The grocery ads have been teasing us for weeks with luscious pictures of strawberries. Sadly, these berries often have no flavor. To get berries with real flavor, you have to grow your own.
There are basically three types of strawberry plants commonly available in the nurseries right now. June-bearing plants bear a single large crop from June to early July. These plants produce the largest berries and reproduce by runners sent out from the mother plant.
Ever-bearing strawberries will produce up to three crops from June into the fall. Day-neutral strawberries will produce a steady supply of fruit through the summer into the fall.
Ever-bearing and day-neutral strawberries don’t produce many runners and are compact which makes them perfect for growing in pots or small garden beds. June bearers need room to ramble as they send out runners that anchor themselves into the ground to make new plants.
Strawberries need lots of sunlight to produce a good crop of berries so plant them in the sunniest spot you have. They prefer a well-drained soil with lots of compost or well-rotted manure added at planting time. If they are being grown in pots, use good quality potting mix and be sure the pot drains well. Fertilize them with a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the early spring and again after they finish producing their heaviest harvest. They will need about an inch of water a week, more during the hottest weather.
Strawberries are sold either as bare-root bunches or in individual pots. If you are buying bare-root plants be sure you plant them so that the crown is just above the surface of the soil. If they are planted too deep, the plants can easily rot. If you are buying potted plants, plant them at the same depth as they were in the pot.
Weed control is important in a strawberry bed because the plants are perennials and easily choked out by the shade weeds can cause. When planting, lay down a 2-inch layer of shredded pine needles, leaves or straw and then plant through the mulch.
While there are dozens of varieties of strawberries, here are a few that do well in our region. Quinault is an ever-bearing variety noted for its large, soft, dessert quality berries. It’s an excellent choice for container growing.
Fort Laramie is an ever-bearing plant that produce runners so it is better planted in a garden bed. It produces a large to very large bright scarlet-colored berry that is good for fresh eating, freezing and making jam. As its name implies it is a very hardy plant.
Tristar is a day-neutral ever-bearer that produces a heavy fall crop of dessert-quality berries. It is a good choice for hanging baskets. Shuksan and Benton are both June-bearing plants that produce flavorful berries good for fresh eating, freezing and making jam. Benton ripens in early July and is often used in commercial production. It is a very good keeper.
Master Gardener Pat Munts is the co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Susan Mulvihill. Munts has gardened in Spokane Valley for more than three decades. She can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening. com.
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