Summer is Strawberry Season
Nothing says summer has begun like aromatic clusters of red strawberries. There is no comparison to homegrown, local strawberries. The ones in the grocery store usually require a lot of sugar to taste sweet and won’t compare to what you can grow. You just have to plan—you will be able to harvest your strawberries a year after you plant them.
Grow strawberries in full sun and well-drained soil amended with compost, preferably where tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes have not grown before. Strawberries require ample water and slightly acidic conditions. Keep your plot free of weeds; mulch the plants with straw or pine needles. Certified disease-free plants purchased from a nursery will prevent disease. Garden strawberries are usually sold as bare-root plants usually in bundles of 25.
There are four types of strawberries. First comes the June bearing, yielding one crop per season in spring or early summer. After planting these, pluck the flowers off the first year, so the roots grow and reward you with the berries the following year.
The ever bearers produce berries twice a year, once in early summer and again in late summer. Pluck their flowers off until July and they will bear some fruit in the fall the first year.
The third kind is a day-neutral strawberry, which appeared around 1980. Other strawberries flower and fruit according to day length, these are truly ever-bearing.
These three types of strawberries will produce runners. Space your plants 18 inches to 24 inches apart in rows that are four feet apart. Let the runners take root in between the rows. If they get too rambunctious, cut some of the runners and start a new row.
The fourth kind of strawberry is the alpine strawberry. They are small and also known as fraise des bois. These are miniature ¾-inch cousins of the regular strawberry. They have extraordinary flavor when ripe. They are also perennial and very neat as they don’t make runners. They are very long-lived and bear fruit all summer long. I first saw them at a French farmers market on tiny delectable tarts. You can start these from seed, available from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds (860–567-6086, www.kitchengardenseeds.com). The alpine strawberry plants are available from Beaver Creek Cottage Garden (410-551-5084).