When planting strawberries, you can cultivate them not just for food. They also make good groundcover and as ornamental plants.
Types of Strawberry Plants
There are three choices: June Bearing, Everbearing, and Day Neutral. The selection for each category of strawberries is growing. Ask your local nursery for recommendation which variety is best for your area.
The June Bearing Strawberries
The June Bearing is commonly grown traditionally. It produces many runners, and has the largest fruits of the three selections. It produces just once per year. As the name implies, most of the fruit ripening occurs in June. Some varieties include Cavendish, L’Amour, Earliglow, Cornwallis, Kent., etc . The June Bearing has a wide assortment. Ask your local nursery about them.
The Everbearing Strawberries
The Everbearing bears fruits sporadically. It usually produces in the spring and in late summer, but do not expect much from it during the remainder of the growing season. The Everbearing variety does not produce many runners like the June Bearing. Some varieties include Gem, Arapahoe, Ozark Beauty, Geneva, etc. Thus far, there are 11 varieties available. Ask your local nursery about them.
The Day Neutral Strawberries
The Day Neutral is an improved variety of Everbearing strawberries. It bears fruits all of growing season, but does better during cooler weather. Like the Everbearing, the Day Neutral also produces few runners. The varieties include Seascape, Tristar, and Tribute. The newest variety is the Everest, which may cause some problems with winterizing.
Selecting Strawberry Plants
Since plants from previous plantings are usually infected with disease, purchase new ones from reputable garden centers or nurseries. Whatever variety you have chosen, they should be certified as free of disease. Look at the size of the plants’ crowns: you want them large. Look at the color of the roots: they need to look healthy with light color. If you cannot plant them right away, place the plants in a plastic bag with peat moss around the roots so that they do not dry out. If you have dry roots, you will have soon-to-die plants. Store the plants in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, but plant within two weeks, at the latest.
If You Cannot Plant Immediately
If you cannot plant right away after purchase, carefully place the strawberry plants in a plastic bag with peat moss. Have sufficient peat moss so that the plant roots are properly protected from drying out. Otherwise, your strawberry plants will die! Keep the plastic bag in your refrigerator. The ideal temperature is between 32 to 40ºF. Plants can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Requirements for Strawberry Plants
- Full sun and well-drained soil
- Soil pH between 5.8 to 6.2
- Due to the possibility of verticillium infection, it is recommended that you do not plant strawberries in the same plot where peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, or potatoes were cultivated in the last three or four years
- Do not over-fertilize, unless you want more leaves and less fruit. (One pound of 10-10-10 every 100 sq. feet.)
- Irrigate one to two inches per week
- When harvesting strawberries, do not pull the fruit from the plant. Break the stem above the berry.
- Close bird netting, to help protect the berries from the birds .
Whatever the variety, if you want the best flavor, wait until a day or two after the fruit is in full color before picking.
The best time to plant strawberries is in the spring or in late fall, when the soil is just sufficiently dry to work. Clear the planting site of weeds and keep it weed-free. Enrich the soil with approximately one to two inches of organic nutrients like well-rotted manure or compost. After planting, mulch between plants. Not only will the mulch keep the temperature of the soil cool and the fruits off the soil, it will help with weeds. You can utilize straw for mulch, but avoid black plastic. The latter will cause the soil temperature to rise and cause injury to the plant crowns. If you live in colder climates, mulch only when the temperature reaches about 20ºF. Make the mulch about six or more inches thick. It will be easier on yourself if you choose mulches that are easy to remove.
Planting the June Bearing Strawberries
Make a mound sufficiently large so that when you make a hole in its center, the roots of the strawberry plant can be spread. Place the strawberry crown in the hole at soil level. Distribute the roots downward on the mound. Cover with soil until just midway of the crown. When the runners come out, situate each about seven inches apart and press lightly into the soil. Cover with about half an inch of soil. Do not cut off the runners from the mother plant. In the first year of planting, remove all the flowers. Do not lament the lack of strawberry crops in the first year. The removal of the flowers will yield for you a better crop the following year and help ensure more years of fruiting.
Planting the Everbearing and Day Neutral Strawberries
Make a garden bed about eight inches high and two feet wide. Stagger the plants in double rows approximately one foot in between. During their first year up to the first of July, remove the runners and the flowers when they come out. Thereafter, you may let the strawberry plants have their fruit. You will need to replace your Everbearing and Day Neutral Strawberry plants every three years, or less if the plants show signs of losing health and vigor.
Just for the June Bearing Strawberries
If you want to get the most life out of your strawberry plants, cut them down to about three inches in height after the last harvest. Be very careful not to injure the crowns. Fertilize with five pounds of balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 feet of row. Till between the rows. Thin the plants six to nine inches in between. Favor the younger plants. Start with new plants whenever there is a reduction in yield, or the plants start losing their vigor.
Indeed, planting strawberries is quite rewarding – it will give you food and an attractive display for your home and garden.