Gardening: How to grow super strawberries

Strawberries were invented for the sole purpose of being dipped in chocolate.

When was the last time you saw any other fruit dressed up in a tuxedo? What a way to spice up your Rice Krispies.

Bred in France in the 1750s, garden strawberries are also called fraises des boi. “Those French! They have a different word for everything.” (Steve Martin)

There are three types of edible strawberries: June-bearing (produce the largest berries); everbearing (two harvests: spring and fall) and or day-neutral (fruit does not exceed 1 inch in size).

According to the California Strawberry Commission (CSC), some California varieties are Albion, Aromas, Camarosa, Chandler, Diamante, Gaviota, Quinault, Seascape and Sequoia.

Technically, a berry has its seeds on the inside. The average strawberry has 200 seeds on the outside. Ergo, strawberries aren’t true berries. (Haven’t we been down this road before?)

You might want to sit down for this but, according to, they’re considered aggregate fruits … “fruits that develop from multiple ovaries of a single fruit.” It’d be easier for me to decipher the nutritional information on food labels than to explain a strawberry.

Also, strawberries are members of the huge (4,828 species according to the CSC) rosacea (rose) family. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re also distant cousins ​​to penguins.

They’re easy to grow. Six to 10 hours a day of sunlight, loam soil with organic compost, a balanced granular fertilizer, saturate the soil and presto!

Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5.

Soak bare-root strawberries in water for an hour before planting. Plant them 18 inches apart with 4 inches between rows. Make sure the crown, where the roots meet the leaves, sits just above the soil surface.

Rather than using terra cotta, ceramic pots and planter bags, consider raised beds, pyramid planters, or half whiskey barrels. The important thing to remember is to always drink in moderation.

I use hanging containers hooked up to a drip system and timer. No bending required.

Pick its flowers off for the first month after planting to force the plant’s energy into the leaves and roots.

Home-grown strawberries are more flavorful than store-bought because the sugar converts to starch right after it’s picked. This concludes today’s chemistry lesson, because it’s pretty much all I remember from high school. That, and the fact that chemists like nitrates so much because they’re cheaper than day rates.

Small, red strawberries are usually sweet and juicy. Large berries with hollow centers are somewhat less flavorful.

Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture says “strawberries are increasingly bred for size, disease and insect resistance rather than for flavor.”

Diseases include powdery mildew, leaf scorch (shriveled leaves), root rot, gray mold, leaf curl (calcium deficiency) and crown rot. The Cal Poly Strawberry Center states that fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt are also becoming more widespread.

Almost every pest known to man attacks strawberries. These include aphids, borers, June bugs, moths, slugs, weevils and, of course and no doubt, the North American musk ox.

People who are allergic to eating strawberries may experience itching, tingling in the mouth, hives or swelling of the lips, face or tongue. I’ve heard that white strawberries may be tolerated by some people with such allergies.

Tennis fans have no doubt noticed that many people at Wimbledon enjoy the popular strawberry and cream dessert. The rest of the fans are watching the game.

The strawberry plant is a perennial, meaning it will come back year after year until it runs out of years. Fruit production declines after three to four years.

Not all strawberries will have that nice cone-like shape. Puny, misshapen berries, called “nubbins” or “button berries,” can be caused by frost damage or hot, dry temperatures. Or, a pest infestation or soil deficiency. Or, a cultivar that is not suited for your area. They wouldn’t look good in a tux.

Fruit can be harvested a month after blossoming. Let them fully ripen on the plant. Cut the stem; pulling the berry could damage the plant. To avoid spoiling, wash the berries just before eating them.

In addition to leaves, flowers and fruit, a strawberry plant has a crown, roots, runners and produces daughter plants. No sons, something to do with the male strawberry.

Throughout history, they have also had starring roles in candies, ice creams, jams, milk shakes, salads, pies and strawberry beer. But they didn’t bring home any “best dressed” awards.

Schmidt is also a Poway resident with over 40 years of gardening experience.