It's Strawberry Season! - How to Pick This Summer's Harvest

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Ready for a handful of juicy, ripe strawberries - or maybe a whole harvest of them? Here's how to pick the right varieties to plant.

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Summer brings with it vacation from school (and if you're a lucky grown-up, from work – at least for a week or two), warm, lazy days - and of course, amazing, juicy, fresh-grown veggies and fruits.

When I think of iconic tastes of spring-into-summer, I think of strawberries. They're sweet (and sometimes, just a little tart), juicy, easy to grab and go; they taste like sunshine. That's why my family has been growing strawberries for years, and why starting little strawberry plant seedlings is one of my and my children's first glimpses that warm weather is just around the corner.

Strawberries are so easy to grow (and are often quite compact), and you can get an amazing yield...if you know what you're doing. The trick is to know exactly what it is you're looking for, and select that variety accordingly. Are you going for astounding size? Exceptional sweetness? Great yields? A longer or shorter fruiting period? We've got the info for you to select the best strawberry crop this season! Read on.

Day-Neutral Varieties

Day-neutral strawberry varieties set (pollinate and begin to produce immature fruits) and ripen all summer until the first frost. This long bearing season means, potentially, lots more strawberries for you to harvest.

The reason they're called “day-neutral” is that they will produce and mature fruit no matter how long or short the days are. These are great for higher or lower lattitudes where days will be longer or shorter than in the mid-rage lattitudes. However, they'll work pretty much anywhere as long as full sun and warm temperatures occur throughout the summer.

Try these day-neutrals:

  • Albion: dark inside-fruit color; resistant to mites and other pests
  • Aromas: very productive; good-size (medium to large) fruit
  • Monterey: large, soft fruit with a very sweet aftertaste
  • Portola: highly adaptable to temperature change, good disease resistance, “traditional” sweet/tart strawberry flavor
  • Seascape: suited to warmer climates; tolerant to disease; a standard for canning
  • Sweet Ann: large, cone-shaped, very sweet fruit

June-Bearing Varieties

Also called “short-day,” June-bearing strawberries have one short but intense, compact fruiting period per year, usually lasting 2-3 weeks. They're great for the gardener/farmer who wants a large yield in a short period of time.

June-bearing strawberries are fun to grow, particularly for children, as they have a big payoff all at once and generallly produce the largest-size fruits. Having one harvest per season also makes collecting, canning (and of course, fresh-eating) easier to organize.

  • Benicia: Small-size plants with comparatively high fruit yield; their compactness makes them easy to fit into most garden plans
  • Camino real: dark fruit color; very good, traditional strawberry flavor
  • Chandler: great in warmer zones; easy grower
  • Hood: large, glossy, firm
  • Stella: early, heavy producer with large, sweet, aromatic fruit
  • Scarlet: vigorous, short, compact plant; light internal fruit color

These are just a handful of the amazing varieties of strawberries grown by home gardners and farmers alike. Once you start growing strawberries, you'll find yourself branching out (oh yes we did!) to more and more sizes, firmness levels, colors and flavors, from tangy to juicy to summery-sweet. Growing strawberries is easy and fun...enjoy!




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