Strawberries: You Can Grow That!
Strawberry growing can be as simple as a pot on your patio or hanging by your back door. Set aside a 4x4 foot bed in your garden and you can have strawberry crops for the next few years.
Strawberries grow best in a raised bed of well-drained soil. Mix in plenty of organic materials. If you put a wood frame around the bed, ensure that the wood is not treated with harmful chemicals that will leach into your planting.
Plant strawberries in full sun during the spring. The first year may not yield much of a crop. Strawberry plants send out runners. Pinch them back or guide them back into the bed. Some even recommend pinching off all flowers and runners during the first year to get even bigger crops the following year.
The plants peak at three-years-old. So buy new stock every few years to replenish them.
Put the new, bare-root plants in so the crown is just resting at soil level with the roots gentled fanned out beneath the surface.
They need only about one inch of water per week and are prone to root rot, so don't over do it.
There are two main kinds of strawberries: ever-bearing and June-bearing. As per their names, ever-bearing and June-bearing fruit at different times. June-bearing from late-May to mid-June, while ever-bearing can have several waves of berries throughout the summer. Select June-bearing if you want one large crop for making jams or freezing. Choose ever-bearing if you want to throw some fresh berries in your cereal bowl every few days.
Relatively disease-free, compared to other fruits you may grow, they are plagued by a few pests. Most notably slugs and birds.
To combat slugs, sprinkle around the beds with Sluggo (iron phosphate), which is safe for use around edibles.
For birds, put some shiny, moving objects nearby. For instance, used CDs hanging by strings on your fence or trees. You might also consider investing in some bird netting to cover the beds as the fruits ripen.
In the fall, mulch the strawberry bed with straw (not hay!) or other materials such as pine needles to insulate the plants over the winter. Remove the mulch again in spring.
The strawberry flowers themselves are pretty. Usually white or light pink, some varieties are grown more for their decorative value than for their fruit. The 'Pink Panda' aka Strawberry Potentilla is especially attractive with its bright pink blooms.
Strawberry plants also make good border plantings. They stay low and fairly tidy. The runners are easy to pull if they go astray. (If you choose Alpine varieties, you will not have a runner problem.) So don't hesitate to plant a row of strawberries on the front edge of your flower beds for a sweet treat every time you pass by.
Lynn Moore of Larriland says some of their best customers are gardeners. They find that the time and effort it takes to invest in growing the plants is just not possible with a full work schedule and busy life, so they visit pick-your-own farms for their annual strawberry “fix.” Lynn says she rearranges her life around her plants schedule. “They need what they need when they need it,” she explains. “And most gardeners are just not going to keep that kind of schedule.”
Butler’s Orchard reports that June-bearing varieties do the best in our region. The intense summer heat can damage the ever-bearing varieties. Besides pick-your-own berries, Butler’s also sell the plants themselves including: Earliglow, Northeaster, and Darselect.
Strawberries are expected to be in season for picking at all area pick-your-own farms starting in late May into June. Call first (or check their web sitrs/Facebook pages) to see if the berries are ripe before you make the trip.
All who are involved with You Can Grow That! (YCGT!) believe that plants and gardening enhance our quality of life. We want people to be successful with what they grow and to become more aware of the many gifts that horticulture brings. Find out more at http://www.youcangrowthat.com/.