Grow Sun-Ripened Strawberries

Growing your own sun-ripened strawberries is one of the easiest and most rewarding gardening efforts you can undertake.

| April/May 2004

There's no denying the lure of sun-ripened strawberries oozing with sweetness and flavor. Just catching a glimpse of a rich, red berry is enough to arouse one's appetite, and if appearances alone guaranteed good eating, strawberries certainly would win an epicurean gold medal every time.

Unless you live near a retail strawberry grower, growing your own is the only way to get that splendid strawberry flavor so lacking in supermarket crops. Truly ripe, tender, juicy strawberries are just too perishable to be found on any supermarket shelf; commercially grown strawberries are bred for firmness, size and long shelf life — flavor is secondary. In addition, they often are harvested before the berries even turn red, a practice that halts the development of the berries' flavor, but not their luscious color.

Growing your own strawberries is also one of the easiest and mast rewarding gardening efforts you can undertake. These modest herbaceous plants need only a small amount of space in which to grow, and they produce large yields quickly. Right now is the ideal time to make plans for growing your own, so here are some considerations that will help you succeed:

Types of Strawberries

Perennial garden strawberries come in three main types, defined by when they bear their fruit, according to Barbara L. Bowling, author of The Berry Grower's Companion and formerly a professor of horticulture at Rutgers and Pennsylvania State universities. They are: June-bearers (also called short-days), day-neutrals and ever-bearers.

June-bearers, available as early, mid and late-season varieties, are the most widely grown by home gardeners, accord ing to Bowling. As their name implies, they produce their crop in June. Day-neutrals, which are gaining popularity, bear a modest crop along with the June-bearers and then continue to produce fruits into the fall. "They initiate flower buds regardless of day length, thus producing some fruit throughout the summer and a sizable fall crop that is a great bonus for backyard growers," Bowling says. Day-neutrals, though, generally do not thrive in areas that have hot summers (upstate New York summers, for example, are ideal). Ever-bearers, which sometimes are confused with day-neutrals, bear from early summer into fall but are less productive and have lower-quality berries than the day-neutrals. Nevertheless, their ongoing harvests have appealed to many gardeners over the years.

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