“Totem” is a June-bearing strawberry that produces medium- to large-size fruit with very good flavor.
“The key thing to remember about strawberries is that there are three main types grown in Oregon,” Strik said, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and leads OSU’s berry crops research program at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora.
She describes each type below and recommends varieties to plant within each category. Read a full list of cultivars and descriptions for each in a publication released earlier this year by the OSU Extension Service, “Strawberry Cultivars for Western Oregon and Washington.”
- Produce one crop per year in June to early July, typically for four weeks each year.
- Produce many runners, which are above-ground stems that grow over the soil surface and forms “daughter plants” from the buds. These new daughters can be managed to increase the yield of the strawberry patch.
- Strik recommends growing June-bearers in the matted row system. Set plants about 12 to 15 inches apart in the row or in the raised bed, with 3 to 4 feet between rows. Allow the early runners to develop and root. Sweep them into the row area, but keep the path between the rows clear by cutting late-forming runners.
- Strik recommends these older varieties: Hood, Puget Reliance, Shuksan, Totem and Benton.
- The cooperative breeding program between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and OSU released these new varieties that Strik recommends: Sweet Sunrise, Sweet Bliss, and Charm. Sweet Sunrise and Charm were released in 2012; Sweet Bliss, 2011.
- Strik also recommends Puget Crimson, released in 2011 by Washington State University.
- Produce a crop almost continuously from late May until frost in the fall. Strik recommends day-neutrals in the yard for fresh fruit all season and your favorite June-bearing varieties for producing lots of high-quality fruit for freezing and jam making in summer.
- Produce relatively few runners compared to June-bearers.
- Strik recommends growing day-neutrals in a hill system. Set plants 12 to 15 inches apart in double- or triple-wide rows. Paths between the rows should be about 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide. Cut off all runners every few weeks.
- Strik suggests the large-fruited varieties Albion and Seascape and the small-fruited, but better-tasting Tristar and Tribute.
- Are better suited than ever-bearers or June-bearers for container gardening in barrels, planters or hanging baskets.
- Produce two crops per year in June-July and in the fall.
- Produce few runners.
- “Our experience with ever-bearers is that they do not have as good a fruit quality as the day-neutral types and with only two crops per year they don’t fruit all season,” Strik said. For that reason, she recommends day-neutral types over ever-bearers.
“A common problem with strawberries is that people tend to keep their strawberry patch in the same spot too long,” Strik said.
Keep your strawberries in the ground for five years, including the planting year. Older strawberry plants show lower yield and smaller fruit size, often due to virus infestation, Strik said.
For this reason, do not establish your new patch with daughter plants or runners from the old patch — these plants will likely get a virus too, she said. Instead, buy new certified disease-free plants from a nursery; this is a good time to experiment with new, recommended varieties.
To learn more about cultivating strawberries, view the OSU Extension publication “Growing Strawberries in Your Home Garden.”
OSU Extension Service provides a variety of gardening information on its website at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/community/gardening. Resources include gardening tips, videos, podcasts, monthly calendars of outdoor chores, how-to publications, information about the Master Gardener program, and a monthly emailed newsletter.
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Early spring is perfect for planting new strawberry plants, but not all strawberries are created equal. They fall into three categories, each with a number of varieties.
June-bearers produce one crop per year, usually during June and July. They are ideal if large numbers of berries are needed at once, such as for jam or freezing. They have the best quality and texture.
Everbearers yield two crops per year, one in June, one in fall.
Day-neutrals produce an almost continuous crop from June until early fall.
How to plant those precious berries, by the matted-row or the hill system. The hill system is best for everbearers and day-neutrals. June-bearers are usually grown in a matted row, but you can grow them in a hill system.
Strawberries grow best
in well-drained, reasonably fertile soil. Organic material worked into the soil improves aeration, drainage and water-holding capacity. Try to apply the organic material a year ahead of planting. Right before planting, apply 1 pound of 10-20-20 fertilizer (or 30 pounds of aged manure) per 100 square feet.
Plant certified, disease-free
plants purchased from a reputable nursery.
runner plants from an old established patch — they are often diseased.
Dig a hole large enough
to put roots straight down and somewhat spread. The midpoint of the crown should be level with the soil surface, and the topmost root should be just below the soil surface. Water plants as soon as they are in the ground.
For matted rows,
set plants 18-24 inches apart in the row (or raised bed), 3-4 feet between rows. Allow runners from these “mother” plants to root — they’ll form a matted row 18 inches wide. Keep the aisles clear by sweeping early runners into the row or by cutting off late runners.
For the hill system,
set plants 12-15 inches apart in double- or triple-wide rows (on raised beds, if necessary). Aisles should be 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide. Remove any runners before they root.
Source: Oregon State University Extension Service
– Homes & Gardens staff
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- Planting Strawberries
- OSU Extension Catalog
- Selecting a site
- Selecting a cultivar
- Establishing your planting
- First season’s care
- Care of established plantings
- Pest and disease problems
- For more information
- When to plant strawberries?
- All About Growing Strawberries
- When to Plant
- How to Plant
- Growing Strawberries
- Harvesting and Storage
- Pest and Disease Prevention Tips
- In the Kitchen
- Growing Strawberries
Strawberries are easy to grow, and they are high in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants. The two main types include June-bearing and ever bearing. June-bearers produce one high-yielding crop per year, early in the summer. This one large crop makes them ideal for canning and freezing. The second main type is the ever bearers. Ever bearers basically produce two crops each year; the first in late June/early July, and the second in the early fall. Day neutrals are considered ever bearers, and they will produce early July through the fall. Ever bearers are ideal for summer-long snacking.
Soil Preparation and Planting
Strawberries will be happiest and sweetest in a full sun location with fertile, well-draining soil. Adding compost to the area before planting is recommended to encourage good drainage, moisture retention and to boost the available nutrients. For good drainage, we suggest planting in a raised bed to help the plants stay free of any root rot problems, at least 10 to 12 inches high.
Space the plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Plant with the roots straight down, with the middle of the crown set level with the top of the soil. Avoid covering the crown. Top dress with Down To Earth Rose and Flower fertilizer two weeks after planting to help the roots get established. Mulching your strawberries is an effective practice to help with weed control and moisture retention. Many weeds will compete for nutrients and water, making it a good idea to keep your strawberry area weed free.
June Bearing – Care
With June-bearers, it is important to remove all flowers during their first year in the ground to allow for crucial root development. You will be rewarded the second year with a much healthier and more abundant crop.
To maintain your June-bearers after the crop has been harvested, it is important to cut the foliage back to 2 inches above the crown and remove all the extra debris. This is called renovation, and it will help with next year’s yield as well as disease resistance. In mid to late July, trim off all but 2 to 3 runners from each mother plant. A helpful rule is to remove all runners that have not rooted by September 1. Fertilize with a balanced organic fertilizer in late summer to encourage fall growth.
Ever Bearing – Care
With ever bearers, it is important to remove only the first flush of flowers, allowing for root establishment. After July 1, you can leave all new flowers to mature into fruit. As with June-bearers, it is a good idea to trim off all but 2 to 3 runners in mid to late July. Again, it is a helpful rule to trim off any runners that have not rooted by September 1. Fertilize ever bearers in small amounts throughout the growing season with a balanced organic fertilizer.
Keep in Mind
Strawberries are shallow rooted, and like plenty of water-especially their first year. Cover with floating row cover if the temperature dips below freezing to avoid any flower damage. Keep strawberries well weeded.
Gather more strawberry growing tips and information from your favorite gardening books, and online.
OSU Extension Catalog
- Bernadine Strik
EC 1307 Revised March 2013 Reviewed: March 2017
Growing strawberries in your home garden can be an interesting and rewarding experience. By growing various cultivars (varieties) of strawberry, you can pick ripe fruit from late spring until frost. If you care for plants properly, you can obtain enough berries for your family from a relatively small area.
Strawberry plants have a short, compressed stem called a crown. The crown produces a whorl of leaves, fruiting structures (inflorescences), branch crowns, and runners. (Runners, also called “daughter” plants, can be used to propagate new strawberry plants.) The strawberry fruit is fleshy, with achenes (seeds) on the surface. The fruit is topped by a calyx—a green, leafy cap—which might remain on the plant when the fruit is picked.
Strawberry types are June-bearers, everbearers, and day-neutrals. June-bearers produce only one crop a year, in June and July. Everbearers produce two crops—one from June through early July and another in the fall. Day-neutrals produce fruit almost continuously through the growing season except when it’s very hot; then, flowers do not form. All types are self-fruitful, so you need only one cultivar for pollination and fruit production.
The fruit of everbearers and day-neutrals typically is smaller, and total seasonal yields often are lower, than those of June-bearers. However, the advantage in growing these types along with June-bearers is that you can harvest fruit for most of the growing season. Day-neutrals are the better choice for fresh fruit throughout the season, as they have a longer fruiting period and better fruit quality. Unfortunately, retail nurseries often lump day-neutrals and everbearers together, calling both “everbearers.”
For more information on strawberry cultivars adapted to Oregon growing conditions, see Strawberry Cultivars for Oregon (EC 1618).
Selecting a site
Strawberries require direct, full sunlight for best production. They bloom early in spring, so don’t plant them in frost pockets—that is, low-lying areas into which cold air drains, or areas where cold air is trapped (for example, a site surrounded by tall trees).
Strawberry plantings can remain productive for 3 or 4 fruiting years. You can minimize many insect and disease problems by rotating the strawberry patch from one site to another each time you make a new planting. See “Planting systems.”
Avoid planting where tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries have grown in the past 3 years. These plants all can be hosts for fungi that cause diseases such as Verticillium wilt, and for insect pests that build up in soil unless you follow a rotation schedule of at least 3 years. Strawberries are subject to several virus diseases that are transmitted to the new runner plants, mainly by aphids.
Selecting a cultivar
Various types of strawberry differ in fruiting season and cultural requirements, and cultivars within a type differ in fruit quality and flavor, appearance, tolerance to pests, cold hardiness, plant longevity, and processed-fruit characteristics.
June-bearing cultivars, the most common, include ‘Hood’, ‘Totem’, ‘Benton’, and ‘Tillamook’. June-bearers produce many runners.
Everbearing strawberries produce few runners; cultivars include ‘Quinault’ and ‘Fort Laramie’. Day-neutrals produce fruit in cycles from early spring until frost; cultivars include ‘Tristar’, ‘Tribute’, and ‘Selva’. Day-neutrals generally produce fewer runners than June-bearers.
It’s important to choose a cultivar adapted to your needs and site. Whichever type and cultivar you choose, buy only certified, disease-free plants from a reputable nursery. Even though it’s tempting, because it’s easy and free, don’t start your new planting with plants from your old patch or someone else’s; this could introduce pest-infested soil and virus-infected plants to your new planting.
Establishing your planting
Preparing the soil
Strawberries will tolerate a wide range of soil types if you properly modify the soil. The soil should be well drained—strawberries can’t tolerate standing water or “wet feet.” They grow best in a raised bed of well-drained loam soil, high in organic matter, that has a pH between 6 and 7.
Avoid planting in heavy clay soils. If the only soil available has poor drainage, you may be able to improve it by tiling and adding organic matter. Planting on ridges or raised beds also helps if soils drain poorly. A raised bed should be about 1 foot high; width depends on how many rows are on each bed (see “Planting systems”). Raised beds can be constructed with wood walls, but walls are not necessary if you can form a raised bed by hilling natural soil and incorporated organic material.
A good supply of organic matter in the soil improves aeration and drainage and increases water-holding capacity. Apply organic matter the summer or fall before you plant; manure, applied at 2 to 3 cubic yards per 100 square feet, is a good source. You also can use decomposed (rotted) compost, leaves, or sawdust.
Use only materials that you believe are free from insects and weed seeds. Dig, plow, or till the material into the soil to ensure that it will be well decomposed by planting time. If you incorporate large amounts of nondecomposed material into the soil, add calcium nitrate (16 percent nitrogen) at 1 pound per 100 square feet to aid in decomposition.
It’s best to check the soil pH 6 months to a year before you plant. If the soil is too acidic (pH below 6), add lime as recommended by the soil analysis. (For more information about soil testing, see Laboratories Serving Oregon: Soil, Water, Plant Tissue, and Feed Analysis, EM 8677, and Soil Sampling for Home Gardens and Small Acreages, EC 628.
In the year before you plant, eliminate all perennial weeds from the planting site. Prevent weeds from going to seed!
The matted-row and the hill systems are the most common for strawberries. The hill system is preferred for everbearers and day-neutrals, because they don’t produce as many runners as June-bearers. June-bearers usually are grown in a matted row, but you also can grow them in a hill system.
In the matted-row system, set plants about 15 inches apart in the row (or on the raised bed), with 3 to 4 feet between rows (Figure 2). Allow the early runners—in the Willamette Valley, those formed from the “mother” plants before September 1—to develop and root. Sweep them into the row area before they root, maintaining a matted row width of 12 to 18 inches. Keep the remaining 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 feet between rows clear by sweeping early runners into the row and by cutting off late-forming runners that grow into the aisle or off the edge of the raised bed (Figure 3).
June-bearers develop flower buds in late summer for next year’s crop. Thus, early-rooted runners are more productive than late-rooted ones, because they have more time to grow before the flower bud initiation period.
The hill system is ideal for cultivars that produce few runners, such as everbearers and many day-neutrals, but it also can be used for June-bearers. Set plants 12 to 15 inches apart in double- or triple-wide rows (on raised beds if necessary). Aisles should be 11⁄2 to 2 feet wide (Figure 4 ). In the hill system, cut off all runners every 2 to 3 weeks. It’s best to wait until runners have formed a daughter plant but have not yet rooted (Figure 5). Removing runners before this time often encourages the plant to produce even more runners.
Purchase certified disease-free plants from a nursery. Plant as early as you can work the soil in spring. If you buy plants but can’t put them in immediately, “heel” them into moist soil or sawdust to prevent the roots from drying.
Planting depth is very important for strawberries! At planting, dig a hole for each plant large enough to accommodate the roots without bending them. Spread the root mass and set the plant at the same depth it was in the nursery container. For bare-root plants, the midpoint of the crown should be level with the soil surface; the topmost root should be just below the soil surface (Figure 6) and not exposed to air even after a good irrigation. If you set plants too low (Figure 6), the growing tip at the top of the crown may be smothered and rot. Cover roots with soil and press firmly to remove air pockets. Water the plants to settle the soil.
June-bearers produce very little fruit in the planting year. Everbearers and day-neutrals produce a “baby” crop in the planting year. Plants will be in full production the next year (“first fruiting season”) and generally are productive for two to four fruiting seasons (1 to 5 full years in the ground). Start your new patch in the year of your existing patch’s last fruiting season, so you won’t skip a year of production.
You can plant strawberries in barrels, planters, or hanging baskets, though fruit production in hanging baskets might be disappointing. These plantings require close care in watering, fertilizing, and other cultural steps.
Day-neutral types are best suited for container production. You will need to remove runners. Containers and soil mixtures should permit excellent drainage. A recommended soil mixture is one part sand, one part finely ground fir bark, and two parts garden or potting soil. Before planting, you can mix in about 8 cups of slow-release (sulfur-coated) fertilizer per cubic yard of the growing medium.
First season’s care
A good guide for fertilization is to observe plant growth. Leaves should be a healthy green; a pale green or yellow and poor runner growth may indicate nitrogen deficiency.
In the planting year, fertilize plants with 2 ounces of nitrogen (N) per 100 feet of row. Use a well-balanced fertilizer such as 16-16-16. To calculate how much product to apply during the year, divide the amount of N you need to apply (in this case, 2 ounces) by the percentage of N in the fertilizer (16%, or 0.16). Thus: 2 ÷ 0.16 = 12.5 ounces of fertilizer per 100-foot row).
In new plantings, do not apply all the fertilizer at once. Instead, divide the total amount into thirds, and apply the first third 2 weeks after planting, the next third 1 month later, and the final third an additional month later. (This assumes you planted your strawberries in early spring.)
Broadcast the fertilizer—spread it evenly over the soil surface in the row in a band a little wider than the row width. To avoid burning plants, broadcast the fertilizer when strawberry foliage is dry, and avoid getting fertilizer directly on plants’ crowns. After broadcasting, remove fertilizer from leaves and crowns by brushing or by sprinkler irrigation, and irrigate right away.
If you use manure, wait until late fall or early winter to apply it. Manure applied in early fall might cause strawberry plants to grow later in the season than they normally would, making them more susceptible to winter injury. When you use manure, reduce the nitrogen fertilizer rate by one-half.
Strawberries have shallow roots. To get maximum growth and yield, never let plants be stressed by lack of water. Keep newly set strawberries well irrigated. The plants will need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week; supplement rain with irrigation as needed. If your soil is sandy, you will need to pay more attention to watering and fertilization. Often, plantings on sandy soil require more frequent and lighter applications of water and fertilizer.
Weeds compete with the shallow-rooted strawberry plant for water and nutrients, and weeds often harbor insects and diseases. Hoe around the strawberries often enough to destroy weeds and keep soil loose. This promotes good growth and permits runner plants to root quickly when establishing the matted row.
You can use sawdust or bark mulch or black plastic in the row to keep down weeds, conserve moisture, and keep fruit clean. (Mulches may lead to an increase in slugs, however.) Mulch is particularly useful for hill-system plantings. Avoid covering the top of the crown or growing point of plants with sawdust or bark mulch.
While black plastic is very useful as a mulch in hill system plantings, clear plastic isn’t as suitable, because weeds thrive underneath it. You can apply plastic most easily just before or just after planting. Before planting, place the plastic over the planting area or raised bed. Overlap the edges of plastic and hold them down with soil. Cut circles 6 inches wide in the plastic where you’ll set the plants. Plant through these holes.
If you lay plastic just after you plant, feel for the plants under the plastic and carefully cut holes around them. The holes cut in the plastic do allow some weeds to grow around the plants, but the holes are necessary to ensure that plants get enough water and fertilizer.
Using drip irrigation under the plastic is ideal.
Although runner plants can’t root through plastic, you still should cut off runners; otherwise, the “mother” plants get weak.
Care of established plantings
Winter and frost protection
In western Oregon, don’t protect strawberry plants from winter cold. However, east of the Cascades, protection might be necessary.
In eastern Oregon, minimize cold damage by covering plants with 2 to 3 inches of loose straw after temperatures first drop below freezing. Remove straw once the risk of severely cold temperatures has passed. It’s important to avoid placing straw on the plants too early or leaving it on too late in spring.
Strawberry flowers can be killed by frost during bloom; open flowers are damaged below 30°F. Frost-damaged flowers have black centers and produce either misshapen fruit or no fruit at all. If frost is forecast during bloom, protect a small strawberry planting by placing a sheet of spunbound polyethylene row cover over the plants. Put the cover on in early evening and remove it in the morning once the risk of frost injury has passed.
It’s best to fertilize established June-bearing strawberries in late summer to promote growth. Fertilizing strawberries in spring is not recommended except in weak plantings. Spring fertilizing results in excessive runner formation and leaf growth—the latter can promote fruit rot—and doesn’t promote more or larger berries. If you use manure, wait until late fall to apply it.
The best time to fertilize established June-bearing strawberries is at renovation. Fertilize plants with a total of 2 ounces of nitrogen for each 100 feet of row. If you use a well-balanced fertilizer such as 16-16-16, apply 12.5 ounces of fertilizer product per 10-foot row. Broadcast the fertilizer all at once, spreading it evenly over the entire row length and width. Irrigate right after fertilizing.
If you aren’t mowing the plants (see “Renovation”), brush or wash the fertilizer off the leaves.
Give day-neutral or everbearing types the same amount of fertilizer, but divide it into thirds or fourths and apply in equal installments from spring through early August.
During the growing season, established strawberries need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. On sites with sandy soils and on any site during very hot weather, plants may need more water. If rain isn’t adequate, irrigate the plants.
Wet the soil 6 to 8 inches deep with each irrigation. Don’t apply so much water that soil is saturated (excessively wet) for long periods. Standing water is harmful, even for a day or two.
After the first season, there are two critical times when good soil moisture is important. The first is from just after bloom through harvest, to ensure the berries swell to maximum possible size. The other is from late August through early fall, when the plant resumes growth and forms flower buds for the following season’s crop.
Keep the planting free of weeds by cultivation or hand pulling. Check with your county office of the OSU Extension Service or a garden supply store for herbicides registered for use on strawberries in the home garden.
June-bearers can be maintained for several fruiting seasons if properly managed and renovated after harvest (Figure 7). Renovation improves the next season’s yield and may decrease fruit rot significantly, especially if leaves are removed from the planting. The planting should be vigorous and relatively free from weeds, insects, and diseases. Renovation is not recommended for day-neutrals or everbearers, because they are still fruiting in late summer.
• After harvest, mow foliage to about 2 inches above the top of the crowns. The best time to mow in western Oregon is from July 14 to August 1. Use hedge clippers or a rotary mower with the blade raised high. Remove and burn or bury all plant debris to reduce disease risk. Take care not to damage the crowns.
• Narrow the rows to about 10 inches wide by using a tiller, shovel, or hoe (go no deeper than 1 to 2 inches).
• In older plantings, thin out old and weak plants, leaving vigorous 1-year-old plants. (This is time consuming, however, and not absolutely necessary.) The best plant density is about five to six plants per square foot of row.
• Remove weeds and keep the planting free of weeds. Rake new runners into the row.
• Irrigate as needed.
To renovate June-bearers in the hill system, mow off foliage 2 inches above the crown, remove and burn or bury all plant debris, and remove all runners through the fall.
Remove all plantings that are no longer productive or that lack vigor (generally, plantings that have had three fruiting seasons). Start a new planting in another location during the last year your existing planting is fruiting.
Pick fruit every few days, depending on cultivar and weather. Warm temperatures and/or rain necessitate more frequent harvesting. Pick all ripe berries; fruit left on the plant becomes overripe, and disease and insect problems may develop.
Harvesting in the morning and picking fruit so that its green, leafy cap stays on usually give a longer shelf life. Avoid washing fruit until just before using it, to prevent softening and decay.
Expect yields of 1 to 2 pounds per plant or 15 to 20 pounds per 20-foot row. Yield varies greatly with cultivar and age of planting; the best yield is usually in the year after planting.
Pest and disease problems
The most serious disease problems of strawberry are Botrytis fruit rot, root rot, and Verticillium wilt. Insect problems include root weevil, aphid, spider mite, crown moth, and symphylan. Photos and suggested control measures for these pests are in Extension’s online PNW pest management handbooks at http://pnwpest.org/
For more information
Strawberry Cultivars for Oregon, C. Finn and B.C. Strik, EC 1618
Laboratories Serving Oregon: Soil, Water, Plant Tissue, and Feed Analysis, J. Hart, EM 8677.
Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook and Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Management Handbook. Revised and reissued annually.http://pnwhandbooks.org/
Soil Sampling for Home Gardens and Small Acreages, M. Rebotham and J. Hart, EC 628.
This information is provided for educational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please consult a qualified legal adviser.
Trade-name products and services are mentioned as illustrations only. This does not mean that the Oregon State University Extension Service either endorses these products and services or intends to discriminate against products and services not mentioned.
Use pesticides safely!
- Wear protective clothing and safety devices as recommended on the label. Bathe or shower after each use.
- Read the pesticide label—even if you’ve used the pesticide before. Follow closely the instructions on the label (and any other directions you have).
- Be cautious when you apply pesticides. Know your legal responsibility as a pesticide applicator. You may be liable for injury or damage resulting from pesticide use.
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When to plant strawberries?
Hello and thank you for your question. There are several types of strawberry plants that you can choose to grow in Oregon; June bearers, day neutral, and everbearing. June bearers produce one crop a year, day neutral berries produce continuously until the first frost, and everbearers produce two crops a year. You must decide which you want and then the variety to plant. The following websites from OSU are two publications about how to select a variety and how to grow strawberries in Oregon. They both provide great information to help you decide when and what to plant. I would personally recommend that you taste varieties to determine which you prefer to eat. The best time to plant strawberries is in the early spring as soon as you can work the soil. You need to know that June bearing strawberries produce only a light crop the first year. My personal experience with day neutral berries is that they provide a great crop the first year. I keep beds of both. The June bearers ensure a large crop for preserving and freezing and the day neutrals for eating all summer. Now is a great time to prepare the location for planting in the Spring.
All About Growing Strawberries
Musk strawberries produce small fruits with a pungent aroma and complex flavor. Berries tend to be precious and few; improve fruit set by adding male plants every couple of years. The unusually tall, vigorous plants form a dense ground cover that can choke out weeds. Musk strawberries are too rowdy for containers.
For more detailed information on each type of strawberry and our list of recommended varieties, see our Strawberries at a Glance chart.
When to Plant
Growing strawberries requires sun and acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Plant strawberries as early as six weeks before your last frost. Use row covers to protect new plantings from extreme cold and wind. You can also set out plants in fall, which is a common practice where winters are mild.
How to Plant
Choose a sunny, fertile site free of perennial weeds. A strawberry patch will produce well for three to four years, so enrich the site with plenty of organic matter. Raised beds or planters are ideal for most types of strawberries, plus they make the berries easier to pick.
A few varieties can be grown from seed, but most gardeners save one to two years’ growing time by setting out individual container-grown plants or dormant bare-root plants sold in bunches. Transplant individual plants to the same depth they grew in their containers. Spread out bundled plants and trim off any dead leaves and roots. Find the central crown, and transplant so the base of the crown rests at the soil line and the roots are spread out. Mulch between all strawberry plants with pine needles, chopped leaves or another mulch that supports acidic soil conditions.
Space requirements vary by strawberry type and variety. Those that produce a lot of vigorous runners should be planted 18 inches apart (they will fill in most of the vacant space by late summer). Plant alpine strawberries that do not produce runners — such as ‘Mignonette’ — 12 inches apart in beds or 8 inches apart in containers.
Following spring planting, pick off flowers that form on June-bearing varieties their first season. With ever-bearing varieties (especially alpines), pinching off the first flowers can lead to better production of later-ripening, more intensely flavored fruits. With vigorous varieties, pinch off about half of the runners to help the mother plants concentrate on the following year’s crop.
If you don’t need more plants, removing all runners from ever-bearing varieties will increase the production of big, juicy berries.
Renovate beds of June-bearing strawberries in summer, after the fruiting season has ended. Pull weeds, and thin plants to 6 inches apart. Mow or cut back old leaves 4 inches from the ground and distribute a light application of a balanced organic fertilizer between the plants. Top the renovated bed with a half-inch of weed-free compost or fertile garden soil. Handled this way, a planting of 25 June-bearing strawberry plants grown in a 30-square-foot bed will produce about 25 quarts (close to 30 pounds) of strawberries annually for three to four years.
Most strawberries produce runners, which can be trained to take root in promising places. Lift and move wanderers in late summer or first thing in spring. Varieties that do not produce runners can be divided and replanted, preferably in early spring.
Harvesting and Storage
Expect some flavor variation each season. Cool, wet springs lead to soft, watery berries, while plenty of warm sun brings about firmer, sweeter fruits.
Pick strawberries with a short stub of green stem attached. Harvest in the cool of the morning and refrigerate right away. Wait until just before eating or preserving strawberries to wash them under cool running water and remove their green caps. Preserve berries within three days for optimal flavor and color.
Pest and Disease Prevention Tips
Slugs and snails chew round holes in fruits at night and hide in mulch during the day. Control them by handpicking, temporarily pulling back mulch, and capturing them in traps. Prevent theft from birds by covering your patch with netting as the first berries ripen.
Strawberries can be weakened by a number of leaf-spot diseases, which can be interrupted by mowing or cutting off the foliage in midsummer.
Older plantings often develop root-rot issues. Start a new bed in a fresh site every four to five years.
In the Kitchen
A generous handful of fresh strawberries will provide your daily quota of vitamin C, along with manganese and a dozen other nutrients. Good flavor pairs include almond, mint, oranges, sharp cheeses or chocolate. Strawberries marry well with rhubarb in tarts, pies and even wine. Freeze imperfect fruits and use them in smoothies or muffins and other quick breads.
You can freeze strawberries whole by placing dry berries on a cookie sheet until hard and then transferring them to a freezer-safe container. Strawberry jams or preserves can be processed in a water bath canner. (See Preserve Strawberries: Easy Recipes to Stretch Strawberry Season for some “berry” good jam recipes.) Dried strawberry slices and strawberry leather are easy to make in a dehydrator.
For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.
For help with planting dates, spacing and other aspects of garden planning, be sure to check out our amazing online Vegetable Garden Planner.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
March 26, 2013 12:00 am
Posted in: Edible Plants, Garden to Table
Choosing a Site:
A deep, rich, well drained sandy loam is ideal for strawberry production. A slight to medium acid soil is best. Due to strawberry’s high water requirement, the soil needs to have plenty of organic matter to help hold moisture for growing plants. It is wise to amend the soil with compost prior to planting.
It is important to plant as early as possible in the spring. Snow or light frosts will not hurt the plants. Plants should be planted in rows 12”-18” wide. Plants should be planted 12”-18” apart. Set plants with roots straight down. Care should be taken so that the plants are set with the crowns level with the top of the ground. This is very important to the strawberry’s survival and overall health. Through out the season avoid covering either old or new crowns with soil while hoeing, weeding, or cultivating. Be sure to water the plants well after planting.
To keep your plants healthy and productive over the years, follow these few steps:
- As soon as harvest is complete, mow off the leaves using your lawn mower set at the highest setting.
- Rototill to narrow that row width to 12”-18”. Remove excess plants to leave 3-5 around each plant.
- Fertilize with a well balanced slow release, All Purpose fertilizer.(4-4-4)
- Maintain adequate moisture throughout the remainder of the growing season.
- Mulch in November when plants start to go dormant. This will help with fluctuating temperatures.
Berries will be bright red, slightly firm and juicy when ripe. The berries will also have a natural shine. Strawberries should be picked at their prime. They do not ripen after picking.