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Plant sweet berries for summertime flavor

From strawberry jam to fruit salad, nothing says summer quite like the succulent strawberry.

What’s more, these sweet berries are also packed with vitamin C, fiber and potassium. So think about enhancing your edible landscape with healthful strawberries this spring. It’s best to plant them in late March through April after the threat of hard frost has passed in western Oregon, said Bernadine Strik, a berry specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

“The key thing to remember about strawberries is that there are three main types grown in Oregon,” Strik said.

She describes each type below and recommends varieties to plant within each category. Find a full list of cultivars and descriptions for each in a publication released earlier this year by the OSU Extension Service, “Strawberry Cultivars for Western Oregon and Washington.”

n June-bearers: These berries produce one crop per year in June to early July, typically for four weeks each year. They produce many runners, which are above-ground stems that grow over the soil surface and forms “daughter plants” from the buds. These new daughters can be managed to increase the yield of the strawberry patch.

Strik recommends growing June-bearers in the matted row system. Set plants about 12 to 15 inches apart in the row or in the raised bed, with 3 to 4 feet between rows. Allow the early runners to develop and root. Sweep them into the row area, but keep the path between the rows clear by cutting late-forming runners.

She recommends these older varieties: Hood, Puget Reliance, Shuksan, Totem and Benton.

The cooperative breeding program between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and OSU released these new varieties that Strik recommends: Sweet Sunrise, Sweet Bliss and Charm. Sweet Sunrise and Charm were released in 2012; Sweet Bliss in 2011.

Strik also recommends Puget Crimson, released in 2011 by Washington State University.

n Day-neutrals: These berries produce a crop almost continuously from late May until frost in the fall. Strik recommends day-neutrals in the yard for fresh fruit all season and your favorite June-bearing varieties for producing lots of high-quality fruit for freezing and jam-making in summer. They produce relatively few runners compared to June-bearers.

Strik recommends growing day-neutrals in a hill system. Set plants 12 to 15 inches apart in double- or triple-wide rows. Paths between the rows should be about 1.5 to 2 feet wide. Cut off all runners every few weeks.

She suggests the large-fruited varieties Albion and Seascape and the small-fruited — but better tasting — Tristar and Tribute.

Day-neutrals are better suited than ever-bearers or June-bearers for container gardening in barrels, planters or hanging baskets.

n Ever-bearers: These berries produce two crops per year in June-July and in the fall. They produce few runners.

“Our experience with ever-bearers is that they do not have as good a fruit quality as the day-neutral types, and with only two crops per year, they don’t fruit all season,” Strik said.

For that reason, she recommends day-neutral types over ever-bearers.

Keep your strawberries in the ground for five years, including the planting year. Older strawberry plants show lower yield and smaller fruit size, often due to virus infestation, Strik said. For this reason, do not establish your new patch with daughter plants or runners from the old patch — these plants will likely get a virus too, she said. Instead, buy new certified disease-free plants from a nursery; this is a good time to experiment with new, recommended varieties.

Strik is a professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and leads OSU’s berry crops research program.

To learn more about cultivating strawberries, view the OSU Extension publication, “Growing Strawberries In Your Home Garden.”

— Denise Ruttan is a

communications specialist with the Oregon State University

Extension Service.




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