Growing Strawberries for Home Use
by E.G. Fisher and Ray Sheldrake
New York State College of Agriculture Cornell Extension Bulletin 943
Standard or June-Bearing Strawberry Varieties
Varieties marked with an asterisk (*) are best for freezing: those marked with a plus (+) are fair for freezing. The purchase of virus-free plants is always advisable. Varieties are listed in approximate order of ripening date.
(*) Midland — Good quality. High yield. Early ripening
(+) Catskill — Good quality. Good yield.
(+) Fairfax — High quality. Low yield
Empire — Good quality. High yield. Very attractive berries
(+) Robinson — Only fair quality. High yield.
(*) Sparkle — A standard processing variety. A good home-garden berry. If only one variety is grown and a freezing berry is desired, Sparkle is the best choice.
Good drainage is essential. Low areas where late spring frosts are common are undesirable.
The best time to think about weed control is before the berries are planted. A soil relatively free of weeds is a distinct advantage. This may be accomplished if you plant the area to a clean cultivated crop and keep out all weed growth for a year. Planting the area to buckwheat the summer before setting strawberries is a help.
Manure is an ideal fertilizer for strawberries. Any weed free decomposed plant refuse well supplied with nitrogen can be used as a substitute. When preparing the soil for planting, turn under from 3 to 4 bushels of manure or suitable plant refuse per 100 square feet of garden area.
Planting and Summer Care
Harrow or rake the soil smooth as in any good gardening operation. Early spring planting is best for the home garden. If you cannot set the plants on arrival, hold them until planting time in the refrigerator with the roots in moist packing, or put the plants in a plastic bag. Soak the roots in water for an hour before you set them in the garden. Plant on a cloudy day or in the evening, and water after setting.
Dig a hole with a trowel, spread the roots out and firm the soil around them. Apply at least one cup of water per plant.
At the first cultivation, uncover any crowns that have been planted too deeply. Shallow but frequent cultivation is necessary for adequate weed control. Remove all blossoms that form the year the plants are set.
The Matted Row
The most widely used method of training strawberries in the past has been the matted-row system. If the bed is relatively weed-free, the matted row will require less hand labor but may produce lower yields than the hill system.
If you use the matted-row system, set the plants 1 1/2 feet apart in the row with 3 to 4 feet between rows.
Space the earliest formed runners so that no plants are closer than 6 inches apart. Keep the row width to 1 1/2 to 2 feet, and remove later formed runners that crowd the early rooted daughter plants.
The Hill System
Experiments have indicated that yields from the hill system may be larger than those from the matted row. The hill system does require more hand labor. Set the plants about 1 foot apart in the row, with rows 1 foot apart. Plant two or three such rows and then leave a 24-inch to 30-inch alley in which to work.
Keep the runners removed from the mother plants throughout the life of the bed. Fruit is produced entirely from the plants that you set in the spring. The original plants should produce fruit for two or more years.
Many home gardens may lack space for both vegetables and strawberries. In such places, one might use a strawberry pyramid or a strawberry barrel to provide this fruit.