Last week I mentioned that I liked strawberry and rhubarb pie, and proceeded to write about rhubarb. As promised, today we finish this discussion with its delicious dessert counterpart — the strawberry.
Bruce Bordelon, Purdue small fruit specialist, said the strawberry is the most popular small fruit grown in the home garden. I must personally add that it’s my favorite as well.
Strawberries are relatively easy to grow, they produce large quantities of good-quality fruit in a small area, and they can be grown in almost any Indiana home garden. However, Bordelon said that strawberries do best on well-drained sandy loam or loam soils.
Bordelon explained that there are basically three types of strawberries available: Junebearers, Dayneutrals and Everbearers. Junebearers fruit once each season. Dayneutrals fruit several times each season. Everbearers, despite their name, fruit twice each season. “Junebearers are the most widely adapted and recommended in Indiana,” Bordelon said. “Dayneutrals may perform very well in protected areas.” Everbearers generally do not perform very well except as ground covers or novelty plants, he said.
Strawberries planted this year should not be harvested until next year. Blooms should be pinched off to promote vigorous growth and runner formation. Rows should be maintained no wider than 12 to 18 inches, and when a density of about five plants per square foot is achieved, additional runners should be removed through cultivation and cutting of runners by hand.
“Berries should be harvested as often as every other day to maintain top quality,” Bordelon said. “Pick the berries with the caps on and with ½ inch of stem attached.” He suggested pinching the stem between the thumb and middle fingernails, while cradling the berry in the palm of the hand. Strawberries do not after-ripen, so they should be allowed to fully ripen before picking.
Strawberries should always be washed prior to consumption. However, if you plan to store overnight or longer in the refrigerator, place them unwashed in a covered shallow pan as soon as possible to cool quickly. You should then wash prior to consumption or preservation.
If you do not grow your own strawberries, consider visiting a local you-pick operation, farmer’s market or roadside stand for your purchases.
Bordelon said that to maintain the quality and productivity of the berry patch, the planting must be renovated each year. “This allows new runner plants to replace old plants,” he said. “Most of the fruit next season will be produced from the new runner plants that get established this season.” Renovation should start immediately after the last picking of berries. Specific renovation instructions are available in the Purdue Extension publication entitled, “Growing Strawberries,” authored by Bordelon.
Weed control, fertilization, pest control, mulching and other aspects of strawberry production are also important.
Find Bordelon’s publication at Purdue Extension’s Education Store, edustore.purdue.edu, or request a copy from your local Purdue Extension office.