Hardiness Zone 9 covers central Florida, the southern Gulf Coast of Texas, coastal and central California and a portion of the desert Southwest. In the dry regions of Nevada and Texas, strawberries are not a crop of commercial importance. Where irrigation is available, some varieties can grow as an annual crop. In both California and Florida strawberries do prosper, with strains developed to produce well in those specific climatic areas. The best-producing commercial varieties in California include patented varieties available only to specific growers.
Albion--a day neutral everbearing strawberry--yields a peak harvest in spring and smaller yields through the summer. Albion fruits are dark red with good flavor and plants tolerate changeable weather. Camarosa--a short day seasonal fruiting berry--provides an early harvest and stores well even if picked at full red color. Ventana produces even earlier in the season than Camarosa. Introduced in 2002, Ventana fruits have good flavor and good shelf life when ripe. Other popular varieties for California growers include Diamante, Camino Real, and Aromas.
Chandler, a variety popular with commercial growers, ranks as the best choice for home gardeners in south Texas as well. Because of the commercial demand availability in nurseries can be low. Sequoia and Douglas--early spring fruiting varieties--also do well as fall plantings for spring harvests the following season. The best planting method for south Texas treats strawberries as an annual crop rather than a perennial. Growers plant beds with a much tighter spacing than in the north and do not nurse plants through the heat and drought of Texas summers. Adventurous southwestern desert gardeners could experiment with similar techniques.
Sweet Charlie, a cultivar developed in Florida in 1981, radiates the sweet scent of cotton candy. An early harvest, sweet flavor and excellent disease resistance make Sweet Charlie a good choice for Florida gardens. Treasure and Strawberry Festival comprise the bulk of Florida's commercial strawberry acreage. Winter Dawn--with a peak harvest in November and December in the deepest south--and Florida Radiance are the newest releases for the region. If planted along with Strawberry Festival, the peak harvest periods of Florida Radiance take over when Festival falters, providing an extended and more reliable harvest. Older varieties like Selva and Oso Grande no longer rank as commercial crops but are proven producers in the central Florida tropics.
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