Saturday, May 01, 2021

Plant Profile: Strawberry

Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) -- Sweet. Luscious. Juicy. No wonder this fruit is blushing! Strawberries are one of the most-loved edibles. They can be eaten straight from the plant; used in jam or dessert recipes; or frozen and enjoyed in mixed drinks and shakes throughout the year. Not only is it versatile in the kitchen, it is also amazingly easy to grow.

   Strawberry growing can be as simple as a pot on your patio or hanging by your back door. Set aside a 3x3 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 located in full sun. Mix in plenty of organic materials. Plant out strawberry crown divisions during the early spring. The first year may not yield much of a crop. Strawberry plants will then send out runners. You can cut them off or guide them back into the bed. Some experts recommend pinching off all flowers and runners during the first year to get big crops the following year.

   The plants peak at three-years-old. So you will need to add new stock every few years to replenish them. They are perennials in Zones 5 to 8.

   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. Some popular varieties to try are ‘Earliglow’, ‘Northeaster’, and ‘Darselect’.

   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. You might also consider investing in screening or 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 up 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. 

Strawberries  - You Can Grow That!

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine.

Visuals by Khloe Quill
Audio by Kathy Jentz

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