Berries and Brambles: Strawberry

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Strawberries are one of the most common berries grown in Northern Illinois at both homes and farms. Unlike other berries and brambles, strawberries do not always require intensive management such as pruning. Strawberry plants do need some attention when it comes to yearly management, dealing with runners from the plants, and preparing the strawberry plants for winter protection.

There are three types of strawberries which include June bearing, everbearing, and day neutral.

June bearing will have a large concentrated crop in late spring with better overall yields. Everbearing has several flushes of flowers and fruits each season. Day neutral will have flower and fruit continuously through the growing season unless it's too hot. You'll want to select strawberries types based on maturation date, dessert quality, preserving quality, and disease resistance. Once you've decided on the type, you'll then seek out varieties for these.

Some recommended varieties for our area include Earligrow, Annapolis, and Jewel which are all June bearing and Tristar and Tribute which are day neutral. When planting strawberries, you want to plant as soon as the ground can be prepared in the spring but not if the soil is too wet. For our area, this is best done in March or April.

Strawberries need a system to grow and yield well. The matted row, spaced row, and hill system are common setups for strawberries. In the matted system, plants are set 18-30" apart with rows 3-4' apart. These are most popular for June bearing berries. In spaced row, this is similar spacing as matted row but the daughter plants are spaced to root no closer than 4" apart. All other runners are cut off. The spaced row can be more labor but higher yields, larger berries, and fewer disease problems. In the hill system, these are better for everbearing and day neutral cultivars where all runners are removed. Plants are planted 1' apart. You can see in the above image from GrowOrganic what the Hill Method and Matted Row Method looks like.While these are systems for small and large plantings, strawberry plants can also be grown on modified wooden pallets, pyramids, and in barrels. The everbearing and day neutral are usually better for these unique setups. Instructions for making wooden pallets systems can be found online.