When it comes to berries, there’s no question that strawberries continue to rate first place among the majority of home gardeners. In fact, strawberries are grown in every state in the U.S. and every province in Canada. Anyone who has ever grown this delicious fruit knows that nothing compares to the taste of a fresh vine-ripened strawberry right out of the garden.
On the average, Americans eat 3.4 pounds of fresh strawberries each year plus another 1.8 pounds as frozen fruit. They are the first fruit to ripen in the spring. Eight strawberries will provide 140 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C for kids and one cup of berries is only 55 calories. You can have an extended strawberry harvest season provided you grow a mixture of June bearers, everbearers, and day neutrals. June bearers produce only one crop a year, in June and July.
Popular varieties include:
Hood — this is the strawberry that people ask for by name. A very early variety with excellent flavor;
Puget Reliance — a virus tolerant plant with large attractive symmetrical fruit which is usually held off the ground thereby reducing berry rot;
Shuksan — produces deep red berries with excellent flavor;
Rainier — produces a large berry which is attractive and has excellent flavor;
Totem — with sugar added it has an excellent flavor;
Tillamook — produces very large, firm berries on an open growing plant with excellent yields and good fruit size both in first and second seasons;
Puget Summer — produces late-season berries that have excellent flavor.
Day-neutral varieties produce a crop almost continuously throughout the growing season.
Favorite varieties include:
Tristar — small, deep red berry with excellent flavor and good internal color;
Seascape — large, firm berries but doesn’t have quite the flavor as Tristar;
Selva — large, attractive fruit which is very firm, but has little flavor unless allowed to fully ripen.
Everbearer varieties include:
Quinault —large berries with fair flavor;
Ozark Beauty — large, sweet bright red berries and fair flavor.
The fruit of everbearers and day neutrals typically is smaller than that of June bearers, and total yields are often lower. However, the advantage in growing these types along with June bearers is that you can harvest fruit for most of the growing season. Day-neutrals are the best choice for fresh fruit throughout the growing season, as they have a longer fruiting period and better fruit quality.
It’s important to choose a variety adapted to your needs and site. It’s best to purchase only certified, disease-free plants from a reputable nursery. Even though it’s tempting, don’t use plants from an old planting to start a new patch; this could introduce virus infested plants and pest-infested soil to your new planting.
With good cultural care, strawberry plantings can remain productive for three or four years. You can minimize many insect and disease problems by rotating the strawberry patch from one site to another each time you make a new planting. Avoid planting strawberries in heavy clay soils. The soil should be well drained-strawberries cannot tolerate standing water or “wet feet.” You may need to modify your soil by tilling or adding organic matter to improve drainage, or consider planting on ridges or raised beds.
Seventy percent of a strawberry’s roots are located in the top three inches of soil. You can plant strawberries in barrels, planters, or hanging baskets. Container plantings require close care in watering, fertilizing and other cultural practices to maintain plant vigor and productivity. During the planting year, fertilize plants with a total of 2 ounces of Nitrogen for each 10 feet of row. Use a well-balanced fertilizer such as 16-16-16. In new plantings its best to not apply all of the fertilizer at once. Instead, divide the amount into thirds, and apply the first third 2 weeks after planting, the next third one month later and the final third an additional month later.
You can expect yields of 1 to 2 pounds of fruit per plant or 15 to 20 pounds per 20 foot row. Yields will vary greatly with the variety and age of the planting with the best yield occurring in the year after planting.
Donald D. Tapio is the Washington State University Extension regional specialist for Grays Harbor and Pacific counties. He can be reached at 482-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.