CORVALLIS, Ore. – Early spring is the time to plant new strawberry plants. If cared for, strawberries can produce enough for the family in a relatively small area.
Strawberries fall into three categories, each with several varieties, according to Bernadine Strik, an Oregon State University Extension berry crops professor in the horticulture department. June-bearers produce one crop per year, usually during June. Everbearers produce two crops per year, one in June and one in August. Day-neutrals produce an almost continuous crop from May through early fall.
Varieties typically grown in Oregon are June-bearers, including Hood, Shuksan, Totem, Benton, Tillamook and Puget Reliance. Everbearers include Fort Laramie, Ozark Beauty and Quinault; day-neutrals varieties include Albion, Seascape, Selva, 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. They have better fruit quality than everbearers.”
Choose between two types of planting methods for strawberries: matted-row, where the runners are encouraged to fill in the row, or the hill system, where runners are removed. The hill system is preferred for day-neutrals, because they don't produce as many runners as June-bearers, Strik explained. 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.
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 for each plant large enough 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 about 15 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 will form a matted row 12-18 inches wide.
Keep the remaining ½ to 2 ½ 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 1½ to 2 feet wide. Remove runners that develop throughout the growing season before they root.
In the planting year, apply about ¾ lb of 16-16-16 (or the equivalent) fertilizer per 10 feet of strawberry row. Make sure you irrigate the plants well enough to prevent drought stress.