Strawberries that ripen on the plant have a wonderful rich flavor, much different from the store bought fruit. Since strawberries are a perennial plant they can produce a bountiful crop for four years when properly cared for, and they are not difficult to grow.
There are two types of strawberries:
- The most common strawberry type is June-bearing, which does not produce a crop the first year but produces an abundant, early summer crop for the next four years.
- The other type is called day-neutral. These plants will produce the same year they are planted. They produce through the summer and fall for only one or two years. The berries tend to be smaller.
Good strawberry varieties in both types:
- The June bearing varieties that do well in Pennsylvania are listed in order of maturity: Earliglow (smaller fruit), Wendy, Cavendish, Allstar, and Jewel.
- Good day-neutral varieties are Seascape and Albion.
Strawberries like a well-drained soil with a pH of around 6.5. They have a fairly small root system. Plants respond to small amounts of fertilizer applied several times during the growing season; however, they do most of their growing in the spring and fall. They do well in soil high in organic matter. Aged manure is a good source of organic matter, but is best used the first year of a June-bearing planting, because there is no fruit to contact the manure. Manure is not the best choice in fruiting years due to food safety considerations.
Strawberries should be planted in late April or early May. June-bearing strawberry plants should be spaced about 18" to 24" apart in the row. They will produce an abundance of runners which will make daughter plants. Pull the runners into the row before they root into the soil. Your goal is to end the first summer with a 12" wide row consisting of many new plants. If manure is not applied, the row should be lightly fertilized at planting and again in early August.
Like other garden plants, it is very important that weeds are removed throughout the growing season. You need to water the new planting during dry weather as the root system is limited.
The time and effort you put into a new strawberry planting will pay delicious dividends in coming summers.