What are “day-neutral” strawberries? Do they have different requirements from regular June-bearers?
Day-neutral strawberries, also called “ever-bearing” strawberries, flower and fruit when temperatures are between 35 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. So instead of picking a single large crop of strawberries in June, you’ll pick smaller amounts of berries (and smaller berries, usually about 1 inch in size) over a longer period of time. That’s a nice benefit if you prefer fresh berries to preserved berries, for which you generally want a larger crop all at once.
Compared with June-bearers, day-neutral strawberry varieties also produce fewer runners and are a little easier to manage in the garden. Use the “hill system” when planting them in the ground: Make mounds of soil about 8 inches high by 24 inches wide and as long as you like. Within each hill, set plants in double rows, spacing the plants about 12 inches apart in a staggered pattern. Mulch the bed with straw to prevent weed growth and retain soil moisture. Remove all plant runners that appear the first year.
The roots of day-neutral strawberry plants don’t grow deep, so provide at least 1 inch of water per week during the growing season. In late fall, replenish straw mulch to a depth of at least 2 inches, covering the crowns of the plants. Pull back the mulch in spring, after temperatures have risen above freezing, to expose the crowns and encourage new growth.
Because day-neutral varieties usually bear fruit the year they’re planted, they can be grown as an annual crop. If you’re establishing a perennial bed, however, remove all flower buds that form before July 1 in the plants’ first year to help them become better established. Check with your county extension office for recommended varieties for your area.
— Vicki Mattern, Contributing Editor
Above: Day-neutral strawberries are smaller and easier to manage than June-bearers..
Photo Courtesy Dreamstime/Tamara Muldoon
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.