Friday, March 27, 2015

Strawberries




Fresh strawberry pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, fresh strawberries, and strawberry freezer jam, just think of the possibilities if you had your own strawberry patch.  Strawberries have to be one of the most popular berries grown in the home garden, yet I find that people know little about proper cultural practices concerning strawberries  Most people mistakenly think home grown strawberries are small and yields are scant.  Perhaps we need a refresher course on proper management of an existing bed and how to plant a new strawberry bed.






The bed on the left are Tristar and Ozark Beauties are on the right.
 
  • Strawberries produce best the first through fifth years, however my beds are older than that and still produce a large and abundant crop.
  • Strawberries need well drained soil with lots of organic matter
  • I prefer growing them in a 4x8 foot raised bed but they can be grown in rows.  Rows are more difficult to manage
  • It's best to buy bare root plants in early spring.  They are usually sold in bundles of 25
  • Plant in multiple rows offset in a raised bed.  Try to space plants 6-8 inches apart.  Each plant needs 1 square foot.









 Planting and Early Care of Strawberries


  • Work 2-6 inches of organic matter into the soil.  Be generous and your harvests will be better.
  • Also incorporate a dry organic fertilizer into the bed.
  • During the first year, remove the runners with scissors
  • This will encourage root growth and development
  • Fertilize with fish emulsion the rest of the season
  • Strawberries have shallow roots and require up to 2" of water when fruiting
  •  Infrequent and too little watering are the biggest reason for small fruit and small yields
  • Strawberries are drought tolerant in a landscape setting but will not be productive
  • Mulch around the plants
  • Keep weeds out
 
Harvest with caps and stems.  Hopefully you have some left to take inside.


Managing the Strawberry Patch
  • In winter, let the plants die back and leave them alone until spring
  • In spring when they start to green up, remove a dead debris
  • Thin plants back to 6-8 inches apart 
  • Thin each plant to 5-10 crowns per plant
  • Sprinkle a dry organic fertilizer around the plants
  • Add mulch around plants



 Types of Strawberries

June Bearing

  • Need short fall days to initiate flower buds
  • All flowers that are going to bloom next summer are set in the fall
  • Produce one abundant crop in early summer
  • Good large berries with a concentrated harvest over short time period
  • They are classified into early, mid-season and late varieties.
  • Varieties include Guardian, Earliglow, & Allstar
  • Good for commercial growers or if you want a concentrated harvest for processing.

Real strawberries are red all the way through.

 Ever Bearing Strawberries
   
Initiate flowers in fall that produce the following summer

Also initiate flowers during summer

Produce second crop in summer until frost
Good varieties include Fort Laramie & Ozark Beauty
This is my favorite type of berry.  You basically  get berries from early summer until the first frost.  The spring berries are smaller than the later berries.

Dehydrated strawberries are on of my favorite snacks.  I actually use store bought berries for this purpose.
Day Neutral Varieties
 
Do not require short day to initiate flowering

They start producing once they reach a certain maturity level

They produce a larger crop in the early summer and late fall

They produce sporadic crop throughout summer

Good varieties include Tri-star & Tribute
I have one bed of Tri-star, which is a day neutral type, and a bed of Ozark Beauties which are Everbearing.  The Ozark's are very productive with large berries they are my favorite.  Tristar are very sweet and delicious with the added benefit of producing berries that grow upright on top and stay off the ground.  They are less productive than the Ozarks.


Harvesting Strawberries
 
Morning is the best time to pick.  Berries are firmer

Pick with stems and caps on

Refrigerate as soon as possible

Do not wash or remove caps until ready to use them

Carry a ziploc bag when you are harvesting. When you encounter a berries that have rot or mold put in bag and throw away. 

This will minimize spread of fungal disease
 




Freezing berries is easy. Individually quick freeze them on a tray lined with freezer paper then place in individual bags for use later in desserts, smoothies, of jams.


3 comments:

  1. Do you have a brand of fertilizer that you prefer?

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    Replies
    1. I mix my own. It is one part blood meal and 2 or 3 parts bone meal. It doesn't have to be exact. I usu ally buy a large bag of bone meal and a small bag of blood meal and mix them in a bucket. You can also add a handful of greensand or azomite for trace minerals. You can just use bone meal and get good results.

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  2. What brand of fertilizer would you use?

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