Saturday, June 7, 2014

Back yard strawberries

Fresh picked strawberries

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Strawberries are super easy to grow and they don’t take up much room or have thorns like other berry plants!  Strawberries can be grown in the garden bed or in a pot.  They prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5 and a lot of nitrogen each spring.

Strawberries originated from woodland strawberries, which are small and not nearly as tasty as the cross bred strawberries in gardens today.  There is evidence that strawberries have been cultivated since the 1300’s in France.  The Romans mention its medicinal use in literature.  
Wild woodland strawberries
Strawberries are full of anthocyanins which are antioxidants known to be beneficial to arterial cell function.  They are low in sugar as well making them a great choice for those sensitive to sugar.

Strawberry plants are less than a foot tall and send out runners.  They are great for planting under larger plants.  The mother plant does not stay productive for more than a couple of years.  The daughter plants will pick up when mom drops off.

There are different types of strawberry plants:  June bearer, everbearer, and day-neutral.  I planted one of each so I get strawberries throughout the summer.  June bearer types give berries from late May to June.  Everbearers produce berries when it is cool in the late spring and fall.  Day-neutral types start producing in mid June and keep producing until frost.

I also grow Alpine strawberries.  They have been producing for about 3 weeks now.  They have tiny little berries that are very sweet.

To keep strawberries producing as long as possible, check them daily and pick any ripe fruit.
Strawberry plants

If growing in pots, pick a pot that is at least 8 inches deep and 12 inches across.  Fertilize every couple of weeks when you water if growing in pots.  For garden plants, fertilize with an organic fertilizer when planting, again when flowering and then monthly while producing.

Slugs and birds will be your competition for the berries.  Look for slim trails as a tale tell sign of slugs.  For birds, you can throw netting over the plant to keep them from eating your berries.  I just share with the birds.  They don’t eat much.

Different varieties do better in certain regions than others.  Go with the types that your local nursery has in stock.  They will bring in the ones suited for your climate and zone.

Strawberries do not have a long shelf life.  Wait to wash them until right before eating as washing speeds up the deterioration of the fruit.  If you can’t eat them right away, be sure to keep them in the fridge.  You can also freeze them.  My favorite is to soak them in balsamic vinegar.  They keep a very long time this way.  They are tasty spooned over a salad, ice cream, oatmeal, brie or yogurt.  Yum!

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