Mastering the Art of Gardening

Strawberries 101

There is nothing better than a ripe, juicy, sweet, homegrown strawberry. Strawberries are one of the easiest berries to grow in our area because they are cold hardy and adaptable. You can even grow them in containers on a patio or backyard deck.

There are two main types of strawberry cultivars. June bearing varieties develop flower buds during short days and cool temperatures in the fall, then bloom and produce berries for two-four weeks in late June to early July the following year. These varieties produce daughter plants on runners that will root and make additional plants and berries; perfect for a strawberry bed.

Ever-bearing cultivars produce flower buds during long days and warm temperatures, then bloom and produce berries during summer and fall the same year. Most ever-bearing varieties make little fruit on runner plants and develop multiple crowns, but more berries are produced if the runners are removed.

The multiple crown characteristic makes ever-bearing varieties the better choice for containers.

Strawberry starts are fussy about how they are planted. The planted depth of the crown is critical and must be just at the soil level with the upper most roots about 1/4” below the soil surface. Strawberries must be diligently watered because of their shallow root systems. Those grown in containers must be watered often because they dry out faster than in ground plantings. Frequent irrigation of lesser amounts is best. Fertilizer will be necessary for best plant growth and berry production.

In our area, protection over winter is essential because of shallow root systems and sensitivity to extreme cold, especially for those grown in containers. Apply a four-inch layer of mulch such as straw, pine needles, or corn stalks, that do not clump around the plant crowns after the soil freezes. In early spring when the strawberries begin to green up, remove the straw to avoid crown rot.

Strawberries are just like any other gardening project; they require care after planting to enjoy the full benefits of your investment in plants and site preparation. So don’t forget to take care of them once they are in the soil.

Warm fresh picked strawberries are wonderful to share with kids. They are a relatively easy to grow fruit that children will enjoy helping with, especially the eating part. I wish the ones I planted in June were ever-bearing instead of June bearing. I would be looking forward to fresh strawberries soon instead of waiting for next year’s crop.

Dana Leininger is a Level 3 Master Gardener who gardens west of Lewistown. Don’t forget to visit the “Ask A Gardener” booth at the Farmers Market every first and third Saturday for answers to all your gardening questions.



When do you think the snow will finally be melted in Lewistown?