A strawberry, ready for harvest
image by kfjmiller/morguefile.com
Many gardeners know that summer is in full swing when their strawberries begin to ripen on the plants. For all the preparation and maintenance that strawberry plants require, many gardeners consider their delicious taste more than worth it. Prevent brand-new strawberry plants from flowering the first growing season. After this, however, the new daughter plants will grow strong to provide a healthy strawberry harvest.
Maintain the strawberry plants carefully throughout the growing season. In the first season after planting strawberries, remove the blossoms as they appear so that the plants will not fruit. Keep the plants adequately watered all season. Lay down between 5 and 6 inches of straw after several autumn freezes occur.
Pull the mulch back in the spring, but leave it surrounding the plants to protect them in the event of a spring frost. Make sure the strawberry plants receive 1 inch of water each week.
Watch for berries after the blossoms appear. Berries will usually be mature 4-6 weeks after the plants blossom. Strawberries are ripe when the berries are uniformly red and juicy.
Harvest the berries by carefully pinching them from the stems so that 1/2 inch of the stem remains on the berries. This will result in berries without bruises or damage. Place the strawberries into the basket or bucket.
Store berries in the refrigerator without washing or hulling. Do not wash or remove the berry hulls until you are ready to use or eat the berries. Berries will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Freeze berries for long-term storage by washing and hulling them and then spreading them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze the berries until they are firm and then place them into a plastic freezer bag. Strawberries keep in the freezer for up to 1 year.