26 Mar

Strawberries are such a great addition to your garden. They are perennial and so come back year after year.  And you can choose if you want a glut (i.e.: June bearing) or a consistent supply (everbearing). What's more, they create runners and create new baby plants to grow your plot, share or replace aging plants.  What is not to love?!

You can purchase your plants from a garden center (most expensive), an on-line supplier (good selection options) or thru a county extension service (cheapest).  I went this third route and paid about $15 for 25 plants,  and have had hundreds to replace these.  I have given dozens and dozens to family and friends and, this year, plan to sell trays of a dozen for $8 per.  Meanwhile I have loads and loads to eat fresh, freeze and make jam from.

This little plants are super tough and can withstand very cold winter temperatures. They aren't particularly fussy about soil and just need regular water and a feed before bloom. Planting strawberries has to be done with care however, as they are sensitive at the crown; the section where the upper leaves and the lower roots meet. This 1/2 inch section should not be below the soil level, so be sure to only bury the roots. 

The first year, the common advice is to trim off blooms and let the roots develop but, honestly, I was too impatient to wait a year for fruit.  I got a small June harvest that first year and loved them.  By year two, I have a huge harvest and tons of new plants to share.

Just after the plants bloom, you can begin inspecting weekly for fruit formation. The yellow flower centers swell and drop the petals and the strawberry begins to form. At this point, I surround the bed with a few bamboo stakes and place 16 ounce water bottles upside down on the stakes.  I do this so I can drape garden netting, or bird netting, over the plot.  The birds will want those red berries as much as you. 

Home grown berries are vastly superior to store bought because you can allow them to ripen all the way through.  White centers on the bought berries indicate a preference to ship early.  But we can wait an extra day and harvest the tastiest, healthiest fruit. - By Jenny Folk

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