CORVALLIS - Early spring is the time to plant new strawberry plants. Late autumn is not too early to start thinking about what varieties you may want to plant anew this coming year.
Strawberries fall into three categories, each with a number of varieties, according to Bernadine Strik, berry crops specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service. June-bearers produce one crop per year, usually during June and July. Everbearers produce two crops per year, one in June and one in the fall. Day-neutrals produce an almost continuous crop from June until early fall.
Consult your local nursery to find out what categories and varieties are available in your area. Varieties typically grown in Oregon include: June-bearers - Sumas, Hood, Shuksan, Totem, Redcrest, Bountiful, Benton, and Rainier; everbearers - Fort Laramie, Ozark Beauty, and Quinault; day-neutrals - Fern, Hecker, Seascape, Selva, Tillikum, Tribute and Tristar.
June-bearers are ideal if large numbers of strawberries are needed at one time, such as for jam or freezing, advised Strik.
"June-bearers will have better quality and texture than everbearers or day-neutrals," she said. "But, if you want strawberries throughout the season, plant day-neutrals. What you plant should be suited to what you want."
Choose between two types of planting methods for strawberries- the matted-row or the hill system. The hill system is preferred for everbearers and day-neutrals because they don't produce as many runners as June-bearers, explained Strik. June-bearers are usually grown in a matted row, but you can also grow them in a hill system.
Strik recommends the following guidelines for planting:
Plant strawberries in early spring, as soon as you can prepare the soil. Strawberries grow best in well-drained, reasonably fertile soil. A good supply of organic material worked into the soil improves aeration, drainage and water-holding capacity. Try to apply the organic material a year ahead of planting. Right before planting, apply one pound of 10-20-20 (or the equivalent) fertilizer per 100 square feet of strawberry bed. Or apply about 30 pounds of manure per 100 square feet.
Plant certified, disease-free plants purchased from a reputable nursery. Avoid using runner plants from an old established patch - they are often diseased.
Dig a hole large enough for each plant to place the roots straight down and somewhat spread. The midpoint of the crown should be level with the soil surface and the topmost root should be just below the soil surface. Water the plants as soon as they are in the ground.
In the matted-row system, set plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row (or raised bed), with three to four feet between rows. Allow the runners that form from these "mother" plants to develop and root - they'll form a matted row 18 inches wide.
Keep the remaining 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet between rows clear by sweeping early-formed runners into the row or by cutting off late-formed runners that grow into the aisle or off the edge of the raised bed.
The hill system is ideal for varieties that produce few runners, such as day-neutrals. Set plants 12 to 15 inches apart in double or triple-wide rows (on raised beds if necessary). Aisles should be 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide. Remove all runners that develop throughout the growing season before they root.
For more information on growing strawberries, download the OSU Extension Service circular "Growing Strawberries in Your Home Garden," EC 1307, available on-line at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/EC/EC1307.pdf.
Or, for a printed version of the strawberry publication, send your request and a check or money order payable to OSU ($1.50 per copy plus $3 shipping and handling) to: Publications Orders, Extension and Experiment Station Communications, OSU, 422 Kerr Administration Building, Corvallis, Ore. 97331-2119.