Strawberry

Strawberry

Strawberries are an easy to grow fruit crop that will reward the home gardener with ample harvests for many years. With favorable conditions, each strawberry plant should produce one quart of strawberries.

Strawberry growth will start from the crown. Strawberry crowns are perennial
(live year after year) but their roots are annual. Each year the strawberry plant
sends out new roots from the crown. This means that after a few years the roots get
higher and higher up on the crown. This is why older plants need to have soil added
to them.

GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
The time required to go from flowers to mature fruit depends on the air and soil
temperatures; the higher the temperature the faster it grows. Growth slows down as
the temperature decreases. Temperatures lower than 40° Fahrenheit will cause the
plant and the fruit to go stop growing.
Water is very important to the strawberry during fruit formation and throughout fruit
development and maturity. If there is not enough water it will show in the poor fruit
quality. Water needed to "plump up" the berry will go out of the berry and into the
leaves and crown to keep the plant alive under hot and dry conditions. The fruits
shrivel and probably will never regain their full potential size. It is very important to
have plenty of water during the period of final fruit swell just before the berries get ripe.
Pick off the blossoms during the first year so the plant puts all of its energy into its
own growth instead of fruit production. Removing the flowers encourages more
runners to form

WINTER CARE:
A winter mulch should be applied to your strawberries after the first hard frost. A
light frost will not harm the plants, but they should be protected from hard freezes. If
the mulch is applied too early, the plants will not become as winter hardy as they
should. They could suffer during the coldest parts of the winter if they do not have a
mulch cover. If applied too late, the plants will have already experienced damage to
their crowns and nest year's fruit buds; resulting in a poorer crop.
When new leaves start to develop in the spring, fork off the winter mulch and
place it between the rows in the pathways. Winter mulch will cover over the plants
themselves. Clear off the mulch each spring or it will delay the growth.
The purpose of a winter mulch is to protect plants from cold and against soil
heaving due to changing temperatures. The mulch should be at least 4 inches thick.
Snow acts as a natural winter mulch that will insulate plants from the cold. Because
snowfall is unreliable, it is better to use straw.


BERRY DEVELOPMENT
The second spring after planting strawberry plants will flower again. Bees visit
the flowers and spread pollen from flower to flower. Strawberry flowers have many
female flower parts. Pollen must be placed on each one for a seed to develop. The
developing seeds release plant hormones that cause the berry to swell and become
sweet and tasty. If the seeds are removed from one side of an immature strawberry
that side of the berry will stop growing. Under normal conditions it will take from 30
to 45 days from flowering to harvest.


Fertilizing Strawberries

Start with a rich, organic soil. Apply a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) at planting at the rate of one pound per 100 sq. ft. Fertilize again after renovation of June bearers or second harvest of day neutrals and everbearing types. Do not over fertilizer or you will have excessive leaf growth and poor flowering. Do not fertilizer strawberries late in the season in colder climate to prevent new growth that will be damaged by frost.


HARVEST AND STORAGE
Strawberries will turn bright red when they are ripe and ready to be harvested.
Carefully pick the berry by pinching the stem between your thumb and forefinger
and pull with a twisting motion. Leave the stem on the fruit. Don’t wash the fruit
until you are ready to eat it. Strawberries can be stored for a few days to a week in
the refrigerator. When you are ready to eat them, wash the strawberries in cold
running water.
Strawberries freeze well for eating later, too! Prepare them like you would for
eating, but place them in bags in the freezer. If you want to be able to remove only
a few berries from the freezer at a time, freeze the berries on waxed paper on a tray
or cookie sheet and them put the frozen berries in bags.

Strawberry Pests

Verticillium Wilt, Botrytis (Fruit Rot) and Red Stele (Root Rot): Choose resistant varieties and rotate crops.

Tarnished Plant Bug: Feeding by the tarnished plant bug will result in disfigured, nubby berries

Birds: Birds will inevitably get some of your berries. Plant more than you'll need and cover the area with close bird netting.


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