GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Published February 14, 2016
Let’s talk about picking strawberries, not harvesting those delicious red berries but selecting which varieties to grow. There are three main types of strawberry varieties, or more correctly cultivars or cultivated varieties. There are June-bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral cultivars.
June-bearers form their flower buds (that turn into the berries) in the fall and produce their one main crop of berries in spring or early summer, depending on the cultivar. Everbearers form their flower buds in the fall and again during summer and produce one crop in spring or early summer and a second crop in late summer or early fall. Day-neutral strawberries form their flower buds all through the growing season, producing a continuous crop of berries with production slowing during the heat of summer.
June-bearers tend to have the largest berries and produce the most fruit over a relatively short period of time. This makes them a good choice for gardeners growing strawberries with the goal of preserving them by freezing or for making jam. Day-neutrals generally produce smaller berries with great flavor over a much longer period, making them a good option for fresh eating.
Another consideration in selecting strawberry cultivars is their winter hardiness. The plants need to be able to withstand the cold of winter in the region they are grown. Some cultivars are very popular in other parts of the country or even other regions in Washington, but may not perform well here. Look for hardy cultivars recommended for growing in the inland Northwest. Here are some of them:
When it comes to June-bearing cultivars, there are a number of possible choices. Benton and Hood are long-time favorites. Hood produces large fruit early in the season and is good for fresh eating or making jam, but does not stand up well to freezing. Benton produces smaller, medium-size berries in late mid-season. They are good fresh and fair as frozen berries. Two other recommended June-bearers are Rainier and Shuksan. They are judged to have the best flavor for fresh eating and are good to excellent for freezing, although Rainier’s berries turn dark rapidly in hot weather.
Popular everbearers recommended for eastern Washington are Quinault, Ogallala, and Fort Laramie. None of these have great size and the fruit is generally not as firm as that of other types.
Day-neutral strawberries are my favorites. Tribute, Tristar, Albion, and Seascape are all recommended for our region. Tribute and Tristar have been around a long time and are dependable. They only have medium-size berries, but their excellent flavor makes up for this. Seascape, a California strawberry, has larger berries with good flavor but the plants are very susceptible to verticillium wilt. This disease can be a problem in local gardens and will shorten the life of a planting. Fern, another day-neutral sometimes seen for sale, is also susceptible to verticillium wilt and has not been tested for production in Washington.
If you want to grow strawberries, now is a good time to start planning what cultivars to plant. Check with your local nursery to see what cultivars they plan to offer this year. Purchase dormant, certified virus free plants for planting in early spring. For more information on growing strawberries in your garden, refer to “Berries for the Inland Northwest” at http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/MISC0253/MISC0253.pdf and “Growing Strawberries in the Inland Northwest & Intermountain West” at http://www.cals.uidaho.edu/edcomm/pdf/bul/bul0810.pdf They provide information on site selection, planting, and care of garden strawberries.