants may be used, container grown plants are more often available in garden centers.

• Charla Anthony is the horticulture program assistant at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Brazos County, 2619 Texas 21 W., Bryan, Texas 77803. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

Strawberries can be grown in your own backyard

  • Michael Potter’s tips, tricks and techniques on growing strawberries should help you get a bountiful harvest of strawberries. Michael Potter’s tips, tricks and techniques on growing strawberries should help you get a bountiful harvest of strawberries.

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Image 1 of 1 Michael Potter’s tips, tricks and techniques on growing strawberries should help you get a bountiful harvest of strawberries. Michael Potter’s tips, tricks and techniques on growing strawberries should help you get a bountiful harvest of strawberries. Strawberries can be grown in your own backyard 1 / 1 Back to Gallery

By Michael Potter / Horticulture columnist

The home garden is a great place to grow strawberries. These delicious treats can be productive if you stick to a few basics. Quality strawberries sell for a modest price at the market. With a little start-up money and the right care you can grow these fruit right in your own backyard.

The strawberry plants can be purchased for $30 to $45 per 100 plants including shipping. That is only 30 cents to 45 cents per plant. At that price you could easily replant the bed with new plants each year. Using the annual method, we can figure a yield of one pint to one quart of berries per plant. This means for an investment of $30 to $45 you could potentially harvest around 100 pints to 100 quarts of berries with 100 plants.

There are two methods of raising strawberries and both have merit. However, the annual method is best for Montgomery County thus far. In this system you replant your beds each fall with disease free plants obtained from strawberry nurseries. The other method is the matted row method of planting and is the most commonly used method. With this method you must maintain the beds through the summer, which can sometimes be difficult. Therefore, if you utilize the matter row system, your summer care is; water, water, water and pray for more water to fall from the sky. Summer heat and lack of moisture are the factors that affect this method the most. For the matter row system, the plants are put out in early fall. The runners develop and fruit is harvested the following spring. The following fall you remove the older plants and leave the youngsters to re-establish in the bed. Plants should be thinned in September to a distance of one foot apart to make room for new runners.

The main variety for the annual method in our area is Chandler. Chandler is a very large, bright red fruit of good quality. You can also consider other varieties such as: Camarosa, Selva, Seascape, Sequoia, Sunrise or Tioga. There are still other varieties available on the market, however the prior mentioned varieties are the most common and work well for our area.

Soil preparation, fertilization and general care for strawberries are essentially the same for either method you choose. First, remove all weeds and deeply till the soil. Secondly, incorporate two pounds of a complete fertilizer like 15-5-10 per 100 square feet of garden space and add good amount organic matter (compost). Don’t be stingy. Lastly, plant the strawberries and mulch around them with pine bark, pine straw, compost or any other form of organic matter. In late February, top dress the strawberries with a 15- 5- 10 fertilizer or something similar at the rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet.

Pill bugs, grasshoppers, crickets and millipedes are sometimes a problem on strawberries. Be on the lookout for aphids in the spring. Periodic scouting for insects can help keep plants out of harm’s way. Using insecticidal soap or horticultural oil are good treatment options unless populations get out of control. If insect populations continue to get out of control, call our Master Gardener Hotline at 936-539-7824. We can provide other control options to get rid of the pests. Slugs and snails can also be a big problem. If they are encountered, use a slug and snail bait. The tips, tricks and techniques should help you get a bountiful harvest of strawberries.

Don’t forget to send your garden questions to Plant Answers at 9020 Airport Rd., Conroe TX 77303 or e-mail: [email protected]

Zone 9 Strawberry Plants: Choosing Strawberries For Zone 9 Climates

Strawberries as a rule are temperate plants, which means they flourish in the cooler temps. How about folks who live in USDA zone 9? Are they relegated to supermarket berries or is it possible to grow hot weather strawberries? In the following article, we’ll investigate the possibility of growing strawberries in zone 9 as well as potential suitable zone 9 strawberry plants.

About Strawberries for Zone 9

Most of zone 9 is made up of California, Texas and Florida, and of these the major areas within this zone are coastal and central California, a good chunk of Florida and the southern coast of Texas. Florida and California, as it happens, are actually good candidates for growing strawberries in zone 9. In fact, many popular strawberry varieties are actually patented in these two states.

When it comes to choosing the correct strawberries for zone 9, picking the right variety for this area is critical. Remember, in zone 9, strawberries are more likely to be grown as annuals rather than the perennials their northern neighbors grow. Berries will be planted in the fall and then harvested the next growing season.

Planting will be different for zone 9 growers as well. Plants

should be more tightly spaced than those grown in the north and are then allowed to die back during the peak hot months of summer.

Growing Hot Weather Strawberries

Before you choose your zone 9 suited strawberry plants, learn about the three different categories of strawberry: Short-day, Day-neutral and Everbearing.

Short day strawberries are planted from late summer into the fall and produce a single big crop in the spring. Day-neutral or ever-bearing strawberries produce for the entire growing season and under the right conditions will bear all year long.

Everbearing strawberries are sometimes confused with day-neutral – all day-neutral strawberries are everbearing, but not all everbearing are day-neutral. Day-neutral is a modern cultivar of berry developed from everbearing plants that produce 2-3 crops per growing season.

Zone 9 Strawberry Cultivars

Of the short-day varieties of strawberry, most are only rated hardy to USDA zone 8. However, Tioga and Camarosa can thrive in zone 9 because they have low winter chill requirements, just 200-300 hours below 45 F. (7 C.). Tioga berries are rapid growing plants with firm, sweet fruit but are susceptible to leaf spot. Camarosa strawberries are early season berries that are a deep red, sweet but with a touch of tang.

Day-neutral strawberries give the zone 9 a slightly broader choice. Of this type of berry, the Fern strawberry makes a great container berry or ground cover.

Sequoia strawberries are large, sweet berries that in milder areas are considered short-day strawberries. In zone 9, however, they are grown as day-neutral berries. They are somewhat resistant to powdery mildew.

Hecker strawberries are another day-neutral that will flourish in zone 9. This berry does well as a border plant or ground cover and is a prolific producer of small to medium sized deep red berries.

Strawberries that do well in specific areas of zone 9 California include:

  • Albion
  • Camarosa
  • Ventana
  • Aromas
  • Camino Real
  • Diamante

Those that will thrive in zone 9 Florida include:

  • Sweet Charlie
  • Strawberry Festival
  • Treasure
  • Winter Dawn
  • Florida Radiance
  • Selva
  • Oso Grande

Strawberries suited to zone 9 for Texas are Chandler, Douglas, and Sequoia.

When choosing the best strawberry for your exact area of zone 9, it’s a great idea to talk with your local extension office, a local nursery and/or the local farmers market. Each will have direct knowledge of which types of strawberry does best for your region.

The Best Strawberries to Plant in Zone 9

Hardiness Zone 9 covers central Florida, the southern Gulf Coast of Texas, coastal and central California and a portion of the desert Southwest. In the dry regions of Nevada and Texas, strawberries are not a crop of commercial importance. Where irrigation is available, some varieties can grow as an annual crop. In both California and Florida strawberries do prosper, with strains developed to produce well in those specific climatic areas. The best-producing commercial varieties in California include patented varieties available only to specific growers.

California

Albion–a day neutral everbearing strawberry–yields a peak harvest in spring and smaller yields through the summer. Albion fruits are dark red with good flavor and plants tolerate changeable weather. Camarosa–a short day seasonal fruiting berry–provides an early harvest and stores well even if picked at full red color. Ventana produces even earlier in the season than Camarosa. Introduced in 2002, Ventana fruits have good flavor and good shelf life when ripe. Other popular varieties for California growers include Diamante, Camino Real, and Aromas.

Texas

Chandler, a variety popular with commercial growers, ranks as the best choice for home gardeners in south Texas as well. Because of the commercial demand availability in nurseries can be low. Sequoia and Douglas–early spring fruiting varieties–also do well as fall plantings for spring harvests the following season. The best planting method for south Texas treats strawberries as an annual crop rather than a perennial. Growers plant beds with a much tighter spacing than in the north and do not nurse plants through the heat and drought of Texas summers. Adventurous southwestern desert gardeners could experiment with similar techniques.

Florida

Sweet Charlie, a cultivar developed in Florida in 1981, radiates the sweet scent of cotton candy. An early harvest, sweet flavor and excellent disease resistance make Sweet Charlie a good choice for Florida gardens. Treasure and Strawberry Festival comprise the bulk of Florida’s commercial strawberry acreage. Winter Dawn–with a peak harvest in November and December in the deepest south–and Florida Radiance are the newest releases for the region. If planted along with Strawberry Festival, the peak harvest periods of Florida Radiance take over when Festival falters, providing an extended and more reliable harvest. Older varieties like Selva and Oso Grande no longer rank as commercial crops but are proven producers in the central Florida tropics.

Growing Strawberries in Orange County

Laguna Hills Nursery

(949) 830-5653 www.lagunahillsnursery.com

Wild strawberries are native to all northern temperate climates and Chile. The modern strawberry, Fragaria X ananassa, was developed over 100 years ago in Europe. Breeders crossed the delicious Fragaria virginiana (native to North America) with the large fruited Fragaria chiloensis (native to the west coast of North and South America). The tiny, but tasty Alpine (aka Woodland) strawberry is native to Europe.

California farms grow 80% of the entire USA crop, about 25,000 acres total. Orange, Ventura, Los Angeles, and San Diego county farms account for about 1/3 of that (the Central Coast is about 2/3). The average yield is about one pound per square foot. Other states harvest less than ¼ of that. The average farm cost for each basket is about $3.25.

California nurseries grow about 1 billion baby plants each year, 600 million for California farms.

Local commercial farms use similar methods to produce a very early crop starting in early to mid winter. The early crop commands the highest prices. Nearly all use conventional chemicals. A few farm organically, but organic methods rarely produce a crop before spring.

Strawberry plants require good to excellent drainage and perform best in sandy loam or loamy sand. They will perform in heavier soils if the bed is raised high enough to create better drainage. Local farms raise the soil about 18 inches which also make harvesting easier. Drip irrigation lines are installed for high efficiency and to keep the foliage and fruit dry. From this point conventional farming techniques are quite different.

Conventional soil preparation

To promote an artificially early crop the rows are covered with clear plastic. The clear cover traps the sun’s energy and the soil stays quite warm. To prevent weed seed from germinating and competing with the crop the soil must be fumigated. The irrigation lines distribute fumigation chemicals underneath the plastic and in 5 days all seeds, diseases and bugs are killed. The plastic is then cut between the beds and the fields will be ready to plant 2 weeks later. Without fumigation the strawberry plants couldn’t be planted every year and the use of transparent plastic mulch would be disastrous.

Organic soil preparation

On organic farms, only a fraction of the land is planted with strawberries at a time. Unrelated crops are rotated to avoid a buildup of pest or disease problems in any one location. A crop of legumes (beans, peas, or alfalfa) will increase the soils nitrogen and a crop of broccoli seems to discourage a root disease (Verticillium).

Weeds are a major problem. Weed competition can dramatically lower production. Some organic farms weed constantly, some cover the soil with black plastic, some apply a surface mulch. All options are a significant expense, but higher prices for organic produce usually offsets the cost.

Black plastic prevents about 90% of the weeds, but doesn’t warm the soil as much as a clear plastic mulch.

Installing the Plants

All farms acquire and install bare root plants. These plants come pre-chilled. All strawberry plants need a period of winter chill between 34°F and 55°F to initiate vigorous growth and complete development of flower buds. Too little chill results in poor growth and a plant too weak to produce much. Too much chill results in a plant with super vigor, but delayed production. The farmer must guess how long they should refrigerate the bare root plants to balance the chill that they will naturally receive during winter following installation.

All farms use tractors to punch a deep hole into the bed (through the plastic mulch) at regular intervals. The workers then place each plant with its crown at soil level and firm the soil around the roots to hold it in place. The bed is then watered thoroughly with sprinklers to properly settle the plants. Once established the farms then use the soaker tubing for irrigation.

Local Farms Replant Annually

In order to get the early harvest, local farmers must install prechilled plants every year. Strawberry plants can produce for 3-4 years, but without clear plastic mulch and prechilling, the plants won’t produce until spring.

Fertilization

Farms usually consult with soil labs to provide proper nutrition, however, strawberry plants do fine with levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that are fairly even. For short term results Osmocote 14-14-14 is fine. For long term results use organic fertilizers.

Harvesting

Berries are ready to pick about 4-5 weeks after blooming commences. It is best to pick off the first stalk of flower buds to allow the plant to build strength before production begins. Workers are sent through each field 2-3 times per week to pick ripe berries. To maximize shelf life the berries are gently picked, not allowed to get wet, and cooled immediately.

Growing Strawberries at Home

A typical strawberry plant can produce fruit for 3-4 years. On young plants remove the first set of flowers so that the plant can gain size and strength before production begins. A single, well-developed plant can grow over 18-inches wide and 10-inches high.

Strawberry plants should be located in sun (1/2 day is minimum) and planted in well-drained soil. Heavy soils should be elevated into substantial mounds or raised beds to improve drainage. Plants are placed 12-18” apart.

Strawberry plants can be purchased any time of the year in containers or as bare root. Bare root plants are more commonly planted during mild weather late fall through spring.

Strawberry plants perform quite well in pots. The berries are hanging over the edge but not touching the ground. This gives them some protection from birds, slugs, snails and pillbugs. You can grow a single, full-size plant in an 8-inch container. Our Laguna Hills Nursery custom potting soils, ACID MIX and TROPICAL POTTING SOIL are superb. Most commercial potting soils will provide mediocre results. Perhaps the best potting soil is construction sand. Our favorite soil in containers is a mixture of sand with ACID MIX.

Strawberry plants require ample moisture at all times. Plants that get severely dry often don’t recover until the following year. Small pots placed in deep saucers filled with water can last a week on a single irrigation. The “moat” that is created will also guard against snails, earwigs and pillbugs.

During summer most plants produce baby plants on long stems called “runners”. These baby plants will grow roots where they touch the soil. These can be removed to increase production of berries or saved to increase the number of plants. The baby plants start production the next year. Do not allow too many plants to grow. Try to keep them a minimum of 6-inches apart on center. Older plants and dead plants can be removed to make room. Results are improved greatly if several handfuls of soil are also removed and replaced.

Strawberry plantings require crop rotation, just like any other crop.

The plants that grow from runners are clones and genetically identical to the parent. Strawberry plants will also grow from seed, however these will be genetically different.

VARIETIES

Strawberry varieties can be classified as to when they bear fruit and how they grow.

June Bearing (Short day) varieties are most common. They generally have the largest, highest quality berries and are the most productive. They also produce the most runners during summer. The Southern California commercial varieties currently are Camarosa, Palomar, and Ventana. These were chosen for heavy early production (using clear plastic mulch), storage characteristics, beauty, and ease of production.

Camarosa This is a popular commercial variety with high yield and large to very large firm fruit of good flavor. Mildew may be a problem.

Chandler This is probably the most popular variety for home use and U-pick farms. The berries are medium to large with medium firm flesh and are very sweet and fragrant. Outstanding flavor. Long harvest period.

Palomar A new commercial variety for local growers that has excellent flavor. The flesh is firm.

Sequoia This variety set the standards for flavor and sweetness in Southern California. The large berries are not firm and require frequent harvesting. Outstanding flavor. Long harvest period.

Ventana Similar to Camarosa with slightly larger fruit and slightly better flavor (considered very good).

Everbearing & Day Neutral

These varieties produce continuously, although heaviest in summer and sporadically through fall. Mild coastal conditions promote more constant production. High temperatures inhibit flower production.

Albion This new variety has very attractive, long conical, unusually symmetrical fruit with dark red skin and dark red flesh. Outstanding flavor. It is resistant to various root diseases. It produces a high number of runners compared to other everbearers. Remove these to increase production. It is being tested commercially in S. Cal.

Monterey This variety has outstanding flavor and is the only variety with a notably sweet aftertaste. The flesh is firm. Unfortunately it is susceptible to mildew.

San Andreas Similar to Albion, perhaps a better producer with the same outstanding flavor and very firm flesh. Doesn’t share Albion’s problem of excessive runner production.

Seascape The fruit are large and attractive with glossy skin and very good flavor. This variety resists many viral diseases and is highly productive.

Alpine (Woodland)

These small, clump-forming, plants produce small (tiny), highly fragrant berries over a long period during warm weather. These can be grown from seed or divisions.

Alexandria The fruits are red with unbelievable flavor.

Growing Strawberries

Florida strawberries can be planted in home gardens beginning in the fall and enjoyed through the winter and spring.

Currently ‘Camarosa,’ ‘Sweet Sensation®,’ and ‘Festival’ varieties are recommended for Florida home gardens. All varieties produce berries for fresh eating or freezing. ‘Camarosa’ is best for North Florida, ‘Festival’ for Central.

Growing Conditions

Growing strawberries requires temperatures between 50°F–80°F and less than 14 hours of daylight for the strawberries to flower and produce fruit. In Florida, these conditions occur throughout the fall, winter, and spring.

Strawberries in Florida are planted in September to early November, and flowering and fruit continue through April or May. Fruit set will not be constant, but will have two or three cycles, and can be interrupted by freezes.

Site & Planting

Grow strawberries in a full-sun location with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. You can plant strawberries in rows in raised beds or in planter boxes, pots, or other containers. Just make sure your planting spot has good drainage.

Before planting, mix in two pounds of a fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium per 10 feet of soil.

Use transplants for planting; bareroot transplants are the most common, but you may also find plug (container) transplants in plastic trays or pots at garden centers.

Many growers plant strawberries in raised beds with black plastic mulch for weed control and to keep soil off the berries. Set your transplants through slits in the mulch. Make sure you do not cover the crowns of transplants.

Freeze Protection

Temperatures below 32°F will damage the fruit and flowers of strawberry plants, but the crowns and leaves will survive to temperatures in the low 20s if they have been acclimated to cool weather.

If a freeze comes along, protect the plants by covering them with old sheets or a commercial row cover during the afternoon and all night. Anchor the coverings so that the wind does not blow them off the plants.

Disease & Pests

Using healthy transplants is one of the best defense strategies for warding off diseases and pests when growing strawberries. Purchase plants from reputable nurseries or garden centers.

Most diseases on leaves, flowers, or fruits can be controlled with fungicides for home garden use. Make sure the label specifies that it can be used on strawberries and follow all label directions. Be sure to remove dead and diseased leaves from the plants to reduce infection.

Control powdery mildew with applications of sulfur. Make sure temperatures are cooler than 80°F before applying sulfur, or it will cause burns on fruit and foliage.

Insects on strawberry plants will change with the season. Caterpillars are found early in the season; aphids and thrips later. Spider mites are a persistent pest — look for them around December.

Nematodes and soilborne diseases can cause problems if you plant your strawberries in the same spot each year. Switch your planting areas, and avoid planting strawberries in spaces where tomatoes, eggplant, or other vegetables susceptible to verticillium wilt have just been grown.

Harvesting

Strawberries are ready to harvest when three-quarters of the berry’s surface is red. Once the fruit is completely red, it rots quickly, so be sure to harvest regularly, usually every two to four days.

More Information

For more information on growing strawberries at home including care and pest management options, contact your local Extension office or read the publication, “Growing Strawberries in the Florida Home Garden.”

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Planting Florida Strawberries

This post was inspired by a comment made by Dhara Mistry asking for tips on planting strawberries. Hopefully this will help anyone else interested in trying out strawberry growing at home!

The perennial strawberry plant is treated as an annual in Florida because of heat sensitive berry plants cannot survive the long hot summers. begin preparing your soil in September, plant in October and harvest berries from late December until May.

  1. Begin by adding nutrients to the soil, till any grass or organic material and let decompose.
  2. Sterilize the soil by wetting the garden and covering with a clear, water resistant plastic sheeting. The soil should be sterile after a few weeks.
  3. Next it is time to fertilize. The best way is to provide measured feedings of organic or commercial fertilizer several time throughout the season. Apply less in the beginning of the growing cycle to avoid fertilizer burn. Apply more when plants are established and producing blooms.
  4. After fertilizing you are ready to purchase your plants. Many retail nurseries carry plants during October for home gardeners.
  5. Trim off any dead leaves and soak the roots thoroughly to prevent them from drying out.
  6. Dig a hole in the soil large enough to spread out the plant’s roots.
  7. Place plants with the base of the crown level with the surface of the soil. Do not set too deep. Pack the soil around the roots.
  8. As the season progresses, keep your berry plants weeded and cultivated. Lay straw, hay or pine needles around the base of each plant. This helps retain moisture, protects against cold weather, prevents weeds and keeps berries clean.
  9. The plants will need almost constant irrigation during the heat of the day.
  10. After plants are established, you will need to watch for pests and disease and listen to weather reports for news of freezing temperatures. It is very important that you are able to do this to the best of your ability as if you don’t, you could find unwanted pests in and around your property. The most efficient way to be able to get rid of your pest problem is to contact someone similar to these pest control experts ohio so that your plants can remain unharmed. Let’s not forget that they can also keep you from getting unwell. So make sure that you keep an eye out for pests as often as you can so you can stop this problem from becoming serious.

If you have any further questions, please contact your local county extension office or master gardener. You can also ask right here in the comments, on our Facebook page or through Twitter!

Growing strawberries in Florida is a rewarding experience for the home gardener. At season’s end, you will have delicious fruit and a unique understanding of the hard work and patience involved in commercial strawberry production.

  • Preparing the Fields
  • Add Epsom Salts to Water for Homemade Fertilizer
  • Jammer Saves the Farm

NorthEscambia.com

Weekend Gardening: Time To Plant Strawberries

October 12, 2013

In many parts of the country, strawberries are a summer crop, but here in Florida they grow best during the cooler months of the year. Plant yours between October 15 and November 15 to enjoy tasty berries in the spring.

Temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees F and less than 14 hours of daylight are required for the development of flowers and fruit on most strawberry varieties. This combination of day length and temperature exists for much of the fall, winter and spring in Northwest Florida.

Strawberry plants are perennial; they can live for several years. However, because of their susceptibility to diseases, we normally grow them as annuals here in Florida. To be successful with strawberries, it’s important to plant the right variety, protect the flowers from freezing weather and manage pests.

The first step in successful strawberry production is choosing adapted varieties. Currently, the University of Florida suggests three varieties for the Florida home garden: ‘Camarosa’, ‘Sweet Charlie’, and ‘Festival’. All three varieties produce attractive, flavorful berries suitable for eating fresh or for freezing.

‘Camarosa’ has been the most productive variety in North Florida. It produces a blocky, dark red berry.

‘Festival’ is the number one variety in Florida. It has good red color and is a firm, conical shape berry with medium sweetness. It is an excellent choice for eating.

‘Sweet Charlie’ is a University of Florida variety. Although it is an older variety, consumers still like it. Its soft sweet fruit is an orange red color.

Strawberries grow best in a location receiving at least eight hours of direct sunlight per day. If a full sun location is not available, try to choose a spot that is sunny during the morning and early afternoon. The soil should be well drained and slightly acidic with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

Strawberries can also be planted in growing boxes, strawberry pots, barrels and other containers. For best results, fill your container with a high-quality potting media—do not use garden soil.

Strawberry flowers and fruit can be injured by air temperatures below 32 degrees F. However, if properly planted, the plant itself will not be damaged unless the temperature falls to the low 20’s. If a frost or freeze is predicted, cover the plants with a lightweight blanket. This will help prevent the flowers or fruits from getting damaged.

The key to successful pest management is to begin with healthy, disease-free transplants. If problems do arise, be sure to contact your local Extension Agent for advice and recommendations. Additional advice is available in an online publication located at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs403.

The first berries should be ready to pick roughly 90 to 110 days after planting. The harvest season usually stretches through May with fruit yield peaking around March.

Pick berries when at least three-fourths of their surface has turned red. The fruit quickly deteriorate once it becomes totally red. So, it is best to harvest regularly—every two to four days.

Once picked, the berries will not sweeten any further. Freshly picked strawberries generally keep for only a few days, so be sure to eat them soon after harvest. If you have a surplus of berries, you may freeze them.

Theresa Friday was the Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County.

Written by William · Filed Under FEATURE TOP STORY, Features, News

Strawberries

Strawberries are delicious and easy to grow, making them a fun choice for new gardeners, especially kids. February and March are the peak seasons for eating strawberries in Florida and many areas have strawberry festivals during these months.

In many parts of the country, strawberries are a summer crop, but here in Florida they grow best during the cooler months of the year. Plant yours in early fall to enjoy tasty berries in the spring.

Characteristics

Strawberry plants are low-growing herbs that spread into clumps via runners. Strawberries are normally grown as annuals here in Florida because they usually decline once temperatures heat up in the summer.

While there are many cultivars on the market, not all are suited for growing in Florida. Florida-Friendly cultivars include ‘Sweet Charlie’, ‘Camarosa’, ‘Chandler’, ‘Oso Grande’, ‘Selva’, and ‘Festival’.

Planting and Care

Planting times will vary depending on where you are located in the state. Gardeners in North Florida can plant between September 15–October 15, those in Central Florida between September 25–October 25, and South Florida gardeners can plant between October 1 until the first of December.

Buy transplants from local garden centers in late fall or early winter and plant them 10 to 18 inches apart. You can plant them at ground level, in raised beds, or even in containers. For best results, put the plants in a rich soil or potting media, water them often, and fertilize regularly with a balanced fertilizer.

If a frost or freeze is predicted, covering the plants with a lightweight blanket will help prevent the flowers or fruits from getting damaged.

The first berries should be ready to pick roughly 90-110 days after planting. If you have trouble with birds or rabbits stealing fruit, try using netting to protect the plants.

Pick berries when at least three-fourths of their surface has turned red. Once picked, the berries will not sweeten any further. Freshly picked strawberries generally keep for only a few days, so be sure to eat them soon after harvest. If you have a surplus of berries, you can freeze them.

The UF/IFAS Strawberry Breeding Program

The UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) has a wonderful strawberry breeding program. All UF/IFAS cultivars are developed through traditional breeding methods and are not genetically engineered. The GCREC develops strawberry cultivars for the Florida industry, and commercial production is concentrated on more than 11,000 acres in west-central Florida. Criteria for selection include: High marketable yields, especially in the early season; excellent fruit appearance, size, and shelf life under harsh environmental conditions; consistently sweet flavor; and resistance to multiple diseases of economic importance.

For more information on strawberries, contact your county Extension office.

UF/IFAS Sites

  • Florida Plant ID: Strawberry
  • Strawberry Research at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

UF/IFAS Publications

  • Growing Strawberries in the Florida Home Garden
  • ‘Sweet Charlie’ Strawberry

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“Seventy dollars! You spent seventy dollars on strawberry plants!”

This was my wife talking not too long ago, looking over the bank statement. Now, if you ask me, there was a tiny bit of over-reaction there. It wasn’t like I took money from our children’s mouths to feed my strawberry habit. It was more like … it was more like … I got a little carried away.

The thing is, growing strawberries is so clearly worth it. It’s not especially hard, and there’s nothing–literally nothing–like a fresh strawberry.

So here it is … in no particular order, my best tips for growing strawberries:

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  1. Buy transplants and use containers. Don’t be a hero. Forget about growing them in the ground and starting from seeds. You’ll just make yourself miserable. You can grow a single strawberry plant in a smallish container, six in an EarthBox, or if you want to go crazy, up to 36 in a stackable container, like the one I use from AgroTower. These stackable towers are all the rage nowadays, especially in South Florida, and they work great for strawberries. A single tower costs about $60, you don’t need fancy irrigation systems, and it looks pretty cool.
  2. Snip off the runners as they grow. You might think more runners would equal more strawberries, but it doesn’t actually work that way. You’ll get bigger, better fruit from plants with no runners. You can also snip off the first set of flowers if you want, but this isn’t mandatory.
  3. Don’t forget to fertilize! Why is it that so few people use fertilizer? Here’s the thing: if you’re growing any plant in a container, you have to feed it for it to perform. This is doubly true of plants you want to, you know, eat. Use a good vegetable fertilizer. Follow the label directions.
  4. Give them lots of sun. The more, the better.
  5. Keep the dirt evenly moist, but not soaking. This will probably mean watering once or twice a week, depending on the size of the container.
  6. Don’t let the developing strawberries rest on dirt. You’ll end up with rotted fruit. Let the berries hang over the edge of whatever container you’re using as they swell and ripen.
  7. Harvest early and often. Pick the berries as they become ripe, but don’t wait too long. People aren’t the only animals that like vine-ripened strawberries. You’ll have competition from birds, squirrels, and even rats. And if you live in my house, children.

And enjoy!

Florida is actually a major strawberry producing state, and right now is full-on strawberry season. So don’t settle for commercial fruit–grow your own. Because like they say, homegrown is always the best.

  • Ethical Eating

Are you Growing Brilliance Strawberries? Planting Requirements and Nutritional Needs for Florida Strawberries

An interview with Jason Garcia, Huma Gro® Regional Manager and Agronomist

By Jael Batty

In August, Florida strawberry growers will begin laying plastic for the next season. Planting starts in September/October and harvest extends from December to early April. After the strawberry season, growers are double-cropping with watermelon, bean crops, or vegetable crops.

In the following interview with Huma Gro® Regional Manager and Agronomist, Jason Garcia, we cover the Brilliance variety of strawberry and recommended nutrient applications.

What are the hot topics in strawberries in Hillsborough County?

New berry varieties. Berry varieties start out strong before they run their course. Most varieties have a 10 to 12-year life span before being replaced by the variety that’s coming out. There are a few challenges with new varieties. It generally takes a couple of seasons before we really understand how those varieties need to be treated in terms of planting dates and nutritional factors.

Are you ironing out those differences now?

We have them ironed out. We ran into a few issues the previous strawberry season because we treated them as we had our other varieties, planted a bit too late. Having been born and raised here, I’ve never seen all the fields planted by the end of September. So, we learned our lesson there about changing our planting date, backing it up a couple of weeks. The weather has a lot to do with it. Soil temperature has a lot to do with it. There are a lot of factors that figure into it. We want to hit the market as soon as we can because that’s where the growers are getting the better price.

Tell us about the locally-grown varieties.

Let me start with the varieties that have been around for a while. Sensation is a great berry. Radiance has also been around a bit. Then, there are our new varieties. Florida Beauty, in my opinion, is lacking in beauty. The Brilliance variety puts out a higher quality fruit than some of the other varieties.

About 90% of my growers have ordered their plants for next year. I don’t have a lot of growers who will be planting Radiance. They’re going to be replacing those with the Brilliance. It looks like the majority of the acres in Florida will be planted with the Sensations and the Brilliance.

What makes the Brilliance more appealing than the Radiance?

It’s an early picking or early market berry. We get what we call bullets. The berries are almost shaped like a bullet. This is due to high soil temperatures. The fruit isn’t given enough time to size-up and mature into a marketable berry. So, you’re throwing a lot of fruit on the ground. These Brilliance have shown that they aren’t as touchy as the Radiance. So, we’re getting good quality fruit on the early picks when the market’s high.

What different requirements are you seeing for the Brilliance?

As far as nutrients go, we’re going to keep using historical treatments. All our liquid nutrients go through a drip and everything’s under plastic. So, soil nutrients will be going through drip tape. They will continue to run the same way, adding in foliar applications of Huma Gro®. We have some programs this coming season that will increase not only early fruit size but also increase early fruit yield.

As far as the nutrition requirements difference between the two, in my opinion, the Brilliance doesn’t require as much nitrogen early on as we’re used to applying. That can cause the issues that we’re seeing, depending on weather events. When putting out too much nitrogen early on, and if we have a weather event, then that’s when strawberry diseases start up.

And by weather events, you mean rain, flooding?

Yes. Basically, just rain. If we’re dry, we have other issues with soil temperatures. In high soil temperatures, strawberry plants have a hard time establishing roots. But if we’re getting too much rain, that’s when your bacteria and your different diseases start in on the plant.

Does the Brilliance have a different planting schedule?

We’re going to tweak our planting dates with the Brilliance. Two seasons ago, the University of Florida told us we planted too late, that we needed to plant earlier. This past season, we had a much higher percentage of Brilliance in the ground than the Radiance. A lot of growers planted earlier and then we had high soil temperatures. By the time we put the plants in the ground, the soil temperatures reached about 112° at 2:00 in the afternoon. We were trying to use water to cool the soil temperatures, but we had to reset a lot of plants. So this year, we’re going to be backing our planting dates up a little bit.

Huma Gro Strawberries in Plant City, Florida

What Huma Gro® program do you recommend to Florida strawberry growers?

Before I was working with Huma Gro®, I was looking at a research trial that Barrett Smith set up. It was a soil fumigation trial replacing traditional fumigation with the Promax®. We had great results.

When it comes to a berry program, Promax® is a great product. Florida strawberry growers have issues with weeds during fumigation. Whether we’re applying conventional fumigation or Promax®, nutsedge will be coming up out of the plastic before we even get it done. There isn’t a good conventional fumigant that is also effective on weeds. We have to add an herbicide application on the plastic before the plants are put in the ground. When you’re adding the cost of an herbicide to the cost of conventional fumigation, it can get pricy. The benefit of using Promax® is that it’s less than half the cost of conventional fumigation per acre. It’s a no brainer. The grower is saving money right off the bat.

Once we set the plants, we’ll be going out with the Super Phos® to help establish the root system and get the plant into production. Also, at that point, we’ll start applying Zap®—rotating Promax® and Zap®—to rebuild the soil structure.

Do you recommend different application rates for different plants in different areas or do you recommend the same application rate across the board?

Sometimes I like to change up application rates, but most of these growers have multiple fields in many different areas of the county who rely on field workers to apply their crop products. So, we try to keep it simple to make it fool-proof.

What are the recommended application rates?

We went at a higher rate on the trial but with the Promax®, I recommend ½ to 1 gallon per acre per month and about ½ gallon per acre per month of Zap®. We have about a 7- to 10-day period where we water in, applying overhead water after planting. When we cut that overhead water off—when the plants are lived in—we like to run 2 quarts Super Phos® combined with 1 quart of Breakout® as a soil application through the drip to get those plants up and jumping. That’s a one-time application.

Which micronutrients do you recommend?

We use a lot of calcium after the plant is established. Depending on the grower, once the plants are established, we start putting out a quart of Vitol® and a pint of Breakout®. And once we start seeing berries, and the plants are utilizing a lot of calcium, we’ll add in a pint of Calcium. That’s done on a weekly basis. Once we get into full production, we back it down to a pint each of Vitol®, Breakout®, and Calcium. Depending on what our tissue tests are showing us, we’ll add a pint of Max-Pak® every other spray during the reproductive stage.

This coming season, we’re going to rotate the Golden Pro® and Vitol® together. There are several similarities between the two. But with Golden Pro®, we’ve seen that it increases the brix levels within the plant. So, if we all hit the market at the same time, and the coolers get full, our price per flat starts to drop. Some strawberry growers have a juicing or processing contract, which takes us into a totally different type of picking. The brix level has to be 6 or higher. By adding Golden Pro® in January—which is when we have our heavy pick—we can keep the Brix level as high as possible for strawberry farmers who have juicing or processing contracts.

What pests do you experience in the Hillsborough County area?

Nematodes are a big issue, and the Promax® takes care of that. Spider mites are another problem. Some insecticides are over $100 per acre but we have to apply them or we’re not going to have a crop. I recommend Proud 3®. Proud 3® works well with juveniles and soft-bodied insects, so we’ll be also putting out predatory mites. The thing with predatory mites is that you have to be careful with oil-based products until their population builds up because they’ll smother and kill them. And that’ll reduce your population of beneficial insects. So Proud 3®—since it has a thyme oil base—will be added around January, when the predatory mite population is well-established.

Jason Garcia was born and raised in Plant City where he grew up on a farm before he became involved in the technical aspects of farming. An agronomist and Huma Gro® Regional Manager, Jason has 25 plus years working with strawberry crops. Jason is located in Plant City, winter strawberry capital of the world. Approximately 12,000 acres of strawberries—which is most of the state’s berries—are grown in the Plant City/Hillsborough County area.

Huma Gro® products with Micro Carbon Technology® rapidly deliver essential nutrition to crops for optimal growth, fruiting, and vigor. The results are higher quality harvests, increased crop yields, and maximum profit.

Read more about growing strawberries:

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