So many strawberries, so little time

Main season strawberry varieties, planted now, will develop into good sized plants over the summer, then produce great crops next year.

There are many new strawberry varieties to enjoy.

There are many new strawberry varieties to enjoy.

It’s hard to imagine a June garden without the mouth-watering flavour of strawberries, and the good news  is, planted now, both the ‘everbearing’ and ‘day neutral’ varieties will produce fruit this year.  For serious strawberry growers, however, the ‘June bearing’ varieties produce high volumes of very large flavourful fruit.  Traditionally, main season strawberry varieties, planted now, will develop into good sized plants over the summer and fall, then produce great crops next year.  You will get a few fruits the first year, but they’re just a tease for the next season.  The flower buds of June berries are initiated in the shorter days of autumn, then produce good crops the following June.

Some of the great ‘June bearing’ varieties for our area are:

Totem: This very hardy variety, developed at the Canada Research Station in Agassiz, is still a favorite for productivity and good sized fruit.

Honeoye: This variety produces a heavy crop of very firm fruits of superb quality and flavor and has excellent disease resistance.

All Star: A vigorous, hardy variety that produces large glossy, sweet flavored berries.

‘Everbearing’ varieties have the unique ability to initiate fruit buds during both short and long days, providing more continuous crops.  The ‘day neutral’ varieties will produce fruit under all day lengths and are perhaps the most productive, providing tasty berries all summer and into the fall.  Another distinct advantage of the ‘everbearing’ types is that they can flower and produce fruit and runners all at the same time.  The runners will produce fruit even without rooting, and this unique ability makes them ideal for growing in containers, hanging baskets and other unusual garden situations.  They will also provide good quality fruit the first year.  Some of the top ‘everbearing’ varieties are:

Fort Laramie: This variety is noted for its vast runner production and is often sold as a ‘climbing’ variety.  It has good sized, very flavourful fruit.

Quinault: Still one of the best ‘everbearing’ varieties, it has good sized, very flavourful fruit.

Some of the top ‘day neutral’ varieties are:

Tristar: This variety is still one of the most popular ‘day neutrals’.  It has medium sized flavourful berries and is very disease tolerant.

Seascape: This is a  new introduction with high quality and flavourful fruits that are red all the way through.

Albion: A new variety with long conical fruits having excellent flavor and producing a constant supply of berries throughout the summer.

Eversweet: The medium to large sized berries of this variety are noted for their high sugar content.

For the best results, all strawberries need a sunny location and good drainage.  Growing them in raised beds or hilled rows creates not only good drainage but also warmer soil.  They love moisture, but it must drain away quickly to prevent root rot.  Although slightly acid-loving, working well rotted manures into the soil will help get strawberry plants off to a good start.  When setting out the plants, it is very important to plant them to a depth that just covers the roots but not the stem.  Planting strawberries too shallow or too deep can cause them to dry out or to rot.

A good liquid starter, like Root Booster, used as a side dressing, will help get them off to a good start.  Once flowers set, use a fertilizer like 10-15-19 with micronutrients to really size up the berries.  If we get a dry spell during the ripening stage, and this applies to the ‘everbearing’ and the ‘day-neutrals’, make sure you water thoroughly and deeply to keep the plants growing and to maintain their sweetness.

Strawberries taste great, and they also do lots of other terrific things for us. The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in their research on strawberries, discovered that a strawberry flavonoid, called fisetin, can stimulate signalling pathways in the brain, thus enhancing long term memory. Strawberries also lower systolic blood pressure and can reduce the risk of heart disease. March is a great time to begin planting, so find a spot in your garden and enjoy  some wonderful flavors this year and for years to come.

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