Strawberry is a high yielding and widely popular fruit crop cultivated throughout the world. The plant produces sweet tasting red juicy fruits that have a grainy texture. Under favorable conditions they are relatively easy to grow and will reward you with high yields.
|Botanical Name||Fragaria ananassa|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Temperature||50°F – 80°F|
|Growing Season||From spring to autumn|
|Soil ph||Slightly Acidic|
There are many varieties of strawberry plant available for cultivation though it is best advised to grow only those varieties that have already adapted to your local climatic conditions. The three main varieties of strawberry plants are:
June bearing strawberry plants generally produces one large harvest in late spring or early summer depending upon the climatic conditions prevalent in the region. They are a perennial crop with a harvest period of about 10 days. The fruits on June-bearing plants also tend to be larger but less sweet than those on everbearers. They are generally considered to be best suited for a home garden. Some popular June bearing varieties are Allstar, Earliglo and Annapolis.
Everbearing strawberry plants produce sweet red berries from early summer to late autumn. Unlike the June bearing variety the everbearing variety as the name suggests tend to give multiple yields throughout their growing season. The plant sends out fewer runners than the June bearing variety thereby saving energy on unnecessary plant matter thus resulting in higher yields. Ozark Beauty is the most popular everbearing strawberry.
Day Neutral strawberry plants are insensitive to the length of the day which enables them to flower and produce fruits over a wider temperature range of about 35° F – 85° F. The modern day-neutral varieties tend to grow continuously all summer and into the fall. They are much similar to the everbearing variety in terms of yield and growth. The most successful day-neutral cultivars are Tribute, Tristar and Seascape.
Strawberries are generally grown from young plants but for the more enthusiastic gardeners it can also be germinated from seeds. To grow from seeds one needs to start early in spring. The strawberry seeds have to be cold treated before planting. Cold treatment is simply placing the seeds in a freezer for a week or two before they are sown as this substantially increases the chances of germination.
Sprinkle the cold treated seeds in a potting mix ensuring that they are at least 6mm deep and spaced away from one another. Put them in your greenhouse or a warm area away from direct sunlight. Make sure to keep the soil moist to facilitate seed germination. Once the saplings emerge and are a couple of weeks old they can be transplanted into larger containers or in the strawberry patch of your garden.
There are two basic planting techniques while growing strawberries in your garden:
The matted row system is commonly used for the June bearing variety that sends out a lot of runners. To grow using this system set plants about 24 inches apart within rows that are about 4 feet away from one another. The matted row system is preferred commercially as it produces a higher total number of strawberries. This system helps to minimize cost while ensuring optimum utilization of the growing space.
The hill system is commonly used for growing the day neutral and the everbearing varieties. In this system the plants are set on a mounded hill of soil 8 inches high and 24 inches across. Using this system the runners can be easily identified and removed thereby increasing the productive capacity of the mother plants. The hill system is often preferred by the home gardener because it results in better quality of berries.
Strawberries can be grown in plastic containers, hanging baskets or clay pots with good soil and proper drainage. When growing in containers soak the roots in water for at least 30 minutes before planting and remove all the dead leaves. Gently spread the roots and place the plant in the container with the crown being at level with the top soil. Water the plant well immediately after planting.
Care should be taken to put the pot in a place that receives sufficient direct sunlight. Regularly feeding the plant with a balanced NPK (10-10-10) solution will ensure high yields. For amateur gardeners several strawberry growing kits are available online or can be easily procured locally that carry various accessories and detailed growing instructions.
Irrespective of the planting method chosen by you the following rules apply:
Aphids, slugs, wilts and spider mites are some of the common pests affecting strawberry plants across the world. Affected plants are generally stunted and low yielding with a relatively poor quality of fruits. Regularly monitor your plants for pests. Introduce and promote beneficial insects in your garden to combat pests and use insecticides if necessary to manage an outbreak.
For the most flavorful berries, the timing of the harvest is critical. An early harvest should be avoided as strawberries unlike other fruits do not ripen further once they are plucked from the plant. The berries should be bright red in color during the time of harvest. Care should be taken not to let the berries over ripen either as they tend to get mushy.
To harvest do not squeeze the berries and try to pull them out forcibly. Use your thumbnails and just pinch the stem behind the fruit. You can also use a clean pair of garden shears. Avoid picking the green tipped berries as they are not fully ripe yet. Make sure not to leave any berry remnants behind as they encourage plant rot.