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Learn the variety, bed preparation and growing of strawberry

Updated on December 12, 2016

Strawberry in a farm.

Chandler, Seascape and Albion are the most popular varieties of strawberry.
Chandler, Seascape and Albion are the most popular varieties of strawberry. | Source

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Introduction

There are two main varieties of strawberry; the short day variety and the day neutral variety . Most of the growers plant both varieties so as to harvest continuously throughout the year. Short day variety include Chandler which is sweet and well flavored but is soft therefore with a short shelf life. The most popular long day varieties are Seascape and Albion. Albion is more firm and has a long shelf life suitable where you can't consume the fruit on the same day it is harvested. The main method used by farmers to plant day neutral variety is in plastic mulch. These plastic mulches suppress weeds and retain more heat accelerating the growth. Strawberry farming is labor intensive but machines can be used in most of the steps. Even laying down the paper mulch and placing the plants in place leaving the workers to simply push these into the holes. After your soil has been tested for its ph value and you have applied fertilizer, dig a fairly deep hole and bury half of the trust making sure that the roots are fully buried and no leaves have been buried. As the plant grows it will produce runners which can be dug into spaces in between the plants so that the bed is now thicker. The runners can also be uprooted and planted into pots so as to be used as seedling for next year's plant.

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Bowl of strawberries

There is nothing as sweet as freshly harvested strawberries. For one their color is already very appealing
There is nothing as sweet as freshly harvested strawberries. For one their color is already very appealing | Source

Strawberry variety

When deciding to grow strawberries there are several strawberry varieties that can grow well in correctly chosen sites. Although strawberries can grow more than one year, they should be replanted every year. Growers have found that second year plants produce fruits that are smaller than first year plants, and spider mites can build up on plants and become very difficult to control. There are two main types of varieties; short day variety, often referred to as short season variety and day neutral variety, often referred to as long season variety. Most growers plant both varieties each year. The main short season variety is Chandler. Chandler is outstanding in sweetness and flavor but its main drawback is that its fruits are very soft, so they don't last long and are best sold only at the farm stamp. Camarosa is another short season variety. Long season varieties are like, Seascape and Albion. Both produce fruits for many months during the year. They are both also very sweet like Chandler. Albion tends to be more firm than Seascape so that gives it a longer shelf-life, but it also yields less than Seascape. Albion is an excellent variety to sell to schools, wholesalers and others who cannot eat the berry on the first day but must store it in a cooler. Short season varieties include Camino Real and Palomar but their yields are lower than that of Chandler. Promising new long season varieties include San Andreas, with very large fruits and Monterey, which has a distinctly sweet flavor that is liked by many people. But Chandler, Albion and Seascape usually come up on top in fruit tests. When buying plants, always buy from a reputable nursery that sells certified, disease-free plants.

Strawberry plants

When transplanting the seedling the roots should be fully buried and crown left above the soil level.
When transplanting the seedling the roots should be fully buried and crown left above the soil level. | Source

Growing the day neutral strawberries

Day neutral are pretty much all grown on plastic mulch on raised beds. There are many reasons for this. One is, the plastic mulch helps to give you weed control. Number two, the plastic warms the soil up in that bed quicker and that advances the plant quicker and gives you earlier production. Planting day neutrals is very labor intensive. However the bed is made by a machine. The plastic is also laid by a machine but when it comes to putting the plant into the plastic, they are just laid on the plastic bag by the machine but human laborers use a little tool to push it down into the ground. Albion has no compromise at in quality whatsoever. It has great taste, nice shape, good color, great size and excellent flavor. A strawberry plant is composed of trusts which bear blooms. Each strawberry bloom produces one fruit. There are about ten blooms in each strawberry trust. Bees help in pollination. A lot of flavor is due to the amount of sunlight that occurs during the fruiting time. When we have a lot of sunlight we tend to have sweeter fruit with higher sugar content. When we have a cloudy year we get less sweeter berries. Bees also help in increasing sweetness and flavor of the berries. Strawberries are high maintenance plants. The weeds have to be kept off and straws applied and also the berries fertilized, meaning that it take a lot of work. The main challenge for strawberries is you work 49 weeks of the year and then in three weeks you pick that whole crop. You should pick them by seven, deliver them to the store or market by nine. Have the consumer pick them up that same day and have them eating them in the afternoon or in the evening. And that really is the best way for strawberries to get delivered to the consumer. It is really satifying to grow good healthy food for people. The same field can be harvested several times during the season.

Strawberry bed

Strawberry beds on Wickham Court Lane. Strawberry beds, not currently under polythene.
Strawberry beds on Wickham Court Lane. Strawberry beds, not currently under polythene. | Source

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How to plant a strawberry bed

Have your soil tested. Your soil should be around 6.2 ph value. Once the soil is tested, you got the fertilizer put in at the rates that the soil tests recommended, then you are ready to plant. When you buy a plant from the nursery you get a dormant crown. They are living strawberry plants. They should consist of the crown and a healthy root system beneath it. The crown itself is just a compressed stem. It has a terminal bud, which is going to produce leaves and eventually some flowers and fruit for you. And then a bunch of auxiliary buds, which go along the sides, and these produces little branches which in some cases will produce runners and we are going to use those runners to fill out the plant bed, and then sometimes the buds will grow into crown. So it will be just like a mini crown on the side and those will produce more fruit for you. So we want some of those too. But what you really should be on the lookout for is some green tissue or white tissue at the top. The crown itself should be firm, not mushy and they should have a firm creamy yellow look to the root. Not black or mold on them. If so these are not good and they should be returned to the supplier.

These dormant crowns should be planted in the soil. You can use a matted row production system. A perennial system where we plant the first year and use the runners as they come from these plants to fill up the spaces between them to give us a nice full bed for fruiting next year. To plant them just take the crown and put them in the soil. Dig a nice hole with a trench in the pre-prepared soil. Place that in. You want to dig the hole deep enough so that you are not compressing the roots. You want the roots to stay straight up. The depth that you want to plant them is such that the soil covers up to about half of the trust. You don't want to bury the growing plants. We don't want to bury them too shallow because if the roots are exposed, the plant will dry up. Firm the soil gently around the stem so that as the rain bits it won't expose those roots. Your spaces should be around 18 inches apart. As the plants produce runners we will root those runners between the plants on either side of them to fill up that bed. Between the rows you want around four feet. We want to maintain a nice aisle path to be able to pick the harvest without standing in the bed; so four feet between the rows and about 18 inches between your plants in the row.

After we get our strawberry bed planted we need to take care of them for the remainder of that season. One important thing to note is that we are not going to pick a crop in the first year. The strawberries will start growing. They will kick out a few leaves in a few weeks' time. They will also start kicking out the flower clusters. In the planting year we want to remove these flower clusters. Pinch them off between your thumb and the fore finger when they are nice and tender. When they are still in the bud stage otherwise if they have already turned into flowers then you will need to cut them off with a scissor and that will take a lot longer to do. The reason we do this is because we want to encourage these plants to develop runners. We want them to concentrate on vegetation growth.

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Oedlerteich at sunset, Kirchspiel, Dülmen, North Rhine-Westfalia, Germany
Oedlerteich at sunset, Kirchspiel, Dülmen, North Rhine-Westfalia, Germany | Source

How to make new strawberry plants out of daughters

One of the easiest ways to take the strawberry runners is from the ones that grow on along the dirt itself. If we pull them out, they will have their roots on. We can put them into pots and then we can transfer them into the tunnels. It is very easily done. We just make a hole, pop them in, and cover them with dirt again. And after that we give it a very good amount of water. You can get four to five plants from one runner. Even the ends of the runners, you can also bury into the soil to get a strawberry plant. If you find them popping out, use a big opened up paper clip to push then into place in the dirt. Leave the strawberries in situ i.e. don't cut out the connecting runners yet. They are going to be connected to the mother plant and once they are grown and they are strong enough then we can get a pair of scissors and chop them off. Cut the runners to the soil level. Even as you cut the runners off the plant is now strong enough and it can stand on its own. The roots are already coming out of the bottom of the pot. Give them a good watering. Take them into a good place and take good care of them especially by good watering before transplanting into tunnels in the new year.

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