MINTER: Plant strawberries now

It’s hard to imagine a June garden without the mouth-watering flavour of strawberries, and the good news  is, planted now, both the everbearing and day neutral varieties will produce fruit this year.

For serious strawberry growers, however, the June bearing varieties still produce high volumes of very large flavourful fruit.

Traditionally, main season strawberry varieties, planted now, will develop into good sized plants over the summer and fall, then produce great crops next year. You will get a few fruits the first year, but they’re just a tease for the next season.

The flower buds of June berries are initiated in the shorter days of autumn, then produce good crops the following June.

Some of the great June bearing varieties for our area are:

Hood: This variety has very large dark red cone-shaped berries on upright vigorous plants. It has great flavour and is terrific fresh and for jams.

Rainier: The good sized berries of this variety maintain their size all through the season and have great flavour.

Sumas: This very heavy yielding variety has lighter red berries and very good flavour.

Totem: This very hardy variety, developed at the Canada Research Station in Agassiz, is still a favourite for productivity and good sized fruit.

Stolo: Newer variety with large, firm, glossy fruits which keep their size throughout the season

Puget Reliance:  The beauty of this variety is its generous crops of very large fruits and its reliability to produce in a wide range of growing conditions.

Chandler: A huge California variety with outstanding flavour, it does very well on the West Coast.

Everbearing varieties have the unique ability to initiate fruit buds during both short and long days, providing more continuous crops.  The day neutral varieties will produce fruit under all day lengths and are perhaps the most productive, providing tasty berries all summer and into the fall.

Another distinct advantage of the everbearing types is that they can flower and produce fruit and runners all at the same time. The runners will produce fruit even without rooting, and this unique ability makes them ideal for growing in containers, hanging baskets and other unusual garden situations.

They will also provide good quality fruit the first year.  Some of the top everbearing varieties are:

Fort Laramie:    This variety is noted for its vast runner production and is often sold as a climbing variety.  It has good-sized, very flavourful fruit.

Quinault: Still one of the best everbearing varieties, it has good sized, very flavourful fruit.

Some top day neutral varieties are:

Tristar: This variety is still one of the most popular day neutrals.  It has medium sized flavourful berries and is very disease tolerant.

Seascape: This is a  new introduction with high quality and flavourful fruits that are red all the way through.

Albion: A new variety with long conical fruits having excellent flavour and producing a constant supply of berries throughout the summer.

Eversweet: The medium to large sized berries of this variety are noted for their high sugar content.

For the best results, all strawberries need a sunny location and good drainage. Growing them in raised beds or hilled rows creates not only good drainage but also warmer soil.

They love moisture, but it must drain away quickly to prevent root rot.  Although slightly acid-loving, working well rotted manures into the soil will help get strawberry plants off to a good start.  When setting out the plants, it is very important to plant them to a depth that just covers the roots but not the stem.

Brian Minter’s column appears throughout the Lower Mainland. Contact him at newsroom@abbynews.com.