Available in many varieties, strawberries are perennial fruit plants that are members of the Rosaceae family. Strawberries can be grown in all U.S. Department of Agriculture growing zones, though it is important to select a variety that meets the needs of your zone, and hardiness, disease resistance and and yield are all important factors to consider. Fruit ranges in taste from sweet to acidic while berry size and firmness are different with different varieties. The best fruits are generally grown in colder climates.
In general, strawberries require full sun and regular water to thrive. Most varieties are ready for harvest in the summer, though flower buds are set the preceding fall. Strawberries can survive winters in colder climates if protected by a four-to-six-inch layer of mulch.
The Earliglow variety is among the best tasting strawberries, and the plant yields a sweet, firm fruit, usually in June. Earliglow produces a large fruit, but the yield is low as the size of the berry diminishes after the first round of ripened fruit is harvested.
As with many strawberry varieties, the Earliglow shoots out runners and new plants may form. For larger berries, prune back the runners; for more plants, let the runners grow. This strawberry plant is resistant to red stele root rot, which is caused by a fungus, and Verticillium wilt.
Earliglow strawberries thrive in the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Northeast.
A cold-hardy variety imported from Canada, Kent strawberries make for excellent eating as the berries are large, firm, dark red and have a sweet flavor with little acidity. These plants produce a high yield for the first two years before a decline and do not fare well in warm climates, as heat may cause skin to break down. Kent strawberries are midseason producers, with fruit ripening in late June to early July.
Among the negatives, the Kent strawberry plant is susceptible to many diseases, including angular leaf spot, gray mold, leaf scorch and red stele root rot, and it is sensitive to Sinbar herbicide.
Kent strawberries are best grown in cooler climates, including the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Northeast.
Though not necessarily appropriate for commercial sale, the Sparkle strawberry produces a sweet, dark red berry with little acidity. The fruit, however, may be soft and should be eaten within a few days of harvest. These plants produce a medium-sized berry, the size of which decreases as the season wears on.
Sparkle strawberries are aggressive runners and should be pruned back if you desire larger berries. This plant, which was introduced in 1943, is somewhat resistant to red stele root rot. Berries will be ready for harvest in the mid- to late summer.
Sparkle strawberries are best planted in the Great Lakes, Midwest and Northeast, as the crop becomes softer in warmer weather.