Growing Strawberries At Home
Strawberry growing made simple -- an explanation of the 4 different types of strawberries (June-bearing, everbearing, day-neutral, and Alpine)
Growing strawberries at home is a relatively simple process, perfect for weekend gardeners or even for parents looking for gardening projects for children.
There are four categories of strawberry plants, each requiring different techniques for growing, maintenance and harvest. Rather than making a trip to the nursery and buying plants blindly, it’s best to study the following descriptions and decide -- before shopping -- which type of strawberry is best suited to your own garden.
June-bearing strawberries. These are the old-fashioned varieties your grandmother grew. In most parts of the country, they begin blooming in late spring and produce fruits in June (earlier in California). They produce only one crop a year, and begin to set buds for the next year’s crop in the fall when the hours of available sunlight begin to wane.
Everbearing strawberries. These modern hybrids are somewhat of a misnomer, as they do not really bear fruit continuously. Instead, they produce a moderate crop in June and another, smaller crop in August, with scattered berry production in between. However, in a single season, the total harvest from everbearing varieties is far less than amount of fruit produced by June-bearers, but it is spread out over a longer time frame. This is where the decisions come in -- for home gardeners who want to make preserves (and have the time to do so), a huge June harvest may be ideal. For weekend gardeners who just want to deal with a meal’s worth of berries at a time, the everbearers may be a better choice.
Day-neutral strawberries. Unlike the other two types, which rely on the shortening days of late summer and fall to trigger bud production, the day-neutrals produce flowers and berries continuously in cycles that last about six weeks from bud set to harvest. These strawberry plants will bear fruit from June through September. Though they are incredibly productive, they also tend to be labor intensive. First of all, the picking season lasts the entire summer. Failure to keep the plants picked, in some areas, may result in a fungal disease that is caused by rotting berries. Also, the plants themselves are more fragile than other types and may be more susceptible to the effects of weeds, insects, or drought.
Alpine strawberries. These tiny, woodland berries are known as fraise-des-boise in France. They are much more common in Europe than in the States, where they are only likely to be found in gourmet desserts at four-star restaurants. Alpine strawberries produce small, roundish, intensely flavorful fruits all summer. The plants don’t produce runners, so they are easily maintained. As they are evergreen, they can make an attractive edging to flower or shrub beds, or can be planted in their own patch.
Managing a strawberry patch closely is essential, due to the plants’ tendency to put out runners. Each runner produces an offspring plant, which in turn sends out its own runners. Overgrown berry patches quickly become unproductive.