Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) Information
By Ronnie Dauber, Garden Guides Contributor
About StrawberriesStrawberries are sweet red berries that grow on perennial plants and are every gardener's delight, whether grown in a garden or organic soil. They grow well and gain sturdiness with larger crops in gardens, but also produce healthy crops in planters or garden pots.
Site PreparationChoose a location with full or partial shade. Till the soil with compost and then dig a shallow trench for each row (rows should be 4 feet apart). Form a small dome of soil every 12 inches in the row. The new plants will be placed onto these domes.
Special FeaturesStrawberries grow on runners on the ground, and are one of the sweetest of the berry family. They are hardy plants that will continue to produce for many years, and can be harvested throughout the summer depending on the variety.
Choosing a VarietyAll varieties of strawberries have the same planting and care requirements, but their biggest difference is their sweetness and the harvest time. The Veestar is known as the early-season strawberry; the Kent is the most popular with a mid-season harvest of high yields of red fruit; and the Tristar is a neutral strawberry that will continue to produce delicious medium-sized berries through the summer and into the fall.
PlantingSprinkle strawberry seeds onto soil in trays indoors in early March. Cover the trays with a clear plastic wrap or bags to retain the moisture. Keep out of direct sunlight but keep warm (60 to 70 degrees F). About 6 weeks after germination, which takes 3 to 4 weeks, transplant the tiny seedlings into small 2-inch pots until they are ready to be placed permanently outdoors. When planting by the roots, first soak the roots and trim them to about 5 inches. When the ground is warm, spread the new plant roots over the domes that were prepared in the trenches and cover them well with soil.
CareDuring the first summer, pinch off all of the flowers so that the roots and runners will develop properly. In the late fall, cover the plants with a seed and weed-free mulch to protect them from the winter elements. In the following spring, after the last frost, remove the mulch and place it in the paths between the rows.
Harvest and StorageStrawberries are ready for harvest in their second year and can be picked once they are fully red. Crop time can vary depending on the variety, as some harvest in late spring, others in mid-season and others continue to the late fall. Some varieties grown in deck planters can harvest all summer long. The fruit can be eaten fresh or frozen or preserved into jam.