Strawberry lovers have their tastes. Some love those potent little Alpine babies. Others of us love those big fat juice-down-your-jaw types that you eat when you pick. Then there are ones who want their firm non messy berries that store a bit better.
- June Bearers, Camarosa, Chandler (high yield, large fruit), Oso Grande, Sweet Charlie, produce lots of runners, so rows quickly become a tangle of plants. The constant new growth and work of production requires regular fertilizer, typically a light feed of liquid fish/kelp every two weeks or so. They produce intensely in or around June and that’s it. For some gardeners that’s just right.
- Day Neutral Albion (high yield, large firm fruit, resistant to verticillium wilt) and Seascape produce small crops of berries in cycles all season long. They don’t send out as many runners as June-bearers.
- EverBearers Sequoia, large fruit, produces from spring to fall, whenever the weather is right. Everbearers have fewer runners than June bearers.
Timing is essential to a productive strawberry crop. Strawberry and onion varieties are region specific, strawberries even more than onions. So plant the varieties our local nurseries carry, or know that you are experimenting! Plant when your local farmers do! In Santa Barbara CA area, plant your bareroot Albion Strawberries NOW NOV 1 to 5 (get at Island Seed & Feed)! Yes, the Santa Barbara dates are that specific! OR plant bareroot Sequoias December through February. In January you can get healthy bareroot Sequoias at La Sumida Nursery.
In areas with cold winters, plant your strawberries early spring as soon as all danger of frost has passed and the ground is dry enough to work. If you squish soil in your fist, it doesn’t drip.
In mild winter areas, plant your everbearers in spring so that you can harvest during summer. June-bearing varieties, however, can be planted in late summer or fall for a harvest the following spring. Planting June-bearing strawberries at this time allows them to become productive earlier. If you plant June bearers in spring, they will not start to grow fruit until the next year.
Yes, you can plant from seed! Start them in containers indoors about eight weeks before you plan to transplant the strawberries to the garden.They love sun, and rich, moist, well-draining soil. Be careful about the ‘rich’ part. Too rich and you will get all leaf, no berries. Dig the patch deep enough that the roots can go as deep as they want. Bareroot plants start at 5 to 6″ when planted! In nature strawberries grow along the woodland edge in slightly acidic soil. You can make them optimally happy by incorporating some pine needles, stomped cone broken bits or a bagged acidic compost mix into your soil. Both of those will add water holding capacity but not water log your plants.
There are variations of recommendations for planting spacing. 14 to 18 inches apart in rows 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart, OR 18-24 inches apart in rows 3 1/2 feet apart, are two examples.Get bareroot plants in the ground the day you get them if possible. DO NOT LET BareROOTS DRY OUT. If you can’t set them at once, small lots can be kept in good condition in the fridgie. Keep them moist but not waterlogged. To wake them up before planting you can soak the roots 20 mins to a couple hours (not overnight!) in warm water or a diluted seaweed solution. Just the roots, don’t immerse the whole plant.
Plant depth and root position are important. You want the crown just above the soil, roots completely covered, stems should be completely exposed. Spread the roots open like a little fan; get them down in the soil, let those little food seekers do their job! Some of your bareroots come with long roots, cut them off about 5 – 6″ long. Remove damaged or bent roots. Dig your planting hole accordingly. Dig down, make a little soil cone at the bottom, spread the roots over it, bury with soil. You don’t want the roots to be bent and remain near the surface where they can dry out.
Mulch, when or not? If you live where there are cold snaps, in winter do a deep straw mulch to keep the soil at an even temp. Otherwise, remove mulch so the ground will be warmer. Definitely pull it off into an aisle in spring; make compost in place! Mulch does conserve moisture in summer, keeps your berries up off the ground, reducing rot, yes. But it also keeps soil cooler delaying flowering. It certainly doesn’t prevent slugs like many sites say it will. I am merciless with slugs. I use a tad of Sluggo type stuff two or three times, killing off the generations of slugs, and am pest free for almost the rest of the season. If they reappear, do another round. If you don’t mind that cooler soil, plant just close enough, mature plants act as living mulch shading the soil and preventing moisture loss. Save your back, save the straw.
No overhead watering. That spreads the Strawberry Spot disease, those little brown spots. Some say it is only cosmetic, but no, plants that have it don’t thrive, get more and more of it, eventually die. Leaf to leaf it spreads plant to plant. Remove/replace sick plants. Plant a little further apart. Be sure your soil is a little acidic.
Weeding is good. Be sure it is your strawberries that are getting the nutrients.
Treat your berries well and they will give you 2 to 3 years of production!
Eat ’em ASAP!!! On average, studies show 2 days as the maximal time for strawberry storage without major loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. However, many strawberries never make it to the kitchen. A cup of fresh berries gives 112% of your Vitamin C needs! Not bad. If they are not eaten blissfully immediately, preserve flavor and shelf life by picking into a shallow, paper towel lined container, no more than three or four layers of berries deep. Refrigerate immediately after picking. If you can bear it, give some away to a worthy recipient.