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Garden Tool: If you feel cheated by the big, red, sour strawberries available in grocery stores late winter is the time to start your own little strawberry field. Starter plants are available in nurseries, but which variety to choose? If you want to harvest many berries at once for jam or pies buy "June-bearing" such as 'Shuksan' or 'Rainier'; if you want lower maintenance plants that will provides a few berries throughout the summer buy "Day-neutral" such as 'Tribute' or 'Tillicum.'
The experts all agree, you should cut off the first flush of flowers so that your plants will develop larger crowns and eventually more fruit. This means no fruit for the first year for June-bearing strawberries. Don't scrimp on water, but good drainage is also essential. Applying a mulch will help keep the soil cool and moist and protect the ripening berries from soil fungus. But mulch will also give shelter to slugs, so take care to use an organic-acceptable iron phosphate bait (such as Sluggo) regularly.
While technically perennial, strawberry plants should be replaced every 2 to 3 years with newly purchased stock. Recommended reading on growing strawberries, from Oregon State University, will get you off to a good start.
Stephen Wilhelm and James E. Sagen in their book, A History of the Strawberry: from ancient gardens to modern markets, investigate how the strawberry was named. The theory they give most credence to is that the runners are "strewed" from the mother plant. In ancient times one word used for "strew" was "straw," and thus a strewing berry became strabery (sic) which eventually became strawberry in England.
If you want to use straw as the mulch for strawberries look in the yellow pages under "feed stores."
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June 24 2013 12:55:25