Enjoy as strawberry season winds down
By TERRY SHEARS
OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer
A cold March and snowy April followed by a May heat wave were a little tough on everybody’s favorite early summer berry – strawberries.
But the season is winding down, and now is the time to enjoy before they are gone. Some early plants are done, but a few late varieties are still hanging in there.
There’s nothing more fun than taking the kids or grandkids to one of the local farms and picking berries to bring home. Hopefully, many of you enjoyed the trip this year.
This may be the year you say, “I’m going to grow some of my own for next year.” Strawberries are well-suited to planting in your home garden and have a great yield-to-plant ratio.
You can pick up to a quart of fruit from each plant during the first fruiting year if grown in a matted row. Plants are fairly inexpensive. They need a location with full sun (six or more hours per day) for the best yield. They love slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter.
Our Mahoning County Extension Office staff, 490 S. Broad St., can walk you through the procedure for a soil test before planting, thus eliminating a lot of the guesswork about how successful you will be or what your soil may lack.
Plant them where there is good drainage, possibly a raised bed or on a ridge, and avoid any location where potatoes, tomatoes, or sod have grown recently. It is not usually recommended to plant strawberries in fall. Wait until spring to avoid freezing and thawing that can damage young plants.
When you plant, be sure to cover the root and only half of the crown, the short stem between the root and the leaf. Your trench should be deep enough to set the root in vertically, not horizontally. If space is limited, a circular terrace bed places the plants in circles rising to the highest and smallest level in the middle will allow for more plants.
Spring buds are susceptible to frost, which occurs here well into May. The mulch used to protect plants in winter can be pulled away in early spring, but left nearby so that you can cover blossoms in the spring when frost is predicted.
Strawberry plants do not continue to produce forever, and start to decline in the second and third years of producing fruit.
Metallic tape attached to a stick blowing in the wind and creating flashes of light, a metallic pinwheel or two, cayenne pepper in the vicinity, and, of course, netting to keep out snacking wildlife can help you enjoy more of your crop.
To learn about growing and preserving your strawberries and other fruit, plan to attend our June 28 class. Details are at http://go.osu.edu/jamjelly.