They are red and seeded on the outside, fleshy and juicy in the inside. They have this small, regal-looking, green leafy cap and stem that adorn its crown. That’s fresh, plump strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) for you. But their fine-looking appearance does not last long. Strawberries are delicate, requiring gentle handling to prevent bruising.
There can be few countries in the world where strawberries are not grown. They are tolerant of most soil types, undemanding of nutrients and survive weather conditions ranging from cool, moist Scotland to fiery Spain. With careful choice of variety and a greenhouse, fruit can be available for half the year.
In the Philippines, strawberries are only grown in cool areas like Benguet and Baguio.
- Buy strawberry plants at the nursery for planting as you can work the ground (fall in warm climates). Make sure the plants are certified disease-free; strawberries can carry viruses that not only will kill the crop but also will spread through your garden.
- Choose a site that has excellent drainage, gets full sun and warms up early in the spring so blossoms aren’t destroyed by late frosts. A gentle, south-facing slope is ideal. If your soil drains poorly, grow strawberries in raised beds or containers.
- Till the planting bed thoroughly to a depth of at least 12 inches, removing all traces of weeds and grass, and dig in plenty of compost or well-cured manure to ensure the rich, fertile soil that strawberries need. The soil’s pH should be slightly acid, from 5.5 to 6.5.
- Dig a hole for each plant five to seven inches wide and deep enough to accommodate the roots. Set the plant into the hole with the crown just above ground level, and fill in the soil so that the roots are completely buried. Spacing depends on the planting method you choose.
- Use the “matted row” planting method for the easiest maintenance. Set plants 18 inches apart in rows three to four feet apart. The plants will send out runners with abandon, with each runner producing a new little plant.
- Keep the spaces between rows open by returning to the berry patch after each harvest and removing the outermost plants from both sides of each row. You can either snip the runners and dig up the attached plants, or simply run a mechanical tiller down the row.
- Remove some of the original “mother” plants from each row at same time, leaving the newest plants, which will bear more vigorously the following season. Treat the crop as a biennial, plowing the plants under after the first harvest and starting over the following spring.
- Use the “hill” method for a longer-lasting bed, or if you have limited growing space. Set plants 12 inches apart on all sides, whether in rows or a cluster (just be sure the bed is small enough that you can reach into it comfortably).
- Cut off all runners as soon as they appear. This way the plants direct all their energy into fruit production and should give you ample harvests for six years or more.
- Make sure young plants get at least an inch of water a week. Mulch to conserve moisture and deter weeds. A light material such straw or salt hay is ideal for both purposes.
- Avoid letting any fruit develop the first year, regardless of which planting method you use. Instead, pick off each blossom as soon as you see it – forming and ripening even a berry or two will weaken a plant so much that the following year’s production will be cut drastically.
- Pick all strawberries the day they ripen, and eat or preserve them as soon as possible: overripe fruit spoils quickly on or off the vine.
Tips & Warnings
- There are four kinds of strawberries, all of which like the same growing conditions. The classic types produce a huge harvest all at once – June in most places, earlier in warmer climates. They’re perfect if you want large quantities at once for freezing, preserving, or dishing up at a neighborhood strawberry social.
- Contrary to their name, “ever-bearing” strawberries produce two crops a year, one in June and another later in the summer – both smaller than those of the classic varieties. “Day-neutral” types do, in fact, bear a modest but steady stream of fruit for most of the summer, stopping only during very hot weather. Alpine strawberries, or fraises des bois, produce tiny, scrumptious berries all summer long, but you need a great many plants to reap enough fruit to top more than a sundae or two.
- Ever-bearing strawberries are an exception to the no-first-year-fruit rule. In their case, pinch off all blossoms until midsummer of the first year; after that, let the plants flower naturally. By that time they’ll be strong enough to support their fall crop.
For more information, contact:
Bureau of Agricultural Research
RDMIC Building, Visayas Ave. cor. Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City
Phone: +63 928-8505
Highland Agriculture & Resources Research & Development Consortium (HARRDEC)
Benguet State University, La Trinidad, Benguet
Telefax: (074) 422 1656
Other source: ehow.com, photo from lakwatsera.com