How to Grow Strawberries
It’s hard to imagine a summer garden without the mouth-watering flavour of strawberries, and the good news is, if planted now, you will have some to enjoy from your own garden this year!
Growing Healthy Berries
Many strawberries are hardy to about zone 4, so take the time to get them off to a great start, and they’ll reward you for years to come! For the best results, all strawberries need a sunny location, at least 6 hours, and good drainage. Growing them in raised beds or hilled rows creates not only good drainage but also warmer soil. Although slightly acid-loving, working well rotted manures into the soil will help get strawberry plants off to a good start. Sea Soil is a great soil addition for strawberries too. They love moisture, but it must be able to drain away quickly to prevent root rot. 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 Transplanter 5-15-5, used as a side dressing, will help get plants off to a good start. Once flowers set, use a fertilizer like 10-15-19 with micronutrients to really size up the berries. Please note, if we get a dry spell during the ripening stage make sure you water thoroughly and deeply to keep the plants growing and to maintain their sweetness.
Strawberries generally have few issues with pests or disease, but wet weather can cause some problems. To keep them as healthy as can be, in late winter/early spring just as new growth begins to form, remove any dead leaves or stems so that there are fewer nooks and crannies for insects to hide in. This will also improve air flow. During the growing season, especially during wet spells, regularly check your berries to remove fruit that is starting to show signs of mold (fungus). Slugs can certainly be an issue, but a few handfuls of bark mulch around the base of your plant will help keep lower hanging berries from spoiling in wet weather, and help prevent slugs from moving in too. Growing strawberries in hanging baskets is a terrific way to maximize the vertical growing space in your garden, improve air flow around your berries and keep the slugs and snails off them too!
‘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.
‘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 our favourite varieties include:
- Alpine: Everbearing habit. Alpine strawberries are what you’d find in the hills! They are exceptionally hardy (zone 2) and produce small, bright red berries with a sweet, wild berry flavour. They do not produce runners, making them a unique edging plant for your edible garden.
- Albion: Everbearing (Day Neutral). A newer variety with long conical fruits having excellent flavor and producing a constant supply of berries throughout the summer. Good shelf life.
- Éclair: June bearing. Exceptional flavour! Fragrant, sweet and juicy with a medium-large size and firm texture. Wedge shaped.
- Eversweet: Everbearing. The medium to large sized berries of this variety are noted for their high sugar content. Vigorous producer.
- Montana: Everbearing. Montana, or Berries Hill Montana, is one of the most recent introductions, and it certainly brings the wow factor! Showy white blooms are followed by gorgeous red berries that smell and taste delicious! Plants are relatively compact, making them ideal for hanging baskets and containers.
- Proven Winners ‘Berried Treasure’ strawberries: Proven Winners offers white, pink and red blooming varieties of strawberries. They are very attractive in the garden, look terrific in pots, and offer tasty berries too.
- Quinault: Everbearing. Still one of the best ‘everbearing’ varieties, it has good sized, very flavourful fruit. Produces fruit on unrooted runners, so a good option for containers.
- Seascape: Everbearing (Day Neutral). High quality, sweet, flavourful fruits have a firm texture, slightly conical form and are red all the way through. High yielding. Good heat tolerance.
Strawberries taste great, and they also do lots of other terrific things for us too. The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in their research on strawberries, discovered that a strawberry flavonoid, called fisetin, can stimulate signaling pathways in the brain, thus enhancing long term memory. Strawberries also lower systolic blood pressure and can reduce the risk of heart disease. This berry is also high in folate that can help lower the risk factors in heart disease.
Strawberries are also loaded with vitamins C and K, contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and are an excellent source of fiber and anti-oxidants.
Late March and April are a great time to begin planting, so find a spot in your garden and enjoy some wonderful strawberry flavour this year, and for years to come.