If you have seeds for Alpine strawberries, nows the time to plant them. Theyre tiny, so I dont cover them with sand or planting mix like most seeds, but I do put a piece of glass (from a picture frame) on top of the pot to hold moisture.
If you believe bigger is better, you wont be interested in Alpine or Ruegen strawberries. Theyre small and have exquisite flavor, similar to that of the tinier wild strawberries. They also do not put out runners, necessitating renewal of the bed every so often.
Alpine or Ruegen strawberry seed is available to produce red, yellow or white berries. Ruegen is named for a German-owned island in the Baltic Sea (often spelled Rugen), not exactly alpine in configuration. Theyre all delicious, but I think birds wont feed on the yellow or white berries as they try to do on the red ones. The plants grow to about 8 inches in height and hold the berries up off the soil, thus foiling slugs. That puts berries at robins-eye level, though.
The plants are hardy here, and tend to produce a few berries all summer. They will reseed, giving you a nice patch of edible groundcover. They grow very well in containers such as wooden half-barrels.
When these seeds germinate, youll see very tiny strawberry-lobed leaves. I use a small pickle fork to pry them from their plant mix, then transplant them into small six-packs of planting cells when leaf clusters are still smaller than a quarter-inch across. Thats usually the only transplant they need until theyre ready to go outdoors.
Water with tepid chamomile tea to prevent damping off.
Outdoors, they appreciate a little shade on hot days, so plant them where its shady for part of the day at least. Alpine strawberries are considered day-neutral, thus bearing fruit no matter the day length.
Regular strawberries, larger than Alpines but with less concentrated flavor, may be day- neutral (everbearing) or June-bearing. Those fruiting in late May and June usually have a fairly heavy crop, then no berries for the rest of the summer. Since June 21 is our longest daylight of the year, theyre long-day berries.
Regular strawberries are often sold bare-root in bundles. Unlike the Alpine plants, regular strawberries require full sun. Both varieties grow best in loose, friable soil rich with organic matter. Theyre sensitive to too much water, so if you irrigate the bed, you may get a better harvest by planting them on mounds or ridges. They do need 1.5 to 2 inches of water per week while fruiting, but they dont like standing in water.
Dont plant them where lawn grass, potatoes or tomatoes grew previously. You may plant them quite early, about March or April in our area.
Soak bare roots in tepid water for an hour or two, then plant immediately. Dig holes deep enough that the roots will hang down below soil surface, but none of the crown will be buried. The crown is a short trunk or stem joining leaves and roots. Dont spread the roots laterally. Space June-bearing plants at least 12 inches apart, but day-neutral berries may be spaced about 8 inches apart.
If you are planting in rows, they should be at least 2 feet apart. A 3-foot path provides easier picking. Experts advise picking off the first flowers of first-year plants to focus the plants energy on rooting. Then you should have two years of fruiting, before you need to replace the original plants. Daughter plants on runners may be carrying disease, so youre better off putting in all new plants.
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