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PICKING STRAWBERRIES

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.

GROW YOUR OWN STRAWBERRIES

written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Imagine picking a sweet juicy strawberry straight from your own garden and popping it in your mouth. Delicious! Strawberries are so easy to grow. If you haven’t tried growing strawberries yourself, you should. Here are some tips on getting started.

1. Strawberries are a herbaceous perennial. This means they come back from their roots and crown for successive years. Single plants can live four to five years so do a good job preparing a strawberry bed for planting. Locate the bed in a sunny spot with good drainage. Work the soil up, tilling in some fertilizer and organic matter, such as well rotted compost.

2. What varieties to grow? There are three different types of strawberries. Those called “June-bearing” varieties have a main crop of berries in June or July and produce lots of runners from which new plants are started within the strawberry bed. “Day-neutral” varieties produce few runners but develop fruit throughout the growing season, only stopping during the hottest part of summer. “Everbearing” strawberries produce few runners, but do have two crops of berries, one in June or July and another one in the fall.

I prefer day-neutrals because I can go out and pick a few berries almost anytime during the growing season. My favorites are Tristar and Tribute, but Selva, Tillicum, and Seascape are also fairly good picks. Some of the best June-bearing varieties for eastern Washington gardens are Hood, Shuksan, Benton, and Rainier with Rainier and Shuksan having the best flavor. Some acceptable everbearing varieties are Quinault, Ozark Beauty, and Fort Laramie, but experts say the day-neutrals perform better.

3. Only buy plants that are “certified virus-free.” Don’t use starts from your old plants or from other gardeners’ plants. Over time, strawberries usually become infected with viruses. You can’t tell by looking that plants are infected, but the viruses seriously limit fruit production.

4. Spacing your plants is important. June-bearers are normally grown in a “matted row” where plants are set 15 to 24 inches apart within rows situated 36 to 42 inches apart. Runners are allowed to fill in the spaces between plants and within the row until the “matted row” is 14 to 18 inches wide. Because day-neutrals don’t produce plentiful runners they’re grown in “hills” with plants placed 10 to 18 inches apart. One runner is allowed to start another plant between the two mother plants, keeping plants 8 inches apart.

5. One of the most common mistakes novice growers make with strawberries is at planting time. Look for the swollen base of the plant from which both the leaves and roots originate. This is called the crown. When planted, the middle of the crown should be at soil level with half of the crown above the soil line and half below. The roots should be spread out in the planting hole with the top roots just below the surface of the soil. Be sure to check this again after you water the plants in to settle the soil. If too deep, the crown will rot, and if too shallow, the roots will dry out and die.

6. Another common mistake is watering too much. Excessive water leads to crown and root rot, especially if the crown is set too deep or if drainage is poor. Keep soil moderately moist, not wet.

If you want to plant strawberries and need more information check out the WSU Extension publication EB 1640 “Growing Small Fruits for the Home Garden” available on-line at https://pubs.wsu.edu/ or the Oregon State Extension publication EC1307 “Growing Strawberries in Your Home Garden” at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/.

Published: 2/12/2011 2:55 PM

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