Strawberries are divided up into three basic varieties. So know what you are purchasing before you buy them. They can be summer-bearing (or June), ever-bearing, or day-neutral. Fertilizer should be organic and low in numbers, like 5-6-7. Too high in numbers and the strawberries will produce large leaves with small, pinched fruits.
Summer-bearing strawberries produce a lot of strawberries, but generally only once a year over a two to three-week period. These ones are popular with people who want to freeze, jam, or can them. You can literally pick baskets full of berries in a single day and have enough to preserve them all at once. These are also popular with U-picks because of their mass production. They are best fertilized after they produce the berries in late summer or early fall. Fertilizing before the fruit set will cause the berries to become too soft and susceptible to rot.
Allstar is perhaps the best producer for the northwest. It produces heavily on disease-resistant dwarf plants and has that classic strawberry taste. If you have powdery mildew issues, Allstar can ward it off.
Earliglow is a very aggressive grower and perfect for beginners because of its excellent production, cold tolerance, and disease resistance. These can send out lots of runners, so be sure to give them room. Their flavor is sweet and the fruit is not too soft. Perfect for freezing and fresh eating.
Honeoye is probably the sweetest strawberry to have. It produces hardy fruits that don’t rot even in wet conditions. The plant also winters over beautifully! Fruits come out large then tend to shrink in size once they produce for a while. One of my personal favorites.
Everbearing strawberries are misidentified as strawberries that produce all summer. This is partly true. The berries actually produce twice a year. The first batch in early summer is quite heavy and then a later batch in fall which is smaller and more sporadic in production. Some varieties will produce strawberries right up to frost. Fertilizer and compost are best applied in spring for these varieties. They like a boost in fertilizer when new leaves are starting to appear. Everbearing strawberries are great for kids because there are almost always strawberries to eat throughout the year.
Ozark Beauty is another one of my favorites. It boasts of fruit that is high in sugar and I have been impressed with its strong large plants and cold hardiness too. Fruits are held up high so they are less inviting to slugs and earwigs.
Fort Laramie is known to take over rather quickly, so when these are planted, be sure you like them! They can form a quick mat of plants and plenty to share with friends and family! The taste is a traditional strawberry, sweet with a fantastic tang finish.
Quinault was developed at the Washington State University and is quickly becoming one of the most popular varieties in the Northwest. These plants can winter particularly well in our wet and cold winter climates. The flavor is amazingly bold. Highly recommend it for our crazy Washington weather.
Day Neutral Strawberries are strawberries that will produce almost any time of year. (Except during the winter.)
Seascape is a popular one we used in large nurseries for hanging baskets, but they are great inside as well.
Royal Royce is the new guy on the block having only just come out in 2018. It produced optimum heavy yields and has out-performed over other currently commercially grown fruits. Small plants make these easy for field production too.
Pineapple is a strawberry that is white in color with red seeds. I’m trying this one this year for the first time! It’s said to be a very aggressive grower so keep it in a large pot or in a raised bed. They are apparently so mouth-watering good everyone who tries them claims they are better than the red strawberries!
Remember that strawberries need lots of light, so full sun is best or else they cannot produce well. Do not over-fertilize or over-water. Soggy soil can lead to soft and bland fruits, rotting fruits, or rotting roots which can lead to death! Water well all the way to the bottom of the roots, but then allow them to dry out a little between watering. Mulching prevents drying out and muddy fruits. Give them room or their own little raised bed to help keep their spreading controlled. It’s not unusual for strawberries to peter out after 3-5 years, especially ever-bearing and day-neutral. So replace them every so often, and have fun trying new varieties!
Photo by Lucinda Hershberger