“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.” That’s what the 19th century poet William Allen Butler wrote of the strawberry. (He also wrote the hilariously funny poem “Nothing to Wear”.) There are many reasons why strawberries are so popular with gardeners. They are easy to grow. They are inexpensive. They take up very little space. They produce fruit the first season. But best of all, they are full of flavor; unlike what you often get at the grocery store.
Choosing Your Berries
Strawberry plants can be purchased either bare root or already started in pots, sometimes with fruit already set. The most cost effective method is to purchase bare root plants, but they are typically only available during late March and April. Bare root plants are less expensive and will do just as well as potted ones if planted early. You can plant as soon as the soil is workable, frost will not hurt them.
Strawberries are divided into two groups: June-bearing and everbearing. June-bearers produce one crop per season in the early summer. They are sometimes the best choice if you primarily want to make preserves. Everbearers produce two crops, one in late spring and another in the fall. A third group, which is really a sub-group of the everbearers, is the day-neutral berry. They are the most popular because they produce fruit all summer long, although their biggest crops are in the spring and fall. These varieties will produce more total fruit over the course of the season than other types, and you can have a few fresh-picked berries on your cereal just about anytime you want. I grow the following varieties in my own garden in Idaho Falls and I love them all.
Seascape – This day-neutral variety has the largest fruit of the three. Very attractive berries similar to what you see in the grocery store, but with excellent flavor. I’ve only grown Seascape for 3 or 4 years, but I like it a lot.
Early October picking of Tribute strawberries from my garden
Tribute – I planted my first Tribute probably 8 or 10 years ago. It is another day-neutral everbearer that bears all season long, but is especially productive in the fall.
Shuksan – This is the only June bearer in my garden, so we use it mostly for making strawberry jam. It bears very heavily for 2 or 3 weeks during late June and then it’s done, which makes it perfect for making preserves. I think I like its flavor the best of all.
How to Plant
Click here for a tip sheet I’ve written explaining how to prepare the soil, space the plants, cull out old plants, water, and feed your strawberries.
If you live in an apartment and don’t have a garden spot you can easily grow strawberries in a planter or container. Imagine stepping onto your patio first thing in the morning and picking a handful of red ripe strawberries for breakfast. You can grow strawberries in nearly any pot that has good drainage, but many people like to use “strawberry pots” with holes in the sides to plant additional plants.
Be sure to fill the pot with a good quality potting soil. (I’m partial to Town & Country’s Professional Potting Mix.) Use a day-neutral everbearer like Tribute or Seascape. Place the pot in a sunny spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun each day. Water as needed, probably every other day during hot weather. Feed with Fertilome Water Soluble 20-20-20 plant food.
If you don’t currently grow your own strawberries, you are missing out on one of the true delights of life. And its easy! Now is the best time to plant, so don’t just sit there… plant something.