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Strawberries are a Sure Sign of Summer

Jun 01, 2015 11:32AM ● Published by Denise Schreiber

“One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

June is the month when summer really begins for us. Long days, lightning bugs, and the ability to spend the day planting a garden lull us into the joys of the season… but best of all are the strawberries. Big, sweet, juicy strawberries, preferably picked fresh from the garden.

Up until now, the strawberries you’ve been seeing in stores were imported from California, Florida, Texas, Mexico and Central and South America. Unfortunately, strawberries are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, so you should always wash them very well unless you buy organically grown strawberries or grow your own.

There are different types of strawberries:  June bearers, which supply the bulk of their fruit in June; day neutral, which bear fruit throughout the season; and everbearing, which produce three periods of flowers and fruit during the spring, summer and fall. Strawberries are a perennial plant and they propagate themselves by sending out runners which root and produce fruit the next year.

June bearing strawberries produce flowers, fruits and runners, and yield a crop during a two-to-three week period in the spring. They are classified into early, mid-season and late varieties. Day neutral and everbearing do not produce many runners, which is a method of reproduction. There are also alpine strawberries, which have tiny but incredibly sweet fruit and can be grown in hanging baskets.

If you are going to make jams and jellies, June bearers are the strawberries that you should grow, since you will have a larger quantity for harvesting. If you want to have fresh strawberries all season, then the day neutral or everbearing strawberries are best.

Growing strawberries is easy enough: plant them as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, which is usually in March or April. This allows the plants to become well established before the hot weather arrives. Do not work the soil if it is wet. Try to plant strawberries on a cloudy day or during the late afternoon. Set the strawberry plant in the soil so that the soil is just covering the tops of the roots. Do not cover the crown, which is at the base of the plant. If you plant them too deeply, you won’t have any flowers or fruit. After four or five weeks, the plants will produce runners and new daughter plants.

Strawberries prefer a well-drained soil, high in organic matter. They need full sun for the highest yields, at least six hours per day. Do not plant strawberries where peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes have been grown. Strawberries need about one inch of water per week during the growing season.

Before planting, apply one pound per 100 square feet of a 10-10-10 fertilizer and dig it into the soil at least six to eight inches deep. After the first harvest in the second season, strawberries should be fertilized; water the fertilizer in to get it down to the root zone. This will keep the plants in a vigorous condition and promote new growth, causing the development of more fruit buds. Do not over fertilize. 

Plants should be mulched to help retain moisture, and you should remove flowers and runners the first year to allow the plants to develop. If the plants remain healthy, then ‘renovation’ should take place in three to four years. The first step in the renovation process is to mow the old foliage with a mower, cutting off the leaves about one inch above the crowns. Incorporate the leaves into the soil. Fertilize again with 10-10-10 and water well.

Everbearing and day neutral strawberries are great for gardeners who have limited space. They can be grown in terraced beds, barrels or pyramids. They can also be used as an edging plant or a groundcover. Don't have a garden? You can grow them in containers, too, especially the alpine strawberries. Use bird netting over the strawberries; otherwise, the birds will enjoy the fruits of your harvest. 

Strawberry Spring Salad
This spring salad is teeming with Vitamin A and Vitamin C. The bright green of the spinach and contrasting red of the strawberries is beautiful and the flavors are excellent together.

1 pint fresh strawberries
2 bunches fresh spinach
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced green onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1.    Wash strawberries under cool running water. Remove caps and set aside to drain.
2.    Wash spinach and remove large tough stems. Tear large leaves into small pieces. Drain.
3.    In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and whisk together.
4.    Slice strawberries into halves or quarters and place in a large bowl. Add dry spinach.
5.    Pour dressing over all and toss. 



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