We have yet to find a garden edible the kids love more than strawberries. Our patch contains some June bearing and some “day-neutral” varieties. The truth is, we all fight over each and ever berry so the frequent production of day-neutral berries gives us a nice supply to pick every day until Fall.
There are actually many varieties of strawberries and we will not attempt to cover them all here. Organic Gardening Magazine has a nice guide on their website to help identify which strawberries will grown best in various USA regions. Plus, many seed catalogs sell both seeds and what are called “bare root” plants. Consult their catalogs to help you with berry selection. We have only used bare root plants because growing these from seed can be tedious.
Like many of the other edible plants we profile, strawberries are a member of the EWG Dirty Dozen. That alone is reason enough to grow your own. Taste is another. The taste difference between local or home-grown strawberries vs. the commercial varieties is huge. For example, the strawberries from our organic patch are sweet, jammy and bursting with sun-kissed flavors. The organic berries we buy from local supermarkets have a muted flavor that is likely the result of long miles of travel from California or Florida.
We have found strawberries to be really easy to grow and maintain. Over the past couple of seasons we have added different varieties to even out our harvests. Now we have a main crop from the June bearing variety that comes in late Spring. These berries are larger and more “traditional” looking. Then our day-neutral varieties kick in by popping out strawberries daily until Fall. We have noticed the production of our day-neutrals slows during the hottest times of Summer, but picks up again as weather cools.
Strawberries grow well in patches and should be planted in areas where you have never grown things like tomatoes, eggplants,and peppers. Most varieties of strawberries need large amounts of direct, strong sunlight (8-10 hours daily). The majority of climates will plant strawberries in Spring, but really warm places like California and Florida allow for Fall planting. Once planted we have found strawberries to be really easy to maintain.
In fact, these babies spread fast! Most varieties spread via root runners and can quickly act like ground cover. Not much has stopped us from having great strawberry growing experiences. The only pests we have found are some common white grubs near the roots and of course, birds. We have had to net the entire patch to prevent the birds from cleaning up.
Finally, strawberries like compost as a fertilizer. When our harvesting ended in Fall we hit the patch with an inch or so of compost and will repeat in early Spring. This helps replenish the soil and spark berry production for the next season. We encourage others to share their strawberry growing experiences here.