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Strawberry plant, from sowing to luscious harvest

Strawberry plant

A strawberry plant produces fruits with a tender and fragrant flesh, which bring to mind thoughts of summer, sun and refreshing snacks.

Simple strawberry facts

Name – Fragaria vesca
Family – Rosaceae
Type – perennial fruit bush

Height – 6 to 16 inches (15 to 40 cm)
Exposure – full sun, part sun

Soil: rather rich, well drained  –  Foliage: deciduous  –  Harvest: May to October

Planting, caring, watering and even pruning strawberry bushes all contribute to increasing the harvest of strawberries.

Planting a strawberry plant

Flowers of the strawberry plant are white with yellow centers.Strawberry plants sown as soon as the end of summer and during fall are guaranteed to produce strawberries in the following spring. September is often said to be the best month for planting.

It is still possible to plant strawberries during the winter provided it doesn’t freeze.

  • First, remove all weeds and add soil conditioner or fertilizer to make the soil light and rich.
  • Place plants at least 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
  • If planting several rows, space the rows around 16 inches (40 cm) apart.
  • The root crown must be level with the soil

If planting in the spring, begin adding strawberry plant fertilizer early April in order to stimulate the plant’s development.

Planting distance between strawberry plants

It is necessary to provide for sufficient spacing between plants so that they may grow larger; a second reason for not crowding them together is that crowded plants tend to favor the spread of diseases.

  • The ideal planting density is thus 4 to 6 strawberry plants to a square yard (1 m²), that is, one plant every 6 to 10 inches (20 to 30 cm).

Interesting strawberry varieties

Here is a tentative list of cultivars producing beautiful strawberries, grouped by harvest date and by certain characteristics.

  • ‘Belrubi’ – harvest end of June, productive, vulnerable to powdery mildew.
  • ‘Charlotte’ – heart-shaped, long harvest season stretching from May to November, juicy and has a delicious taste of wild strawberry.
  • ‘Ciflorette’ – elongated shape, harvest from March to July, delicate and juicy flesh.
  • ‘Darselect’ – a round strawberry, harvested in spring, all at once sweet, fragrant and savory.
  • ‘Favette’ – harvest in May, even produces as early as April in the south of France.
  • ‘Gariguette’ – vermilion red, harvest from April to June.
  • ‘Gorella’ – harvest from May to July, avoid in hot climates and in chalky soils.
  • ‘Mara des bois’ – harvest from May to October, juicy, truly tastes of woodland strawberries.
  • ‘Ostara’ – harvest from May to October, delicate and savory, vulnerable to drought.
  • ‘Rabunda’ – harvest from June to October, productive, resists diseases well.

Caring for and pruning strawberry plants

Strawberry plant careIt is important to remove runners as they appear. Runners are long stems that take root and uselessly deplete the plant’s resources.

Mulch the base of the strawberry plants to retain soil humidity during the entire summer.

Apply treatments from early spring onwards against aphids and powdery mildew.

  • You may want to choose a comprehensive treatment against most strawberry plant diseases.
  • Avoid using chemical products, since the strawberries are grown to be ingested.
  • Every 4 years, renew your strawberry plant’s vigor thanks to layering.

Watering strawberries

Strawberries require a lot of water and must be watered often, especially during heat waves.

Nonetheless, strawberry plants also are sensitive to too much water, which is why it is best to water often with reduced quantities.

During summer, it is best to water in the evening or early morning in order to keep water from evaporating immediately under the sun’s rays.

Potted strawberry plants

Strawberry potted in a terra cotta jar with multiple openings.If you have a terrace or balcony, it’s perfectly possible to grow your strawberries in pots or even in a planter box, to savor beautiful strawberries from spring to the end of summer.

If that is the case, it is better to plant well-formed plants purchased in stores directly in spring instead of fall, with a good mix of soil conditioner and soil.

As regards watering, ensure that the soil remains damp but never wet. The bottom saucer must not stay filled.

Pick your strawberries when you need them and as soon as they are ripe. A green strawberry can mature in just a few days.

Harvesting strawberries

There are 2 types of strawberry plants. One is the determinate type that only produces one cycle of strawberry production harvested over a 25 to 45-day period.

The second type of strawberry plants, called the indeterminate type, can produce starting in spring and continues producing flowers and fruits until the first fall frost spells.

  • Harvest ripe strawberries every 2 or 3 days as they mature, carefully handling the plant so that remaining fruits are not disturbed and damaged.
  • It’s best to avoid harvesting green strawberries so that they may mature in the sun.
  • Usually those strawberries exposed to the sunlight are harvested first because they mature faster.

Also pick those that aren’t as beautiful: they’ll keep attracting slugs, and you can still use them to make delicious jam.

Diseases and parasites attacking strawberry plants

Strawberry plants are generally sturdy and resist diseases and/or parasites well, and following these few tips will spare you many bad surprises.

  • Choose plants that come from a traceable source.
  • Ensure that purchased strawberry plants are healthy and preferably grown in a renowned nursery.
  • Don’t overcrowd plants because this can cause fungus to appear.
  • If strawberry plants on a given plot are replaced with another plantation, wait at least 3 years before re-introducing strawberries on that same plot.

In the fall, spray your strawberry plants with Bordeaux mixture after having removed root suckers and dried leaves.

One of the main parasites of strawberry plants will always be birds, which is why setting up a net is sometimes needed to protect the harvest.

Watch out for small bugs!

Red spider mites – common, and even more so during hot and dry years.

Phytophtora blight (underground fungus) – gives leaves a blue-red color, before wilting when it gets hot. Plants stay fragile and fruits take on a bad taste.

Botrytis – (or gray mold) covers leaves, flowers and ultimately fruits with a gray velvety layer. In this case, the fruits must be destroyed.

Powdery mildew – a whitish powder spreads on and under leaves, which then curl into spoon-like shapes and take on a reddish hue. Fruits are stunted and deformed.

Strawberry leaf scorch – develops on fruits that are ripening or already ripe.

Septoria leaf spot on strawberry – spots appear on leaves. Avoid wetting leaves.

Various viral infections – spread by aphids and contaminated neighboring plants. Leaves lose their shape, wrinkle, develop spots or stripes.

Chlorosis – common in chalky or limestone soil.

Winterizing strawberry plants

It’s common knowledge that strawberry plants aren’t the hardiest of plants, and strong frost spells can damage your strawberry plot.

  • It’s virtually mandatory to mulch in areas where temperatures regularly fall below freezing.
  • Snow might provide enough insulation against the cold, but it isn’t always there.
  • So mulch with whatever is available, spreading a thick layer of dried leaves, flax or hemp hay, or straw.
  • In spring, free the plants somewhat to give them breathing and growing space.

Smart tip about strawberries

It’s recommended to mulch so that strawberries don’t touch the ground directly. Touching the soil directly would make them rot.

An alternative is to grow strawberries in pots, because the fruits themselves hang out from the sides and are never wet.

Images: CC BY 2.0: Kristine Paulus; Pixabay: Kerstin Riemer, Lou Labaya, u_64qahpwvzs
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