Simply Scrumptious Strawberries

    • Pansies, with their bright faces, are impervious to cold weather. They even bloom under the snow. So plant some now for spring color.
    • Start an asparagus bed so you can enjoy their young, tender shoots straight from the garden.
    • Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other cool season vegetables can be started now from seed. There are many wonderful varieties available on seed racks.
    • Clematis that bloomed last summer can be pruned now. Wait on spring-blooming varieties until after they bloom.
    • If you’re short on space in your orchard, you can plant 2 or 3 varieties of the same fruit in one large hole. This will allow cross-pollination among apples, pears, plums, cherries and Asian pears.

Mouthwatering Strawberries

One thing that you just can’t buy at the store is a juicy, mouthwatering strawberry. Yes, they are big and beautiful but there is no comparison, when it comes to flavor, with fresh-picked, homegrown strawberries.

Strawberries are not hard to grow. Plants produce well for three to five years, then it’s best to compost the old plants, dig a new bed and plant fresh, disease-free roots from the nursery. New plants set out in early spring will give you berries this summer.

Strawberries do best in full sun with loose soil and good drainage. Dig in plenty of compost to make a loose, humus-rich soil. Because they multiply by runners, strawberries can be planted up to 18 inches apart and runners will fill in the gaps. They can also be planted on 8-inch centers to harvest more berries sooner.

When planting, dig a hold deep enough so the roots will not be bent, and make a cone-shaped pile of soil in the bottom. Arrange the roots over the soil cone and gently fill the hole with loose soil. It is most important to set the plants at the right height so that the roots are covered but the crown, where the leaves come out, is above the soil line.

Strawberries are divided into three types: Junebearers, everbearers, and day-neutrals. Junebearers produce a single large crop over 3-4 weeks in early summer. If you want to freeze lots of fruit at one time, plant Junebearers.

‘Sequoia’ is the earliest variety and the sweetest, with exceptional taste, productivity and pest resistance. ‘Chandler’ strawberry plants are very popular with commercial growers because of their high yield, brilliant fruit color, and excellent flavor. ‘Hood’ is another fine berry from the Oregon. It has large berries that are intensely sweet and excellent for jam or fresh use.

Everbearers produce throughout the summer and give you berries for fresh eating all season. They produce fewer runners than Junebearers and so are easier to control.

‘Quinault’ is a great tasting, heavy bearing everbearer that gives high yields of large, deep red, sweet fruit from spring through fall. They are delicious for desserts, preserves and fresh eating. Plants are also very disease-resistant.

Day-neutrals are unaffected by day length and so they bear fruit from June through frost. Unfortunately they require pampering. They are sensitive to heat, drought and weed competition. If you give them the care they need, they will reward you with a generous supply of berries throughout the season from relatively few plants.

‘Tristar’ bears a constant supply of delicious medium sized berries, that are sweet and juicy, throughout the season. ‘Tristar’ has been known to set fruit from June until frost. They flower profusely but make few runners, so they stay compact. ‘Seascape’ is a heavy bearer of high quality, very sweet round berries. Contrary to their name, they grow and fruit well in hot dry climates.

Whether it’s strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie or just red ripe strawberries that you love, there are none better than the home-grown kind.

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