Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Strawberries—What Type is Right for Your Garden?

Ripe strawberries are usually ready for picking in June

Ripe straw­ber­ries are usu­ally ready for pick­ing in June

Who doesn’t love a juicy, red, ripe straw­berry? Most gar­den­ers wel­come their con­cen­trated har­vest that comes fast and furi­ous in June (or a bit ear­lier in some of the warmest south­ern states) but lament how fast it is over; here for Father’s Day, gone by Fourth of July.

Did you know you can eat your straw­ber­ries now and have more fresh later in the sum­mer too? Yes, right from your own gar­den! Let’s look at the dif­fer­ent types of straw­ber­ries and where they might fit in your gar­den plan.

 

June-bearing

June-bearing straw­berry vari­eties set fruit buds in response to the short­en­ing day length and cooler tem­per­a­tures of autumn. They then flower and pro­duce their crop the fol­low­ing sum­mer. The crop ripens dur­ing a con­cen­trated time period of just a few weeks, typ­i­cally in mid-June to early July. Hence, they are referred to as “June-bearers.” Within this large group, there are many vari­eties. With proper plan­ning and selec­tion of vari­eties, it is quite pos­si­ble to extend the har­vest for an extra week or two beyond the main sea­son. Choose an early flow­er­ing and matur­ing vari­ety, such as Earliglow, to start the har­vest. Add a mid-season vari­ety or two, Cavendish or Jewel are favorites, for the bulk of your patch. If you hunger for still more berries, a late sea­son June-bearer can round out your har­vest and extend it into mid-July.

June bearing strawberries form dense plant rows due to abundant runner production

June bear­ing straw­ber­ries form dense plant rows due to abun­dant run­ner production

June-bearing straw­ber­ries should be given a year to estab­lish a strong rot sys­tem and plant before pro­duc­ing a crop. In sub­se­quent years, after har­vest, they will pro­duce run­ner plants and tend to form dense, mat­ted rows of plants. With annual ren­o­va­tion, a patch of June-bearing straw­ber­ries will remain pro­duc­tive for 4 to 5 years. They are espe­cially suited to the home­stead gar­den where you have the space to grow sev­eral dif­fer­ent vari­eties of berries in mul­ti­ple rows. Due to their rel­a­tively con­cen­trated har­vest and large vol­ume of fruit, they eas­ily pro­vide ample fruit for mak­ing jam or stock­ing your freezer for winter.

Ever-bearing

The term ever-bearing is a bit of a mis­nomer. As plant breed­ers sought to develop vari­eties that would pro­duce over a longer time period, they dis­cov­ered sev­eral vari­eties that, in addi­tion to the tra­di­tion June crop, also pro­duced a smaller crop of fruit later in the sum­mer, usu­ally about a month after the main crop. Even though, they did not yield a con­tin­u­ous season-long crop, they were termed ever-bearing. Ozark Beauty and Quinalt have been pop­u­lar, disease-resistant choices in this group. You might enjoy these ever-bearing straw­ber­ries if you want to do the bulk of your jam mak­ing early in the sea­son and then enjoy a few addi­tional fresh straw­ber­ries along side your other sum­mer fruit harvest.

Day Neu­tral

As plant breed­ers con­tin­ued the search for season-long straw­ber­ries, they more recently selected for vari­eties that did not set their buds in the lim­ited time frame of the shorter autumn days, but rather set buds in small quan­tify over all but the very hottest weeks of sum­mer. These new berries were “day (light) neu­tral.” They pro­duce very few run­ner plants, putting their energy instead into con­tin­uos fruit pro­duc­tion. Although the plants will pro­duce for sev­eral years, they are often grown as annu­als. This makes them very suit­able for con­tainer plant­ing and small urban gar­dens. Day neu­tral straw­ber­ries are an excel­lent choice if you’d pre­fer an ongo­ing, small sup­ply of fruit for fresh eat­ing and are less inter­ested in a marathon jam mak­ing session.

Wild or alpine strawberries produce small, very sweet red or pale yellow berries and reseed prolifically

Wild or alpine straw­ber­ries pro­duce small, very sweet red or pale yel­low berries and reseed prolifically

Frais de Bois, Wood, Alpine or Wild Strawberries

These nov­elty berries were once cov­eted by nobil­ity for their intense sweet fla­vor. Berries, depend­ing on vari­ety, are red or some­times pale yel­low with pineapple-like fla­vor. Their pop­u­lar­ity prob­a­bly declined due to the small berry size, mainly under an inch long and tedious to pick. The plants do not typ­i­cally pro­duce run­ners but are instead pro­duced from seed. Once estab­lished they reseed read­ily and pro­duce copi­ous new plantlets. They can be used for edg­ing bor­ders, in con­tain­ers such a s win­dow boxes, or con­tained in an herb gar­den. You may have to weed some out occa­sion­ally to con­tain them to their assigned space. These jewel-like gems are per­fect for that spe­cial nov­elty touch to top a dessert or to enjoy with fresh cream.

No mat­ter your space or grow­ing environment—city bal­cony, sub­ur­ban yard or rural homestead—there’s a straw­berry for you!

Backyard Berry Book CoverAdapted from The Back­Yard Berry Book: A com­plete guide to grow­ing berries, bram­bles and vine fruit in the home gar­den by Stella Otto

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