Home-grown strawberries are a delicious, rewarding treat

By Lloyd Thompson
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
March 17, 2022

Lloyd Thompson – WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – Provided photo

I’m pretty sure that homegrown strawberries are at the top of many people’s list of favorite berries. They are an easy-to-grow perennial, so they don’t have to be planted every year, and can produce up to a quart of berries per plant. Raising your own homegrown berries allows you to choose if and what pesticides to use.

Your first decision in raising strawberries is deciding what type or types of strawberries to grow. There are three different types: June bearing, everbearing and day neutral. Each has some advantages and disadvantages.

June bearing strawberries are probably the most common, and tend to be the largest type of strawberry. This variety only produces one crop over a week or two in June. This allows enough berries at one time to be used for jam, frozen berries and lots of eating. Everbearing strawberries produce a larger earlier crop in June and a smaller later crop, with some berries in between the two crops. This variety tends to be smaller than the June bearing varieties. Day-neutral strawberries produce somewhat smaller berries throughout the season and are now starting to be grown by commercial growers in Washington and Oregon.

After you decide on what type or types of strawberries you want to grow, there is still the decision of what variety to plant. While strawberries aren’t difficult to grow, they can be a bit “persnickety” on what they like; as a result, lots of regional varieties have been developed over time that will perform better in certain areas.

Washington State University Extension recommends the following varieties for Eastern Washington:

  • June bearing: Hood, Benton, Rainier and Shuksan
  • Everbearing: Quinault, Ogallala and Fort Laramie
  • Day neutral: Tristan, Albion, Seascape, Rainier and Selva

Make sure to select certified virus-free plants for a better yield, and resist the urge to get plant starts from family or friends, as they can be infected. You can purchase dormant, bare root stock and plant in late March to April, or use container grown plants, which can be planted in May. Strawberries can produce for four or five years with proper care. You can plant strawberries in a variety of ways, including containers. I like growing mine in a raised bed for better drainage, not to mention the fact that a raised bed gives me a place to sit while I pick them.

A loamy sandy soil with good organic matter works the best, but any well-drained soil will do. Mulching with 2 to 3 inches of straw can help with weeds, and a heavier winter mulch can protect the strawberry plant crown during the winter. Just remember to remove the winter mulch as soon as it starts to warm up in the spring and before the plants start to grow. Strawberries need careful watering before and during harvest, as well as in August when new buds are formed. Make sure they don’t get waterlogged. Drip irrigation works better than overhead watering which may lead to fruit rot.

Here are a couple of good sources for more strawberry-growing information: wwrld.us/3IbGHwM and wwrld.us/36me0Qw.

Now that the snow has mostly receded, time to start thinking about a wonderful summer garden bounty, which hopefully will include lots of fresh, delicious strawberries!

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