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Strawberries Offer Three Harvest Options

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Strawberry planting time is whenever soil becomes workable in spring. In the Midwest, that’s usually March or April.

Experts have been disagreeing for decades, however, about how many strawberry types are available to plant – two or three. So, gardeners may find the “facts” vary from gardening book to magazine to Extension publication, said Ward Upham, K-State Research and Extension horticulturist.

“Fortunately, if you know what the terms mean, you’ll be able to select the best type for you. Then you can look up the varieties recommended by the state university where you live,” he said.

A strawberry variety’s “type” indicates how it relates to day length, Upham explained. That response affects both berry and runner (daughter plant) production:

* June-bearing – easily the most popular. On average, these varieties produce the most berries – size and quantity — and the most bed-renewing daughter plants (runners). They can be early- or mid- or late-season but only fruit for two to three weeks in late spring. June-bearers basically require a planting bed.

* Everbearing — typically produce a late spring and early fall crop, with little to nothing in summer. They don’t send out many runners, so are more adaptable in the landscape. Some experts combine them with the following group.

* Day-neutral –an actual choice since 1983, when University of California plant breeders released Selva, the first commercially successful day-neutral variety.

Today’s day-neutrals don’t care about day length. Typically, they flower and fruit whenever temperatures are 35 to 85 degrees. And, growers can sometimes extend that range with coldframe-type protection (early spring) and overhead irrigation (hot spells). Day-neutrals come closest to providing a spring-to-fall fruit supply, but their berries tend to be the smallest. They produce few runners, so can be good edging and container plants, as well as a garden crop.

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