Strawberry cultivation for Dummies – and others.

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In fact, growing strawberries is not particularly complicated at first, so why make an entire article? First, to go to bed all a little stupid months. Second, to list the tricks that make the difference between “strawberries to bleed belly” and “not a lot of strawberries”. And trimo – or tertio for those who prefer the correct French – to name a few varieties and their preferences.

The basics.

Strawberry is a Rosaceae – the family of many of our fruit trees – like cherry and apple. It typically blooms in late spring, and forms its first fruits around the month of May .
It is a small perennial plant with rhizomes and stolons, which spreads gradually. It bears leaves composed of three toothed leaflets, and culminates at about twenty centimeters in height. The flowers appear from spring to the end of summer, they are in yellow capituli, surrounded by 5 white ligules, and measure 2-3 cm. It is difficult to identify strawberry varieties without seeing the fruits, so be sure to note it at the time of planting.

Let’s feed ourselves with a little history.

The strawberry was cultivated in Europe from the fourteenth century, first varieties from Fragaria vesca , strawberry wood, then varieties of Fragaria moschat – strawberry caper.

“Strawberries, here is finally a good fruit of us! “

Well … not at all! The strawberries grown today are hybrids of Fragaria virginiana – Virginia strawberry, with a pleasant taste and fragrance – and Fragaria chiloensis – Chestnut strawberry with large whitish fruit … The hybrid is named Fragaria X ananassa, due to of its smell that evokes pineapple.
For the record, the strawberry from Chile was brought back by Amédée François Frézier in the eighteenth century – a man predestined by his surname, no doubt.

Well, it’s nice all that, but what’s the point of knowing, for you who just want to grow strawberries?

The provenance of a species gives clues to its ecological preferences: one of the main parents is therefore from the Conception region, in Chile, where the climate is “warm Mediterranean with dry summer”, while the other is “humid continental” without dry season “according to the Köppen-Geiger classification. The result is strawberries that can be cultivated everywhere, especially that over time the breeders have hybridized them with other species. They are less demanding than wild strawberries, which settles only if she wants it.

The optimum ecological strawberry.

According to the observations of Antoine Nicolas Duchesne, strawberry does not grow well in the tropics where it tends to wither.
To grow strawberries you need: cold winters, humus soil that is drained and stays cool, as well as sun or light shade . Strawberries are also considered to prefer a slight acidity of the soil , at the risk of the leaves becoming chlorinated – yellowing and then drying.

The worries if one moves away from this optimum of culture are:

  • Rotting of plants in wet and cold soil during winter.
  • You will see your strawberry plants dry quickly in the sun in the absence of mulch – also called the straw-berry strawberry, ”  Straw berry  ” in English, so it is indispensable for its culture.
  • Temperatures of 25 ° C combined with stagnant water and root injuries favor verticillosis, a fungus that progressively blocks sap exchange. The leaves turn brown, then wither.

Which is not a problem:

Growing strawberry plants is easy because they do not make a lot of roots. They enjoy a mix of earth, sand and light compost.
Cultivating on small mounds – which can be trained by pulling the soil – has the double advantage of facilitating surface drainage and increasing the depth of water supply.

When and how

First of all, a quick note: buying seedlings in the spring and transplanting them to the garden is tempting – you can see many garden centers. Yes but – you will not have strawberries for the first season! It’s better to do it in autumn – before winter! The plant will have time to settle, to make roots all winter smoothly …

Of course you can buy strawberries in bucket or bare root and transplant – autumn therefore, preferably, to have a decent production next spring. Buying them from a market gardener near you is best, he will have done the job of selecting a variety adapted to the climate .

Otherwise, sowing is done with seeds cold for 15 days – refrigerator, or winter cold. It takes place in February-March in a greenhouse, a little later in the ground, and is done by burying the seeds very little.
The strawberry is a fertile hybrid species, however it is much easier to propagate it by layering – that’s what its stolons serve – than by sowing. To retrieve them, a little planting in the autumn to take out the new mound, and presto they are ready to be replanted – or given to friends who also dream of strawberries.

Keep his strawberries in good health.

Strawberries are ephemeral perennials so to succeed in keeping them, it is necessary each year to make a selection in its lines at the end of the season . This consists in removing the oldest plants to make room for the young people who have formed by the stolons. Another method is to transplant these seedlings into new lines, and remove the older ones.
The other must with strawberries is to provide each year with mulching and manure or compost on the surface. The varieties we grow have been selected to form large “fruits”, they deplete soils quickly. And mulching is not just about keeping moisture, it prevents strawberries from rotting on the ground.

Strawberry going up or not?

As a reminder, the term ascending means that a strawberry blossoms over a long period – all its fruits do not form in the spring, but rather from May-June to September.
There are strawberries dating back a very long time – the first mention was made in 1760. It is a favorite character when you choose a variety for your garden, otherwise you may have a large production, but over such a short period that your belly will have trouble following.

Varieties.

Do not hesitate to buy different varieties of strawberries, even if you prefer the taste of only one of them, you will limit the risks of diseases and extend the period of harvest.

  • Mara des bois : a strawberry interesting because of the cross with the wild strawberry.
  • Gariguette : a well-known variety because it has relaunched the qualitative strawberry market in France. Easy to recognize, with its double tip, it has the disadvantage of not being remontante.
  • Mariguette : hybrid of the two previous varieties, it has the advantage of being up, with the taste quality of a gariguette.
  • Strawberry Four Seasons : selected from the species Fragaria vesca, it makes strawberries a little larger.
  • ‘Mount Everest’ : produces very long stems, usable as a climbing plant. Practice on a balcony. It is a rising American variety.
  • ‘Maxim’ : very big fruits. Not going back, it is mainly used to impress the guests 😉
  • ‘Capron Royal’ : interesting to try, if you want to get an idea of ​​the varieties that existed before the eighteenth century.
  • ‘Pineapple’ : to try out of curiosity, it is the parent of most modern varieties.
  • Early variety: ‘Ciflorette’ , non-rising.

Dr. Kimberly Seltzer

Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley Research Assistant, MIT

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