Master Gardener offers low down on strawberry plants [UPDATED]Published 7:33am Monday, March 24, 2014 Updated 9:34am Monday, March 24, 2014
The University is at it again. A U graduate student, Andy Petran, has been researching ways for growers to grow more berries.
As any strawberry grower knows, there are three types of strawberries, June bearing, ever bearing, and day-neutral.
June bearing, as their name implies, bear from mid May through June, providing the weather cooperates, then they are done for the year.
This is great if you want to freeze or make strawberry jelly.
If you want berries again later in the summer, plant ever bearing. A misleading name if there ever was one. They actually don’t bear continually, but have a crop at the beginning of summer then another later after a rest.
Day-neutral strawberries don’t care how long the day is, as do the other two types. They have the potential to flower and bear all summer. However, nice as this sounds, they haven’t done well here in the frozen north.
Mr. Petran was picking some day-neutral berries in October last year. He did this by planting improved plants in a low tunnel. A low tunnel is probably not too practical for the average gardener. However, mulching the plants with straw or plastic mulch with drip irrigation under it can extend the season.
Andy planted Monterey, Evie-2, Portola, Albion, San Andreas and Seascape plants from Norurse farms. He has a few tips for the home grower. The day-neutrals will try to flower right after they “wake up.” Don’t let them. If they flower and set fruit too early, they don’t have enough energy left to develop strong roots and leaves to feed themselves.
Remove the flowers for the first month. Since the plants will be flowering and fruiting for a long period, he recommends fertilizing once or twice a week all season. Pick all the ripe berries as any left to rot can spread diseases.
He treats his plants as annuls but the home gardener will probably not go that far. The patch should be good for three years before needing to be replaced.
Move the patch to a new area the next time for better soil fertility.
Rhonda Flemming Hayes, a writer for the Northern Gardener magazine, published by the Minnesota Arboretum, has had luck growing strawberries in a container, specifically an 18-inch square box.
She filled the box with compost, potting soil and granular fertilizer. She watered the container with compost tea. The box was planted with three Tribute berry plants. She got hundreds of berries from the planting.
Having the container on the deck kept the rabbits and other four footed critters from sharing the bounty.
Strawberry plants are as attractive as a lot of other container plants and the bonus of fresh berries for breakfast make it a no brainer, and for those who find the ground too far away, they are a heck of a lot easier to pick.
Bev Johnson is an Extension Master Gardener in Otter Tail County.