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Strawberry: Fragaria x ananassa

Strawberry: Fragaria x ananassa

Belonging to the family Rosaceae containing 4,828 species, many of them are fruit such as apples, almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, prunes and strawberries. Strawberries are one of California’s largest agricultural crops, with over 3.0 billion dollars in sales last year. Most modern strawberries grown for their fruit are hybrids of the genus Fragaria x ananassa. Fragaria, named after the lovely fragrance of the plant, has 20 species and many hybrids and cultivars.

Strawberries have toothed, roundish medium green leaves, and white flowers. The strawberry is not a true berry but an aggregate fruit, containing around 200 seeds in its outer membrane. Most are low growing, up to 7 inches, will fruit best in full sun, but will tolerate some shade, and like well-drained, acidic soil high in organic matter. They perform best if given about 1 inch of water per week during growing season. (Do not let the soil completely dry out.) Strawberries should not be planted where peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, or potatoes have been grown. Each of these plants could harbor Verticillium wilt, a serious strawberry disease. Plant strawberry plants with the crown above soil to prevent rot, with roots 1/4 " below the soil. If your soil is heavy or drains poorly, plant in mounds 14-18" apart with 2-2.5 feet between rows. Use a complete fertilizer, lightly while the plants are young, and heavier after you have your first fruiting. Overfeeding causes excessive growth, soft fruit, and fruit rot.

We are currently growing two different types of Strawberries: June-bearing (aka spring-bearing), and Ever-bearing. Our June-bearing Strawberry varieties are ‘Chandler’ and ‘Sequoia’. This type of strawberry is the earliest planted, and the earliest to flower and fruit, typically completing its fruiting cycle by the end of June. ‘Chandler’ bears large juicy berries over a long period with good flavor and texture. They are resistant to leaf spot (a fungus), and grow well particularly in the Santa Barbara area. ‘Sequoia’ was developed for Coastal California but is widely adapted, even to cold winters. It is considered one of the tastiest strawberries, and in the right conditions will produce an abundance of fruit from March to June. They are resistant to alkalinity, yellows, and most leaf diseases.

It is best to pinch the first flowers on developing strawberry plants. Doing so will put more energy into their roots and runners. If you do not want “daughter” plants, also pinch off the runners to get better fruit. After a full season, use the runners to start daughter plants that you can cover with mulch for the winter and have a more robust "mother" plant for next year. Experiment with this and see the difference between your mother and daughter plants. One explanation for the name “Strawberry” is that they are commonly mulched using 4-6 "of straw. After the last frost, rake the mulch off the tops of your plants, and fill it in around them. Mulching keeps weeds back, holds moisture in, and keeps the berries off of the soil. June-bearers also benefit from thinning back and pruning after harvesting. Fertilize June-bearers twice in the fruiting season, with a heavier feed after first fruiting.

Our Ever-bearing species are ‘Temptation’ and ‘Albion’, which will bear fruit both in the spring and fall. (In late spring and summer we will include 'Quinalt' and 'Eversweet' to our line up.) Ever-bearing strawberries are great for gardeners who have limited space and can be grown in terraced beds, barrels or pyramids or as an edging plant or groundcover. They need full sun for the highest yields, at least 6 hours per day. ‘Albion’ bears long conical fruit with excellent flavor. It resists Verticillium wilt and Crown rot. ‘Temptation’ is very easy to grow and produces large flavorful, bright red fruit. ‘Temptation’ has a mounding growth habit and does not send out runners like most other strawberries. It is great for hanging baskets and lives for 2 years. Both varieties will benefit from light fertilizer throughout the year.

The French began bringing Strawberries into their gardens from the forests in the 13th century and the whole plant was known to have health benefits and has been referenced extensively throughout history. The French spy Amedee-Francois Frezier (1682-1773) was the first to bring back specimens of Fragaria chiloensis from Chile to the Old World. Subsequently, the French began the formal cultivation of strawberries, leading to the modern Fragaria x ananassa that we currently use. Native forms of Strawberries occur throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and South America’s more temperate regions. It is widely thought that the spread of strawberries is facilitated by birds, who pass the seeds intact though their bodies.

American Indians were eating strawberries long before the first colonists arrived in North America. Legend says that they mixed strawberries into a cornmeal mixture, to create an early form of cornbread. The colonists are said to have used this recipe to develop strawberry shortcake. In 1780, the first North American Hybrid ‘Hudson’ was developed in the United States. Many people today enjoy gardening with strawberries, and they are among the most widely grown home garden fruit. California produces 75% of our nations strawberry crop, an amazing one billion pounds a year! We are currently growing strawberries in 6 packs. Give us a call, ‘Like’ us on Facebook, or check out our website to read more about this and other plants we are currently growing!

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