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Sweet strawberries: A perennial fruit

Who doesn’t love a sun-warmed strawberry, fresh from the garden?

Succulent strawberries-slide0
Open Stock Resources
Sweet strawberries
Open Stock Resources

Strawberries from your own Rogue Valley garden are packed with flavor and nutrients. The plants are attractive, pollinators love them and they adapt to container growing with ease.

While strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in the world and they are very easy to grow, however, they hold a prominent place the “Dirty Dozen” list – you know, the fruits holding the highest levels of pesticides when produced commercially. Most commercially produced strawberries will test positive for OVER TWENTY DIFFERENT KINDS OF PESTICIDES. For obvious reasons, growing them yourself is a better choice.

There are a few different varieties, but – in my opinion – the only one to consider is an ever-bearing variety. This one is the most popular of the strawberries because it will grow for years, will give you lots of runners to share or propagate and will give you a great harvest for a longer period of time. If you’re seeking a continuous supply – and who isn’t looking for that? – this really is the best choice. If you’ve got a friend with a strong perennial strawberry bed, perhaps they will share some runners with you!

Purchase your plants from a local nursery or order from a catalog for planting in the early spring. That’s right now. Strawberries are pretty much a perennial for our area. You just need to be mindful of the runners so that they don’t take over your yard, keep them well watered and well fed and you’ll have strawberries for years to come!

Strawberries require five or six hours of sun per day, so choose your location accordingly. Soil that is high in organic matter is an absolute necessity, with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. To get your plants off to a great start, clear your area of all weeds and grass and dig in two to three inches of compost into the top few inches of soil.

Once you’ve got your bed already to go, with a generous amount of compost, make holes slightly larger than the plant’s root ball and plant it with the crown raised slightly above the level of the soil. Fill it in and water your plants well. Once they’re in, mulch with straw.

Make sure that your plants get an inch of water a week. Remember to mulch to save on water and stop weeds without weed killers. Feed your plants with compost or organic fertilizer monthly. Blood meal and bone meal are good choices. If there are coffee drinkers in your house, you can put those grounds right into the strawberry bed. Strawberries are fairly shallow rooted. While they don’t like “wet feet”, if the soil dries out too much, fruit production will stop. This is one reason why mulching is so important. Water twice a week to ensure even moisture. Maybe a little extra if it’s really hot.

Don’t plant your strawberries in or near an area where you are growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes or raspberries. These plants can carry verticillium wilt that can infect your strawberries.

Strawberries aren’t bothered by a whole bunch of pests, except for maybe birds and grazing children. A few slugs and snails now and then. There are a number of things you can do to keep them away. Install a copper edging strip around the perimeter of the bed. Slugs and snails won’t cross copper. You can use diatomaceous earth as a deterrent (which works well for earwigs as well) or the ever-popular dishes of beer in the garden.

As if this even needs saying – Be sure to pick your strawberries as soon as they ripen and eat, freeze or preserve them immediately.

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