What a sweet northern strawberry to grow

Strawberry field in California. Photo submitted.

by Jackie Bantle
Saskatchewan Perennial Society

Wild strawberries have been eaten by people all over the world since ancient times. The modern strawberry popular today, Fragaria in pineappleit is derived from a cross between two New World strawberry species, Fragaria chiloensis (From Chile) and Fragaria virginiana (Hails from North America).

For prairie gardens, we offer three main strawberry varieties: June, perennial and solar-neutral. Overwintering strawberries, which grow in June, bloom in spring, and the fruit is ready to be picked in late June and early July (about 3 weeks). The runners, who are sent out by the plants in the fall, will produce fruit and fruit the following summer. Common strawberry varieties grown in June include; ‘Kent’, ‘Bounty’, ‘Honeoye’ and ‘Cavendish’.

Perennial strawberries begin to grow in late June to early July and grow until autumn. Perennial strawberries generally have better winter hardiness than other strawberry varieties, but the yield is smaller. If planted in the spring, the always-growing strawberries can grow in late summer or fall of the same year. ‘Ogallala’ and ‘Fort Laramie’ are common perennial strawberry varieties.

On the prairie, day-neutral strawberries are planted in the spring and annual strawberries are treated. The first crop of sun-neutral strawberries ripens in early July, with the strongest crop occurring in late August and September, all the way to a killing frost. The neutral strawberry in the day does not overwinter well even with winter protection. One of the great benefits of growing neutral strawberries in the daytime is that it bears fruit in the year of planting. In addition, the daytime neutral strawberry also bears fruit on runners that have not yet taken root. Daytime neutral strawberry varieties recommended for the northern areas: ‘Seascape’, ‘Tristar’, ‘Fern’, ‘Albion’.

Choose a sunny, sheltered spot for the strawberry spot. Although strawberries are self-fertile (the same flower has both male and female parts), research has shown that higher yields are formed when flowers are pollinated with the help of insects. The shelter helps the bees and other pollinators do their job. Strawberry plants are resistant to mild frost.

Strawberries are planted as rooted transplants or naked. “Bare-root” strawberry refers to plants that have no soil around their roots. After purchase, keep bare-rooted strawberries in a cool, moist place until you plant them; a plastic bag in the refrigerator works well for several days. When transplanting, keep exposed roots away from the sun and wind: if necessary, transfer the plants in a bucket of water. Strawberries are very sensitive to planting depth: keep the midpoint of the strawberry crown flush with the soil surface. If the crown is covered with soil, the plant will either rot or cannot run out. If the strawberry plant is planted too shallow, the crown and roots will dry out. Gently strengthen the soil around all the strawberries to make good contact between the soil and the root. Water all transplants with 10-52-10 fertilizer. Mix as described on the label. For best results, water your strawberries well during the growing season, but especially for a few weeks after transplanting. The distance between the strawberries in the middle is 20-30 cm.

If gray mold is a problem on fruits or plants, avoid watering the strawberries in the evening and placing a straw cover or peeling around the strawberries to prevent soil-borne diseases from splashing on the fruit or plants.

A common insect problem in strawberries is the spotted plant bug (Equivalent to lineolaris). Spotted plant bugs are characterized by deformed berries, often referred to as “cat-facing” or “bulbs”. Damage occurs when the bug eats parts of the flower during flower development. Spotted plant bugs are oval-shaped bugs about 0.5 cm long, bronze in color, with a characteristic white triangle or V-shape behind their heads. To avoid contaminated bug infestations, control weeds in and around the strawberry patch and keep the lawn and garden edges trimmed. In the fall, remove the litter to reduce the number of overwintering sites. If the spot is small enough, physically remove the spotted plant bug by tapping the flowers and displacing the insects in a soapy water. If the infection cannot be controlled, you may need to destroy the current strawberry patch and create a new patch in another part of the yard.

Strawberries can be easily grown in containers if there is enough water and nutrients available during the growing season. Use daytime neutral strawberry varieties for containers as the plants will not overwinter in above ground containers.

This section is courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS; saskperennial@hotmail.com). Check out our website at saskperennial.ca) or our Facebook page (facebook.com/saskperennial). All events in the Saskatchewan Perennial Society are suspended until further notice.


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