Alpine strawberries, also called Fragaria vesca or wild strawberries, include over 30 different varieties that bear red, yellow and white berries. While popular in Europe, American gardeners see the plant as an ornamental addition to the garden rather than as a food-producing staple. Horticulturist Mike Wellik states that alpine strawberries grow from seeds to full-grown fruit bearing plants within 3 1/2 to four months.
Alpine strawberry seeds germinate best when kept moist through the use of a capillary matting or wicking system. Capillary matting systems keep the seeds watered from below while preventing over-watering. Keep the seed environment between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Alpine strawberry seeds require 14 hours of light to germinate. Gardeners can expose the seeds to sunlight by germinating them outdoors, in a greenhouse, or by a window, or by using fluorescent grow lights. This process may take as long as six weeks, although some varieties begin growing within seven days.
Transplanting and Propagating
After two months of growth, gardeners can transplant seedlings into 4-inch pots or hanging baskets. Keep the soil moist and use an acidic fertilizer such as 20-20-20. Organic gardeners may prefer Holly-tone. Alpine strawberries prefer an acidic soil with a pH between 6.5 and 5.8. If transplanting directly into a garden, allow for a minimum of 6 inches between plants. Allowing more space encourages more growth. Alpine strawberries produce more growing nodes than traditional strawberry strains, which allows gardeners to divide adult plants every three years.
Plant herb borage and clover near alpine strawberries to encourage pollinating insects such as bumblebees to frequent the garden. Greenhouse gardeners can purchase bumblebees to pollinate the flowers and ensure fruit production. Indoor gardeners can pollinate by hand every other day with an electric toothbrush or a small brush. These self-pollinating plants do not need to be crossed with other plants.
Gardeners interested in producing organic strawberries should use worm tea, a natural fertilizer made from soaking worm casings in water. Organically grown strawberries may suffer from gray mold. Worm casting tea may help protect the leaves and fruit from insects, and careful watering habits can prevent mold.
While fresh seeds grow best, alpine strawberries can grow for up to two years if kept dry and refrigerated. Birds love to eat alpine strawberries but gravitate toward the red varieties. Birds do not typically eat the Yellow Wonder varietal, and this type produces a generous quantity of berries.